We made a quick trip down to Chattanooga, TN this weekend.  As many of you remember, we are pretty big University of Montana fans.  (I’ll admit that I am now a convert and have forsaken my one year at Montana State!)  The Griz once again made an appearance in the 1AA National Football Championship, so we made the trek down to Chattanooga for the game.  Travis hasn’t missed a Championship game yet!

We left Wednesday afternoon and had already reserved a room in Roanoke, VA.  The drive to Roanoke was good.  We got up on Thursday morning and Trav took Jack swimming while G and I got ready.  We hit the road and actually made good time to Chattanooga.  We quickly checked into our hotel (Trav got us a free upgrade to a junior suite that was awesome!) and headed out to Rock City. 

G checkin' out the guns in the gift shop

Every Christmas season Rock City does an Enchanted Garden of Lights.  We had gone years ago with Larry & Dee Dee, long before kids were in our picture.  It was pretty neat and we knew the kids would enjoy it.  When we had gone before we went on a Saturday night and it was packed.  We were literally wall to wall with other people.  This time we went on Thursday night and arrived right before they opened.  It was perfect. There were hardly any people there and we beat the cold.  Basically you walk a path through Rock City where they have decorated with all kinds of lights.  Santa was there and the boys  sat his lap again.  Jack asked for hockey gear and G cried once again.

On Friday morning we got up and went to the Tennessee Aquarium.  We went last year and loved it.  It is the best aquarium I’ve been to in the U.S.  (Trav and I hit the aquarium in Genoa, Italy in 2000 and it was amazing!)  Since we went last year, Jack has talked about the penguins and petting the fish.  Last year he was too scared to pet the fish, but this year he went right for it.  In fact, I had stopped to nurse G and Jack had run ahead of us.  Trav caught up to him within a matter of seconds but he had already jammed his whole arm in the sturgeon pond to pet the fish.  When I caught up to them a few minutes later, Jack was all too happy to show me how he could pet the fish!  Garrett was not so excited about the fish petting.  He thought the water was entirely too cold and frankly his arms are way too short to reach the fish.  Jack once again was completely unimpressed with the butterfly garden.  We love it but he can do without it.  Jack also was able to pet the sting rays and some sort of shark in another petting tank.  The penguins weren’t very interested in us this year.  There are two full buildings at the aquarium.  This year we started in the second building mainly because it was pouring rain and it was the closest to our parking spot.  It worked out well though because we had seen much less of it last year.  We took our time through that building and then sort of breezed through the other building since it was nearing lunch time.  We grabbed a bite to eat and both boys fell asleep on the way back to the hotel.  I took advantage and quickly hit all my favorite boutiques.  Chattanooga has some fabulous artsy shopping!

On Friday night we got a babysitter for the boys and Trav and I had tickets to the game.  Our babysitter was fabulous and we were VERY thankful to have her.  Up until Thursday night at 10pm we had no babysitter and were thinking that I may miss the game altogether.  We went to dinner at a specialty hot dog joint and we had a great waitress who looked to be college age.  We decided to ask her if she knew of anyone who might want to babysit for us the next night.  She said she wished she could, but that she had to work.  However, the owner of the restaurant had a 16-year-old daughter who she thought would be perfect.  She told us all about her and then took down our information.  She got a hold of her boss right away but the daughter, Annie, was out.  I finally got a call about 10pm that night from Annie saying that she would love to babysit.  It worked out so well.  Our kids usually do really well with babysitters, but we always get a little concerned about having a new sitter and especially in a hotel.  I was pretty leary when Friday morning Jack announced out of the blue that he planned to give Ms. Annie “a run for her money tonight”.  The boys hit it off with Annie right.  As we were getting ready to leave, true to Jack form, he looks at her and says “Ms. Annie, do you have milk in your breasts?”  She quickly answered no and Jack informed all that “My Mommy has milk in her breasts!”  Annie took it all in stride and we figured if she made it through that 5 minutes in, then we would probably be fine.  In the end, Annie said they were perfect and that she would love to help us again.

The Griz lost on Friday night.  I have yet to see them win a National Championship.  I think Travis is going to get fed up and quit taking me to the games!  The weather was terrible– pouring rain.  We were lucky though, the tailgate was covered and we had great tickets for a luxury box.  All you can eat and drink.  At least if you have to watch them lose, we got to do it in style!

Friday night brought the start of a massive snow storm up the eastern seaboard.  Chattanooga got all rain, but we knew that DC was getting dumped on and we wer going to have to drive home through some bad roads.  We decided to avoid those getting on the road super early, and took the boys to the Children’s Museum for the morning.  It was fabulous and not expensive.  For instance, a local pass was $85 for the entire year.  We would join in a heartbeat if we were residents!  The kids enjoyed a water exhibit, a kitchen/grocery area, a play car, a great oversized musical instrument room and more.  We could have stayed all day, but needed to get lunch and get on the road.

We headed out of Chattanooga around 1:30pm with a car load of friends traveling behind us.  We all planned to stay in Roanoke again that night…if we could get there.  Snow in Southern Virginia and Tennessee can make for interesting conditions!  We actually made great time and had nothing more than rain up until about 35 miles South of Roanoke.  And then it all came to a halt, literally.  We crawled about 2.5 miles in over 2 hours.   We finally decided to get off at an exit, let the kids get a rest and find an alternate route around the interstate backup.  We learned that they were shutting down parts of the interstate to evacuate and remove stranded and abandoned vehicles along the interstate (estimated to be as many as 1000 cars!).  The backup was about 20 miles.  We took a US Highway and got right to our hotel.   All in all we lost well over 3 hours and arrived at 9:30pm to a hotel that was overbooked, a staff of cranky double shift workers and no food options.  The hotel restaurant was open and according to the front desk serving food until 10:30pm, however, they refused to seat us or serve us.  After a long talk with the manager, he disappeared and returned about 15 minutes later with a plate full of horrible looking well done red meat, broccoli smothered with butter and cheesy potatoes after I had explained that our kids had special dietary needs.  Finally they brought a couple of plates of fruit for the boys.  In the meantime, Travis found a BW3’s and got take out for the rest of us.  We finally made it to bed at midnight and Jack promptly woke us at 5:30am.  Yikes!  We spent the morning going over our alternate routes and finally decided to get back on the highway we had taken the night before to get around the backups.  We ended up going about 100 miles on the highway before being able to get back onto the interstate.   Sunday only added about an hour extra to our drive.  We came home around 4:30pm and a full 2 feet of snow to dig out from under.  This is by far the most snow I have ever seen in the 11 plus years I’ve lived in DC.  We spent the next 2 hours digging INTO our house and the kids and I playing.  Travis got another 2 hours of shoveling in the next day too!


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