As mentioned in an April 24th Blog entry, we received “an offer we couldn’t refuse” from our friends Bill and Jan McCready of Santana Cycles a couple weeks back that motivated us to sign-on for their Santana Mother’s Day Weekend in Chattanooga, Tennessee on May 5-8. The enticement included a couple of very attractive incentives and, well, we really needed a good mini-vacation, so it was a no-brainer.
For us, the trip to Chattanooga is an easy 90-mile drive from our home just about 30 miles northwest of Atlanta. I guessed I’d need about 2 hours to prep for the first ride of the day once we arrived, so we targeted 9:00 am for departure and made it out the door by about 9:15.
It was an uneventful drive aside from giving us a glimpse of recent storm damage near Cartersville & Ringgold, Georgia where the tornados crossed Interstate I75. Seeing a Ruby Tuesday’s restaurant completely destroyed with just the entry way left standing was quite sobering: you can find some video footage of the devastation at the bottom of this new story. I suspect we’ll see more storm damage during our rides around Chattanooga on Friday – Sunday as they take us to Lookout Mountain and into Georgia near places that had damage. We’re also keeping up with flood reports coming in from tandem friends up in Paducah, Kentucky and elsewhere. We count our blessings but also find it somewhat hard to “enjoy” ourselves when others are struggling to rebuild their lives. Anyway, lest I digress any further.
We arrived at the Delta Queen around 10:40 am and had ourselves checked-in to our New York State Room by 11:00 am. The Delta Queen is an amazing piece of history, but the last few years of her life spent tied-up as a floating hotel have clearly taken a toll on her exterior and nautical gear. It was suggested that she had been maintained in a condition that would allow her to get underway in about 12-hours if Congress would grant her a waiver that allowed her to return to overnight cruising along the Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio Rivers… but I’m guessing that had more to do with her engines than much of the other weather-worn equipment and paddlewheel drive system.
As we’d expected, our State Room was ‘cozy’ but very comfortable. Moreover, being something of a history buff, I can easily imagine that when she was refitted in the 1940s what we consider to be smallish quarters today — in our super-sized world — were quite luxurious and spacious, and we went into this adventure with that in mind. Everywhere you look on the Delta Queen you are surrounded by amazing woodwork, fixtures, furnishings, and hand-crafted details that make her so special. It’s a very intimate and inviting environment, albeit with a hint of a musty-smell when you first walk in to the main lounge that quickly goes away. However, nothing I wouldn’t expect for an 80-year old riverboat that now relies on a nice breeze for airflow vs. the breeze she would generate on her own while cruising the big rivers… which is where she should be. Sadly, bureaucracy, politics and unintended consequences continue to prevent that and I just don’t see that changing: Congress is just too good at inaction when it wants to be.
After getting our ‘stuff’ piled into our room, I set out to find our hosts, Bill & Jan McCready & Jack & Susan Goertz so we could say “hello” and so I could find the tandem we’d be riding for the next four days. I found the foursome in the Texas Lounge, busy at work on route planning and other event-related activities. Bill stepped away and took me down to the main deck where the tandems were all neatly lined up along the port hand railing. What he’d brought us was indeed a very special tandem: a Santana Beyond Stowaway with Shimano Di2 shifting, a Gates sync belt, and Spinergy/Santana XAero Lite Wheelset with their white PBO spokes.
I’ll cover more details on the Santana Beyond in a separate entry after my Rally write-ups. Suffices to say, it is a VERY nice tandem with EXCELLENT ride qualities: we would have no reservations about switching over to a Beyond as our everyday tandem based on how it performed over our 4-days of riding in Chattanooga.
Next entry: Day 1 of the Rally