Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chattanooga: Day 1

The morning we headed out on our trip, CJ developed a cough. The only thing we heard for the entire 111 miles was him in the back impersonating the hack of a 70 year old smoker. Not the way we wanted this thing to start. Also, I get horribly car sick-it only takes an hour of riding to flip my stomach upside down. I'm best friends with anti-nausea medicine. Only that morning I'd forgotten about it until it was time to leave. Guess who got to drive first? As much as I dislike driving Monteagle Mountain, I dislike vomiting more.
We arrive at The Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel and the kids get their first look at the row of train cars that have been renovated into hotel rooms and they freak. We get to sleep in one of those? The reservations person had told me that even though we couldn't check in until 3pm, we could pick up our package tickets at the desk as early as 10am and get started on our day. I think it was around noon when we made it there. I took the computer print out of the tickets that were promised with our package-just in case. But I found everything in perfect order. We hit the streets in search of lunch. At first Jay tried to drive but we didn't know where to park and the price of parking...I finally convinced him to return to the hotel and go for the option the desk clerk told me: park at the hotel and take the free electric bus, they run every ten minutes and go everywhere a tourist needs. We boarded the electric bus and rode. A group of college girls boarded at the next stop and one of them began talking to CJ about his Thomas the Train shirt and she knew names of the trains from the show. Then in conversation with WC, they discovered it was his birthday. Then the entire group sang 'Happy Birthday' to him. Not being one to like the attention of strangers, he was somewhere between delighted and mortified. 
Our first lunch there we hit Sticky Fingers BBQ. A guy Jay knows from the area recommended it. The food and service was good. A nice laid back place with a decent kids menu- they ate their meals well. And from there it was walking distance to the Creative Discover Museum. If you have kids that are three years or older this is a must-do place. They have an area for smaller kids and I may be wrong but I think you get more of your money's worth with them a little older than toddler. CJ enjoyed himself but I worried about him trying to keep up with WC on some of the things. This is a huge building filled with hands-on exploration, observation and play. At $6.95 for kids 2-12 & $8.95 ages 13 and older it is a steal of an activity because they can stay all day and not get bored.The giant dinosaur skeleton standing prominently through two rooms amazed them as did the big sand pit archaeological dig. Which was a slightly a concern for me with the potential for sand to be thrown into eyes or placed into the hats provided and dumped on a head. There are rooms devoted to different types of musical instruments. The percussion room was a giant hit with my boys. They played everything that they could beat in that room. As was the room with a projector that displayed whoever stood in front of the camera on the screen either in outline or color and it would change what it would do. The boys would start the player piano outside the room to play what sounded like a looney tunes song and dance in front of the camera to see themselves on screen- they had to have that musical accompaniment. The place closed at five and we about shut it down. Mama was tired and the kids wired.
Now I'd heard both good and bad things about the train car rooms at the Choo Choo hotel. But as much as the kids love trains we decided to take the gamble. I think, like most things in life, it's all about expectations. And lets face it, these are metal train cars and they were built as such. There's only a limited amount of space to begin with. I thought they made an excellent use of the space they had. Our room had a queen sized bed and a daybed with a trundle pull out. Everything was comfortable, the sheets were pristine white and even the trundle came complete with a thick twin size mattress, it would have supported Jay for a comfortable nights sleep. The only thing was when the trundle was pulled out there was no way to get from the queen bed to the bathroom. To remedy that we moved a chair over next to the door to provide a path. The bathroom, had this not been a train car, wouldn't have cut it in any other hotel. It wasn't nasty but the tub wasn't in great condition and the shower head moved around and was very low- and I'm short 5'2" and I had to bend down a tad to wash my hair. The heater in the bathroom didnt work- not that big a deal. I did like the little one cup coffee maker next to the sink-the only water source in the room. I started brewing a cup when I got in the shower and had a nice cup waiting for me when I finished. The towels were scratchy as hell, nice for a over-all exfoliation. But not generally what I want in a bath towel. The hotel staff were friendly and helpful. We received a phone call our first evening to see how we were settling in and if there was anything he could do.
I noticed a sign in the room that said something to the tune of as much as we've tried to sound proof there isn't anyway to completely sound proof a metal train car (makes sense when you think about it). Noises from your neighbors can be expected. Oh and the hot water heater only holds 30 gallons. That last one ended up not being a problem-just space out the baths. The first night I heard nothing. So I thought the sign was probably in response to some overly sensitive types being big babies. Then the second night I awoke to sounds of adults talking and kids playing. I assumed maybe people were right outside and rolled over- I'd taken some night-time cold medication and fell back asleep without problem. Then some time in the wee hours of the morning, well before the sun even considered rising, I woke again, to a strange sound...growling? What is that? Where is it coming from? I sat up. Jay tapped me. What is that?
"The people in the next room snoring," he replied. I started laughing. Oh my God, it sounded like a bear. He said that he woke and thought it was me until he realized that I was quiet. So, my tip on this is do not stay in the train car on your honeymoon or romantic get away. My final thought on the train cars- it was fine for two nights. I wouldn't want it for longer because the close quarters start to close in with two very active boys and a man. Bring ear plugs or sleeping pills.

My next entry I'll discuss the Garden Restaurant there at the hotel and some of the other things we did.

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