Sunday, May 8, 2016

24 Hours in Chattanooga + My Sheltered Life

When we purchased our little camper, Daisy, last spring we knew she needed a bit of TLC. She was functional but she popped a leak in the "skin" (as they call it) last fall and wasn't looking so hot. After searching for someone in Asheville to fix her up, we got a recommendation from a fellow Scotty owner for a guy in Georgia with a restoration business. His work looks amazing online and he was agreeable on the phone, and best yet, his shop is 10 minutes from Chattanooga so we decided to make a trip out of it.

Last Saturday, we woke up early, hitched her up and struck out on the trail. Seems simple enough, right? Well, a 3.5 hr trip turned into almost 5. There were torrential downpours and the door broke off while we were driving. Daisy's door, not the truck, gracias a dios! When we arrived at his shop in Georgia the rain had cleared and we super duper happy to finally be there, checking a major to-do off of our list.

He showed us around his gloried junk yard of rotting and abused vintage trailers. Pretty much a secret garden of Pinterest dreams gone to hell in Gray Gardens themed hand basket. Know what I mean? Basically, I was in heaven. After our grand tour, I was getting hangry and had to get down to brass tacks. I lead Darrell over to our camper to take a look-see and I'm like:

"Alright, give it to me, how much is this going to cost to fix."

Darrel: Well ma'am, I'd say about 12-15 thousand.

Me: Oh, you mean 12 - 15 hundred. Well, that's probably worth it.

Darrel: No. Ma'am. 12 thousand.

Me: Oh cool, 12-15 hundred dollars.

Darrel: No. Ma'am. THOUSAND. I mean 12 thousand dollars. And it's gonna take me a year and a half.

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At this point, I am having a heart attack and just totally clam up and excuse myself from the conversation. Heather is much more polite and picks up the conversation from where I drop kicked it onto the pavement. It's 3pm and I haven't eaten since 9 that morning, and I'm about to lose it. After lots of throat slashing hand gestures (when polite Darrell wasn't watching) Heather hashes out some details with Darrell and we high tail it into Chattanooga. I am so hungry and thirsty and stressed that I can't think at this moment. I yelp vegetarian restaurants and we run a few red lights as we roll into Chattanooga to feast at Sluggos'.

Sluggo's was highly recommended on Yelp so we grab a seat outside and try to ignore the last few hours of our lives. Darrel was so kind to us and told us we could leave the camper with him for as long as we wanted until we decided what to do. I'm not gonna let this get me down, so we refocus on the matter at hand: What shall eat and what shall we do? We order massive plates of food and I devise a plan for the evening. I have to say, the food was disappointing and tasteless, but our bellies were full, so c'est la vie!

We decide to drive up to Fairyland, as recommended by our Air BnB host. What a crazy little spot! The entry road that climbs up to Fairyland, and Lookout Mountain, was so green and lush, our moods totally changed and we were just taking it all in! There are insane views of Chattanooga from up there, and we pull off at a few touristy spots for some photo ops.



After a beautiful drive + walkabout, we freshened up at our quaint little Air BnB and headed downtown. We wandered the Warehouse Row area, which was super cute, and then headed towards the river. Chattanooga is right on the Tennessee River and surrounded by mountains on the opposite side, earning its nickname of the "Scenic City." Last year, it won Outside's Best Town Ever award, which is what really motivated us to visit. I'd also heard that it's a top spot for climbers + hikers, which is appealing for obvious reason. Because, rocks, right??



We grabbed a drink at the Hair of the Dog and then took an Uber to the Boathouse so that we could eat with a view. And damn, did the Boathouse suck! While I was in the restroom and Heather waited for a table, a group of drunk 50-somethings started chanting "1-2-3, we love the gays!" It was hard to tell if they were hateful drunks or just overly friendly drunks. Either way, it's never a comfortable moment for a stranger to highlight what makes you different from them, loudly and publicly. Shouting "We Love the Gays" is not the same as just treating people like people, and silently letting everyone be themselves without comment. I didn't call you out for being a loopy, lush. You do you, you know?


When we sat down, the view was beautiful, but the appetizers we ordered (ceviche + chowder) were terrible. After that awkward experience, we decided to just leave. Why eat terrible food, surround by negative vibes? I am aware that that sounds super woo-woo, but vibes are real. 

I know I am super lucky to even get to complain about that experience. Discrimination shrouded in friendliness is fairly tame, but still hurtful. It proliferates their little construct of "otherness" but I consider myself lucky to be able to report that moment as one of the "worst" I've experienced. Asheville allows me to live a very sheltered life as a queer woman, and for that I am thankful. 

All was not lost though, Chattanooga still totally charmed us! The next morning we drove up to Craven's House to hike the Bluff Trail. Craven's House was a part of the Civil War and the location of the aptly named, Battle of the Clouds. 


The trailhead was right in the parking lot, where we departed into a glorious wonderland of lush greenery. This hike has got to be one of my favorites of all time. Massive boulders make this an obvious favorite for climbers and create a beautiful contrast to the foliage of the mountains. The half-way point of the trail is marked by Sunset Rock, where there is a view of the Tennessee River that crosses through downtown Chattanooga.





Post-hike we explored their insanely large farmers market. It was obvious that this market is a social outing for lots of people. There was a live band, tons of food trucks, plants and crafts for sale, fresh breads, fresh-pressed juice - and lots of beer. There wasn't much on the vegetarian front, but we made do. And I got fresh, hot, cinnamon-y kettle corn. That makes up for a multitude of sins.







After this sensory extravaganza, we wandered back to Asheville, without Daisy in tow. The end of that saga has yet to be decided so stay tuned!


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