Tuesday, September 05, 2017

shovel all the coal in, gotta keep it rollin' / woo, woo, Chattanooga, there you are

(I know I said I'd update Chattanooga Day Two yesterday, but I LIED.)

Day Two in Chattanooga had a leisurely start. We had one destination in mind (about which more later), but this place did not open until noon, and we had some time to kill before then. So we decided to take a five minute-ish walk over to the Chattanooga Choo Choo for brunch.

The Chattanooga Choo Choo is a hotel built in an old decommissioned railway station, with guest rooms both inside the terminal building and in the Pullman train cars, the latter of which are on the old rails out back behind the lobby. Don't get me wrong, our Air BnB was nice, but if I had know that we could have slept on a train? Bitch, we would have been sleeping on a train. (I mean, probably. I did like having a king-sized bed at our townhouse, though. And laundry facilities. And, you know, a shower where I could move my arms around.) But even non-guests of the hotel were free to wander the grounds, and check out the lobby in the old terminal building, which had a Great Gatsby feel that I enjoyed very much. Even the bathrooms were neat, and reminded me of the bathrooms in my old elementary school (plus a chandelier, minus the off-color graffito-tagging).

We had breakfast at the Frothy Monkey, just off the main lobby, which inhabited a gorgeous, high-ceilinged space and featured a solid breakfast/brunch menu. The wait time for our food was a bit long, but it was Sunday brunch, nothing unexpected.

Out in the back courtyard of the hotel, by the train tracks, there were a slew of outdoor games. I wish we had known about them beforehand--I would have sent my kids to go play out there rather than waiting at our table FOREVER (in their estimation) for the food. But here's one of the purposes of me writing this recap: now you know. They had a few games of oversized Jenga, cornhole, and a bocce court, which my kids were obsessed with. Nina, in particular, was freakishly great at bocce. Meaning she beat pretty much everyone she played with, and I can assure you we were not pulling our punches. She's an old Italian man at core, I guess. I sure hope she gets that bocce scholarship when the time comes. (Other PRO TIP: they don't actually care who comes in to play with their stuff. We happened to have just eaten at the breakfast place, but you could also just wander in off the street and play a few rounds, no one was checking, and I think the trains and the station alone are area attractions.)

Our real destination that day, however, was Lake Winnie. Lake Winnie (née Winnepesaukah) is a local "family amusement park" (which I guess they make a point of noting, to distinguish it from all those porn and booze-soaked regular amusement parks) that I was attracted to because of, rather than in in spite of, its old-school bootleg charm. Less than 15 minutes from the Southside neighborhood where we were staying, it was technically located over the Tennessee-Georgia state line, but close enough to Chattanooga to be a local attraction (and a pretty great one at that, if you aren't too concerned about culture and learning and whatnot). It was a good time.

They had your standard state fair type amusement rides. Bumper cars, Tilt-a-Whirl, a bootleg Dumbo ride (conveniently called "Jumbo" so you REALLY WINK WINK NUDGE NUDGE GET IT), midway games, and an old wooden coaster called "The Cannonball" which was ominously closed for a good hour and a half hours after the park opening for inspection and maintenance. My two boys rode it anyway. They didn't die.

Oh right, also, there was this thing, which was featured, in all different color schemes and iterations, some with name tags ("Sneaky" was one) around the park. Seemed pretty creepy and like it would invite all sorts of bad behavior or Instagram photo opps, but IT'S OK, IT'S A FAMILY AMUSEMENT PARK* YOU GUYS.

But I think the real draw of Lake Winnie was the waterpark. The waterpark was, I believe, put in much later as an afterthought, but in my estimation it's way better than the regular amusement park in terms of bang for your buck. (Though: disclaimer, I personally dislike thrill rides, and several of my kids and for sure my spouse are prone to motion sickness. It doesn't mean they don't go on the rides anyway, but afterwards...regrets, we've had a few.) But back to the waterpark. A good number of waterslides, ranging from body slides to tube-ride spaghetti slides to a quad-pack of those super-steep wedgie-inducers; a lazy river, two water playground ares for the smaller kids, a some aquatic obstacles. The height cutoff was 42 inches for even the most demanding of rides, which meant that none of my kids were excluded from anything (thus eliminating the potential for needless jealousies and strife), and everything was neat and clean and no one caught herpangina. (Yet. I suppose I could be jumping the gun with our "HYGIENE COP IS PLEASED" all-clear signal. But it all looked very clean, and I didn't see any floating Band-Aids or errant turds anywhere in sight our whole time there. (Though I did see a lot of interesting tattoos.)

(Yes, we shelled out the big bucks for Dippin' Dots. No, I don't care if my kids go to college or not. Yes, I am Sean Spicer, and complained loudly while eating all of it.)

We stayed at Lake Winnie for about three and half hours. I think we could have stayed longer, but my kids were getting a bit tired, and I'm in a firm believer in the "too much of a good thing" principle. (In a word: don't.) So we headed back to the apartment, vegged out for about an hour and a half, and then headed back out for dinner.

Dinner was at Stir, one door over from the Frothy Monkey where we had brunch. It. Was. GOOD. I deliberately wanted to choose a place that didn't have too much of a "southern food" emphasis (personally I can't eat like that for more than a day and a half--really became a problem that time I went to the ASA in New Orleans and by the time I got home I never wanted to eat again) but Stir was more of an oyster bar slash elevated American fare with some Southern farm to table thrown in to round it out. I would have more pictures of what we ate, but it was gone by the time photography occurred to me. (Also, I know this is such a stupid dumb precious hipster thing, but I love it when a place has artisanal ice. It fascinates me--the dimensions, the clarity, the way it looks in the glass. I ordered an Old-Fashioned 80% for the ice cube. And then I ordered a second one because someone drank most of my first glass. And then my kids ate a third of my oysters so WHAT THE HELL DID I EVEN GET TO EAT THAT NIGHT?)

After dinner we walked back to our Air BnB and watched Wonder Woman, because Feminism. And that was our Chattanooga weekend. In sum: 36 hours was just about right. Did we do everything we were interested in doing? No. Do I want to move to Chattanooga? No. Will we be back to visit? Probably. It's close, it's easy, and my kids had a great weekend. Which means we had a great weekend too.

Regarding the song "Chattanooga Choo Choo," which I somehow know very well--I had a Glenn Miller's "This Is Jazz" Greatest Hits CD and listened to it when I was in college on a fairly regular basis. Because I am, and have always been, geriatric. "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and "Pennsylvania 6-5000" were among my favorite songs on that CD, so I guess we'll be going to Philly next chance we get. (The best part of the latter song is when they chant, "Pennsylvania Six-Five-Oh-Oh-Oh," and if you disagree with me on this point I will fight you.)

* Oh, one last thing. When we were leaving the water park through the main amusement park, I got chased down by one of the park attendants, who said he couldn't allow me to keep walking. I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit (full coverage, no parts showing--particularly because I have no parts to show) but he wouldn't let me proceed until I covered up. "That's fine," I told him pleasantly, "let me just get my clothes from my bag." (Joe was still walking and carrying the bag and about 30 feet ahead of me.) But the park attendant stood directly in my path blocking my way and literally wouldn't let me keep walking any further all bare naked as I was. So I had to call Joe on his cell phone (he didn't hear me yelling) and have him double back to bring me my shorts. It's not the park attendant's fault--he was just doing his job and doesn't make the rules--but yeah, wow, FAMILY PARK INDEED.