The Great Southern Road Trip: Days Four through Seven

For our fifth wedding anniversary this year, we decided to take a road trip to race Ironman Chattanooga and cross a whole bunch of states off my list. This is the story of that trip.

Day Four: 9.22

We left Nashville early … so early that we couldn’t eat the hotel breakfast. Athlete check-in started at 9am, and we wanted to be there as close to time as we could. We did find a Starbucks along the way for some coffee (the essentials, you know) and a snack before winding our way to Chattanooga. The drive is marginally confusing as you exit Tennessee, continue to enter and then exit Georgia, while ultimately ending back up in Tennessee for good.

We arrived in Chattanooga right before nine and we were both STARVING, so we found a Chick-Fil-A on the UT-Chatt campus (okay, so B found one in their student union). Brandon went to grab it while I did loops around campus, ideally finding a place to park, but really just waiting for him to come back out with food. Food gotten (and consumed in the car), we headed to athlete check-in.

We got checked in, saw a few Colorado friends (because why wouldn’t we?), and then decided to drive the bike course. Back into Georgia we went. After that, we could check in to our hotel (Holiday Inn Express off MLK in Chattanooga), so we did that and went for a short run back to Ironman Village and downtown so we could eat lunch.

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The town really embraced the event.

Lunch was at a place called Puckett’s. Ironman works out a deal with some of the local restaurants where we athletes each get a $25 food voucher to use. Since there were two of us, we got two vouchers. Puckett’s, right next door to the aquarium, was one of the places on the list, and used to be an old grocery store back in the day.

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We did not eat this.

After lunch, it was back to the hotel for a bit.

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Chattanooga stores embracing the Ironman.

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Choo, home of the Moon Pie.

We grabbed dinner with a friend from Colorado, George, and a few of his buddies later on at an amazing sushi restaurant called Totto.

States Hit: 2 (TN, GA)
New States Hit: 0

Day Five: 9.23

The start of our fifth day was us waking up late for a practice swim in the Tennessee River, but we still managed to get to it in enough time. Post-swim, we grabbed coffee at an awesome little place called Stone Cup Cafe (great bagels. Highly recommended).

After the swim, we hung out until lunchtime, at which point we wandered back downtown for a bite to eat. Our friends and cheer squad for the weekend, Jeremy and Melanie, arrived in town and met us after lunch to hit up the aquarium, which we had heard great things about.

The Tennessee Aquarium is divided into two buildings (well, three, if you include the IMAX, which we didn’t go to) – a River Journey and an Ocean Journey. I personally enjoyed the Ocean Journey better, but both were quite good. I might put this aquarium on my list of top aquariums, but there’s a few I’d need to visit again to be sure …

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Wall in the Aquarium.

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Butterfly. They had a room with butterflies flying around everywhere that you could walk through.

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Japanese spider crab. You see these and it’s no surprise why Japan made/makes so many monster movies …

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Glass jellyfish.

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Jellyfish.

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Crazy jellies!

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Poison dart frog.

After the aquarium, we split up for a bit before reconvening for dinner at a place in St. Elmo, just outside of town.

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Lookout Mountain Incline Railway. We did not ride this.

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1885 Grill. Very delicious.

States Hit: 1 (TN)
New States Hit: 0

Day Six: 9.24

Brandon and I woke up fairly early on Saturday as we needed to run a couple of errands: Chick-Fil-A for chicken minis (bike nutrition), CVS for more sunscreen, a grocery store for bike special needs stuff, and a bike shop for an extra spare tube and CO2 cartridges (just in case). Errands completed, we headed back to the hotel to prepare our bike and run gear bags which needed to be checked in that day.

Bags packed up, we loaded them and a change of clothes onto our bikes and took a quick spin down to transition to get the legs moving. We also stopped by the Quintana Roo tent to get Brandon’s rear derailleur checked out. Bike fixed, we dropped off our gear bags and bikes, threw on normal clothes, and met Jeremy and Melanie for lunch.

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Fun place.

We split up from them and headed back to the hotel to put our feet up … with a stop at Jimmy John’s along the way for more bike food for Brandon.

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The history and journalism nerds in me appreciated this.

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Art in an alley.

We ventured out to dinner at a diner down the street from our hotel (breakfast for dinner! pre-race tradition) and got in bed early, as we had to race the next day.

States Hit: 1 (TN)
New States Hit: 0

Day Seven: 9.25

Race day. For knowledge of how the race went down, please visit my tri blog.

(spoiler: we DNFed.)

The diner we went to the night previous ended up being dinner again, where I drank beer and ate all the delicious-sounding appetizers I had seen on the menu.

States Hit: 2 (TN, GA)
New States Hit: 0

Ironman Arizona Trip Photos

Hoo boy, has it been way too long since I’ve posted in here. I’d like to try to post more regularly here, but I’ve got some catching up to do.

Here are the posts I need to do to get caught up to present day:
– IMAZ travel post
– Boston trip
– a holiday post
– a combined third and fourth quarter style post
– Mythbusters exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Important, because I’ll have another Stock Show post soon, too. But, first things, first: IMAZ.

The main chunk of last year was spent training for Ironman Arizona. If you’re curious on how the race itself went, you can read the links from my tri blog:
Pre-Race
Race Day
Post-Race

But the race wasn’t the whole story. There was a drive to and from the race site. There were various photos taken. Here is a smattering:

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The car packed up with all our stuff.

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Stop in the Springs to see our friend Norm.

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New Mexico border.

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Solar panels outside Hatch, N.M.

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Union Pacific train.

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Arizona border.

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The old Lucky Wishbone location on Swan.

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In front of the sign of the new location on Swan.

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Brandon flopped in a hotel.

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Lamp (saw cool angles).

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Random restaurant in Tempe.

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Mike with his chocolate milk.

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Brandon and his chocolate milk (Minnesota boys, I swear …).

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With my incorrect and disappointing galaktibouriko.

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Run gear bags.

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Post-race cigar.

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We did it!

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Northern Arizona.

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Four Corners.

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Four Corners.

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Four Corners.

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Four Corners.

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Colorado border.

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Mural in Durango, Colo.

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Mountains.

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Mountains.

IMAZ Trip

In November, Brandon and I also drove down to Tempe, Ariz., to volunteer and ultimately sign up for Ironman Arizona.

I recapped the volunteer experience on our tri blog, but I wanted to share the basic trip here.

We left late Wednesday night after I got off work, planning to do most of the drive overnight. We made it into New Mexico and to a rest stop not too far out of Las Vegas, N.M. where we stopped to crash for a few hours. After about three hours of sleep (and the two of us shared driving/napping duties), we woke up and continued on, stopping in Socorro for a breakfast sandwich from a gas station, where I saw this across the way.
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We got back on the road and save for gas, didn’t stop again until we hit Arizona and The Thing.
Roadside America. photo az_drive2_zpsd119e024.jpg
The Thing is a piece of roadside Americana (if you will) that has been around as long as I can remember. We’d drive down to Tucson for Christmas when¬†I was a kid and always pass it by. My brother and I would always want to stop (you see billboards for it for at least 50 miles, if not more) but we never did … well, at least until a few years back. I can’t remember now whether it was high school or college, but we finally saw it. I’m not going to ruin the surprise, but it probably wasn’t worth the stop. Luckily, it was only around $5 for the three of us (dad, brother and I; mom stayed in the car) to see it.

So, as Brandon and I did this, our second desert drive, I talked him into stopping. I figured we needed a break (we needed food anyway) and this kitschy roadside crap is worth seeing at least once, right?

At the Thing. photo az_drive3_zps2ec70fb6.jpg
At the Thing. photo az_drive4_zps213a7b00.jpg

After The Thing, we powered on to Tucson for lunch. The standard stops ensued – eegee’s for a slushy, Wienerschnitzel for fries, Lucky Wishbone for fried shrimp and garlic toast (for me) and then on to In-N-Out for a double double protein style (for Brandon). This delicious (but bad for you) food is the reason why we’re going to Tucson AFTER we do IMAZ next year.

Brandon with In-n-Out. photo az_drive6_zps45888dcc.jpg
Mmm, Lucky Wishbone. photo az_drive7_zps3c0c8372.jpg

Lunch (and then gas) and then on to Phoenix (well, Scottsdale) to Brandon’s (great) aunt and uncle’s house which would be our home for the weekend. It was great to see Bernie and Judy and meet their dachshund, Sophie.
Sophie. photo az_trip_zps907f8282.jpg

We had a meet up with some of our fellow MX12 VIPers on Friday, so we headed down to Mill Ave./Tempe Town Lake.

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Mill Ave.

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Meet up.

After, we met up with one of Brandon’s friends from college who owns a Trek bike shop in West Phoenix and then some more In-N-Out (mainly for me).
Brandon and more In-n-Out. photo az_trip5_zps424191b1.jpg
With In-n-Out. photo az_trip6_zps94d35ee0.jpg

Saturday, we checked in for the four different areas we were volunteering for and then worked bike check-in, which was fun and informative.
Working bike check-in. photo imaz3_zpsda3ca1c4.jpg
Post-working bike check-in. photo imaz4_zps8f2d9075.jpg

When we were done, we met back up with Uncle Bernie and Aunt Judy, who took us up to Greasewood Flats, a really cool restaurant up in the foothills.
Greasewood Flats. photo az_trip8_zps089fb0bf.jpg
Greasewood Flats. photo az_trip10_zps6c4c85a6.jpg
Greasewood Flats. photo az_trip11_zps0c8995c3.jpg
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Greasewood Flats. photo az_trip13_zpsd2a69958.jpg

After a fun night, it was time to sleep, for we had an early wake-up call since we had to be at Tempe Beach Park at about the same time as the athletes.

Race day. photo imaz5_zps3f18d368.jpg
Pre-race.

Aaaand, GO! photo imaz7_zpsc7d6879e.jpg
Athletes on their way.

We stripped/peeled wetsuits, took a break, and then it was off to sunscreening.
Getting ready to sunscreen.. photo imaz10_zpsdf9f825b.jpg

After sunscreening and another break, we volunteered at the TriSports.com-run run aid station, which had a disco theme.
Human disco ball. photo imaz11_zps27e4c911.jpg
Disco aid station. photo imaz14_zps51b384a3.jpg
Disco couple. photo imaz17_zps2f8ebc2f.jpg

After that shift ended, it was off to the park again to camp out so we could be (first!) in line to register for next year.
Camping out for registration. photo imaz19_zps9a1561c0.jpg
Given that online registration sold out in 40 seconds this year, this ended up being a great idea.

We took the rest of Monday pretty easy and then hit the road early Tuesday, taking the northern route out of the Phoenix area and Arizona and back to I-25 off of I-40, something I’d never done before.
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(right near the 25/40 interchange)

Then back home with plenty of time to Thanksgiving.