Southern Trip: Missed Opportunities (6/22&23/2004)

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Tuesday, June 29, 2004 3:13 PM
We left Pensacola FL early on Tuesday, June 22. After a visit to the Pensacola Light House (we saw it from Fort Pickens across the channel from Pensacola Naval Air Station which is where the light is located), we headed west toward Gulf Shores, Alabama and Waterville USA.

Waterville USA (6/22/2004): On the way toward Gulf Shores, we started encountering heavy rain, but by the time we reached the park, the rain had ended (though dark clouds and lightning were still present a few miles distant to the north). Pulling into the parking lot of the park, we drove right under the structure of Cannon Ball. However, the coaster did not appear to be running. Inquiring at the ticket window, the person working there said that it had been closed for some maintenance and she was not sure if it would be running at all that day, especially with the weather and lightning. With time being at a premium, with the weather being uncertain, and with the coaster being at that moment down, we decided not to go into the park but head north instead. While I would have liked to gotten a ride on this out and back, it was a last minute addition (we had originally planned to head north after Panama City and Miracle Strip… but we wound up on Pensacola instead… and since Gulf Shores was so close we decided to make a stop there), I was not all that broken up about missing it.

Visionland (6/22/2004): As we neared Montgomery in the late afternoon, we noticed that the sky was getting rather dark and some very wicked looking clouds were moving in from the west. At Montgomery we changed interstates and headed in a more northerly (slightly north westerly) direction toward Birmingham and Bessemer. It was not long until the weather front over took us. High winds along with blowing debris shook the car, though there was little rain. We came out of the front after a bit and the skies lightened, but in the distance we could see the dark blue, almost black clouds rolling in. A few miles out side of Bessemer the skies opened up and traffic slowed to a crawl. For only the third time in my driving experience (which is 22 years) I felt it was not safe to continue and I pulled off to the side of the road to wait out the down pour. We waited some 15 or 20 minutes. Finally the rain let up from a deluge to a heavy down pour and we decided to continue on.

We eventually reached the parking lot of Visionland, still in very heavy rain that was now accompanied with occasional lightning. The lot had only a few cars in it, and many cars were exiting. With the rain showing no signs of letting up (and weather reports said that it would not either), we made a judgment call… Visionland would be a miss.

Six Flags over Georgia (6/23/2004): After Visionland we had planned on swinging over to Austel GA and staying the night and doing SFoGA on Wednesday. However, listening to the weather reports (rain on Wednesday for the Atlanta area), we changed our plans. Having done Carowinds in light intermittent rain, I was not all that crazy about doing a major park in what was supposed to be heavy rains. So, instead of Atlanta and SFoGA, we headed north to Chattanooga TN.

Lake Winnie (6/24/2004): Because of Lake Winnie’s schedule, we knew that we would not visit on Wednesday. When we reached Chattanooga on Tuesday evening, we decided that we would make the drive north to Dollywood on Wednesday and then, weather permitting, swing back south on Thursday to do Lake Winnie. Well, Wednesday morning brought more rain, and the forecast for the Knoxville / Pigeon Forge area was just as wet. Like Visionland and SFoGA, we decided to simply drive up to Pigeon Forge, skipping Lake Winnie entirely.

On the way, just as we left Chattanooga, we saw signs directing us to the Chickmauga Battlefield. So, instead of going directly to Pigeon Forge, we decided to make a stop here. Along the way we actually did pass through Rossville GA and saw signs for Lake Winnie, but the way it was raining, there seemed to be more water in the air than in the lake. We spent the next few hours taking the self guided audio tour of the battlefield (something I highly recommend for anyone with an interest in the Civil War), and then headed north to Pigeon Forge (Where we made a lucky find of a third floor whirlpool suite that over looked the Pigeon Forge River… or creek… or what ever… at a nice Hampton Inn for a decent price).

So… three planned (and one impromptu) park visits were wash outs. Touring the Chicmauga Battlefield (even in the rain) impressed me so much, that I told Michele that a future trip would be back to the Chattanooga area so I can visit that field in decent weather (and hit the walking trails) as well as Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge in Chattanooga (those names will mean something to Civil War buffs). By that time I hope to have a good digital camera to photograph the fields… and at that time we can hit the parks (after all, Lake Winnie is right there and Visionland and SFoGA are both with in two hours).

*** Edited 6/29/2004 7:16:04 PM UTC by SLFAKE***

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Tuesday, June 29, 2004 3:26 PM
Wow, I get upset if I take a trip and one coaster is closed down!
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