As I brainstorm the beginning of this blog, I sit with my best friend, as he channel surfs in between football games. I smile, replaying his kindness and thoughtfulness concerning this ch8se in particular. You see, as I slept Friday night, he was making a treat bag for the chapter 15 ch8sers. When I woke early Saturday morning, and I headed down the stairs, I face my ch8se bag and notice a brown grocery bag on top of it, that I had not placed there. He had attached the note below to the bag which was filled with snack bags of popcorn, (which he individually filled himself,) and chocolate candies. Up the stairs I ran to kiss and thank him. It was such a sweet surprise. He is a fantastic and very considerate man.
Eight of us arrive at the Busbee park and ride in Kennesaw, we load into two vehicles, attach our yellow ch8se flags, and head to Chattanooga. Let me tell you, the carpool is a bonus to the ch8se. You see, this is often where sisters meet for the very first time and form a bond over a ninety minute drive to the falls, and a ninety minute drive from the falls, back to the meet up spot. The time shared in the vehicles is just as special as the time shared on the ch8se. For me, I've learned so much about so many things that I look forward to the drive as much as I look forward to the beauty of the waterfall. The drive allows us to share, to vent, to laugh, to cry, to learn and to simply be free to just be, while in the comfort of like minded individuals who could be my aunt, cousin, sister, or niece.
It is important to me to encourage each lady to rideshare. I prefer no one to drive solo, because I find the ride is as special as the ch8se itself, and it gives space to so much black girl magic. I have had ladies arrive to the meetup spot, and not know anyone, determined to ride solo, yield to my somewhat persistent encouragement, and leave with new friends. The ladies laugh and share some of the carpool conversations along the trail that sometimes continue at lunch. The ride home is often filled with the experiences of the ch8se. We get to share our challenges and our victories with the sisters who have walked side by side with us during the adventure. We share our black girl healing, our black girl joy, and of course our black girl magic.
This drive was no different.
Once we arrive to Ruby Falls, we are met by three other cars, and ladies who've begun exploring the gift shop, and have started taking selfies in front of the spectacular Christmas tree at the entrance. We embrace one another, introduce ourselves to the new ch8sers, and the adventure begins.
Once we arrived, I shared the note, with the snack pack of popcorn and chocolate, sent by Richie. The ladies absolutely loved it. I didn't get a kernel, not a one.
As the ladies explore the gift shop, I pay admission. Now there is a little bit of a story here, that I must share as it will be more pronounced later as I write. Prior to coming to the ch8se, each lady sent me $32.50, the group rate for admission into both Ruby Falls and Rock City. The money was loaded to the cash app card, separate from my personal cards. No problem, I had done the math, and all the funds were there, so I thought. Yep, I forgot to add the $32.50 to the account from where someone had sent it via PayPal. No problem, I'll just use two cards, so I thought. Ms. Patty, bless both our hearts, did not know how to, or the system would not allow her to use two separate forms of payment. Determined to figure it out herself, she did not ask for assistance, nor did she want it, it seemed. The line behind me continued to grow, Ms. Patty was loosing patiences and her frustration was winning over her calm. The ch8sers, shopping and selfieing, were clueless to what was unfolding. They had no idea that my prayers had intensified and had completely shifted gears at that moment. The ladies were oblivious to the fact that though they were there with me, at that moment, they were not there with me. Besides, there was no need for them to be. Who knew, Dynamic Deb and Ms. Patty had a situation, no one, because no one needed to know. Oh My Goodness.
Ok, I've got this, I'll transfer my $32.50 to the card, no problem. But wait, there is a problem, days earlier I had replaced the card attached to the cash app with another account, that apparently had not verified, (screaming & cursing loudly in my head) so yeah, that's not happening, that's too much. I'm entering into a space where the pressure, Ms. Patty, the line of folk behind me, who are not my cousins, are clouding my thinking. Ms. Patty can't take two forms of payment, I can't load more money to the card, I feel the daggers to my knees and my feet, ha, they can't touch my head, or my heart, those are impenetrable. Lawd, what do I do? I didn't bring my credit card, knowing I wouldn't need it. I know, phone a friend. At this point, I was probably only in line with Ms. Patty for ten or fifteen minutes, but it felt a whole lot longer. Phone a friend, yes, the lovely Lynn Jones, to the rescue. Lynn, with here graceful, beautiful self, comes over, and transfers the missing amount to my cash app card, and everything is right again. Lynn saves the day, though not before my nerves, my hormones, my three top layers, and perspiration ran my natural deodorant out the door. Ya'll, my back was drenched, and my B.O. awakened. My goodness, I was offended by myself. Like really. Oh well, the ladies are done shopping, but not done with selfies and pics, those never stop. I've delayed us long enough, let's get this party started. We circle up outside, in front of the Christmas tree, do our talk before we walk, introductions, count, then head in for our tour of Ruby Falls.
Now, 1200 feet under ground, we are led on a sixty minute tour of pure awesomeness. Without fail, each time I come to this place, I discover something different, and no two times are ever the same. This was a repeat location; however, not the same ch8se as before. I am sure we will ch8se this one again. I've already received messages and inquiries to do so. So stay tuned for the next visit to TN. Experiencing Ruby Falls as a group is amazeballs. To witness the expressions, the excitement, and the joy as each lady embraces the experience, is so rewarding and absolutely priceless.
Some of us visited Ruby Falls years ago, and agree that the memories of the past do not compare to that of this ch8se. We learned about the history of Ruby Falls, and saw some fascinating formations. The pièce de ré·sis·tance was, of course the actual Ruby Falls. Words are inadequate to the actual experience. Perhaps some of the pictures in the gallery at the end of this blog will help.
Ruby Falls was spectacular. The first time, there were fourteen of us sprinkling our GirlTrek Glow in the falls, this time seventeen, and guess what, neither of the sixteen that joined me this time, were a part of fourteen from the first visit to Ruby Falls. I wonder how many will ch8se with us the next time. And oh yeah, this ch8se welcomed four or five new ch8sers to the family. Pure awesomeness!
Off to Rock City, but before we head out, I wanted each car of the caravan to have a yellow ch8se flag. Darnit, I still didn't capture the picture of the yellow flag, ch8singwaterfalls caravan. Oh well, next time. We had four vehicles with flags in their windows. Somehow, I missed the other two vehicles before they left the lot. I felt so proud of the four. The flags look so good. They just let you know we're coming, or that we have arrived. They are yellow, with blue lettering. They are sunshine and waterfalls all in one. They boldly blow in the wind, announcing our presence. Now, the thing I'm learning with these awesome flags is that they are new to us, and we're not used to them. Perhaps, we should attach them to our back windows next time. You see, the weather changed from forty degrees to near sixty. Needless to say two of the cars rolled down the windows, and two flags disappeared. Heck at one point, I rolled down mine, in the park and ride and it fell off right there in the lot, so I get it. The first time out with the flags, we lost one that wasn't secured, and came back with a naked pole, this second time, yep, they were glued on tight, so we lost two flags, pole and all. But no worries, remember, hubby prints them for me, and the cost of the flags were minimal compared to the joy they bring me, so in two ch8ses, the lost of three flags is nothing. We have more.
Now, we are at Rock City. Remember the situation I had earlier with Ms. Patty? Remember how my deodorant had abandoned me, and my freshness failed? Remember that? Well hold on for this. What I didn't mention is that Ms. Patty gave me three pieces of paper, one was the ticket for entrance to Ruby Falls, one was my receipt, and one was the receipt to give to the cashier at Rock City. In the lot of Rock City, is where I learn we lost one of the flags, no worries, it's all good. In my mind, I'm spazzing out, because in the midst of all things with Ms. Patty, I don't have the receipt to present for us to get into Rock City. I have no recall of what I did with it. I had on jeans, and like always, I thought surely I stuffed it back in my pocket with my cards, but nope, they weren't there. Ya'll, we just paid $32.50 x 17. Remember, I didn't bring my credit card, I didn't need it, and the cash for my dinner, nor the debit card I had with me was enough to pay to get us all in, even if I needed to. I searched high and low, in everything I had on, in stuff, and in places I hadn't even touched during the course of the morning. Ya'll, here I was again, twice in one morning, having an internal cursing fit in my head, bugging out, and loosing focus. I could no longer think straight, and could only hear Charlie Brown's teacher in my head as the ladies were talking. In walks Trina Butler. She hugged me, and all of my funk, and told me she had already prayed over it, and we would be fine. Yes, as soon as I realized I didn't have the receipt, I shared it with the ladies. I had to, and I'm so glad I did. Ya'll Trina brought me back to myself, and passed her peace onto me and stopped the onset of anxiety. In this very moment I could have burst into tears, and in that very moment, that dang Monica Rucker had my back. It was as if we were in a wrestling match. Trina tagged Monica in and they went to work on me. The best dang tag team in the world, for me in that instance. I tell you what, If it had not been for those two, pardon me here, but I would have straight lost my shit. Thank you, thank you, thank you both.
There are two lines, uncertain of which to stand in, Monica takes one, and I another. The other fifteen take over Starbucks, which proved to be the perfect distraction, and ultimate safety net for my situation. Here I am in line by myself, yet this time, not by myself. Monica had my back ya'll. She was positioned behind me in a line longer than mine, so in my peripheral, there she was. I was confident, cool, calm and collected. Heck, I had my sista with me and my other sistas near, should I need back up. Seriously, I was good. I was still stank, but I was good. At some point, we realized that both lines were the same, so my sista stepped in line with me. We reach the cashier, I explain the mishap, and the ladies inside begin chatting amongst themselves. The one lady was projecting over the speaker for all to hear, but now, she'd removed the headpiece and was speaking where we could no longer hear what they were saying. Calmly I explain, with Monica, my true calm, at my side. I show the transaction receipt on my phone, and then get to explain a second time to Katie, who seems to be in charge. Katie informs me that their system, (computers, ya gotta love 'em,) does not reflect our payment. She tells me that the transaction from Ruby Falls is not appearing in their system. She states that though I present the electronic receipt, and she is speaking with Ruby Falls to verify receipt, she is unable to see a payment in her system. Katie then tells me she's about to do something that only she can do, continues her phone conversation with a Ruby Falls staff, jots down some notes on their ledger, which shows our group reservation/confirmation, hangs up, apologizes for their system, and hands me a receipt. Thank you universe for Katie and all of her awesomeness. Trina, Monica and Katie were chapter 15, ch8se MVPs. My word.
Despite the looooong line of folk behind me, the inquires, the mumblings, and the frustration it caused, the people were kind and forgiving. They actually blamed the computer systems, and not me for the delay. Whew, lol. They fussed at how inadequate computers can be, and how there is no problem taking the money, yet there often is when trying to prove it, or get a refund. The conversations were priceless, and peaceful, is what I'm saying. We do realize that such a scenario could have had so many different outcomes. Thank God for the one we had.
The ladies returned from Starbucks ready for part two of this ch8se. I make my trip to the restroom to gather myself, and truthfully to loosen my scarf and release the pressure that had built up during that entire situation. The ladies were so supportive, so understanding, and so calm. Though I was spazzing out internally, I was now relieved that all was well, and I too was ready to get going.
Before we started, the trek through Rock City, I wanted to capture a video to share with Richie, from the ladies. Thank you ladies for this love. It made him happy. He said it was sweet, and he thanks you for the shout out. Below is that video:
The video was absolutely everythang! He loved it. The ladies and I joked about me "paying" for that popcorn in the video. Trina and Rhonda both sealed my fate for that evening, that's for sure. No honestly, he's a stellar guy, and his kindness is one of the assets that has us in the happily ever after, thirty years later. Needless to say, I paid for that popcorn and chocolates. Ain't no telling what ya'll gone get for chapter sixteen. I told him, he has started something else. First ch8sing waterfalls, now Richie's ch8se treats. One of the sista's posted that "when a (black) man loves a (black) woman, all of her sisters benefit. There is so much truth to this statement, so much truth. If you've read the story of the beginning of ch8singwaterfalls, you know that this ch8se movement was birthed out of his love for me. If you haven't read it, then now is a good time to do so.
Into Rock City we go. Greeted by shops and the smell of fudge, we fight our way through it all, and save it for last. Rock City is a neat place. It is filled with quaint little gems, which are perfectly orchestrated throughout the landscape. Rock City is a charming space, with the most fantastic views all around. At one point, on lookout mountain, it is possible to see seven states from one vantage point. The photo gallery at the bottom of this blog shares highlights of the entire ch8se from my perspective as well as those I borrowed from some of the ch8sers. Here are three of my favorites from lookout mountain, thanks to the dope photographer, Janice Houston for these shots.
As with all ch8ses real black girl healing took place. The sisterhood is strong with us, in my Yoda voice. The support and encouragement amongst this sisterhood is undeniable. The fierce awesomeness is unmistakable, and the boldness is badass. A ch8se isn't a ch8se without black girl magic, this is now a proven fact. Ladies afraid of heights, took on the suspension bridge, as if they were walking on solid ground. Ladies with foot pain, knee pain, and even back pain, pushed themselves, and above all knew no quit. I'm telling ya'll, this ch8se thang is something special. Yeah, I said, this ch8se thang! We encounter so many people enamoured by the beautiful sea of blue and melanated hues of awesomeness. Truth is, "everywhere we go, people want to know, who we are, and where we come from." So we tell them, and this time was no different. We shared the mission of GirlTrek many times along the way. We even passed out our cards for ease of reference, and mostly, so they don't forget. Ya'll we are contagious, and we will be one million by 2020, no doubt.
Ruby Falls and Rock City, again, will never be the same. We sprinkled them both with our GirlTrek Glow and all kinds of awesomeness. We made new friends, we embraced old friends, and we grew stronger as sisters.
As with each ch8se we culminate the experience with a meal. This is just another way for us to bond and enhance the overall adventure of the ch8se. We visited 1885 Grill once more, and for the second time I was well pleased with the food and the atmosphere. The ladies agreed that this was a good choice for us all. Several of the ladies had the pimento cheese spread. They went on so much about how good the pimento cheese was, that I had to take some home to Richie. He was so happy I did. He agrees, it is some of the best he has ever tasted. Now ladies, we have popcorn credit. (wink, wink)
If you are ever in the area, and looking for easy, fun attractions, check out Ruby Falls and Rock City, in Chattanooga, TN. You will not be disappointed. Take a moment to enjoy our pictures, and even do some Google and YouTube searches. There is a lot of information to be found about the two. Or you can just wait until our next ch8se to TN and go with us.
I hope you enjoy this photo album. The pictures are amazing; however they do not compare to the awesomeness of the actual experience. You may find additional pictures on my Instagram @ch8singwaterfalls or by searching the hashtag #ch8singwaterfalls. Thank you as always for writing this chapter with me. I'm already looking forward to the next chapter.
Until we ch8se again......
Peace & Light