Heading north through Mississippi we really didn’t know what to expect. Neither of us has ever spent much time in the South but we’ve heard a lot about how kind the folks are, and BOY they did not disappoint!
Having watched a few episodes of the HGTV show, “Home Town” we were curious to stop in Laurel, MS just to take a peek. And it was a VERY good thing we did, because we discovered that our bike rack had broken and the bikes were in danger of falling off! As usual, David was able to jerry-rig a solution and we were on our way! Laurel was a lovely, quaint little town but we didn’t get to explore it this time around!
A couple of hours later, we pulled into our first Army Corp of Engineers park, Twiltley Branch. We weren’t sure what to expect, but it was really lovely. As with almost everywhere we go, it rained a lot while we were there, but we did manage to get a couple of nice days, and we finally installed the new awning toppers that had torn off in Arizona!
If you know David at all, you know he’s his father’s son, and has NEVER met a stranger! While walking Pongo around the campground one evening, he made the acquaintance of a local Pastor’s wife. In yet another display of southern hospitality, the lovely Sheronda invited us to visit their church the following Sunday. We couldn’t pass up that invitation, so on Sunday we were welcomed by this charming congregation into their fellowship as though we were family! Of course we were quite the novelty, being from California, and people couldn’t believe we had come all that way and were sitting there in tiny little Union, Mississippi! Naturally, they were having a community meal after the service and we were invited to join. YUM! All that Southern cooking really hit the spot! If you ever happen to find yourself in the Meridian, MS area, be sure to stop by! They will treat you like family!
So, before we left California, I decided it would be a good idea for me to learn to drive this behemoth just in case I ever needed to. Highly recommend the RV Driving School. They were great, and my instructor Eric Mount was SO patient! Poor David had to sit in the back and watch, biting his tongue the whole time, I’m sure! Thankfully, I haven’t needed to drive on the trip, but I am fully checked out just in case. I told David I thought it would be a good idea for me to practice occasionally just to keep my confidence up, so as we were leaving I pulled the rig out of the camping space and over to the dump station up the hill. I’ve still got it!
I’ve mentioned how we love our Harvest Host locations, and we were very thankful for this one outside of Birmingham, AL! The owner was so welcoming, and we were fascinated to hear the history of how his dad had quit his job to start this winery, eventually leaving it to his kids to make a career. He was quite the ambassador for the Birmingham metro area, even encouraging us to move there and offering to put us in touch with a local Realtor!
The next morning early, we set off for Chattanooga, TN. That really was the whole purpose for this leg of the trip. A few months ago we stumbled on a YouTube channel by a young couple who had been traveling in their van across the U.S. and had decided to come off the road to settle in Chattanooga while building out their next van. They said such wonderful things about their hometown that we decided we HAD to check it out! (I would encourage you to check out their channel if you like travel vlogs. You can find it here.) We had the opportunity to have lunch with them while we were in town, and let me tell you, they’re just as delightful and fun in person as they are in their vlog!
Just as they had said, Chattanooga is a delightful, diverse, hip, fun and lively town, and we wished we had planned more time there. But we met some new friends while we were there, and are planning another stop back through there in the fall to visit!
There was SO MUCH TO DO in Chattanooga. It’s a very outdoorsy place, which we loved. Lots of hiking and unique natural wonders, as well as some really interesting tourist places. I think it’s a testament to good old American ingenuity that so many of these places were developed by folks who saw potential in these places and decided to take a risk! Many of them are very kitschy and silly, but still a lot of fun!
The first tourist stop we visited was Ruby Falls. It’s an underground waterfall that you have to descend through a series of caves to visit. There are still a lot of COVID restrictions in place so we didn’t get to see it all, but it was quite interesting. Contrary to what I had assumed, it is not red at all, but was named for the wife of the man who discovered and developed the site.
If you’ve driven across middle America, chances are you’ve seen billboards and barns painted with the phrase, “See Rock City.” The developer of this quirky tourist site sent teams across America, offering to repaint farmers’ barns if they would let them also paint the phrase on the roof or side of the barn. HUNDREDS of farmers took him up on it, and there are still many of them out there today! This place really is amazing. And they still add new features all the time. Here are just a FEW of our many, many favorite features from this fun place! Located on Lookout Mountain, they claim you can see 7 states from the top of it. I don’t know that I believe them, but they did offer some proof!
But perhaps the most unusual (and bizarre) sections are the “Fairyland Caverns” and “Mother Goose Village” where they have created scenes from classic fairy tales, painted them in fluorescent colors and lit them with blacklights! I think someone did too many drugs!!
Chattanooga marked the first of what we have found is a growing trend in dog parks. We found a place called, “Play, Wash, Pint” that’s a combination bar/dog park! Owners can relax with an adult beverage and visit with other humans, while the dogs play under the watchful eye of “bark rangers” who are there to referee. When you’re done, if you want, you can wash your dog using their self-serve dog wash stations. BRILLIANT IDEA! We’ve since found other variations on this idea and I think it should catch on everywhere!
We capped off our time in Chattanooga with a visit to Cloudland Canyon State Park. We could have spent DAYS here! There are so many gorgeous hikes to do and it’s all dog-friendly! We contented ourselves with hikes to the 2 waterfalls in the park. They require climbing down/up a series of over 600 stairs, so I’m proud that we made it, but even more proud of Pongo who was a real trouper! The stairs are the open kind to let snow/water flow through, and he wasn’t too sure about them, but he stuck it out and we were richly rewarded with gorgeous views!
Leaving Cloudland we ran across the first of several Blessing Boxes we’ve seen on this trip. I think it’s SUCH an awesome idea! I think I’ll start one when we get home (or wherever we settle down!)
We really can’t wait to come back to Chattanooga, but we had to move on to Nashville! But you’ll have to wait until next time to read all about it because this is already a novel! (I’ll post again in the next few days, I promise, Miss Denise!)