Thursday, February 23, 2017

Biking the Tennessee Riverpark's Newest Section

The Tennessee Riverpark (also known as the Riverwalk) is one of our favorite places to bike in Chattanooga. With wide-open paved paths and great views, it is a fun ride that is relatively kid friendly.

The original path starts at the Chickamauga Dam and makes its way to downtown Chattanooga where you can cross the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge to North Shore and make your way around Coolidge and Renaissance Parks.

This original trail was 9 miles and last year an additional 3.5 miles was completed from Ross's Landing in downtown Chattanooga out to historic St. Elmo at the base of Lookout Mountain. We have been anxious to find time to bike the newer portion of the Riverwalk and finally had an opportunity on Monday.

Before Isaac was born, we regularly biked the original section of the Riverwalk with Jack in tow. Since Jack has gotten bigger and would rather ride his own bike than ride in a trailer, we have shied away from going back.

We had been unsure of how far Jack would be able ride on his own, and how well he would handle other bikers and pedestrians since the Riverwalk can be busy.

Daniel was off of work for President's Day so we thought it would be a good day to visit the Riverwalk again. Thankfully the weather was absolutely gorgeous.

We started with lunch at Milk & Honey in North Shore before parking at Coolidge Park and making our way across the Walnut Street Bridge. There was a brief section on sidewalk next to traffic in North Shore, and Jack did great listening to our instructions and not getting to close to the street.

We made our way across the river and then navigated our way down sidewalks to the Aquarium (walking our bikes down the really steep hill) then crossing the street to Ross's Landing. From Ross's Landing we followed the sidewalk passed the marina before the trail picked up again. It followed the river with great views of Lookout Mountain.

We discovered a picnic area and bathrooms at Blue Goose Hollow. There is also a free parking lot here that we would park at in the future. After taking a break for a snack, we continued on through the industrial area of town toward St. Elmo. Isaac took the opportunity to nap in the bike trailer.

There was one long hill that Jack biked all of the way up and we took another break. He said he was getting tired so we agreed to turn back. We made it back to the picnic tables for another break, and then Jack's pedal fell off his bike. Daniel said he had never seen that happen before! Thankfully it was an easy fix.

Our final stop was at the playground at Ross's Landing before making our way back under the bridges, then up the switchback sidewalk to the Hunter Museum of art, then across the glass bridge back to the Walnut Street Bridge and finally back to Coolidge Park where our car was parked.

Jack was thrilled that he biked all 7.5 miles and said it must be a world record for a 5-year-old! At the very least, it is a record for him. He really wanted ice cream, so we stopped at Wendy's for frosty's on the way home. We are looking forward to going back and making it all the way to St. Elmo.

From St. Elmo, you can bike up the Guild-Hardy Trail, an old rail trail that goes to the top of Lookout, then you can take a National Park Service trail to Covenant College. From Covenant, the city of Chattanooga is working to build a connector trail that will go to Lula Lake which then connects to Cloudland Canyon.

I keep hinting to Daniel that we could probably do some bike camping via these connector trails. We shall see!

Our route: 7.5 miles completed on this ride.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Breakfast Joints in Saint Augustine Beach, Florida

One of my favorite things to do on vacation is to find the best breakfast joints in a particular local. Thankfully Daniel doesn't mind this tradition, and our boys are always down with more pancakes or scrambled eggs!

We typically manage the breakfast thing by having breakfast at our condo so the little ones (and Daniel) are not hangry, and then we grab breakfast for lunch. On our recent visit to Saint Augustine we didn't have enough time to make a grocery run so we actually went to breakfast for breakfast. Visiting the beach during the off season meant that we didn't have to worry about long waits, so it worked for us this time.

Our first full day at the beach, we found ourselves at Redfrog & McToad's, which is located in Saint Augustine Beach and rated as #11 for breakfast joints on Trip Advisor. We were surrounded by snowbirds and a couple at the booth next to us asked our boys if they were visiting grandparents. I guess that is the only reason to visit the beach in February!

Redfrog & McToad's had quick service and decent food that was reasonably priced. They were a little touristy with a huge wall-sized sign pointing to their location, and it was technically a bar that happened to serve breakfast, so the beer signs in the windows felt weird at 9am, but overall it was a good experience! The boys split a plate of pancakes, scrambled eggs and sausage. Daniel had his go-to chocolate chip pancakes and I had my typical fried egg with country ham and a pancake.

On Sunday, we had plans to visit the Castillo de San Marcos fort with Daniel's dad and his wife. So they met us at our condo and then rode with us to the World Famous Oasis Restaurant as it was on the way to see the fort. This dive is also located in Saint Augustine Beach and rated as #9 for breakfast joints on Trip Advisor.

We joked with Daniel's dad that we were surrounded by q-tips, but the food and atmosphere were great. Again, a little touristy with the name and signs, but good food. We had to sit upstairs since the downstairs dining room was full. The only complaint about this for us was that upstairs only had counter height tables and stools. This was a little challenging with Isaac, but he handled it quite well.

The kids had a eggs, sausage, fruit and toast. I had eggs, fruit, a biscuit with a side of gravy, and sausage. It was good but not what I expected. The side of gravy wasn't super fresh and I was expecting sausage patties and received something more like kielbasa. I think Daniel stuck with his usual chocolate chip pancakes.

By far, my most favorite breakfast place for this particular trip came in at #5 for breakfast (#8 overall) in Saint Augustine Beach. Cafe Eleven is located in an old Seven-Eleven store that has been converted into a coffee shop/diner. The breakfast was amazing AND we had the luxury of sitting outside.

Daniel tried the biscuits and gravy, while I had the Cafe 11 Eggs Benedict (awesome!) and the boys split a breakfast plate. All of it was delicious and this place is certainly worth a visit.


As honorable mentions, we had lunch on Saturday at Gas Full Service Restaurant (ranked #9 for all restaurants in the area). The name almost turned us off, but it was worth a visit. They had fresh, farm-to-table food that was quite delicious. Both Daniel and I had a fish sandwich (catch of the day) with homemade chips. Jack and Isaac split a cheeseburger.

They had the most amazing-sounding desserts, but we were too full to try them. Daniel and I were tempted to go back later but we ran out of time and they are closed on Sunday and Monday. I loved the atmosphere of this little restaurant.

Daniel and I had a great date night on Saturday but unfortunately a mediocre dinner. Sunday for lunch we were able to go to Columbia Restaurant (#34 for the area and one of the restaurants with a long wait on Saturday night). Daniel and I split tapas, his dad and his wife had amazing sandwiches and the kids split mac-n-cheese. The best part was the chunk of bread loaf each person received.

After Columbia, Jack and I popped into Tedi's Olde Tyme Ice Cream for a cone. Of course he picked blue!

Overall we had a really good dining experiences during this quick trip to Florida.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Long Weekend in Saint Augustine, Florida

Due to some health issues, Daniel's dad Wesley, along with his wife Esther, have been spending their winters on the warm shores of the Atlantic Ocean on Anastasia Island in Florida over the last several years. Anastasia Island is a barrier island just east of Saint Augustine, the oldest city in the United States.

Unfortunately, Daniel's previous work schedule made it next to impossible for us to make a trip down for a visit in the past, but with his new job, we were finally able to arrange to drive down for a visit last weekend. Thankfully we were able to stay at a dog friendly condo just a couple of miles north of their condo.

We probably could have stayed another day or two (or more, who doesn't love extra time at the beach?), but three nights was just about perfect for us to spend some time exploring, playing on the beach, and visiting.

In February the ocean was cold but with outside temperatures reaching 80 during the day. Jack was perfectly fine running into the ocean to wade and jump in the waves. I, on the other hand, was content to sit on the shore, basking in the sun. Isaac was not a fan of the sand getting on his feet.

We were staying on Crescent Beach – the southern most beach on Anastasia Island. It was a perfect spot for us and probably comes in number one on our list as far as beaches go. The beaches are dog friendly AND you can drive 4x4 vehicles on the beach. Our Landcruiser, with its off road tires, had no problem navigating the sand.

It was fun to drive down the beach, at sunset, from our condo past Daniel's dad's place for dinner. We had to drive about a mile past it before we could exit the beach at the access point. Jack thought we should just park on the beach and walk up to the condo! Which I suppose we could have done, but we didn't want to leave our vehicle on the beach after dark.

During our time in Saint Augustine we were able to visit the Saint Augustine Lighthouse on Saturday, and tour the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest US masonry fort, on Sunday. For the lighthouse you have to be 44" tall to climb to the top. We had recently measured Jack's height at home and knew he would be close (at home he was 43.5"). According to the measuring stick at the lighthouse, Jack passed the 44" mark (probably thanks to his hair sticking up) and they allowed him to go up!

We discovered a ship play structure on the lighthouse grounds as well as a few trails and the original light keeper's home that was open for touring. This worked to our advantage since Isaac was too small to go up the stairs in the lighthouse – Daniel and Jack climbed to the top while I stayed with Isaac at the playground. When they reached the top we shouted a bit back and forth. When they came back down, I left Isaac with them to play and I went up to the top of the lighthouse.

On my way up I followed a woman carrying a violin case. When she reached the top she realized it was too windy to play on the catwalk. She returned to the highest platform inside and played. I was walking back down when I realized she was playing for a proposal. I went back up so I wouldn't intrude on the couple's private moment. The violin music echoing through the lighthouse tower was beautiful. The Saint Augustine Lighthouse is still in use today and it was neat to see it's light shining at night.

After the lighthouse tour we went to Wesley and Esther's condo where Isaac and Daniel napped while Jack swam in the condo pool and I read. We spent a little time down at the ocean, but Jack preferred the pool. That night the boys hung out with their Grandpa and Abuela Moore so that Daniel and I could go into town for a date night.

Saturday night in downtown Saint Augustine was very busy, even though it was February. The local university keeps the place hopping, I guess. The wait time at the restaurant we wanted to eat at was two hours. We didn't think we had that kind of time, so we put our name on the list and kept walking. Saint Augustine is very walkable with an inner section of the city that has narrow roads and very few cars. We went to a second restaurant that also had a long wait time.

Then we stumbled across a restaurant that Daniel had visited as a teenager. It didn't have a wait, so for nostalgia' sake we decided to eat there. If a busy, touristy city has a restaurant with no wait, there is probably a reason for it. The food was not that great. And the restaurant with the two hour wait called us after 40 minutes. We were bummed because we would have definitely waited 40 minutes. C'est la vie.

To make up for our mediocre dinner, we walked some more and decided to take a carriage ride around the city. We opted out of the historic talk from the driver, but he was a talker and answered our questions anyway. I think he might have spun some yarns about what he did for a living, but he was entertaining nonetheless. We had never taken a carriage ride before and it was a nice way to end our evening.

Sunday Wesley and Esther joined us for brunch and then the tour of the fort. We arrived at Castillo de San Marcos just in time for a little exploring and then the firing of the cannons. The whole demonstration was done in Spanish, except for when they told us to cover our ears as it was quite loud. 

Isaac loved roaming around the fort, but didn't care to sit still. Jack enjoyed watching the demonstration of the muskets and cannon being fired.

After the tour, we walked into town thinking we would take the trolley tour. It was more expensive and time consuming than we had expected so instead we had lunch at Columbia, one of the restaurants Daniel and I had tried to dine at the night before. Recommended by a friend, it did not disappoint. Daniel and I had tapas and Wesley and Esther both had amazing sandwiches. The best part is that each of us got our own hunk of freshly made bread. It was divine.

That afternoon Isaac napped at our condo while Daniel and Jack played on the beach. Isaac and I joined them before supper but Isaac still had no desire to get wet or sandy.

Before we left for Wesley and Esther's, Daniel walked Sophie. Then we drove down the beach (see above). Dog friendly beaches are definitely a plus for our family! Sophie didn't mind it either.

Monday morning we took a family stroll on the beach and took some photos and even saw a dolphin. Then Daniel and his dad loaded the car while Esther and I sat on the beach with the boys.

Our last stop before heading out was brunch at Cafe 11 in St. Augustine beach. It did not disappoint. We said our goodbyes in the parking lot and then headed home. It was a lovely way to spend a weekend.

During the rest of the year Wesley and Esther live in a suburb of Chattanooga, but unfortunately we don't always make/have time to go visit and even then it is only for a couple of hours. It was nice to be able to spend a weekend visiting with them with no real distractions.


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