As noted at the end of my Day 2 entry, Saturday morning started off well in that I was able to sleep all the way through until 6:00 am. Debbie, on the other hand, was taking full advantage of being on vacation so I let her continue sleeping for another 45-minutes before returning to roust her for breakfast at 7:00 am. Breakfast was once again in The Orleans Room on board the Delta Queen, our “home” away from home.
Betty Blake Libary– Stairwell to Texas Lounge — Port From Main Lounge
The Delta Queen & Tandem Cyclists: As a side note, I quickly became smitten with the Delta Queen’s charm, by-gone era elegance and the intimacy her warm wood interior finishes, Persian wool carpets, and cozy-spaces provided. I suspect you would need to be someone who is predisposed to like Bed & Breakfast Inns, someone who has a deep appreciation for historic preservation, or just a simple romantic to understand the appeal of the experience offered by a stay on the Delta Queen… which may be why it is such a great natural fit for tandem enthusiasts who participate in rallies. After all, if there’s one thing we find to be a common trait with all the people whom we’ve met at our two Santana Rallies and some 48 other regional tandem rallies over the years, it’s a deep appreciation for the intimacy, romance and even the nostalgia associated with tandem cycling, never mind the desire to be with others who share those passions. Frankly, I can’t think of a better venue for a group that shares those traits to come together than a place just like the Delta Queen. She’s intimate, yet incredibly spacious in that you’re never more than a few steps from a window or outside deck giving you access to the water below and sky above with an inviting breeze. Indeed, she is truly a “home” away from home, not simply a “hotel” and that is what makes her so special even when tethered to a dock.
Getting back to Day 3, once again we had the pleasure of dining with some of our new friends and learning more about each other while enjoying our breakfast. For some reason, we seemed to have caught the breakfast crew a little off guard or perhaps they were just a few steps behind the tempo on Saturday morning, as there were a few minor nits when the buffet line opened. Serving utensils had gone missing, chaffing dishes had too much water, the syrup for the pancakes was apparently hiding with the serving utensils, etc. However, there was certainly no shortage of other offerings and, as you’d expect, the serving utensils and syrup were found, order quickly returned, and The Orleans Room was soon abuzz with cheerful banter among people like ourselves who were making new friends, while many other “Santana Rally Regulars” shared anecdotes of past rallies and otherwise filled-in details of what had transpired in their lives since they last met at a Santana Rally.
As on Friday, around 7:30 am or so Bill McCready began the daily history talk and ride preview which lasted until about 8:00 am, giving Debbie and me about 15 minutes to get ourselves dressed and ready to depart at the designated 8:15 am start time: we’ve just got this thing about eating breakfast in lycra. Looking back at our one and only previous Santana Rally some 12-years ago in 1999 at Asheville, North Carolina, our riders meetings were all held in the parking lot with everyone dressed and ready to go, followed immediately by a true mass-start. With the riders meeting moved into the breakfast venue, the ride starts on all but the first day of the Chattanooga Rally were no longer mass starts. Instead, some teams seemed to have the bit between their teeth and were off shortly after 8:00 am, while others simply departed alone or with one or two other teams as they emerged from the Delta Queen at the conclusion of Bill’s talk. We did our best to see who was mounted up and ready to go so we might be able to find other couples with whom we could ride. For the Saturday ride, this strategy worked out pretty well as we ended up riding with several wonderful couples whom we also found ourselves riding with on Thursday: one from Florida, one from Pennsylvania as well as one other team from Virginia who was with us before hitting the climb up Oak Street to Missionary Ridge.
We spent most of our day riding with our new friends from Florida and Pennsylvania, noting we’d spent some time visiting with all three couples at the Delta Queen on Thursday and Friday. In fact, it may have been because there were only about 80 people at the rally that we got to meet and spend time with as many different couples as we did, noting we have always liked the smaller rallies with less than 100 couples or, better yet, 50 or less. These smaller rallies are special in so many ways, at least for us. I’m sure it would have been just as enjoyable had the Delta Queen been filled, but I’m not sure we would have had as much “quality time” with so many different couples.
I should probably mention, Saturday’s destination was the Chickamauga National Battlefield Park just about 11 miles south of where we were staying in Chattanooga. Teams were given their choice of taking the high-road or the low-road to get there: one route went up and over Missionary Ridge, while the other rode along the base of Missionary Ridge, with both routes coming back together a few miles north of Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia on US27. As we had on the previous two days, Saturday saw us leaving the north shore of the Tennessee River headed south across the Walnut Street bridge and then east on 4th Street towards Orchard Knob.
Unfortunately, after making the successful merge into 3rd Street we began having some trouble reconciling the cue sheets with what we were seeing. Our friends from Florida opted to press ahead on one alternate path to the crest of Orchard Knob via 5th Street while we chased-down and followed our new friends from Pennsylvania up the 12% climb on Hawthorne Street to the top of the knob. Just so you know, it’s even steeper than it looks in the picture at right, such that I’m not sure we even realized there was a National Park on our left as we focused all of our attention on grinding up the hill. As we came to the crest of Orchard Knob on Hawthorne we found our friends from Florida cresting it headed east on 5th, and then collectively missed the turn on Ivy and had to double back to get on route. I’ve got this thing about wanting to bomb down hills that sometimes gets me in trouble, and today was no exception. As was the case with our climb up Hawthorne from north, my focus on figuring out where we were supposed to turn and getting back to Ivy Street caused me to not really take notice of the battlefield and monuments until I just now revisited the climb on Google Maps. Pretty sad, but true.
As I now recall, I believe the grounds of the small Orchard Knob National Park were somewhat overgrown so perhaps that contributed to my lack of notice, even when we re-approached the park headed north after overshooting Ivy Street.
Anyway, a short time later we found today’s true climb up Oak Street and then Birds Mill on our way to Crest Road which would take us across Missionary Ridge. Crest Road was one of those roads I could ride every evening after work, although we were once again faced with quite a bit of severe storm damage as numerous very old trees had fallen into yards and onto several homes… including some grand old homes from the turn of the century. After crossing Missionary Ridge we descended down to Martha Berry Highway / US27 where we saw some of the low-road riders headed south towards the Chickamauga National Park. Feeling a bit frisky, we and our friends from Florida jumped off the front and took turns pulling as we just about time-trialed our way south on US27, enjoying the morning and looking forward to spending some time riding around in tree-covered, 9,000 acre National Park.
I’m pretty sure we were about the first ones to arrive at the park headquarters, followed shortly thereafter by most of the other rally goers. We parked our tandems outside the National Park museum building and socialized a bit before heading in to see the exhibits and a 30 minute video overview of the Battle of Chickamauga. The fixed exhibits and a 20 minute narrative review of the battle by a National Park Ranger were excellent; however, the recently re-done 30-minute movie playing in the park’s theater was a huge disappointment to me. In fact, the narration used in the Confederama diorama display came off as being far more respectful, factual and informative than the folksy approach used for the National Parks movie.
After the National Park Ranger finished his very interesting and informative talk around the map of the battlefield he offered up some suggestions on how best to tour the park on bikes using the park-provided tour map. We paired up with our friends from Florida and headed off to see what there was to see… and there was a lot! In fact, it would probably take an entire 8-hour day to truly see all of what the park has to offer as there are some 705 monuments, markers and tablets located throughout the park that commemorate the Battle at Chickamauga and the men on both sides of the battle. You can see some of the monuments by clicking HERE. Or, if you prefer, you can get a sense of what we saw as we rode around the 7 miles of roads that circumnavigate the park in the following video I found on YouTube .
As a cyclist, the National Park road system at Chickamauga is fantastic. If I lived near the park, I could easily imagine adding a 14-mile double loop to my evening ride across the top of Missionary Ridge as part of a regular ride. The tree-covered roads simply meander around and you are constantly surprised by yet another marker or historic sight in the park. In fact, after we’d toured all of the numbered stops on the tour map, we found we still needed to fill another 20 minutes or so before heading off to the lunch stop so as not to arrive too early. Looking at the map, we found some additional roads that ran along the eastern border of the park that ended up being perhaps the best roads we found in the park… noting best is relative as all of the roads were better than most of what cyclists find themselves riding in their home towns. What a great ride that was!
Closer to 12:20 pm, we finally found ourselves back on US27 and headed down to our lunch stop at Lee & Gordon’s Mill. The mill was built in 1836, and then completely restored during a 6-year period in the late 1990’s.
Interestingly enough, we found ourselves having BBQ for the second time in three days at our lunch stop. Speaking only for myself, I’m good for BBQ about once a week tops, and that’s when it’s really good BBQ… noting that in the south BBQ means pork or chicken, not beef. The BBQ prepared for us on Thursday evening by the Delta Queen’s kitchen staff and served in the Walker Pavilion at Coolidge Park was great BBQ in my book and checked my weekly BBQ box. Perhaps the other rally guests from other regions saw it differently, but for me offering up BBQ for a second time as a mid-ride meal wasn’t ideal, particularly since Saturday’s BBQ was far from being in the same league as what we enjoyed on Thursday. Nuff said.
Our post-lunch, return ride back to the Delta Queen took us through the town formerly known as Crawfish Springs: originally named for Indian Chief Crayfish, of the Cherokee Nation. However, in 1889 the city of Crawfish Springs became host to a 30-year reunion of the soldiers who fought on both sides during the Battle of Chickamauga. The so-called Blue and Gray Barbecue gave rise to the call for what became the first National Park in 1891: Chickamauga Battlefield. The little town of Crawfish Springs was subsequently renamed Chickamauga in 1891. It just so happened that Chickamauga was having its annual “Down Home Day” event when we passed though. While some teams apparently spent a good bit of time at the street festival, we opted to make haste so we could finish our ride with a small group of other riders plus our Florida and Pennsylvania riding companions.
Once again, the cue sheets didn’t exactly guide us along the designated route, but others in our posse were able to figure out where we should be and got us headed in the right direction on the right road after about 5 minutes. The ride back towards Chattanooga put us on a few nice roads, but still not the type of more rural roads that we typical frequent when we head to Chattanooga with friends. We eventually found ourselves on Highway 198 headed into the St. Elmo district and, after encountering a blocked side road on the designed rally route as utility crews attempted to restore power lines downed by the tornadoes, I suggested our little crew would do better to simply take Highway 198 back into Chattanooga and lead the way. We had a very spirited ride along Highway 198 but found ourselves stuck in traffic as we entered Chattanooga on Tennessee Street near the Incline Railway base terminal… traffic caused by the 3-State, 3-Mountain Century’s riders as they headed into town on Broad Street supported by police at every intersection who stopped traffic for the cyclists.
The 3-State, 3-Mountain Century is Chattanooga’s premier annual rally held each May. It typically draws between 1,500 and 2,500 cyclists for a very challenging 100-mile ride up and over the three tallest mountains that surround Chattanooga. We’ve ridden the metric version once and climbed all three of the mountains so we understand the appeal. What’s truly amazing, and what was the cause of all the traffic, is that Chattanooga’s law enforcement community establishes a safe corridor out and back into the downtown area for the cyclists so they have their own lane and are waved through traffic lights while cars are asked to yield by traffic officers at each and every intersection along Broad Street.
Our route had us paralleling Broad Street on 37th and then Market Street all the way back to the Walnut Street bridge, so there was a strong temptation to join the 3 State Century cyclists on Broad Street, but I resisted. Our ride back on Market Street was relatively uneventful, other than a second technical issue with our Shimano Di2 shifting system when the rear derailleur signal wire came loose once again. It took all of 15 seconds to fix and we were quickly back on the wheel of our two friends for the final miles of our ride.
As we crossed the Walnut Street bridge for the last time of our visit to Chattanooga I couldn’t resist the allure of taking a photo of “The Bike, The Babe & The Boat“. So, I pulled to the side of the bridge and had Debbie strike a pose next to the Santana Beyond with the Delta Queen in the background.
After getting back to the Delta Queen and showering, it was up to the Texas and main lounges where we spent more time visiting with other guests, watching the Kentucky Derby, and getting recommendations for dinner, as we’d be on our own to explore what Chattanooga had to offer on Saturday evening… about the only meal that was not provided as part of the rally.
Our Saturday riding companions and Debbie had heard Terra Nostra, Tapis & Wine was a good choice and an easy walk from the Delta Queen so that’s where we headed. Some of the entrees were exceptional, others just good… but overall, very good and, well, an easy walk from the Delta Queen.
The balance of the evening was spent socializing before turning in. Sadly, I made the mistake of going to bed too early, which I’d pay for on Sunday morning.