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Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday Mug Shot

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Probably my best Chattanooga story is about my Dad and a glass of wine to unwind after all day driving.

Background of the story is like this: Mom, Dad and I were going on vacation together in the beginning of November, 1992. It was a few weeks after y7 brother’s (first) wedding, which was a major and stressful event for both families making it happen. Oh, it was stressful for me too! The Braves were in the playoffs and I was a bridesmaid. It told them both that if they scheduled the ceremony while the Braves game was on, I’d have my watchman on while I was standing up by the altar with them. Luckily, the game wasn’t until later, during the reception! But the whole wedding thing was stressful for the immediate family members who didn’t have one of their teams in the playoffs too. So, we ventured off on a well-earned week’s vacation, traveling to Atlanta by way of Chattanooga.

The night we got into Chattanooga was going to be November 8, Dad’s 48th birthday. As I was planning the trip, I wanted to do something special for Pop. He wasn’t as good about taking vacations as Mom and I were. It took a few weeks of quoting Stephen Covey to him and repeating the “sharpen the saw” mantra before he agreed to go.

My love of trains really does come from Dad’s romanticized view of them and I knew he’d love to stay at the Holiday Inn, Chattanooga Choo-Choo. Better than that, I got us not a room at that hotel, but a night in one of the renovated passenger car guest rooms in the train courtyard. I also ordered a balloon bouquet and a cake to be waiting in the room when we checked in.

We left very early in the morning on November 7 with a plan to go as far as Corbin, Kentucky that day. I was already excited about the next night, the surprise cake and balloons waiting for Pop and I had also out a bottle of Asti Spumante in my suitcase to put on ice as soon as we checked in to have with the cake.

It’s about 10 casual hours on the road with stops and all to get to Corbin from Northville. We checked in to the Knights Inn, where I’d stayed a few times myself, at around 4:30. After driving all day, my Dad wanted to have a glass of wine and unwind a little before we ventured out to find a restaurant for dinner. We went over to the adjacent gas station to fill up the SUV and ask where the nearest liquor store was. Dad went in to the store to pay for the gas and ask. He came out with a silly, I mean strangely silly, smile on his face. When he got back in the car, Mom asked him what was up.

He said “I can’t get a bottle of wine here,” sounding a bit perplexed. “When I asked the girl where I could get a bottle of wine in town, she said ‘Honey, you’re in a DRYYYY county!’”

I’d never thought about that. I mean I always stopped at that Knights Inn in Corbin because it was clean inexpensive and close to Cracker Barrel for breakfast in the morning. Generally, if I drive all day, I like to relax with a good cup of coffee. Dry county, hmph. I guess I never really thought about it. I knew the Jack Daniels distillery is in a dry county, which is an odd bit of irony, but, okay, so no wine tonight.

But NO!!! Pop said after he told us about the very quaintly Southern way he was told about it, that the woman in the store told him the closest places to get wine were about an hour north in Richmond or south into Knoxville, TN.

There was a little parental grumbling. Mom figured he’d be fine without a glass of wine that one night, Pop said let’s just go for a ride through the state forest area and look for someplace to have dinner. As we drove around, we kept driving by places that had soda machines in front of them. That became our joking symbol of a dry county. When we passed a small country store with a Coke AND a Pepsi machine, my Dad proclaimed it to be REALLY dry! Funny thing is, it was true. We didn’t see nearly as many soda machines outside once we got into Richmond, and yeah, you KNOW we got all the way BACK north to Richmond before we stopped for dinner! Since we were in a wet county anyway, Dad stopped at a local party store to get a bottle. In fact he got two, just in case, since I didn’t know Corbin was in a dry county, he wasn’t taking any chances with Chattanooga.

Of course, the whole time we’re on this forage back north for a bottle of wine, I had a bottle of sparkling wine in my suitcase. Driving towards Chattanooga the next day, Mom and I tormented Pop with jokes about desperately seeking wine in a dry county. I did tell him to “remind me tonight to tell you a funny story about wine.”

When we checked into the Holiday Inn Chattanooga Choo-Choo, Pop was amazed. Mom and I had been there to the shops before, but it was mt Dad’s first look at the former train station turned into opulent hotel. I had made my Dad promise to let me pay for the hotel in Chattanooga before we left. I just couldn’t have him paying the extra cost for a train car and his own cake and balloons! But he did come up to the counter with me. After marveling at the train cars and smiling with interest when I told him they were actually guest rooms, he was wide eyed and grinning when he clerk confirmed that we were staying in a car.

I said, “Happy birthday, Popsie!”

He hugged me and said that it was a just awesome present. And he hadn’t even seen the room yet!

We got to our car and climbed on board. The first thing as we entered was the bathroom door, renovated to be more spacious than the standard train car bathroom, it had Hollywood vanity lights and the Chattanooga Choo-Choo logo on everything. The soap, shampoo and lotion was in a glossy cardboard foldout of the logo in black and gold. It was pretty cushy just walking in!

We walked into the main part of the room where there was an elevated area where the master bed was and a really sweet daybed, where I’d be for the night. On the table next to the TV and chairs was the cake box and a mug with candy in it and balloons tied to the handle.

“Talk about making you feel welcome! Balloons?”

I smiled, “Pop, look at what the mylar one says!”

The mylar balloon was a Happy Birthday balloon with Popsie in stickers at the base.

“Oh! This is you too??”

Then I opened the cake box, it too said “Happy Birthday Popsie.”

I got another big hug and a kiss. Then I smiled at him. “Remember that funny story I was going to tell you?”

I went to my suitcase and unzipped it. I pulled out the bottle of Asti. “We need to put some ice in the ice bucket for this!”

His eyes were wide. He asked me how long that bottle of wine had been in my suitcase and I told him since we left home.

“You mean we drove all the way back to Richmond and you had a bottle of wine the whole time?”

He asked Mom if she knew I had the wine. She confirmed that indeed she did.

We had a good laugh and after we came back from dinner, we shared a bottle of wine, a great cake and more laughs and birthday revelry on the start of a great trip.

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