A Staycation in Chattanooga

Last month I had to cancel my vacation plans. Last month I sulked because of it.

            When my husband cheerily announced we would take a “StayCation” instead, I rolled my eyes and grumbled, “We’ve tried that before and you ended up at work and I did laundry.”

            “Not this time,” he proclaimed, and sure enough, on the Friday we had been scheduled to leave town, he announced we were sleeping in, and we actually did. Then we ate scrambled eggs with fresh basil and a home-grown tomato and leisurely read the paper as we drank our coffee. There was no frenzied dash against time to get to work. We got there when we were good and ready, and left a little before we were ready, knowing all day that our being there was optional.

            Saturday was overcast and cool, perfect for curling up on the porch with a book and dozing w hen my eyes got heavy. Only on an official out-of-town vacation have I allowed myself to spend the entire day this unproductively.

            I woke up Sunday morning feeling rested and recharged. It was a good thing because my husband already had the bikes loaded and we drove to Reflection Riding, less than ten miles from my house. We peddled past a pasture with three horses grazing, then along Lookout Creek, which was straddled by an endless thicket of shade trees. Just ahead of me, my husband slowed down and pointed to a blue heron standing guard on a boulder near the water. He watched us warily as we coasted by, but he did not leave his post.

Just beyond the heron was a stretch of goldenrod  and tall purple flowers on both sides of the road. I stopped my bike to take it all in, incredulous that this explosion of beauty was on a barely traveled dirt road, and that was no upcharge for admission.

After our ride, we headed to the Boathouse for lunch, and ate our sandwiches as we watched two fishermen cast toward a shady spot close to the shore. We relaxed in the early autumn sun as bikers in tight fitting neon garb whizzed by, and a family of five, one with training wheels, cruised by. There were walkers and runners and bikers and skaters, all enjoying our Riverwalk, almost  as much as we were enjoying watching them.

Relaxed and satiated, we drove slowly down Riverfront Parkway, as droves of people in hot pink tee-shirts participated in “The Walk for the Cure” for breast cancer.

A minute later we heard the chords of “Can’t You See” and realized Marshal Tucker, the real live band, was performing at the Krystal Eating Contest. I reminisced about all the times I had listened to these songs on 8-track tapes in high school, and felt the years melt away.

We parked at the Bell South Stadium and walked right down on the field for the National Frisbee Dog Championship. A $1 donation to McKamey Animal Center was the only monetary exchange required of us, but the pleasure we experienced was priceless. The majority of dogs in the contest were ‘rescued’ animals, and the crowd favorite only had three legs. We had a seat in the grass and watched as these dogs ran alongside a sailing Frisbee, then leapt up in the air at the perfect split second, snagged the disc, then barreled back to the finish line. There were flips and extraordinary jumps and more joy in that field, from the participants and spectators as well as the dogs.

Our next stop was the Chattanooga Market. Again, we waltzed right into the action-packed pavilion without taking out our wallets. I did breakdown and buy a frozen lemonade and my husband enjoyed a beer as we perused the wares. Potter, produce, jewelry and homemade goods were just a few of the booths that enthralled us. A nine-piece swing band belted out favorite tunes as dancers whirled and dipped and spun about the dance floor. I left with the best silver queen corn I’ve had all summer, and a loaf of freshly baked bread.

I visited a city that was vibrant and fun and beautiful, all less than ten miles from my home! I hate to tell my  husband this, but Sunday was the best vacation I’ve ever had!

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