The first week of August means that it’s yard sale time again. It also means that I have pushed all reasonable limits in writing about LAST year’s adventures in junk.
Last year, I finally read the fine print- it only took four years- and discovered that the contiguous route 127 path of the yard sale ends in Chattanooga, Tennessee, around Signal Mountain. The Georgia to Alabama portion follows the Lookout Mountain Parkway in a series of twists and turns that require having directions in hand. I remember finding this to be incredibly disappointing for some reason. My epic yard sale really did not stretch all along 127. My “I heart 127” t-shirt might not mean anything across the Georgia border.
This discovery may have helped solidify my plan to visit Chattanooga, play tourists for a day, and then hit the sale. I had vague memories of our family tagging along with my grandparents to Chattanooga in 1988. Gpa and Gma were attending their annual WWII POW reunion there with Gpa’s war buddies. That sentence does not sound like an awesome idea for dragging three grandchildren and their mother along for “vacation,” but that was what happened. I specifically remembered the fairy tale caverns and their day-glo dioramas which I recognized again years later when Neil Gaiman set a scene on Lookout Mountain in his novel American Gods.
1988: As family photographer, there is no photographic evidence that I was there. No selfies in ’88. 2016: You’ll see that I’ve taken almost the same pictures.
MomBert was up for it, and we were off to touch the tail end of 127; making our total mileage, according to my math and the efforts of Mapquest and Google Maps, 562 of the 690 mile sale. **This mileage does not count back tracking, traveling to starting points and then back home, looking for our hotels, or getting lost.
Setting out on Tuesday, August 2, for the 8-hour drive to Chattanooga from Marietta, it was a bit foggy and rainy, but we took the four fawns playing tag in MomBert’s yard as a good sign. I swear this video is not shot entirely through the window screen.
We got as far as Ravenswood, West Virginia, (that’s only an hour) when we saw a sign for Tudor’s Biscuit World and several antique stores. ***Seeing signs for Biscuit World requires singing the name out loudly and joyfully. Signs for Biscuitville do not get the same volume.
And so second breakfasts and a real focus on food began. #ShireLife
We also believe in 11-sies.
Aside from amazing biscuits and some less amazing antiques, the drive down was uneventful but tiring. We had to strategize for the next day. We wanted to go up Lookout Mountain and do the two most touristy activities available: Rock City and Ruby Falls. We would be facing temperatures in the upper 90’s and humidity to match it. We opted for Rock City in the morning and the underground cool temps of Ruby Falls in the afternoon.
Why the Hell do people live on mountains? Sure, nature is beautiful, and the views are great; but getting up and down the mountain on roads that were not built for the width of today’s vehicles is hair raising! Plus the edges of road where all I can see is sky, make me start panicking. So very, very, very slowly we made it to Rock City on Lookout Mountain by 9 a.m. on August 3.
Garnet and Frieda Carter founded the community on top of the mountain, calling it Fairyland. Frieda’s love of folklore and fairy tales influenced street names and displays throughout the area. She was the one busy gardening and landscaping around the boulders while her husband planned neighborhoods and mini golf courses. Frieda was definitely on to something. The initial path into the gardens of Rock City instantly dropped us in between giant lichen covered boulders and towering trees. Tiny streams and drips of water were everywhere, and the air was soothingly cool. Settings like this immediately put my mind on the path to place like Narnia and Middle Earth. I don’t need dragons or giant spiders, but some woodland magic will suffice.
Hobbit life! #straightouttatheshire
Frieda had mad gardening skills, but may have sometimes leaned into the cheesier moments as illustrated by the gnome scenes in Gnome Valley and the later stop of the Fairyland Caverns.
The Goblin Pass confirms Middle Earth status!
The fallow deer who used to roam Gnome Valley (I’m pretty sure they were there in ’88.) were also imported for their fairy tale-like appearance. They have since been upgraded to a bigger and better area of the gardens.
The paths of the garden wind from one tranquil point to another until the swaying bridge over a huge crevice looking out across the valley. The guy behind us who was doing running commentary about jiggling the bridge was not funny.
The bridge leads to a better and much more stable view of Chattanooga. Allegedly you can see seven states from this point. IDK. However there is a fancy little restaurant by this overlook, and it would have been a beautiful spot to eat and gaze off into the distance.
Beneath the lookout is a waterfall, yet another amazing physical feature. The jiggly bridge guy’s wife took our picture. I’m so glad she used my body to block the beautiful natural element we were posing in front of.
Outside the shade of the boulders and trees, the heat was already building up so the last stop on the path Fairyland Caverns was an underground relief. Again the Carter taste-level went for folklore and full-on cheese plate. Each diorama was handcrafted by a local artist and black-lit by crazy elves; they really do capture the magic and weird, dark twists that make up fairy tales.
The gift shop contained the expected trinkets and t-shirts, as well as, a more practical product: birdhouses that mimicked the “See Rock City” barns that Carter used to advertise the gardens. This was my souvenir of choice and my squirrels and birds love the shelter.
We missed second breakfast that day so we were definitely ready for 11-sies across the mountain at the Cafe on the Corner. There was pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes, and a peach and berry cobbler they had just made. I love it when eating local works out.
To be continued: more tourists, more mountain, more food….