Missionary Ridge Local

I am happy to say that, as a train lover, I have finally taken a ride on the Tennessee Valley Railroad.

A few weeks ago we rode the Missionary Ridge Local, which is a one hour train ride that travels through Missionary Ridge with a stop at the East Chattanooga Depot.

I am not quite sure what happened the weekend we were there, but there were some amendments to our trip. For starters, the steam engine is supposed to run on weekends, but we ended up with a diesel engine. This disappointed me, but this is just another excuse to go on another train ride someday. There is also supposed to be a short tour of the shop, next to the East Chattanooga Depot, but this did not occur on our ride. I am not sure why.

One thing I did enjoy was the turntable demonstration at the East Chattanooga Depot. The conductor was knowledgeable and explained the whole process while the engine turned around to prepare for the trip back. The conductor told everyone that this turntable is one of only a few in the United States. I was giddy when hearing this, because I know of another one, in Frostburg Maryland, in use by the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, which my parents both work for.

The train passed through some neighborhoods, as well as over Chickamagua Creek and through Missionary Ridge Tunnel, a tunnel dated to before the Civil War.

Commentary was provided throughout the trip about the local history and what we were seeing through the windows.

Chattanooga has a rich railroad history, especially during the Civil War. The area became a railroad hub in the 1850s. During the Civil War, both sides recognized the importance of holding onto the city, for its railroad lines. There was the infamous “Great Locomotive Chase” during the Civil War, organized by civilian James Andrews, in which he and Union soldiers captured a locomotive, The General, in Georgia, in order to destroy as much of the Western and Atlantic Railroad on the way to Chattanooga. They were eventually captured, and now there is a monument and grave sites dedicated to those men in Chattanooga’s National Cemetery. When Chattanooga was captured by the Union in 1863, it was called the “Death Knell of the Confederacy,” undoubtedly because of the importance of the railroad.

The train depot from where we left, Grand Junction, has a nice gift shop and a deli as well.

After the train ride, we walked through the collection of train cars and engines that are on display.

I admit, I’ve been on better train rides. Maybe I’m spoiled because as a kid, I’ve frequently rode in the First Class Parlor car, the Marian, on the Strasburg Railroad. However, I still enjoyed this trip. I am looking forward to longer rides, such as a dinner train, or the Chickamauga Turn, which is a six hour ride with a layover in Chickamauga.

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About to enter the 1858 Missionary Ridge Tunnel.
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Passing the shop as we were pulling into the East Chattanooga Depot.
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The engine takes a spin on the turntable.
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At the East Chattanooga Depot. I loved the little set up they had, complete with chickens!
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The inside of our car.
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One of the engines on display outside the Grand Junction depot.

A half-day in Trenton, GA

Trenton, Georgia is the county seat of Dade County, on the border of Tennessee and Hamilton County. I work in Trenton.

It is a rural county, and the town of Trenton is small, but there are some nice shops and good places to eat. Coupled with a visit to Cloudland Canyon State Park, you can spend about half a day there.

All of my favorite places to eat are all located on the square on Main Street. Corner Coffee has good soups and sandwiches. I ate there this past weekend and I got the grilled cheese sandwich with loaded potato soup. Lalitos is a Mexican restaurant. My favorite meal there is the #15 dinner plate: one chicken tamale, one beef taco and rice. Their chips and salsa are amazing! Thatchers is a BBQ restaurant. Their pulled pork sandwiches are awesome!

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The inside of Corner Coffee. The owner is really nice and enjoys chatting with everyone while waiting for their food.
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Indoor dining at Corner Coffee is currently closed, but expected to open again soon.

The historical courthouse is in the middle of the square. It is empty right now, but it is a pretty building and makes for some nice pictures.

On the other side of the square is a small park with a gazebo. A few times Derek and I have grabbed a meal to go and then have eaten it in the park.

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The Dade County Historical Courthouse.
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This park is located near the square and is right across from where I work.

If you like history, you can check out the American Legion’s War Memorial Museum, which is a great collection from local veterans. There are some really interesting items in the collection, including an original Revolutionary War drum, and bullets found at the various Civil War sites. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday, and by appointment.

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The American Legion War Memorial Museum.

Cloudland Canyon is just a few miles south of Trenton. One of the trail heads for Sittons Gulch is actually in a residential neighborhood of Trenton. If hiking isn’t your thing, you can just enjoy the view at the overlook, and check out the visitor’s center. There are a few different hiking trails to choose from, ranging from an easy 1 mile, to strenuous. I have written about Cloudland Canyon multiple times. Here is the most recent article.

There are also some antique shops scattered around the town, if that’s your type of thing. If you’re heading back home to the Chattanooga area, take Highway 11 north and stop at the Wildwood Depo, a great little antique shop with a unique collection of items.

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The Wildwood Depot.

Reflecting on the past decade, new year

So much has happened in the last 10 years, and in just 2019 as well. I’m sure everyone has claimed that, but Derek and I have gone through so many changes.

From 2010-2019 we went from being engaged to married, we bought our first house (and then subsequently had to give that house up when we felt we had no choice but to leave Pennsylvania), we started new jobs and careers and then got laid off from jobs.

We added two bachelors degrees in graphic design to our education, and then moved cross country to Houston, Texas, for Derek to get a masters degree in fine arts.

We enjoyed life in Houston for three years while he was in school, and I had a job that I loved. We had hoped to stay in Houston for a few more years, but when the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga offers a job to teach graphic design, well, you pack up again for another (at least smaller) cross country move.

Derek moved out here first, on August 1, and I joined him on Sept. 12. We were apart for about five weeks, with a one week visit to Chattanooga in the middle of that time period.

It was rough to be separated from Derek for that long, but the time ended up going by fast, and now we’re better off for it.

I always enjoy starting over, for the sense of adventure, but with it also comes feelings of depression and hopelessness. Derek got to move to a new place, and have a plan in place for himself, whether it was starting school as a student or a teacher, but I had to worry for two months about finding a job.

We’re finally over those hurdles, and I’m happy that we’re starting the new year and decade with a little bit more of a permanent plan in place, or at least a longer term plan.

Chattanooga feels more like home to me than any other place I’ve lived in, and we won’t be ready to leave any time soon.

It would be great if we could stay here permanently, but because Derek ultimately wants a tenure track position, there will possibly be another move in our future. The nice thing though is that it won’t be in the near future.

Derek and I seem to do things in twos or threes: We lived in our first apartment in Pennsylvania for two years. We owned our house in Pennsylvania for three years. We went to school for the second degree for two years. Derek went to school for three years for the masters program. We were in Houston for three years. We were in our first apartment in Houston for two years.

It will be a relief to break free from that cycle for a while. No more moving, no more schooling. No more new jobs. I am quite happy with my current job, so I hope this rings true for me as well as Derek.

It’s comforting to know that, with any luck and barring any unforeseen circumstances, a good part of this decade will be the same, with no changes.

So far the first month of 2020 has been quiet for us, and I expect most of the winter to be quiet as well, but we’re enjoying our time together, and enjoying getting back on track.

For this year, I’m looking forward to spring coming, and with warmer weather comes more exploring. We have already seen so much of the Chattanooga area and I’m excited for all the things we still plan to do.

Visiting old friends, and getting a glimpse of the Smoky Mountains

One of my best friends Dawn, and her family, live in Sevierville, Tennessee, near the Smoky Mountains. We used to work together in Pennsylvania, and have stayed close. We moved to Houston in August, and her and her family moved to Tennessee that November, so it had been over three years since we last saw each other.

When Derek found out he got the job at UTC, I texted Dawn and said, “Best friends will be reunited again in the great state of Tennessee!” It is comforting to know that I have a friend relatively close by.

We spent the day with her two weeks ago, and we got a good preview of the Smoky Mountain region, and some of the things to do in the nearby tourist towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

We got there early in the morning and all headed out to breakfast at Flapjack’s Pancake Cabin. I had heard that this part of Tennessee was known for their pancake houses, so I was happy to experience one. I loved the decor inside!

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Dawn with her twin daughters at Flapjack’s. Not pictured is her husband Brian, who was also with us.
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Strawberry pancakes for breakfast.

Our first stop after breakfast was the Dolly Parton statue, in front of Sevierville’s court house. Dolly was born in Sevierville.

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We drove down the Smoky Mountain Parkway, on the way to Gatlinburg, and Derek and I were amazed at how many tourist attractions there were. Most of them looked quite cheesy! I knew that was what the area was like in general, but I didn’t expect so much of it.

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An example of one of the tourist attractions: The Hatfields and McCoy’s dinner feud.

We drove through Smoky Mountain National Park for a few miles to get to Gatlinburg on the other side, and we were shocked at how much traffic there was. We had thought we would miss the foliage crowd by going in November, but it was a sunny, mild day, so that was probably the last of the tourist rush.

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A quick shot through the windshield while driving through the National Park.

We were initially planning on finding parking in Gatlinburg, and then getting out and walking around for a little bit, but it was a madhouse. We quickly abandoned those plans. However I am glad that it ended up happening that way, because now I know what to possibly expect when we vacation there, hopefully next year.

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Scarecrows lined the streets in Gatlinburg.

We ended up going back towards Pigeon Forge. Gatlinburg seems to be the most popular of the towns, so the traffic died down considerably.

While in Pennsylvania, Dawn and I would get together on Friday and Saturday nights at our houses, and enjoy cups of tea together at our kitchen tables, while chatting about anything and everything. Many, many hours were spent together with cups of tea. Therefore it was important to us, and symbolic as well, that we get drinks together during this visit.

We stopped at Espresso Yourself, a small coffee shop in Pigeon Forge. It was great to continue our chats as if no time had passed at all since we last saw each other.

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Chatting and drinks at Expresso Yourself.

Then we headed to the Apple Barn in Sevierville. It is a large complex that consists of two restaurants, a general store, a winery and more. What a nice store! I could have bought a lot more than we did. We bought red and white plaid table place mats with apples on them, plus some apple butter and a big jug of apple cider.

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Dawn and I at the Apple Barn.
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Inside the Apple Barn general store.

After that we got a quick mid afternoon bite to eat, and then we headed back to her house to say our goodbyes. We had a great day together. They will come visit us in Chattanooga next, sometime after the holidays.