This weekend my family took a couple of days to get away and celebrate my fortieth birthday. I cannot even believe I’m forty…I sure don’t feel like I always thought 40 would be like! I am sure my mom cannot believe I’m 40 either!
We went to Chattanooga, Tennessee and spent two nights sleeping aboard a Victorian train car at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel. My kids thought that was so fun! My boys loved playing outside our “door,” calling out, “All aboard!” The hotel is a historic hotel of America. Once a bustling train station dedicated on December 1, 1909, it was converted into a hotel in 1973 after the last train stopped at the station in 1970. Faster modes of transportation (auto and air travel) replaced the demand for railway travel. The Terminal Station welcomed Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt.
After our arrival mid afternoon and checking into our train, we took a tour of the beautiful Ruby Falls. Ruby Falls is America’s highest underground waterfall. It was discovered by Leo Lambert after his exploration of the cave (which had once been a hospital during the Civil War and also a hideout to American Indians and outlaws). Mr. Lambert and his fellow explorers entered a small opening and explored for 17 hours mostly crawling on their hands and knees before discovering this wonder. He named the falls in honor of his wife, Ruby.
We rode an elevator 260 feet down into Lookout Mountain and were led by a humorous guide through a cave of geological wonders (I call them God wonders). We saw formations in the shape of everything from bacon and a dragon’s foot to a leaning tower and Niagara Falls. Then as we neared the falls at 1,120 feet underground, we could hear the thundering roar of water and our guide turned the spotlight on the breathtaking Ruby Falls. We walked behind the falls and looked up as the water poured down into the pool. Brad commented, “God made something so beautiful underground! I cannot imagine how beautiful Heaven is going to be!”
We found a piece of home, an Earth Fare, where we ate dinner. Remember, kids eat free on Thursday nights! We ended our evening at the hotel’s indoor swimming pool.
On Friday, we explored Rock City, a true marvel featuring massive rock formations which create tunnels, bridges, overlooks, and narrow passes. We all really loved walking through these rocks and gardens. There were lots of photographic spots along the way, including the Swinging Bridge, the view of seven states from Lover’s Leap and the High Water Falls. There was a narrow bridge over the 100-foot falls where you could look over the side and see the water as it hit the pool way, way below. I hung onto my kids (my boys) for dear life.
The kids enjoyed walking through the Fairyland Caverns where you could peek into “windows” along the way and view scenes from different fairy tales. The path led to Mother Goose Village, which was a village of Mother Goose rhymes, featuring Humpty Dumpty, Jack Sprat, The Old Woman in the Shoe, and Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater among others. The nursery rhymes were posted in front of each glow-in-the-dark visual display.
This place has a very interesting history, too, including Garnet Carter’s advertising campaign of having, by 1950, 900 barn roofs from Michigan to Texas painted with “See Rock City” to lure vacationers to his gardens. So now the Fergusons have seen Rock City!
After lunch, we rode the Incline Railway on Lookout Mountain, which is the world’s steepest passenger railway. It’s referred to as the “Magnificent Mile.” The Railway has been designated as a national historic site as well as a national mechanical engineering landmark. It was fun to ride and take in the views of the mountain and Chattanooga Valley.
The rest of the afternoon was spent leisurely as we walked through the hotel’s model railroad display, which is also the south’s largest model railroad. It was fun to see some of the places in the model we had just visited in Chattanooga. We enjoyed my birthday dinner at PF Changs, a Chinese restaurant. I ordered jasmine blackberry green tea and crispy honey chicken served over rice sticks. We finished the evening with a stop for dessert at Dairy Queen and a swim at the pool.
We awoke around 5:30am Saturday morning to a huge thunderstorm. The thunder was deafening, and I wondered how lightning-proof that metal train car was. We all fell back asleep and woke after 8:00am. Very unusual for my boys! A nice gift for their mom! Without umbrella or jackets (because they were conveniently in the car), we ran to the Garden Restaurant for a buffet breakfast before heading out. Brad and Logan absolutely soaked their shoes and socks while making a run for the car, which we had had to park in the side parking lot, quite a distance from our train. We finally loaded up and dried out on our six hour drive home!
As much as I love to travel and explore new places, there is no place I love as much as home. And there are no people I love more than my family. I am thankful for the family and friends God has given to me to journey thorough life with. As I turn 40, I rejoice as I remember that “all of my tomorrows are in His hands” (as said by Corrie ten Boom). Isaiah 46:4 declares, “Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you!” Amen! I love that! Yes, life is fabulous at forty!