Traveling from Nashville to Helen takes about four hours, but it’s a well worth drive. The scenery is amazing, especially in the fall. Chattanooga is a great lunch pit stop! You drive through two National forests on a great long and winding road. There are rafting, boating, zip line and camping attractions scattered through the region.
We did make one other stop on our way down to Helen at the Babyland General Hospital. This is where Xavier Roberts’ Cabbage Patch Kids are born. The hospital is scattered with historical dolls from Roberts’ original collection, as well as hundreds of new kids waiting to be adopted. If you are lucky you can witness a newborn coming into the world, right out of Mother Cabbage and even yell out name suggestions.
We got to name the baby we saw delivered; Joseph David, named after my travel partner David. Of course there is a large gift shop and adoption rooms to select just the right kid to take home. They range in price from $12.99 to more than $200. I chose a cute T-shirt for my niece and the matching Cabbage Patch Kid toy; my total was all of $11. It’s great shopping on a budget.
After checking into the River Bend Motel, we decided that it was time to explore the multitude of shops and restaurants on the Main Street strip. We started at one of the lovely, amazing, tempting fudge shops! Don’t ask me how I resisted buying a box of fresh fudge, but we moved on to shop the rest of the town. We took about an hour or so to visit nearly every gift shop and gallery right down to the edge of town.
As the night went on, hunger set in and we went into Paul’s Steakhouse and Lounge to have a delicious steak dinner, which was cooked to near perfection, and even took home a souvenir beer mug from Octoberfest 2012. We had a lovely waitress named Lauren, and we were in and out in a timely manner and back out onto Main Street Helen. We needed desert! Luckily there was a great funnel cake place across the square!
Waking up Saturday morning, we meet up with Matt Pruitt from the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, because today we are going Bigfooting! Not making this up, I promise.
This venture all began this past Summer when I made the reservations at the hotel when I remembered that I had seen an episode of “Finding Bigfoot” that was filmed in Helen, Ga. So, I went to their website (www.BFRO.net) and sent them an email saying that I would be in Helen in October.
I realized there wasn't anything scheduled to in Helen, but I had to give it a shot. The following day I received a phone call from Matt saying that he would personally meet us in Helen and take us out on a private excursion into Bigfoot territory.
Our day was broken up into two parts: The daytime meeting brought us into several sighting areas and lots of great conversation about Bigfoot and local sightings, and our evening meeting brought us back to some of the sights we had scouted earlier in the day.
After having dinner at Bigg Daddy’s, located behind the main strip with the most amazing cheese fries, we left for the woods. We had infer-red viewfinders, sonic hearing devices and thermal imaging recorders all loaded up to help us find North Americas elusive great ape: sasquatch. (I will have a full story about my excursion available online soon!)
After getting back to the hotel, at 5 a.m., we took Sunday to relax and enjoy the Alpine scenes and yes, the food! Did I mention we were there right in the middle of Octoberfest? There were beer specials and German food platters available everywhere. The city is clean and a safe place to go for a fun weekend with your favorite buddy, or with the family.
After leaving Helen, Monday at 11 a.m., we stopped in Chattanooga to visit the Tennessee Aquarium and see what was new. Parking is easy, and inexpensive and admission being very doable it is a great was to spend the afternoon.
There are two main buildings one being fresh and one salt water, plus an IMAX theater dedicated to showing special documentaries. We got to see “To the Arctic” which talked about the real life problem of Global Warming and the effect it has on arctic life, especially on the Polar Bear and its life cycle. The music of the film was amazing too!
We toured both buildings with awe, and found ourselves talking about our own fishing stories and people watching for hours. There are activities like White Sturgeon petting tanks, which I dropped my sunglasses into … warning, the water is very cold!
You can also pet rays, skates and sharks in the upper floor of the salt-water exhibit. One of my favorite sites is the penguin exhibit. They have a great place to view their penguins both above and below water. A butterfly garden is always a fun place to visit too. It’s amazing to see a fresh family of butterflies being released into the garden. Check out this treasure on the river in downtown Chattanooga.
A great thing about driving home from Helen and Chattanooga is that we gain an hour. I will be writing a monthly travel column that will focus on day or weekend trips starting from Nashville and my travel expense will be sponsored by MegaBus! Mega Bus (www.US.Megabus.com) has recently brought its services to the mid-South.
Please send any travel point suggestions to me at [email protected].