Thursday, May 24, 2012

Chattanooga, Tennessee May 18,2012

It is an 8 hour drive to Chattanooga from New Orleans. The plan wa to go white water rafting in Bryson City, North Carolina on Saturday afternoon another 3 hours from Chattanooga.

Do not drive to Chattanooga after dark. The last leg of our drive was in heavy fog on a mountain road under construction which reduced it to one lane for miles and miles.

We made reservations in advance at Best Western Royal Inn off I-24,
3644 Cummings Hwy, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37419.

 They set aside rooms for people traveling with pets. We had liked it before and it was even better this time. It had been upgraded. The beds now had a pillowtop mattress. The showerhead in the bathroom was 8 feet from the floor and the tv remote control had been sanitized and was in a cute slipcover. There was make your own waffles at the free breakfast.

Betty Boopmobile, 1932 roadster, Ocoee, Tennessee

Bryson City, North Carolina  May 19,2012

The Tennessee Valley Authority has a series of dams on rivers where electricity is made. The river is cut off at night then released during the day.  current is used to generate electricity. Water is released from 6 rivers near Bryson City, North Carolina. There are dozens of companies offering rafting and kyak tours along these rivers. The main one is the Nantahala Outdoorn Center. There is a 3 hour 8 mile trip for groups in rafts or singletons in kyaks. Tour times are 11 am or 2 pm. An advantage of the 2 pm tour is the water is warmer by then and also the Rapid Transit option of a railway excursion featuring h an adult beverage car over the Nantahala Gorge in the morning, a stop for lunch and then rafting in the afternoon. You can rent mountain bicycles at the center. Besides river kyaking there is also group or solo kyaking on Fontana Lake.

Rafting options are a fully guided tour with a guide in every raft, guide assisted which has a guide in every other raft or rent a raft on hour own. Guest need to be 7 years old or weigh over 60 pounds.

Rafting is available on 7 rivers, the Nantahala being the biggest. The others are the Ocoee, the chattanooga, the French Broad, the Nolichucky, the Cheoah and the Pigeon.

Nantahala Outdoor Center is located in western North Carolina on Hwy 19 twelve miles west of Bryson City past Cherokee on the south side of the Great Smoky Mountain park in the Appalachian mountains.

NOC 800-232-7238

Professional photographers are stationed at several points and after a trip guests can purchase
one developed photo of a dramatic moment in the rapids for $20 or a cd with 6 photos on it
and then print as many photos from that as they desire for $42.

Guided tour rate is $47.99/person with a $7.20 spring discount from April to Memorial Day.
The season ends in October.

We had a wonderful guide named Tom. He told us about a scenic road less than 20 miles from there called the Tail of the Dragon. This 2 lane road has been famous since 1981. It is 26 miles along the borders of the states of North Carolina and Tennessee, designated Tennessee state road 115/ highway 129.

 It is 1756 feet above sea level. In Tennessee it is called the Calderwood Hwy but is referred to in North Carolina as the Topoco Road. The speed limit of 30 mph is strictly enforced by Tennessee highway patrol.  The Tennessee portion is 11 miles and has the most curves, 318. The curves have names such as Copperhead Corner, Hog Pen Bend, Wheelie Hell. and Gravity Cavity.  Look for the Tree of Shame which is festooned with crashed motorcycle parts.

It starts just south of the Foothills Parkway on Tennessee 129, ride along the Little Tennessee River, overlooks the Calderwood Dam.

GPS setting is 35.555823 - 84.002377

It ends at the Tail of the Dragon motorcycle resort. in Deals Gap, 17555 Topoco Road, Robbinsville, North Carolina.

Atlanta was a 3 hour drive from Bryson City. We stayed in Kennesaw overnight, a suburb adjacent to Atlanta on the west side of town.

Note: the Georgia legislature passed a resolution this year that all hotels with a pool must install a handicapped lift and be inspected before the pool can be opened.  Don't be surprised if the pool in a place you are staying looks worse than a swamp. The key phrase is ' has to be inspeted'. This can take awhile after the lift has been installed. Therefore I will not mention the state of the pool at the places we stayed on our weekend holiday.

We stayed at the Best Wetern Kennesaw Inn
 3375 Busbee Drive, Kennesaw 30144
It accepts pets.

We had been there before and liked it.  Best Western is updating the rooms in its hotels nationwide. This one has not been updated yet. an advantage to that is it requires less points to qualify for  free stay, as little as 12,000.

If you have a Best Western member card you accumulate points for every stay. Hotels that have been updated go for upwards of 16,000 points. We were able to access the website enroute and use our points to reserve a room.

By contrast Holiday Inn requires at least 25,000 points. Not every hotel has rooms set aside for free stays and it is almost a magic trick to find a free rooom using points within an hour's drive of where you would actually like to stay plus they require you to make this reservation days in advance. I had Holiday Inn points and I traded them in on magazine subscriptions. That is what I think about staying at Holiday Inns. In fact if I was dead and being waked at a Holiday Inn before the funeral I would sit up and walk out of that place.

We dined at a great restaurant we had visited before and found it just as good as last time, so glad they were still in business.  California Dreaming was around the corner from our hotel.

745 Chastain Road
Kennesaw Georgia 30144

An entree, salad and side order is less than $20. kids meals are $7. One of the chefs had been to France and mastered pastries and croissants. You get one basted with honey, melts in your mouth, with your salad or can order a basket for $5. We usually have a rack of ribs or steak or a pasta dish, all delicious and the salad is great. No room for dessert.  There is a big wrap around porch with candles and ceiling fans for alfresco dining which we prefer.

Stone Mountain, Georgia

Stone Mountain is a quaint village as well as a park featuring the world's largest granite rock 685 feet high and 9 miles deep, 5 acres across and 5 miles around the base. It is about 40 miles from Atlanta which was about a 3 hour drive from Bryson City, North Carolina. In Stone Mountain Park there is am amusement park,a lake, a 4D theater, a laser show in the evenings, a sky tram to the top of the mountain, a Confederacy Museum about the conflict involving the Northern and Southern states between 1861-1865, 2 hotels, tent campgrounds, several nature trails, a bicycle path, a model plantation and farmyard, a quarry exhibit, a 732 bell carrillion, a railway excursion and an amphibious duck bus tour. It costs $10 per vehicle to enter the park. Day passes are $30 per person for admission to all attractions. The Sky tram is $9 for adults, $5 for children or $5.50 for one way. It is a mile & a half to walk from top to bottom of Stone Mountain. Down is the best choice by far. The view from the top was stunning. Hawks soard at eye level and nested in the pine trees. We had fun looking for the cave on the side of the mountain. The side of Stone Mountain features 3 figures representing Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis that are 90 feet high and were carved between 1910 and 1970. After riding the Sky Tram both ways we explored a beautiful nature garden trail. Many of the trees and flowers were marked with signs and the path was clearly marked. There was a shorter path for those with about half an hour marked in green and a much longer trail marked in orange. There is a closed granite quarry that is now an exhibit. It was active between 1840-1970. There were samples of granite and pictures of all stages of production and an old tool shed. We shook hands with Orion and made a solemn promise to bring him back here if he makes straight A's and let him ride every ride they have. if he doesn't make straight a's he has to bring us next time. On the way home we had lunch in Decater, Georgia at This Is It! Seafood Soulfood Barbeque Buffet, 4065 Memorial Drive, Decater. 404-292-5616. There are other restaurants in this small chain around the Atlanta area as well as in St Louis. After I looked up their website I learned we were lucky to find one of the two locations open on Sunday. It was the sweetest famiy oriented place you could hope to find, clean and neat, delicious food made from scratch, all your favorites, beautifully decorated with a friendly attentive staff. There was a banquet room so large groups could be accommodated. A display case at the end of the buffet prominently featured an open Bible and jars of their signature barbeque sauce. The barbequed chicken and ribs just melted in our mouths. I can't remember ever having anything better than that. Create your own plate was an entree and 2 sides for $14.49. Kids' plates were $5.99. The server asked the children how much they wanted & gave them only that so there was no wasted food. Choices on the line were barbequed chicken, country style ribs, chicago rib tips, smothered pork chops, baked or fried talapia, chicken wings, meat loaf, mustard greens, green beans, corn, fried rice, sweet potato souffle, cornbread and even chitterlings. Big selection of desserts included red velvet cake, key lime cake, strawberry shortcake, sweet potato pie. The napkin dispenser on our table had a card promoting something called the Amerian Hoodie Awards sponsored by the Steve Harvey radio show with awards given in 12 categories, voting via the internet between May 14-30,2012, one day for each category. This Is It! urged customers to vote for them on May 21 between 6 AM and 6 PM EDT for best soulfood restaurant and on May 24 for the best barbeque. The other categories were best High School coach May 14, best nail salon May 15, best school teacher May 15, best Car Wash/Detail Shop May 17, best chior May 18,best Barbershop May 22, best High School May 23, best Beauty Salon May 25, best Church May 29, best Community Leader May 30. It was an 8 hour drive from there back home. What a beautiful weekend we had!