I like to stop the car for things on the roadside. Giant cows, dinosaurs, gift shops shaped like tee-pees, historical markers, ruins, things like that. I like to stop the car, get out, walk around, marvel, take a picture, and continue on my way. I no longer question this impulse, and instead just accept it.
This is why I spent all of last week in jittery excitement over my plan to drive to the largest Ten Commandments in the world which, as I discovered last weekend, both exist and are less than two hours from here. How can you not want to drive to that? It’s like the largest ball of twine, but holier.
My friend Bryan was planning to go hiking on Saturday, but I convinced him to come with me instead. I was shocked that he needed convincing, given the awesome magnitude of the attraction at hand, but he eventually agreed to get up really early on Saturday and come with me.
The day started foggy and cold:
The road also became increasingly twisty and narrow the closer we got, but eventually we arrived at the Field of the Woods Park, home to the giant commandments, and lo, there they were:
It was still dark, and still cold, and no one else was there yet. That big thing at the top of the commandments is an open Bible, allegedly the largest New Testament in the world:
I don’t think it should count, because it’s really just two pages, but I’m not the one who gets to decide these things. Fixing our goal on the testament, we began to climb the steps that run up the center of the commandments, and this is where we started to encounter trouble.
The steps are steep. Really steep. Like over 45 degrees of steepness steep in some parts. They are also uneven. No step was the same height as any other step, so at one point you’d barely lift your foot and then at the next point you’d be taking a deep breath to hoist your leg above knee height.
The commandments, erected in the 1940’s, have also seen better days:
Everything is chipping and flaking a little, so the steps were chipping and flaking, too. We had to stop several times during our climb because I kept having dizzy vertigo attacks and also because we kept bursting into inappropriate laughter.
“Come on, only four commandments to go! Thou shalt not pause on the staircase!”
Something else, I think a raccoon, had also used the stairs just before us, but I think we were the first people of the day, since we were the first car in the lot.
When we finally reached the giant testament, we discovered that there were stairs inside, too, so that the already dizzying view of the hundreds of steps behind you could have the added bonus of dizzying height:
Look how small my car is!
We walked around at the top for a while and admired the view, and then discovered an access road leading back down, so that we didn’t have to take the stairs again. That was a plus, since my plan was to descend them with my eyes tightly closed while white-knuckling the railing and gingerly feeling for the next step with my foot.
Once we started climbing the prayer hill on the opposite side we could finally see the whole commandments:
Again, note the tininess of my car by comparison.
Once we were on the prayer mountain, hymns started blasting out of the speakers, interspersed with a lady preaching about washing sinners in blood. It was kind of like being at a theme park, or Rock City, but with a slightly different sound track.
We stopped and saw the Psalm Wall, which was missing a few letters:
And then we climbed the prayer mountain, which consisted of a different section of the Bible every few feet, and the name of the state that donated the marker:
The prayer mountain also included the Witness Tree, which was, as the sign explains, destroyed by lightning (an act of God?) after it was designated to be the Witness Tree:
I gave the donation box at the top a dollar:
And then we moved on to the other attractions, like the Star of Bethlehem:
The heavily chlorinated baptismal pool (“It looks like it burns.” “Well, yeah, it would probably burn YOU. Dare you to touch it.”):
The replica of Jesus’ tomb:
(Complete with rusty lightbulb and inexplicable interior gate):
And the recreation of Golgotha, which I forgot to post a picture of but may remember later.
Overall, the whole thing was oddly amusing and well worth the drive and the dollar. Even better, it was only lunchtime and the day wasn’t over yet, because I saw this on our way back to the highway:
“We have to stop!”
“There could be anything in there! ANYTHING! They could have Bigfoot!”
“Or the monster from ‘Jeepers Creepers’ nailed to the wall!”
They didn’t, but they did have an assortment of other odd and amusing items, like these size 22 shoes from the Chattanooga Giant:
And this display of time zones where none of the minute hands synched up:
Again, well worth the stop, and free!
Even better, the day still wasn’t over, because we were almost at the highway when we spotted Tennessee’s infamous Lost Sea:
For those unfamiliar, the Lost Sea is a giant underground lake at the bottom of a large cave system. The lake used to be home to a population of blind fish, but now they just stock it with rainbow trout because the population no longer sustains itself. To get to the Lost Sea, you climb down a big yellow tunnel:
And then climb down past a number of cave features:
Before you reach the Lost Sea itself, which doesn’t photograph well:
They take you out on a little boat, and then after a while you go back to the dock and have to climb all the way out of the cave again. Between that and all the steps at the commandments my legs were a little sore, but it was an awesome day.