Friday, June 25, 2010

Tour 2010 - Day 7

Day 7: At about this point, the mornings take on a Groundhog Day effect. Repack the suitcase, eat breakfast (ranging from fabulous buffets to granola bars), shuffle off to the church, hug your hosts goodbye, load up the buses and vans, take a head count and hit the road. The Lost and Found is becoming interesting. One person lost a sandal and we found a sandal, but not the same one. A ring was lost and found, then lost again. Several pairs of sunglasses have been lost, probably never to be found again. We’ve recovered shirts, shorts and shoes and have lost countless toothbrushes, razors and deodorant sticks. We’ve lost and found wallets, cameras and backpacks. We’ve lost a lot of sleep but found new friends, and if we can keep from losing our sense of humor we’ll be just fine.

Today we headed back to Tennessee to see Rock City and Ruby Falls in Chattanooga. Once again, nothing is easy when you’ve got two huge coach buses and a caravan of miscellaneous vans and trucks. It seemed for awhile like we were going around in circles, up and down the mountain. Well, OK, we did sort of go around in circles, up and down the mountain for awhile. But it was a beautiful ride and we certainly enjoyed the scenic overlooks and magnificent homes. Since we couldn’t find an actual picnic area, we found a lovely rock to use as a serving table and sat on the mountainside enjoying the beautiful setting. Then back on the bus, back down Lookout Mountain to the massive underground Ruby Falls. An elevator took us down to the caverns, where we had small group guided tours. These caves at the foot of the Tennessee River have a fascinating history, having been used by Native Americans, outlaws and Civil War soldiers. In 1928, a cave enthusiast named Leo Lambert embarked on a mission to drill an elevator shaft in the caverns in order to open them to the public. In so doing, he and his crew happened upon the magnificent falls, which for nearly a century have been a major tourist attraction. The Falls were so gorgeous, and the kids were so inspired by the echoing of the caverns that of course they just had to break into song (repeatedly). This was a really fun and different side trip - and it was nice and cool in the caverns!

As usual, we dallied at the Falls and got ourselves a little behind schedule, but not too bad. We changed time zones and gained an hour, so that helped. Most on the bus used the time to get some quick shut-eye. Our original bus driver, Johanna, was cleared by an ophthalmologist this afternoon to resume driving and re-joined us after Ruby Falls. We were grateful, since our substitute driver was very competent but not used to this kind of equipment. About an hour into the trip, we climbed a steep mountain that went uphill for miles. The climb proved a bit too much for the Gold Bus engine, which progressively slowed down and ended up chugging along on the shoulder at 5 mph. To save stress on the engine, we shut off the air conditioning (that went over well). A half hour later we reached the crest of the hill, and we were soon able to exit the Interstate and check it out. We began making contingency plans for consolidating buses, borrowing nearby church vans, bringing in a new bus or revising the performance But after checking all the engine fluids and topping them off, a test run seemed promising, so we just gave it a shot. All went well until we were about 20 minutes from our destination, then the slow cycle repeated itself. We truly chugged our way into the church, arriving two hours late at 6:30. Plenty of time to haul all the equipment and luggage in, set up, rehearse, eat and change before the 7:00 performance. All we can say is thank the Lord for the boy scouts. Since the kids had to set up for the show, the parents were responsible for hauling all the luggage in. As we did our middle-aged best to move the luggage quickly, we observed some boy scouts, arriving for their Thursday night meeting. Their scoutmaster, who had seen our predicament, said “Boys, there are two big buses out front and they need our help.” In the blink of an eye, more than a dozen 10 young scouts lined up and shuttled the remainder of the Damascus belongings into the church. Just in time, ahead of a torrential downpour.

Brentwood United Methodist Church is huge - the largest in the conference and the largest church in Nashville, with very high ceilings and an enormous pipe organ. Stephen Kalnoske joined us here and played beautifully. The choir and orchestra sounded great in this setting, especially from the high balconies. Because we were so late starting, it was a slightly abbreviated performance with no puppet show and no encore performances, but we packed a lot into a short period. It was a great venue and a memorable evening.

Click Here to See Photos of Day 7

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