GT-23 Chattanooga, TN USA

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Dash Plaque

We had had so much fun caravaning with Bruce and Joyce to Grapevine, that we decided to do it again to GT-23. Steven used his computer's trip planning software again and routed us on a relaxing trip down. Diane checked out the sites and made the appropriate advance reservations and confirmed hours of operation at several stops.

Saturday morning we met up with Bruce and Joyce in South Bend, IN at the Studebaker Museum. We spent a couple hours touring this site. Normally, you wouldn't think that it would take two hours, but Studebaker didn't just make cars. They started out making horse drawn wagons. After the Studebaker museum, we headed towards Napanee, IN, and Amish Country. One of our planned stops was Wakarusa, IN, which has The Old Wakarusa Railroad. Fortunately, it also had the "Come and Dine" Restaurant so we had  a country buffet lunch before embarking on our railroading adventure.

Wakarusa Railway
Bruce and Joyce on the Wakarusa Railway

The Wakarusa Railway is a private 15 gauge railroad. Each car was just about big enough to hold one or two adults. We knew we were in trouble when the conductor yelled, "Next Stoppppp.... Petting Zooooooo...". Those of you who know Bruce, appreciate the need to stop at all the railroads along the way, just like the antique shops for Joyce, the museums for Diane and the bathrooms for Steven. After that experience, we were ready for something completely different, so we continued  into Napanee for a little antiquing. One of the nice things about traveling in the MGA is that there isn't a lot of extra space, so you can only do a little antiquing. (Steven talking here)

We ended that day in Kokomo, IN. As far as we can tell, there are two things that distinguish Kokomo: the Beach Boys wrote a song using that name, and there are so many traffic signals it is known as "The City of Lights." The next morning we hung around the  Kokomo Fairfield Inn for a couple of extra hours waiting for a severe thunderstorm to come through. But once it passed, we were on its tail and in the sun — on our way to the James Dean Gallery.

The James Dean Gallery is a private museum and a real treasure, if you're a James Dean fan. Everything that you could possibly want to know about James Dean is in this museum. The museum is located in Fairmont, IN, which also happens to be his home town. We easily spent a couple of hours here. We couldn't visit the grave site since someone had absconded with the head stone a few days earlier. The big news that day was that the police had found the marker to James Dean's grave.  We did take pictures of the bust located in a small park near the town square. We drew a small crowd with the As. It's amazing how many people think they are Porsches, especially like the one in which James Dean met his early demise. We found out that this is quite common.

Wakarusa Railway
PRNCZ & Diane: James Dean Museum

Our next port of call was Bardstown, KY. But first we had to travel through the heart of Indiana corn country — literally. The roads were marked differently than the designations on our maps. We were on roads that were barely bigger than the width of the car so we stopped to take a bearing. The land is so flat that anything sticking in the air was a beacon — the four of us settled on a municipal water tower in the distance. Good thing too, because further down the road, it forked; we went left and the Nichols' went right. We thought we'd come together again a mile or two down the road — no such luck. We meet near the water tower about 15 minutes later. Our goal was someplace cool with liquid refreshments: it was about 95 degrees and humid and Sunday — Micky D's, it was.

After a night in Bardstown, our next stop, amidst rain again, was at the Maker's Mark Distillery in Loretto, KY. The site and tour were very reminiscent of Jack Daniel's Distillery, except here, tourists were able to purchase a souvenir bottle of whiskey and dip it themselves in the famous red wax. Diane's bottle has a prominent spot on the Mazurek bar.

Somewhere along the line we picked up the Alvin York Memorial Highway; neat road. Diane was getting motion sickness from all the twists and turns, so we stopped at a roadside park with an abandoned mill and weir to watch a flock of butterflies drinking from the stream. From there we boogied to Chattanooga. That last descent on the "W" road was amazing, Steven discovered that he still needed to work on the brakes a bit, so he was using hand brake assist. He also discovered that he no longer had any brake lights.

GT23 Postcard GT23 Postcard
On The Back

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The Choo Choo turned out to be the restored Train Station: of course, Bruce and Steven had a grand time exploring all the trains while Joyce and Diane unpacked and cleaned up for dinner and the hospitality suite — what else? This place fascinated Steven. Some of the rooms are actually located in Pullman cars set up behind the main building in a simulated train station platform. At night, after all the tourists were in bed, we would stand on the dimly lit platform, between the cars, with air conditioning water vapor looking like steam, the faint sounds of music from the forties playing on a speaker off in the distance and believed we were once again in the era of steam rail service.

Tuesday brought a number of tech sessions, including Todd Clark's side curtain restoration demo and John Twist's MGAutopsy. In between these sessions we took the free downtown shuttle to the Aquarium: wow!; the IMAX, and the Hunter Museum. No one at the Museum knew where the one Frank Lloyd Wright building, overlooking the River, was located, so Diane was disappointed that she couldn't tick off another site in her book. After lunch at a yuppie bean sprouts cafe, we stopped at the designer outlet mall in a converted warehouse before heading to the Choo Choo and the Casino Night.

On Wednesday we caravaned to the historic Gordon Lee Mansion for breakfast and then a tour of the Gordon Lee Mill and the Chickamauga battlefield. After more tech sessions and a sudden cloudburst, we were pleased to be chauffeured to the Southern Belle Riverboat (more boats) by Dave and Rita Houser (thank you! thank you!) in their Lexus. We had a lovely dinner on the boat, where the NAMGAR hostesses, dressed in antebellum costumes greeted the guests — only in the South. Then, an even lovelier cruise on the Tennessee River, serenaded by the "Riverboat Ramblers" and entertained by Sarah Richey's impromptu lecture on Southern hospitality. We learned some new facts about pineapples.

Car Show Photo
Entering the Car Show Field

Thursday was the car show in the hotel parking lot. We had a huge area cordoned off for us, and the weather cooperated with sunshine and no rain. Many cars again, and the latest Tom Ball tour. The Hoser Eh's of Ontario were there in full force and were proud to win the best club banner award.

After the banquet and awards, we spent the last hours in the hospitality suite, saying our good-byes and thank yous to Linda and Bryson Lesley and the Tennessee Chapter. The next day we parted with Bruce and Joyce and headed to Atlanta to visit friends who had recently moved to a golf course community in Woodstock, GA.

After our visit in Woodstock, on the way back home, we stopped back at the Choo Choo for lunch. After lunch we pointed PRNCZ north to Barrington. Thankfully, the oil leak was fairly contained, and tech sessions were kept to adding a quart every so often. The only truly bizarre incident occurred just as were leaving Tennessee. The highway marker leading into the intersection was US48 North, so we needed to go through and did. About a half mile up the road, traveling in the same direction, was another highway marker US 48 South. This was confusion we didn't need. End Column