Our 2007 Road Trip, Part 10 of 12: Murky Mountain Hop

Twilight Zone!

You are entering a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. Actually, this one will be mostly mind. This chapter may require more from your imagination than usual.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, marvels, history, and institutions we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2007 we changed up our strategy a bit and designed an itinerary for what would prove our most kid-friendly outing ever. Granted, my son was now twelve years old and less kid-like than he used to be, but the idea was sound in principle.

Thus in this year of our Lord did we declare: the Goldens are going to Florida!

The end is nigh! We’re two states from home and planned nothing to do inside Kentucky. Lucky for us Tennessee has plenty of features and attractions speckling all its mountains in every direction, some of which we have yet to visit. Some future road trips may see us hit the Great Smoky Mountains, Memphis, Knoxville, or Dollywood.

As for 2007, we ended the trip at a single mountain with two missions, one above and one below.

DAY SEVEN: Friday, June 15th.

The magical Chattanooga motel that was bigger on the inside also offered a modest, free breakfast buffet. Updated score: surprise awesome motel 2, Clarion Hotel Universal 0. Orlando had fabulous things about it, but accommodations in our price range were not among them.

Our next stop was previously foreshadowed in Part 2 of this travelog:

After a certain point, the standard mile markers were all but replaced by a cornucopia of billboards for Ruby Falls and Rock City, either of which would make a great name for a hip, happenin’ gubernatorial candidate, but in this case are components of Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga’s biggest tourist attraction. And their road signs never let you forget it. As the interstate wound back and forth and back and forth across the Tennessee/Georgia border, those signs were our primary reading material, warning us of the guilt we should feel if we don’t visit them someday.

And for us, Day Seven was that day.

Our foray into Lookout Mountain began with Ruby Falls, a 145-foot-tall underground waterfall accessorized with colorful lighting. An elevator took us 1,100 feet down into an old cave, where our tour group walked a mile to gaze upon it its naturally crafted splendor as augmented by human wiring and live narration. Truly it was neat and we’d recommend it to anyone who likes caves and has no claustrophobia issues.

I’d love to show off a dozen wondrously artful photos, but mere feet from the elevator my camera batteries died. In these primitive times six years before I bought my first smartphone, I’d forgotten to pocket my spare double-As, which were safely tucked away in our luggage up on the surface. Anne’s camera worked fine, but her flash wasn’t nearly powerful enough to illuminate large areas. Several of her photos look like this:

Pink Lights!

This is either walkway lighting, a terrible shot of the falls themselves, or a rigged Cardassian psychology exam.

…but it was really dazzling, honest. The official site has documented proof. Occasional tongue-in-cheek touches were appreciated, as well as signs labeling assorted features that would make much more sense if we still had the brochure or one of the tour guides themselves in our Contacts list.

Dragon's Foot!

This way to Dragon’s Foot, but you’ll have to bring your own treasure hoard.

Boy Squashed!

I wasn’t kidding about the claustrophobia.


True confession: I have no idea which way is up in this pic. These could be stalactites, stalagmites, or the exceedingly rare stalacamagites that form only in fifth-dimensional spaces.


Some signs need no explanation. Some signs desperately do, but it’s more fun to insist they don’t and then blame the viewer when they don’t “get it”. So, DONKEY, am I right?

From an archival standpoint, Rock City was 1000 times better. To be continued!

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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