Day 18

Sunday, June 12, 2005Huntsville, AL
Miles: 2140Space: The Final Frontier
We survived Arlene, or what was left of her, snug in the van. The wind blew a bit, it rained a bit and some fireflies flitted around our campsite, making me think we were having a very tiny thunderstorm. (I was half asleep.) When we got up it was still raining, so we decided to put off Rock City, as it is a high spot with views, which, as we’ve learned, are destined to be fogged in when we get to them. Instead, we headed towards downtown Chattanooga, TN (as opposed to the outskirts, which are in GA). Before making it all the way into town, we stopped at Waffle House for breakfast. Pecan waffles. Yummy. We learned that Trace Adkins has a favorite breakfast at Waffle House, but we didn’t order that.

Our next stop was the Tennessee Aquarium, which is housed in two buildings with glass roofs. We went first to the Ocean Exhibit, where we got to pet sharks and rays with their stings removed. They felt slimy and Ceridwen squealed, in a manner befitting a small child, but the small children in the room were not squealing. They were very excited by the texture of the animals.

Next came Ceridwen’s favorite room: the butterfly room. Tons of butterflies were flying around, stopping at flowers and just generally being pretty. Keath photographed many of them with some very impressive results. Ceridwen apparently smells like food, since two butterflies landed on her. There were a few minutes when both were using her as a landing dock at the same time.

After the butterfly room, we saw the underwater caverns, a peaceful walk through fake rock with lookouts into a huge tank of water. The water contained three sharks, tons of smaller fish and, during feeding time, two divers. It was nice to have an aquarium that let you wander around and feel the mystery of sea life, rather than having placards every few feet to pound education into you. We spent a long time looking at the fishies. Keath’s favorites were unphotographable, as they were very curious about the humans and would swim directly at you when they saw the camera. That or they thought the silver camera was a mate. After the caverns, we saw boneless creatures: jellyfish, octopus, etc. The jellyfish displays were a bit trippy, as there were four glass cylinders that kept changing colors as the jellyfish floated up and down. Oceanic lava lamps, dude.

The River Exhibit was next. The first display in this exhibit was… uh, seahorses. Not riverhorses. Seahorses. Oh well. They were pretty and fun, and we decided that the coolest animal ever was the Leafy Seadragon. It looked like something out of the joint imaginations of Tolkien and Jules Verne. We have no photos, but we'll find someone who's willing to share and link to him when we have a faster connection to use.

The rest of the river exhibit was filled with sleeping otters, pretty fish, big fish, ginormous turtles and other cool river-y stuff. (Except the huge turtle, which was in a Gulf of Mexico exhibit.)

After that we headed to Lookout Mountain and Rock City. The drive up was worth it. It had cleared a bit, and when we came around the last corner, Chattanooga lay below us in a cool vista.

Rock City was very cool and scenic, except for the terrifying Fairyland Caverns. People, listen up: caves and blacklight don’t mix. Caves, blacklight and gnomes painted in blacklight reactive paint really don’t mix. Ceridwen got claustrophobic and almost had to bowl over some whiny children to get out of there. But before we got to this psychedelic juncture, we took many photos of the scenic beauty. There is an overlook from which you can supposedly see seven states. We think we saw at least four and told ourselves we saw all seven, since no one would argue.

After Rock City, we headed for Huntsville, AL. We thought there would be nothing interesting, but instead, we saw a giant rocket greeting us. The Space Museum. Sweet. You can read all about it tomorrow.

Since the Space Museum was closed, we went to see Mr. And Mrs. Smith. It was hilarious. A good time was had by all. Then we went to bed at the lovely Days Inn in Madison, AL. Since Ceridwen hadn’t slept well and would be doing most of the next day’s driving, we decided that a hotel would be a good idea. It probably was, but we missed camping. Camping is cool and addictive. After Memphis, we may not stay in more hotels, but that is always up for debate.