Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Saw Rock City

birdhouse peeps
My peeps
I'm not completely sure how widespread the See Rock City barns still are. I grew up seeing them all around the Southeast, and I think they could be found as far away as New England? This advertising campaign was dreamed up by Garnet Clark, who among other things is known as the Father of Miniature Golf, which he called Tom Thumb Golf. He seems like a guy with a lot of hustle. At Clark's behest, a young painter named Clark Byers started working on the barns in 1936 and eventually painted 800 roofs. A sign at Rock City says that by the 1950's the barns could be found "from Michigan to Texas to Florida," and that Clark Byers lived until 2004. They're an iconic image to me and I imagine, to many southerners.

In Cormac McCarthy's The Road, the father and son walk by a See Rock City barn.

And speaking of books, have you read Neil Gaiman's American Gods? The premise of that book, which is a fun read, is that all the old gods from mythologies are still wandering around, and that they're drawn to roadside attractions. Roadside attractions, the book explains, are "places of power," where in olden times you would find a shrine, a stone circle, or a magic well. Instead, in the modern world, people feel called to by certain places, but they respond by building a house out of beer bottles or creating the world's largest ball of twine.
"Roadside attractions: people feel themselves pulled to places where, in other parts of the world, they would recognize that part of themselves that is truly transcendent, and they buy a hot dog, and walk around, feeling satisfied on a level they cannot truly describe, and profoundly dissatisfied on a level beneath that.”
Rock City is exactly that kind of place (and it's where the finale of Gaiman's book plays out): a nostalgic tourist attraction that started as somebody's wish or their wonky, weird mania. I mean, the mountain and the rocks were there, of course, but somebody had to look at the landscape and say, "What this needs is a gnome village. Right down here. And it should glow in the dark."

Not to be missed.

And you know, it totally works for me! If you require your outdoor experience to be a pristine natural landscape, maybe don't See Rock City. But I thought it was so charming and retro-delightful, and everybody loved it. We want to go back at Christmas. I can only imagine.

There is also gorgeous scenery there. It's on Lookout Mountain, of course.

laura at rock city

lovers leap
Lover's Leap

shaky bridge
Hank shakes the shaky bridge, Laura freaks out.

Looking towards Chattanooga

needle's eye
Matt told the kids the walls might squeeze together.

matt at rock city
Hey honey, let's just duck into the Goblin's Underpass.


If you find yourself in the vicinity of Chattanooga, you should See Rock City. I mean, just See it! It's there waiting, good grief! Have you seen it yet?

More pictures of someone else's vacation are here. This is way better than if I made you come to my house and look at slides. Way better. xoxo


Camp Papa said...

I'm pretty sure that the "Needle's Eye" was called "Fat Man's Squeeze" back when I was a child. What's the deal? Political correctness?

Becky said...

Matt says, "They don't really go in for political correctness at Rock City." The Fat Man's Squeeze is still there. And it's a doozy!

Anonymous said...

Oh, of course! Lookout Mt is a real *place!* But I only knew it from a Drive-By Truckers song. Patterson Hood sings abt throwing himself off of it. Man, you get all the good *places* way down there!

Elizabeth said...

So many great shots -- I haven't been to Rock City in YEARS, but it was a favorite of mine. I have a very good writer friend out here who grew up in New Mexico with an artist father who ran a place called Tinkertown. The place is still a roadside attraction although her father died several years ago. I'm always fascinated by her stories --

(and yours!)

Amy said...

All those years driving past all those barns, and I never saw Rock City. I blame our parents, as I usually do.

My Kids' Mom said...

Yes the views are great, but the gnomes ruin it for me. Cut out the cheese and leave the park.

Lisa Lilienthal said...

Thanks for the nostalgic interlude!

Aimee said...

I was there with my bestie in 2001! Our first (and only, to date) weekend away from the kids.

So yes, I've seen Rock City, although I didn't grow up in the vicinity of any of the barns. It's a pretty cool place.

Rebekah said...

We went last Christmas for the first time in my whole life. The lights were great, they had hot cocoa, and you could decorate a cookie with frosting. A good time was had by all. I don't think the Starbucks is original though.