2017-09-17 to Cleveland, TN from Atl,GA on “Mystery Trip” (~120 miles, 2 hours drive)
I signed up with Seniors-On-The-Go-Tours (tour-guide=Cathy Stokes) to go ‘somewhere’ on a “Mystery Trip”. A trip where you don’t know where you’re going until you get there == Why sign-up and not know where you’re going? Well, the short-answer is: You always have a good time, no matter where you go! This is my third mystery-trip. And again, I really enjoyed it. A great trip and a great time.
My first picture is the group at the parking lot when I arrived. I got there about 7:15, the bus gets the luggage packed about 7:30 and we leave at 8AM. Well, the line is because the first ones in line, get their pick of the seat that they want for the trip. There is no switching seats on a trip. S-o-o-o, I ended up sitting in the rear of the bus, just one seat from the very back. That means, when you get to an unloading spot, you are almost the last to get off the bus. It takes a while for everyone to get up and get down the stairs and out of the bus. So-o-o-o the tour-director, i.e. Cathy, lets the front of the bus start unloading first one-day, and the next day switches unloading first to the back-of-the-bus. YEAH! (The final day, the unloading schedule is half-day front, and half-day back unloading first.) It doesn’t matter to me where I sit on the bus. My roommate said the same thing – It is what it is. I allow an hour of time to drive from my house and I get there when I can. The bus was ‘full’ and Cathy has said that mystery-trips usually sell-out quickly.
We left Atlanta and talked about where we were going – we follow the signs along the road and have wi-fi connected to maps to know our location. Cathy told us that we were NOT going to a beach area, and we guess where we are going with each turn. The choice of location for this trip caught everyone by surprise – we had a couple of people guess Chattanooga which is close to Cleveland – a 30-minute drive. We first stopped at the Museum and had a step-on guide tell us about the area as we drove around. We had a ‘big picture’ view of downtown and Lee University and the nearby residental area. We unloaded the bus across from the county courthouse and were given maps of restaurants downtown and told what time to return to the bus. Several of us ate at the Stack-bistro and I’ve included the pictures that I took. Had a very nice lunch – hamburger steak with mushrooms, fried fresh-okra sticks, and tater tots. We had a great time talking and a great lunch. We returned to the museum and looked at the displays – I took a picture explaining what ‘shape-notes’ are. Then, we went into an attached room that was a general-purpose meeting room that had a piano and chairs. We were introduced to Jack Clark, and he told us about shape-notes and how to write songs. He travels around the country teaching classes on songwriting. In the end, Cathy ‘created’ a song to the tune of “I’ll Fly Away” and we had a large flip-top sheet where she wrote her ‘idea’. Jack played the song and there were attempts to sing the new ‘creation’. Her song was “I’m on a bus today, I’m on a bus. Don’t know where I’m going to stay – but, I’m on a bus”. We went to a Staybridge Suite in the Cleveland side-of-Chattanooga for a short rest and returned to the bus. We had dinner at Jenkins Restaurant and Deli, a well-known eating establishment in the community. Back to our ‘suite’ for the night, my roommate and I had our own bedrooms with bathrooms. The suite had a tv in each bedroom and one in the sitting-area between the bedrooms. We watched the last of the HBO movie “Wonder Woman”.
The next morning, we ate breakfast at the hotel – there were many options for food. Then, back on the bus with the step-on guide to Red Clay State Park. In the park, we saw exhibits of Cherokee Indian culture and saw a short-video about how the Indians were forced from their land. We walked to the perpetual-flame memorial and the ranger of the park told us about how the Indian government met and decided the best customs for their tribes. It was all very interesting and a beautiful day to learn about the Cherokee being forced to leave and resettle in Oklahoma. Back-on-the bus, we went to Adele’s Granfalloon for crepe’s and lunch. The crepe’s had different fillings, ham, etc. for lunch and strawberries, etc. for dessert and they were delicious! After eating, there was a local entertainer who told us his ‘bear’ story and a singer-guitarist who played original songs. Both were great. We had a rain-cloud pass over the restaurant when we were inside, but the weather had cleared by the time we left – so all is good. Afterward, we went to Adventist Univ and saw the archeological museum. We were not allowed to take pictures inside, but – I was amazed to see artifacts from Israel from pre-Biblical times. We returned to the hotel for a break and wondered what exciting things were scheduled for the rest-of-the-day. We had an outstanding dinner at Aubrey’s – where we had pre-ordered our choice of food. My roommate chose, “Thunderburger” and someone at the front of the bus had researched on the internet for “Thunderburger” and discovered that Aubrey’s Restaurant in Cleveland had that item on the menu. Thus, the ‘surprise’ for dinner had been uncovered and the restaurant choice was not a mystery to some of the people on the bus – which was a disappointment to Cathy because she tries really hard to keep all of our events a true ‘mystery’. Anyway, it was a great meal. I had grilled salmon, sweet-potato fries and cooked apples. Dessert was exceptional = peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream. As usual, I ate too much and had to plan on eating less when I returned home. Afterward, we went to Lee University Chapel and sang ‘shape-note’ hymns with some of the locals. The hymn-leader told us that for 8 years, he lived in Lawrenceville and knew the area where we were from. He told us that his two daughters were born while he lived there. Our pianist for the hymns was Jack Clark, our previous song-writing teacher. As we left, I heard a lady tell someone that her grandson loves singing and she enjoys bringing her to the hymn-night. The hymn leader came onto the bus and told us how much he enjoyed us coming. We felt very welcome.
The next morning, we ate breakfast at the hotel and had packed our bags to return home. We knew that our day would contain some riding, lunch and rest-stops before we returned, but – we didn’t know WHERE! We first stopped for the rest-area only a few minutes after leaving the hotel. We were told that we could expect a lot of riding before the next stop and to prepare for a ride. The bus took us on many backroads, I looked out of the window at the houses and how they were scattered along the roads. We went through Ellijay without stopping and continued on to a dirt road. We had NO IDEA where we were – somewhere in North Georgia near a pasture with black cows. Finally, we stopped at a house and large parking lot for a wine tasting room. We went inside tasted the wine from Chateau Meichtry. (The winery was started a few years ago by a family who told the story of their ancestors having a winery in Italy and bringing the ‘vine-stock’ with them to the USA. They told how family members help with all of the business elements associated with the winery.) Then, we went to the deck containing round tables with umbrellas for shade. It was cool inside and with-the-sunshine, got hot on the deck. But, we had a cool breeze every once in a while and it was just beautiful – looking out to the hills around us and the grapevines planted in the driveway. We had a wonderful catered lunch on the deck. I knew that it would take a while for everyone to get on the bus and I enjoyed being on the deck in the breeze, so I was the last to leave.
Our last stop of the trip was at an apple barn – somewhere outside Dahlonega. It is not on a wide highway, but it was large and known to a lot of people in the area. It was only about 5 miles from the winery. We were treated to cold cups of apple cider and it was really sweet and good. Before getting off the bus, I had decided to buy some apple cider – but after realizing that I would have to store it and carry it home, I changed my mind because I just didn’t want to ‘deal with it’. However, it was great seeing all of the items-for-sale in the apple house and would like to return sometime. The bus returned to our parking lot with rush-hour traffic ending a great “Mystery Trip”.
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