Atlanta - Chattanooga - Knoxville
The trip from Atlanta to Knoxville was nice, northern Georgia and eastern Tennessee offer some beautiful nature.
My trip from Atlanta to Knoxville started with a few adventures. For this journey I planned to rent a car, and to drive around the area for a little while - to see some sights. Unfortunately, the company with whom I booked the car, Thrifty, turned out to be not very reliable. I do not recommend anyone to rely on them when travelling! While being only marginally cheaper than the competition, they can get you into a lot of trouble that will cost you a lot more money than you could possibly save by using them. In short, here is the story.
Review: Why you should not use Thrifty Car Rental.
The plan was to rent the car in Atlanta downtown (Georgia) and to return it in Knoxville at the airport (Tennessee). I spent ages looking at different providers that offer that kind of service on the internet. I stumbled upon a few car rental companies well established in the US who honestly and directly stated that they cannot offer what I wanted and that I should look elsewhere. Fair enough.
Thrifty however, do offer a "return in a different location" option in their online booking system. They let me go through the whole booking system and make a reservation for a car. Their reservation confirmation clearly stated the pick-up and return in different locations, so they were well aware of my intention.
How lucky I was that I called the day before I intended to pick up the car to check on the reservation! The woman from Thrifty customer "support" (I haven't seen any support actually) told me that it was not possible to rent a car in Atlanta and to return in in Knoxville. She would not listen when I told her about my reservation and that it puts me into serious trouble both, time-wise and financially. She would also not listen to the fact that if a one-way trip was not possible they should have told me earlier. All she bothered to say is that a reservation is not a contract and that she cannot help me any further. Unbelievable! I was very lucky that I was not in a hurry and that going to Knoxville a day earlier or later did not matter; but what if the circumstances were different?
After a while I gave up the rude and useless conversation with the Thrifty customer "support". Afterwards I wasted several hours looking for a different car rental providers in the area. After a while I found an on-line offer from one of the established international car rental companies that was only little more expensive than the misleading Thrifty deal. There were no more problems with the car. The alternative company provided me a big Ford Taurus although I had booked a smaller vehicle, which was nice. There were no problems during pick-up and returning the vehicle at the airport was particularly quick and easy. As a result of this I can only advice: Do not use Thrifty car rentals!.
Atlanta - Chattanooga - Knoxville
I picked up the car from an alternative rental company on Saturday morning and returned to the hostel to use the internet for finding a motel for the next night. This did not take too long, I had a quick lunch and took off in the early afternoon. With the help of the GPS navigation system I quickly found my way out of town and just as I got used to the US roads I already was in Chattanooga.
Chattanooga is a nice little town in the south of Tennessee. I went to the local visitor's information centre and picked up some maps and info about the local sights. There was not much to see, but I was recommenced an indirect route for the next day, that was said to lead through some beautiful countryside.
I drove up some hill ("Lookout Mountain") with a few very posh looking villas and a small adventure park at the top. There was an old cable car on rails leading up to the top, and the lookout platform at the cable car station provided a nice setting for a picnic-dinner.
I stayed in the Econo Lodge East Ridge hotel and was very pleased with it. It was cheaper and a lot more comfortable and cleaner than the Atlanta Hostel. If someone does not like the place, they should not forget how little it costs - you cannot seriously expect someone to park your car at a place like this. Of course, it does not have the social component of a hostel, but I did not find any hostels in Chattanooga anyway. If you have a tight budget, the "Econo Lodge East Ridge" is quite recommendable.
After some rest and a little snooze I decided to explore the town centre. It was already 10pm and I had to drive for about 10 minutes to get to town centre. To my surprise it had quite a few nice bars and pubs, all within walking distance from each other, so I could park the car and walk around. Being reluctant to sit around in a bar all by myself and too tired to make many new friends I walked in to a club where a band played rock music from the 90s. The band was not too bad and I liked the music. It was a little disturbing to see the crowd in the club - nothing wrong with them, just a little older on average than the crowd I usually see in clubs, but it was the music of my teens and that meant that I must have been just as old as everyone else. Man, man, a few more years and I'll start fitting in into over 30 venues. Anyway..))
I enjoyed the gig and stayed until it had finished. Next morning I checked out at 11am and made myself on the way to Knoxville via the "Sky Highway", a winded road climbing some forest covered mountains and passing some nice lakes and rivers. The scenery was indeed quite nice (see photos at the bottom of this post).
The area of the united states I was travelling through is called the "bible belt". So far I had not noticed any symptoms, but as I was driving through the mountains and searching for some good music on the radio I realised something curious. Being in the mountains I was able to pick up about 20 radio stations. And about 15 of them were... well,- preaching. Each in its own way they all tried to tell the occasional traveller all about loving Jesus, true happiness and whatever else. I turned off the radio. As I was arriving at Knoxville I started looking for a liquor shop to buy a present for my host and there I learned two things that may be very useful when travelling in the USA: 1) Walmart does not sell liquor. Most of the big supermarkets don't (they do sell beer though). 2) On Sundays, no-one sells liquor in the US bible belt. Well, it turned out later that my host preferred Guinness anyway.
I had a nice day overall and it was already dark when I arrived at my host's flat in Knoxville. What I did not know (but hoped) at that time is that I was about to have a few very interesting days. But that is, again, a different story...