I'm not sure I could ever fall out of love with Tennessee. Where else could I see a cursed crypt, a tow truck museum, a touching memorial with a laughably awful statue, a hall of fame, the world's steepest inclined railroad, chocolate birdhouses, fake bronze statues, the world's largest something, a metal ice cream cone, and a restaurant that my mom saw on TV, all in one day?
I'd actually planned this day trip back in late August, but then football was upon us and the other day that was open there was rain, so I didn't get to go until now. My friend Bryan, who you may remember from the Ten Commandments Road Trip and numerous roller derby bouts agreed to go with me and to drive, which was a bonus since it frees me up to take pictures out the car windows. Not that I wouldn't be doing that anyway, but it's at least mildly safer when someone else is driving.
Our day started with a drive to Cleveland, Tennessee, to view the Bloodstained Crypt of Little Nina Cragmiles. I initially heard about the crypt on a "haunted places in Tennessee" website, which offered the following story:
"In 1871 a little girl from a prominent Cleveland family, Nina Cragmiles, was killed in a buggy accident. Soon thereafter her grieving parents had a white marble crypt built in her honor in the churchyard of St. Lukes Episcopal Church, downtown Cleveland. No sooner had the crypt been completed than pinkish red stains appeared on the white marble. Local residents tried scrubbing the stains away and even replaced some of the white marble stones, but the stains reappeared. As other members of the Cragmiles family met tragic ends over the years, the 'bloodstains' seemed to grow larger and more prominent."
Spectral non-removable bloodstains? I'm in!
The church was pretty easy to find, and the crypt, too, since it is for some reason the only crypt in the churchyard. Did the Cragmiles family also build the church or something? Where are all the other Episcopalians buried?
Anyway, we approached quietly, as instructed by the egraving on the step beneath the doors:
Through a bizarre coincidence, we managed to visit one day before the anniversary of Little Nina's death, which is stamped on the door on the right. From the door we could see both Little Nina's resting place:
and the largest of the spectral bloodstains:
Now, I don't want to be skeptical or anything, but Bryan was quite vocal in his belief that the stains were actually discolorations in the marble. He maintained this belief even as we inspected them more closely:
and then added insult to injury by being inappropriately mirthful on the playground equipment that's located, for unknown reasons, right next to the crypt:
Now, I'm not saying whether the bloodstains have a supernatural explanation or not, but I would say that if Little Nina decides to enact some spiritual vengeance on the anniversary of her death, one of us was polite and respectful, and one of us was irreverant and pretty loud about it. In case that's still not clear, go for Bryan, Little Nina, not me, ok? Thanks.
On the other hand, I was struck with an equally inappropriate attack of the giggles a half hour later at the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum's Wall of the Fallen, honoring tow truck drivers who have been killed in the line of duty:
I was kind of ok until Bryan whispered, "I think there's some trash in the water" and I realized it wasn't trash. It's a sculpture of part of a car:
The whole thing is supposed to be some sort of rescue tableau:
but for me the fake tail light sticking out of the reflecting pool moved the whole thing from serious to absurd. The giggles got especially bad when I wondered if it lit up at night.
The giggles didn't stop when we got inside the museum, either. They settled down for a while as we viewed the various antique tow trucks and exhibits:
including the Cadillac tow truck, of which only two were ever made:
and the quilt commemorating various models of towers and wreckers, including the original one, which was invented in Chattanooga where the museum is located:
but I totally lost it when I realized many of the signs are written in Southern grammar:
"Oils was pumped"? Was they really? And the museum had been so educational up to that point. I would say up until that point, but am worried about spelling "until" after reading this sign:
Maybe I'm the one who has it wrong? Probably not. Anyway, after we'd seen enough of the museum and exited through the Hall of Fame corridor:
we headed just down the street to Chattanooga's famous Incline Railway, the steepest inclined railway in the world:
It doesn't look that bad from the ground, although it is immediately obvious that the car is rather slanted:
You climb into this weird slanty car at the bottom station, and by the time it gets to the top the seats are level and the car is more like a staircase:
As you get closer to the top, you get to watch the horizon move from the front windows to the ceiling:
and you can stop leaning way back in your chair because it becomes upright:
It was a strange ride, and if getting to the very top of Lookout Mountain still isn't enough for you, you can walk through the gift shop:
and to the observation deck on top of the train station, where you can allegedly see several states on a clear day:
We did not have a clear day. Not only was it overcast, it was cold, unseasonably cold for October. Shivering, we decided to tour Point Park anyway, since we'd driven all this way and it was kind of the point of the trip. Lookout Mountain is the scene of the Battle Above the Clouds, one of the major engagements of the Civil War, and the entrance to Point Park, which was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers in the shape of their castle emblem, is the largest representation of their emblem in the world:
I learned these things while touring the park. I also learned that most of the battle took place on the slopes, not on the top of the mountain itself, but that there were a lot of artillery emplacements there to shoot down at the enemy:
that the water fountain at the lookout point is broken:
and that sometimes your travel companions just don't listen to you:
There's no need to be that close to the edge, especially when you have the car keys and I don't.
After we finished touring the park and hiking the steep trails that veered dangerously close to sheer dropoffs, we took the train back down and debated getting lunch at the pizza place across from the station:
It has a giant metal ice cream cone like the one I love on Chapman Highway:
but we decided we weren't hungry enough to eat yet, and waited until we got back to town, where Bryan suggested we get pizza at the locally famous Pizza Palace restaurant:
As you can see from the sign, they've been featured on the Food Network. Now that I've eaten there:
I'd have to agree that it's pretty good, even if that means I have to agree on something with Guy Fieri on something. I guess these are the sacrifices we have to make for a day of adventure.