Here I am, sitting in a small hotel room on the outskirts of Chattanooga, Tennessee, soaking up the free wireless before heading north to the great state of Kentucky. For those who haven’t been following me on Twitter over the past couple of days, one of my longest and best friends got married last night so I headed down from Peoria to spend a few days in the Smoky Mountains to see him off on his new journey in life.
I’m not normally one who takes vacations all that often; in fact, I have more paid time off built up at work than I know what to do with. So when I started planning the nine-hour haul down to Chattanooga, I looked at my calendar, saw nothing of major importance, and decided to take my time coming back.
I scanned the map and quickly found two places I have always wanted to visit, but never had the time, money, or opportunity to: Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky and Shawnee National Forest/Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois.
My plan is to leave Chattanooga in just a few minutes and head north to Mammoth Cave, spend a few days hiking and shooting, then on to a couple of days in Shawnee, finally making back to the homestead on Friday. It has already been an amazing trip so far and I’ve captured some good material, some of which you can see scattered here in this post.I was able to visit the Tennessee Aquarium, the largest freshwater aquarium in the United States, and Ruby Falls/Rock City on top of Lookout Mountain as well.
If you get the chance to visit Chattanooga, don’t underestimate what it has to offer. The downtown is bustling and lively during the day and has an intense, charming night life while the sites and experiences are plenty as well.
Rock City was impressive, but Ruby Falls truly took my breath away, and I’m not one who easily loses his breath. I would say that claustrophobic folks might want to avoid the cave; even I was a bit on edge when the tour guide told us we were farther underground than the Empire State Building is tall.
The best part of this trip, however, was getting to see my best friend get married. I have been friends with Charlie for almost two decades and, while we may not talk for months at a time, every time I pick up that phone and call, we spend hours laughing and sharing stories like old friends do. It was great to spend time with him and his new wife this weekend as well as seeing many of my old high school friends who I hadn’t seen in eight years or more.
Anyway, I should probably get wrapped up here and get on the road; I hear the cleaning staff sniffing around my door, waiting to get in and disinfect the place. My connection over the next few days will be spotty so I’ll try to post when I can. In the meantime, make sure to drop by Twitter as I post more regular updates daily over there including sneak peeks of photos from the road.