I assure you that these are four separate photos, and that she stuck her tongue out between each one.
I love it when she does this. Such an odd Bird. To think the vet shaved and cut through some of her three tummy spots when she was fixed. I was afraid they wouldn’t come back.
Thursday, August 4, 2016, saw us in the car by 8 a.m., climbing the treacherous (at least to me) switchbacks of 127 up Signal Mountain. I can’t imagine that road as my daily commute, but people do it. We arrived at our first tent city in Fairmount on the mountain by 9 a.m. We’ve never started the sale on the very first day! A momentous occasion.
There we ran into a vendor traveling in a VW bus and creating her own very cool ” I picked 127″ t-shirts. I went with her racerback for yoga usage.
That day I was also testing my own fashion theory: the fishing/hunting vest. In Ohio the previous year, I had seen two women sporting multi pocketed vests. It seemed like a genius move! They removed the back strain of a purse -a problem for me-and the uber dorkiness of the fanny pack which was what I was wearing to combat back ache. I cruised thrift stores and eBay until I found a vest suitable for experimentation. It had Velcro pockets, snapped pockets, zippered pockets, secret pockets, and pockets within pockets! Unfortunately, the fabric wasn’t very breathable and eventually felt like it weighed 50 pounds. If you find Walter Sobchak attractive then I was smokin’ hot. ( I was also sweating balls hot) The Dude abides.
There were plenty of big stops on the mountain, but our increasingly sweaty travels were interrupted by rainstorms. Rainstorms that added to the heat, humidity, and muck.
Stops with shade were a relief, but then we’d find ourselves hightailing it to the car when clouds and lightning rolled in.
It was the end of a long day as Siri directed us up gravelly switchbacks over what felt the millionth mountain of the trip. Oddly enough, there aren’t a lot of chain hotels in rural Tennessee. The easiest place I could find for us to end the first day of the sale was a state park lodge at Fall Creek Falls. From the outside the place was a cement block, but it was cheap and convenient.
It. Was. Beautiful.
We opened our door into the cement block and stepped into the lake. The lodge was built along the curve of the lake and each room opened onto a balcony overlooking the water. Who needs modern decor when you’ve got scenery?
We did a slow drive on a loop through the park, checking out the waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and encountering the local deer and turkey.
Dinner was a just okay buffet, but we sat on the balcony later watching a lightning storm in the clouds over the lake.
Friday morning brought sunbeams, no more vest- goodbye, Walter- and a quicker less mountainous route back to 127 and the McDonald’s in Pikeville.
Side note: The summer of 2016 was when McDonald’s started their all day breakfast menu. Items varied restaurant to restaurant, but we were in the South, so that meant biscuits all day, every day. Heat be damned, second breakfasts happened. A lot.
Our first stop in Pikeville had a weird deja vu feel. We realized we’d been there the previous day in rain we could barely see through. Eye roll and moving on.
By the time we made it to the mass of vendors at Clark Range, I had to close my eyes and be still for 10 minutes to convince my head and stomach that we could make this work, damnit! Aside from my sweet pickin’ t shirt, Clark Range offered another great purchase. A husband and wife team were crafting chainsaw sculptures. Their creations were spread in a wide circle around the base of a tree where the husband was doing more carvings. I bought a handsome gray squirrel. Ahhhh art.
Our hotel that night in Knoxville was a chain so while there was modern decor and several junior high football players there for a tournament, there were no amazing landscapes or Bambis wandering about. We ate dinner at Blaze Pizza (fancy pizza in like 5 minutes) and tried not to hate how we smelled.
Knoxville was supposed to be the last stop on the road to home, but I made a proposal. Year 1, we naively thought we would eat up the miles and be lunching in Jamestown, the heart and headquarters of the sale. We didn’t make it there until evening when the sale had shut down. In Knoxville, I proposed that we take a route diagonally across country to Jamestown the next morning just so we could say we’d made it there. And maybe buy a t-shirt.
Saturday morning, after battling pre-teen footballers for breakfast, we made it to yard sale ground zero in a little under two hours. The poor representative at the Fentress County Chamber of Commerce was trapped by our enthusiasm for the sale, and our desire to change in to our brand new shirts in her air conditioned bathroom.
She gave us suggestions for a few local stops. A biscuit and a few stops later, we were yardsaled out somewhere around the Maple Hill RV Campground and truly ready for home and cats.
I spent $130 on yard sale items. MomBert can’t remember what her total was. Overall, the weather of year four made the a rough endeavor.
MomBert and the BF stopped by for a quick visit and a cup of coffee. In his formal role as The Helper Cat, Miles greeted his grammie with lap cuddles, and then attempted to welcome the BF to our home. Miles sat on the footstool conveniently within petting distance, looking attentively at the BF.
Nothing happened. To demonstrate what was supposed to happen, he went back to Grammie who cuddled him and told him he was handsome.
Miles then gave the BF another opportunity to pet him from an even better angle, the arm of the chair.
Miles could tell that Grammie and I were encouraging the BF to “just give him one soft pet” so he extended his head at the ideal trajectory for soft pets.
Sadly the BF was apparently raised in some type of cult whose doctrines must have preached that animals are dirty, and the only good “pet” is one that is outdoors preferably far from humans.
Miles just wants bring happiness with his handsomeness. He talks to everyone-they might have treats-,offers his assistance to delivery and repair persons, and even stays visible for the entirety of visits by toddlers intent on treating him like a plush toy. He’s not used to rejection. He really stuck with him.
Stuffed on southern cooking and hoping for no more Fat Man’s Squeeze situations, we headed further over the mountain to go into the mountain! Silly hobbits.
It’s always 60 degrees in the Ruby Falls caves which was a relief from the weather outside. We queued up and joined a group to be sucked two stories down into a tourist friendly cave.
Rule one of the tour: TOUCH NOTHING! Some of the formations are still “living” and forming. Human hands and skin oils mess with them. There was one formation that we were all allowed to touch just to get it out of our systems, and we touched the Hell out of it!
The tour was a casual 1 mile round trip to the falls with goofily named, unnaturally lit rock formations along the way and moments of intimacy when another tour group had to squeeze by on the way back to the elevators.
Not thinking about the amount of rock overhead was easy until the guide started spouting facts and history. In 1828, Leo Lambert and excavators discovered a passage and decided to crawl through it for 17 hours, ultimately making it back to the falls. Their tiny, initial passage was preserved in the wall.
Ruby Falls is 145 feet high. It’s the largest underground waterfall in the U.S. and, as the guide helpfully pointed out, we were about 1200 feet underground. Roughly the Empire State Building. Over time the pool that the Falls hit has shifted and spread. In 1988, we might have been able to walk behind the water but not anymore.
I find it odd that it’s not enough to see a really beautiful, fascinating bit of nature; there also has to be a light show.
We retraced our path, retouched the touchable formation, and shot up three stories to pop out conveniently on the upper level at the gift shop. Before hitting the gift shot, we climbed stairs up two more levels to check out another hot, windy view of Chattanooga. It was only 2:30 and we had run through our planned activities.
A Internet search took us to the Knitting Mill Antique mall. It was the perfect find! a massive old factory building, but unfortunately all the signage said “Going Out of Business.” We cruised the booths and enjoyed the junk. It was too early for more than a snack, but a loud food discussion turned me into an eavesdropper. Two older women were heatedly debating barbecue joints while rearranging their merchandise. It was Purple Daisy versus Nooga-Q and they were literally arguing and assessing every menu item from meats to cornbread and homemade chips. I rarely do this, but I blatantly played tourist and inserted myself into the conversation, asking for specifics and making sure I had the correct restaurant names. Hey, a hobbit’s gotta eat dinner.
Meanwhile we found an adorable, retro-decorated gelato and coffee spot, Milk & Honey , a few blocks away and re-energized. A few local shops later, and we were ready to eat local again.
Nooga-Q was the winner since the Purple Daisy seemed like more of an eat outside situation-not in that heat. Nooga-Q was a tin building in the middle of a strip mall parking lot. Our waitress seemed surprised that we were staying, most of their business was drive thru. We were the lone customers for a little while, but the wall of articles and local awards was reassuring. Tender brisket, fried okra, coleslaw for days, our meal was delicious. It would be the best thing we ate for the next two days.
To be continued: yard sales on mountains