Yesterday on the Chattanooga Goofy Trip

Playing Bells at Coolidge Park in Chattanooga

A good time was had by all. Sugar’s BBQ has a new location downtown on Broad. The food is better than ever and the new restaurant is great. Definitely get the ribs. They’re big and falling off the bone. I’m a big fan of the potato salad – it’s a little different, but amazing. Melissa got a salad so she could try the roast okra, and it was great.


Knoxville’s 1797 Ramsey House


We were bored Saturday, so the wee wifey and I took the kids to a couple of historical sites around Knoxville. One that neither of us had ever visited was Ramsey House Plantation, off of Strawberry Plains Pike.

The house was designed by Thomas Hope for Francis Alexander Ramsey. Ramsey and his sons became important figures in Knoxville government and commerce. Son J.G.M. Ramsey was an important early Tennessee historian and author of The Annals of Tennessee. Dr. J. G. M. Ramsey: Autobiography and Letters, is available as a free download from the University of Tennessee.


The Civil War ruined the family’s finances. A feud with the Brownlow family, who had sided with the Union, forced many of the Ramseys to flee to South Carolina. During the Union occupation of Knoxville Union forces destroyed J.G.M. Ramsey’s 4,000 volume library at his Mecklenburg mansion as well as his second volume of The Annals of Tennessee.

The Ramseys had no choice but to sell the house. It changed owners a number of times and fell into disrepair. The Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities bought the house in 1952 and restored it. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.

To see the home’s interior take the $7 tour, which is well worth it. Flash photography isn’t allowed inside, so bring a fast lens. The 15 minute video before the tour is wonderful for anyone with an interest in Knoxville history.

I’m always curious about the bric-a-brac of daily life in historical homes, and Ramsey House doesn’t disappoint if you start asking questions. A small cabinet in front of the dining room fireplace was a dish warmer, used to warm dishes before meals and to keep plates of food warm. A large brown square was compressed tea, which was how tea was commonly sold. A sign-like device near the study fireplace was used to keep heat off from the fire off the face, for anyone with sensitive skin or with war injuries covered by beeswax makeup.

While we were there we saw some professional photographers taking pictures outside. The building, landscaping, and open fields make for a very good location for portrait and family photography. The non-profit that maintains the home also host weddings. For more information, visit the Wikipedia link above or the house’s Web site.

Ramsey House, rear

Sprayberry’s BBQ in Newnan, GA

Sprayberry's BBQ

On the way back from Florida we stopped in Newnan, Georgia for BBQ. My wife has a college friend there and had eaten at Sprayberry’s BBQ and loved it. Native son Lewis Grizzard called it “merely the best barbecue joint on earth.” With those kind of endorsements I was game.

I ordered BBQ pork and pork ribs. The BBQ pork can be had whole or pulled. I ordered it pulled. The sauce is slightly hot and very satisfying.

The pork ribs are in a sweet sauce. The flavor is great, but what’s really amazing is the texture. The meat is a little chewy. Not tough, just pleasantly textured so you know you’re eating something. The little nubs of meat on the end of the bone get very chewy to the point that you rip them off with your teeth. Great stuff. Possibly the best ribs I’ve ever had.

The sides were a little disappointing. No corn on the cob and no green vegetables. The potato salad was okay. The sweet and sour cole slaw was different, but I wouldn’t get it again.

The Brunswick stew is slow-cooked and yummy. But get the ribs. The ribs are why you should go to Sprayberry’s.


Sprayberry’s isn’t the only reason to visit Newnan. It’s an Atlanta bedroom community that wasn’t destroyed by Sherman. Much the antebellum architecture still remains and there are gorgeous houses old and new.

My wife and I are connoisseurs of little Southern downtowns. Even seeing downtown Newnan at night I could tell how nice it was and how big – it stretches for many blocks in both directions. We’re going back for a visit one of these days.

PreviouslyMexican lamb BBQ at Los Amigos in Maryville, TN

Back from the the Copper Hill/Ducktown goofy trip

Holy cows on Fort Loudon Lake

After a full day, a couple hundred miles on the odometer, 178 pictures, and spending the day variously in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia, we’re home.

Biggest surprise was Blue Ridge, Georgia, where we went at the end of the day because it was close to Copper Hill. Really cool town. It’s an old railroad stop and they still have train tours out of there. The old buildings in the town have been restored and some yuppified with high-end retail and restaurants. It looks like a good place to spend an afternoon.

Burra Burra Mine Collapse, from the Burra Burra Mine Museum overlook in Ducktown, TN

Strangest thing was that so many restaurants in that corner of the state are closed and/or dead as a doornail on a Friday night. Do Seventh Day Adventists not go out on Friday night or something? (My dad’s side of the family lives in northern Georgia and are all SDA.) By comparison, towns like Etowah and Madisonville that are well on the Tennessee side had hoppin’ restaurants.

Two best mementos of the trip: magnetic toys from the Burra Burra Mine Museum in Ducktown and half a smoked ham from Benton’s Smoky Mountain Hams in Madisonville. I hadn’t been to Benton’s in 15 or 20 years. Now the New York Times, LA Times, Gourmet, Men’s Health, and other media outlets are lauding them as the final word in smoked pig. We’re going to cook some up tomorrow for breakfast. They told us to cook it in a skillet with a little Coca-Cola.

Smoky pigmeat, Madisonville, TN

Dinner was at the Iron Horse Grill in Copper Hill. I had shrimp in coconut and curry sauce with fried sweet potatoes. Melissa had sauteed chicken with blue cheese rosa and penne pasta with salad greens. Great stuff, great staff, and we enjoyed the second story porch. East Tennessee and Western North Carolina have these awesome little mountain towns with amazing restaurants. We also like the German restaurants in Black Rock and Hendersonville, NC, Lulu’s Cafe in Sylva, NC, and Green River BBQ and The Red Onion in Saluda, NC.

More Goofy Trips

Triune, TN Renaissance Festival 2009 Pictures

We made a last minute decision to visit the Renaissance Festival in Triune, TN. It’s open every weekend in May and on Memorial Day. Look at how happy these people are. It’s infectious.

And our favorite, Ispy. She stood motionless in a group of mannequins until we spoke to her. Then she played I Spy with Katie and added her to her network of spies:

And one for the ladies:

Most carnivals have games of skill where you try to hit target X with object Y. At the Renfest the object Y ranged from throwing knives (hardest to make stick even though the barker made it look easy):

to throwing stars (easiest to make stick, and the barker juggling the throwing stars was a riot):

to axes (most satisfying to make stick):

Sharp, stabby things were a constant theme:

Read more of this post