Day 5 Summary – August 4, 2005
Chattanooga, TN to Metropolis, IL
Like many other mid- to large-sized cities in the eastern United States, Chattanooga is as much one large city as it is a mixture of separate neighborhoods that each have their own distinct personalities and appearances.
So when I found out that one of the neighborhoods of Chattanooga is named Brainerd, I was pretty excited. Here, in a city right next to the Tennessee/Georgia border, I would have the opportunity to see a neighborhood that has the very unique name of the community I live in almost 900 miles away in Minnesota.
By no coincidence, the hotel we stayed at in Chattanooga was located within the Brainerd neighborhood. In fact, from the window located in the hotel room, I had an excellent view of Brainerd Road, the main thoroughfare running through the neighborhood of Brainerd.
When we left our hotel in the morning, it was time to go exploring Brainerd. Before leaving Chattanooga, I wanted to see – and take pictures of – everything I could find that said the word Brainerd on it.
Well, I hit the jackpot by turning off of Brainerd Road and onto North Moore Road. On this road, I found the Brainerd Golf Course, the Brainerd Complex of the city of Chattanooga, the Brainerd Tennis Courts, and, best of all, Brainerd High School, which was not only the “home of the panthers,” but also the “home of Venus Lacy,” a 1996 Olympic gold medal winner in basketball. Unlike its counterpart in Minnesota, the Brainerd High School of Tennessee can boast of four state champion basketball teams as well as two runner-up champion basketball teams.
Although there were a couple attractions in Chattanooga that I thought looked like good places to potentially go, I happened to be more in a geocaching mood when we were in Chattanooga. So, rather than going to the top of Lookout Mountain, which looked like a fabulous place to see the city of Chattanooga, but just not on an über-smoggy day like the one experienced by Chattanooga on the day I was there, I went on to find two geocaches.
The first geocache was in a serene and picturesque cemetery in the North Brainerd neighborhood; the second was near the University of Tennessee planetary observatory in the East Brainerd neighborhood. I found both caches rather quickly, and especially had a fun time trampling over Kudzu, “the plant that ate the south,” to find the second one.
So, after finding what I was going after, we got on Interstate 24. After seeing the magnificent Tennessee River right from the side of the roadway, it was time to get to exit the interstate and drive around the neighborhood of Tiftonia, in the very eastern outskirts of Chattanooga. My intention was to watch the action at some of the train yards in the area, but, after discovering that there were no really “legal” places to park, that idea was thrown out the window.
I did, however, get the opportunity to cross the Tennessee/Georgia border on a 2-lane highway, so that was pretty pleasing. Also, I was able to find a Comfort Inn right next to a McDonald’s that had a good, reliable wireless internet connection.
After catching up to all that I had missed on the internet, we got back onto Interstate 24, only to head back into Georgia for a little while. The welcome to Georgia sign along the interstate was different from the one I saw on the 2-lane U.S. Highway 11, in that it prominently stated that Georgia was the site of the 1996 Olympic Games. That’s just something I found interesting, considering how many years it’s been since 1996.
After traveling along the roughly 4 miles that Interstate 24 is in Georgia, we crossed the border back into Tennessee. At the exit to U.S. Highway 72, it was once again time to get off the interstate to go on a little side-trip. This time it was to see the state of Alabama, since I had never been there before.
So we drove about 7 miles south to pretty much the only establishment in the far northeast corner of Alabama, the community of Bridgeport (population 2,728). The drive getting to the town was nice and scenic, but the town itself wasn’t all that charming. The downtown area, which looked pretty small to begin with, was practically all boarded up, and it was very apparent that there were a lot of people living in poverty. Still, I did see a neat caboose on display at the local historical society’s museum.
After heading back into Tennessee from Alabama, we got back on Interstate 24. A mere couple of minutes after getting back into Tennessee, we finally made it back into the central time zone, thus gaining an hour of our lives back.
The drive from the Tennessee/Georgia up to about Murfreesboro, TN became pretty hilly again. Although not as scenic as the Great Smoky Mountains that I saw the previous day, this area of Tennessee had a very charming quality about it and would be a place I would like to visit more in-depth sometime when I have the time to do so.
By the time we got to the southern suburbs of Nashville, it was time once more to head down to the local Sonic. Luckily, there was one in the sprawling city of Smyrna. There really isn’t anything to note here, but I do enjoy saying the name Smyrna. It would be fun to live in a city with such an interesting name.
After eating, we got back on the road to visit the one Nashville attraction that I wanted to see: The Hermitage, otherwise known as the plantation Andrew Jackson owned and lived on while he wasn’t fulfilling his presidential duties.
Finding The Hermitage was pretty easy, thanks to the large signs placed along the roadway to direct tourists there. I noticed something interesting as soon as we pulled into The Hermitage museum’s parking lot: a car with Minnesota license plates and decal saying it was purchased from Mills.
Anyway, The Hermitage was a very interesting place. The first stop for tourists visiting is the visitors’ center, which features a 15-minute documentary about the life of Andrew Jackson as well as a small museum featuring Jackson artifacts. Following seeing this, all visitors had to head outside, to begin a walking tour around the grounds of the plantation.
The first stop was, naturally, the president’s mansion. People dressed in garb from the early to mid nineteenth century give tours of the inside of the mansion about every 15 minutes.
The inside of the mansion was very fascinating, especially considering how well restored it has remained since the eighteenth century. Unfortunately, no photography is allowed inside, however, so I can’t share any photos of what the innards of the mansion looked like.
Following this, it was time to go back outside and take the walking tour around the plantation. There were some buildings that visitors could walk through, such as some typical slave cabins of the era, but, for the most part, the tour involved looking at archaeological remains of what was once located on the plantation’s grounds. I opted to only go and see the slave cabins, because the heat was so stifling the day we were in Nashville. The temperature while we were at The Hermitage was 93°F, and the heat index was pushing the 100°F mark.
Nevertheless, it was very interesting to see the cramped quarters slaves lived in during the 1800s, plus there were some neat displays inside the cabins displaying what archaeologists have found buried deep within the ground around where the cabins on the plantation originally were located.
I ended my abbreviated walking tour of the plantation by visiting the place where Andrew Jackson is buried. His tomb is only a few hundred feet away from his mansion, located deep within a serene garden that has been at the mansion since the time Jackson lived there.
After stopping at the gift store, we exited The Hermitage and got back on the interstate to head through Nashville. Although traffic was generally horrendous around the entire Nashville area, it really picked up going into downtown. Even so, I did see two more vehicles with Minnesota license plates meandering along the interstate near downtown.
After the traffic loosened up in the northern suburbs of Nashville, the countryside began to get a bit hilly again. By the time the road got to Clarksville, TN – more than 30 miles north of Nashville – the terrain had really started to flatten out, and, by the time the road reached the Tennessee/Kentucky border, the scenery was heavily forested, but essentially completely flat.
From the Tennessee/Kentucky border, it was just about 40 miles before we crossed the beautiful Ohio River into the “northern” state of Illinois. Our hotel was located right across the river in the small town of Metropolis.
Some stoplights on Brainerd Road
Amigo is located in Brainerd Village
The Brainerd Complex was like a small park area owned by the city of Chattanooga
Sign up for Brainerd Bills football
The Brainerd tennis courts were part of the Brainerd Complex
The southern portion of Brainerd High School
Although it came out overexposed, here's one of the signs in front of Brainerd High School
Another sign in front of Brainerd High School
The main entrance to Brainerd High School
Beautiful Greenwood Cemetary
This is what happens when kudzu invades
There was also at least one baptist church in the Brainerd neighborhood
In the far eastern portion of Chattanooga
The beautiful Tennessee River flows through Chattanooga
This was pretty much downtown Bridgeport
One of the buildings of downtown Bridgeport
A house in Bridgeport
Another house in Bridgeport
There were quite a few firework superstores right across the border from Bridgeport in Tennessee
The front of President Jackson's mansion
The back of President Jackson's mansion
This sign discusses slavery at the Hermitage
The cabin that Jackson once lived in and then convered into a place to house slaves
A typical slave cabin during Jackson's era
This is where Andrew Jackson is buried
One of the many footpaths in the garden that surrounds Jackson's tomb
A side view of the Hermitage from the garden
The first welcome to Georgia sign
Some Georiga signs
The first welcome to Tennessee sign
The second welcome to Georgia sign, this time mentioning the 1996 Olympics
Northern Georgia scenery
The second welcome to Tennessee sign
The Alabama state line
One of the businesses in Bridgeport
The third welcome to Tennessse sign
The land got pretty hilly in the south-central portion of Tennessee
The Nashville skyline
Welcome to Kentucky sign
The bridge crossing the mighty Ohio River in Paducah, KY
The Illinois welcome sign
512k (broadband) or 56k (dial-up)
Inside a Slave Cabin at the Hermitage
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