Saturday, June 18, 2011

Chattanooga Day 4: Railroads, Relaxation & Rainout

The key event of our last full day of our vacation would be my gift to Paula. More on that in a few sentences. Also, the stormy weather would make a big difference in our plans.

Our first destination of the day was the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel. It was at the far end of the downtown area. When we got there we saw a full sized locomotive and tender car on display (see picture). There were also passenger cars that were converted into hotel rooms. Of course we couldn't see inside of them but it looked like it would be cool to stay in one of them.

The hotel was nothing like we were led to believe it would be based on the website. There was a 3 room souvenir shop with lots of good "choo choo" stuff and other things in it. There was a room full of stained glass pictures. Paula found one based on Di Vinci's "The Last Supper" that she liked. I decided to buy a small waterball with a locomotive inside of it instead of purchasing my traditional refrigerator magnet.

The "specialty shops" and arcade left a lot to be desired. The place looked like an old run down forgotten tourist attraction. The inside of the hotel was rather impressive, especially the lobby. That was because the front part of the building is what was at one time the actual railroad depot.

We bought tickets to see the model railroad display which was on the 3rd floor of the back part of the hotel. Other than the railroad cars on display in the courtyard, this was the only thing that was worth seeing at the hotel.

It was a very large layout. I was impressed with the section we saw as soon as we walked in the door. It was a recreation of Chattanooga with Lookout Mountain in the back. There's a picture of it at the top of this post.

As we walked along the side of the layout Paula read the descriptions of each section out loud to me while I took pictures or videos. We saw models of: a red barn with "See Rock City" on its roof, an entire train painted with characters from Toy Story 2, a railroad yard with a round house, an industrial park, a coal mine, an early 1900s small town with movie theater and "5 and 10 cent" store. That's just a small sample of what was on this impressive display.
There were at least 6 if not more trains running around different sections of the platform.

I couldn't help but think how much my dad would've enjoyed it. I really felt like he was with me the entire time but especially when I found a "Lehigh Valley" railroad box car and a blue and white "Conrail" GP9 engine. That engine was just like one I owned for a brief time when as a teenager I tried to get interested in model railroading to spend time with my dad.

After about 30 minutes looking at the model railroad and talking with the proprietor we decided it was time to leave. It was clouding up and became apparent that it was going to rain.

The next thing on the agenda was to get Paula to the Chattanoogan hotel spa for her massage, manicure and pedicure. The hotel was an upscale place to say the least. The spa was very nice. The receptionist checked her in and told me that my wife's "Diva Day Treatment" would take about 2 1/2 hours; so I was on my own.

I checked out a possible lunch spot for us; a place called "Sing It or Wing it" on Market Street. It turned out to be nothing but a bar with a small Karaoke stage. This was not the place for us.

I went one block over to Broad Street to a small candy store we'd been to on Monday. It sold all kinds of old time candy including Bonomo Turkish Taffy. I haven't seen that sweet treat since I was a kid. The place specialized in selling Moon Pies and Moon Pie merchandise. Chattanooga is where that classic snack was first made.

Two blocks down I checked out a storefront that had signs that said "Books" and "Fudge". I thought it was a retail book store, kind of like a privately owned Barnes and Noble. I couldn't have been more wrong. It was more like a run down combination 2nd-hand book store and flea market. As soon as I walked in I decided not to even ask about the fudge.

I looked around and found a couple of puppets; a green dinosaur and a turkey. I'm always interested in new puppets but I soon found out that cost more than I thought they were worth. I then met the owner, an obnoxious old lady who sat behind a computer screen the whole time I was there. I browsed through the junk and the books. As soon as I indicated that I wasn't interested in buying the puppets or anything else the old woman rudely dismissed me with a curt and sarcastic, "Have A Good Day".

Having done all that I could think to do in the downtown area I looked at the map for else in the area. I decided to drive to the Tennessee Valley Railroad museum. I used the GPS to get there. It took me about 20 minutes. It turned out that the museum was closed. But I looked around at the locomotives, cabooses, and freight cars that were on display on the grounds. Again I thought about my dad. It was places like that that he used to take me when I was real young.

I picked my wife up from the spa and took her to lunch at a restaurant called "Rio Picante". It was an "upscale" Mexican restaurant with average or below average food. Nothing special about the experience that came with a relatively high cost.

Once we finished our lunch we had some time before we had to go the Chattanooga Lookouts ballgame so we drove over the Tennessee River bridge to the north side of town. We wanted to scout the area so that we knew where to find the park the next day.

While we were in the Mexican restaurant it had started raining rather steadily. From what the weather report indicated it was going to do so for most of the night. I was caught in a dilemma. If we bought tickets to the game and it was rained out we wouldn't be able to use the rainchecks. We were leaving the next day. This was my one and only opportunity to see the Dodger's AA minor league team play during this trip.

We drove up to AT&T park located on a street called "Power Alley. We made the short walk in the rain to the stadium store. I picked out a logo t-shirt and asked the store clerk what he had heard about the weather. He said it was supposed to stop later on but the game probably won't start on time. I finally decided to leave and forget about the game.

Tired after another long day of vacation, for the 4th night in a row we went back to our hotel and spent the evening there. We dined on restaurant leftovers from our mini fridge for dinner.

As it turned out my decision not to stick around for the game was a good one. It was rained out. We packed up what we could getting ready for one final downtown excursion and heading for home the next morning.

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