Well we have had a fun few days.
On Friday we took in the Inclined Railway. We lucked out with parking right at the lower station. We bought our tickets and took a quick tour in the gift shop and then got in line for the train to arrive. There are two cars that travel up and down Lookout Mountain. They are tethered together with two 1-½ inch steel cables. Of course there is a huge electric motor that provides the power at the upper station. You may be wondering how two cars share the same track. Well there is a double set of “passing tracks” half way up. You can think of these cars the same as an elevator, with one acting as the counter balance for the other. They fall under the same regulations as elevators and are inspected every year and the cables are replaced every three years.
Upon boarding the rail car, it was a bit strange. The track at the bottom station is almost horizontal but the seats in the car are reclined, much like your easy boy recliner. There also were steps down the aisle, which didn’t seem necessary, at least not now.
The one mile trip up the mountain didn’t take to long and was very quiet. When we got to the top it was obvious why the seats were reclined. We were now sitting straight up, almost feeling like we were falling forward. This railway has the distinction of being the steepest passenger railway in the world as it has a 72.7% grade at the top.
The view from the top was quite spectacular. The pictures really don’t do it justice. If you were ever in the area this would be someplace to visit.
On Sunday we were planning on taking the River Gorge Explorer. Our research-determined that there was only one tour today and it was at 2 P.M. I called before lunch and was told there were still seats available and was transferred to the Admin Office where I was told I could purchase tickets. Well I guess I could have, but there was no answer the phone. We decided to take our chances and just show up and see if we could get on.
We knew it would only take us about 5 minutes to get downtown and we felt if we left the campsite at 12:30 we should have lots of time to get downtown, find a parking space and buy the tickets. Let me tell you it was a close call. The traffic on the Interstate was bumper to bumper, crawling along at a snail’s pace. We were not sure why the increase in traffic but we were lucky enough to find parking right outside the Aquarium where we purchased our tickets. Then it was a quick walk over to the pier to board the cruiser.
This was a 2-hour cruise and yes we were missing The Professor, Ginger and Maryanne. We travelled downstream into the scenic Tennessee River Gorge. There was a naturalist on board that explained the geography, the wildlife as well as the historical significance of the area. I am not a history buff but found it interesting as she explained how the Union, who occupied one side of the river, communicated up and down the gorge with coded flags and how they eventually defeated the Confederacy, who occupied the other side of the river, and gained control of Chattanooga.
When we weren’t travelling at high speed (up to 50 miles per hour) we could go up top to the observation deck. Here we could see the huge houses on the banks of the river as well as some of the wildlife. Once at the end of the gorge we turned around and came back into the city and yes we could see the traffic on the Interstate was still just crawling along. Before docking the Captain did a 360° spin. I think, just to show off.
Some facts that I found interesting:
- The boat is a hydrofoil-assisted catamaran. This means there are two hulls with a wing in the water. When operating at high speed this wing lifts the hull out of the water. Normally the boat has a 3 foot draft but when the hydrofoil comes into play, only 1 foot of water is needed and this only at the stern of the boat. The bow is completely out of the water. This reduces drag and improves fuel efficiency.
- Fuel efficiency is key. A two-hour cruise can burn between 40 and 60 gallons of diesel fuel. This is consumed in four Caterpillar engines, which produces over 4000 Horsepower.
- The vessel was designed and built in Washington State. It was then sailed down the coast and through the Panama Canal and up into the Gulf of Mexico and then into Chattanooga. Cost to build, approximately 2.9 million dollars.
After disembarking we took a leisurely stroll back to the parking lot. This part of town is really family friendly with the Museum, the Aquarium, and the Imax Theatre all within a central area. They have also set up an outdoor skating rink. We had to stop by and have a look. The rink was about 40 feet by 60 feet. They had a huge portable chiller on site to maintain the ice. You could rent skates right there. It was easy to tell those that were skaters and those that weren’t. We also noticed children using pieces of cardboard to slide down the river embankment. Everyone was having a grand time.
Monday is decision day. If Camping World can squeeze the camper in for some warranty work we will stay another day. When I went over in the morning I was informed that they could look at the camper and didn’t think it would take too long. With this information I zipped over to the camping office and pay for another night. I then closed up the camper and took it over to the Service Department.
Once I had dropped off the camper we headed back to the Camping World store to check e-mails, finish our breakfast and locate the closest Walmart. We were off again, for the day. After finishing our shopping it was only 2 o’clock and still no call from the service department. What to do next? Well the Walmart we visited is located in a huge retail district. There were stores and shops all over the place so our options seemed to be head back to Camping World or find a place for tea and a snack. On our way in Bev had spotted a Starbucks so that is were we headed. It was really enjoyable leaving our coats in the truck and sit on their patio sipping our tea.
Around 3:30 we got a call from service. They were able to fix our awning lights but didn’t have time to fix the leak in the washing machine drain line. They said it would probably take another 2 days before they could get at it. They wanted us to know, as he was aware our intention was to move on as quickly as possible. I explained that it wasn’t a big deal as I had rigged up one of the hoses we had brought so the washer drained into the shower. This is a little inconvenient but not as inconvenient as waiting for service to be done and no place to go. When all was said and done, the fellow that brought the camper out of the service bay delivered it to our camping spot. This was a little extra service I didn’t expect and appreciated it.
Back in the camper the question remained, where to next? With a phone call to the Florida State Park Reservation system we now have a reservation at Saint George’s Island State Park for two weeks with us arriving December 6th. So now we have a few days to hang around and make our way into Florida. Bev figures it will take us 2 easy days travel to get there, it’s just which way are we going to travel and where are we going to stay. She has been studying the Florida State Park magazine and is getting our travel itinerary worked out for the next 8 or so weeks. I think she plans on getting the finer details worked out tomorrow. So I think we are staying another day in Chattanooga. Isn’t it great to have this flexibility?