This past Saturday was the first time in more than a year that I ventured out of my house to explore my surroundings. I’ve been in Chattanooga for more than a year, yet I have not been a tourist in my newly established hometown thanks to COVID.
My typical outings for the past year was limited to buying groceries, taking Mom and myself to and from our medical appointments, twice we went out for our haircuts and when Mom and I went to get our vaccines. I do try and take my dogs out for a daily walk but I do about a half mile out and half mile back.
Minimal exposure, minimal gatherings. After all Mom is 93 and her health is important.
But this past Saturday I packed my hand sanitizer, mask and Lysol spray and ventured out. I wanted to explore a bit but was still planning to be as safe as possible.
My first stop was Bea’s Restaurant. I had heard they had the best fried chicken in the area and since I can’t go to Izola’s Country Buffet to get my chicken fix, I needed to find the best replacement.
Bea’s Restaurant has been operating since 1950 and offers southern staples just like you would find at Izola’s. It’s a unique place where family style dining takes place at circular tables. Most of the circular tables have a Lazy Susan and folks seated at the tables take turns spinning the plates and serving their portions.
It was my first visit and the waitress seated me at a smaller table regular table. She asked if this was my first visit and I informed her it was. She said she would bring me a sampling of everything on their menu and the food was all-you-can-eat!
First came the fried chicken and a serving tray of collard greens, a small tray of Cole slaw, another with potato salad, yet another with pulled pork and one with baked beans. She then brought over the creamed potatoes, fried okra, chicken and dumplings, buns and cornbread. She poured me some sweet tea and left the pitcher on the table for my refills.
OMG! SO MUCH FOOD!
I paced myself and sampled every single thing before me. It was splendid. And their fried chicken came close to being the best, but Izola’s still holds that number one spot. But I least I found my new go-to spot.
The service was great, they managed to keep all their customers at safe distances and sanitized every surface nearly every 15 minutes.
I headed back home briefly as my next stop was literally a block away from home and I figured I could use a nice walk to burn away some of the calories I consumed. Crabtree Farms of Chattanooga was having a spring plant sale and I bought some herbs, tomato plant, squash and an eggplant for Mom’s garden.
My next stop was a metaphysical store. I love collecting crystals and birthstones and love burning incense and was completely out for about three months. I arrived at the store and put on my mask. They made you knock at the door and they offered a squeeze of hand sanitizer as you entered. I enjoyed wandering through the store and left with my incense and a few decorative gems.
On my way back home I stopped at the Refindery on McCallie Street. If you are into antiques, refurbished items, collectibles, old vinyl records and architectural finds THIS IS GROUND ZERO!
And the store was massive. I think I spent more than an hour checking out old books, vintage antiques, sifting through vinyl albums and looking through old postcards and memorabilia. There were hand sanitizer stations throughout the store and mostly everyone complied with wearing masks inside.
On Sunday I decided I would check out the local Farmers Market.
Unlike my pleasant experiences on Saturday, the Farmers Market nearly gave me a heart attack. It was packed shoulder to shoulder. It was the biggest crowd I had seen or been in since the whole COVID pandemic started. And more than half the folks there were not wearing masks.
I thought I was ready but NOPE!
After a year of trying to be careful, especially for my Mom’s sake, I realized that my outward venturing spirit had shifted. I was now a lot more reserved and introverted. I literally panicked and within 30 minutes got the heck out of dodge!
It was a wakeup call that being inside for a year had changed me a bit. Being a social butterfly, like I was in the past, may take some time.
But I plan to go back and keep venturing out. I walked around the market long enough to discover several food trucks I must try and several local artists and vendors I plan to support.
Baby steps though!