Literary Tourism: Rock City

November 22, 2016 Literary Tourism 6

Howdy Bookworms!

Guess what? I went on a vacation! Hubs and I decided that we were in dire need of a getaway for any number of reasons, and so we decided to take a road trip to Florida. I realize that after our last road trip to Florida I said I would never ever ever do that again, but I am often wrong. This time, though, we planned much more efficiently and things went very smoothly. We even snuck a little bit of literary tourism in along the way. American Gods by Neil Gaiman is one of the first books I reviewed when I started this blog, and after re-reading it a couple of months ago, I was extra jazzed when Hubs suggested that we visit Rock City on our way through Chattanooga. Hubs was motivated by YouTube videos, but I was super stoked because Rock City served as the backdrop for some pivotal scenes in American Gods. Here’s how Neil Gaiman describes it in the novel:

Who needs billboards when you can paint on barns?

Who needs billboards when you can advertise on barns?

Rock City begins as an ornamental garden on a mountainside: its visitors walk a path that takes them through rocks, over rocks, between rocks. They thrown corn into a deer enclosure, cross a hanging bridge and peer out through a quarter-a-throw binoculars at a view that promises them seven states on the rare sunny days when the air is perfectly clear. And from there, like a drop in some strange hell, the path takes the visitors, millions upon millions of them every year, down into caverns, where they stare at black-lit dolls arranged into nursery rhyme and fairy tale dioramas. When they leave, they leave bemused, uncertain of why they came, of what they have seen, of whether they had a good time or not.

Dude is not wrong. The place is equal parts stunning natural beauty and creepy roadside kitsch. Although, I can say without hesitation that I did, in fact, have a great time. I highly recommend you visit should you find yourself in the area.


Majestic natural beauty…

Super creepy black light dioramas.

Super creepy black light dioramas.

There is one caveat, though. Rock City, being, in large part, a natural rock formation does NOT lend itself well to accessibility. There are some very tight squeezes between rocks which, in addition to being difficult for those with claustrophobia, would be inaccessible for folks of a larger stature. That’s not to mention the rickety bridges, uneven ground, and steep staircases. The good news is that the best part of Rock City, the natural splendor of the view from Lookout Mountain and Lover’s Leap, is easily accessible to all by means of a trail that is both wheelchair friendly and friendly to folks of all shapes and sizes. So while not everyone can enjoy the creepiness of those cave dioramas, the mountain view is freaking gorgeous and worth the trip.

The tight squeeze? Not exaggerating, y'all.

The tight squeeze? Not exaggerating, y’all.

Talk to me bookworms! Have you been to Rock City? Have you done any Literary Tourism of your own? I want to hear all about it!

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6 Responses to “Literary Tourism: Rock City”

  1. Jenny @ Reading the End

    Look at you going on literary journeys! I am not a literary pilgrimage kind of gal, although I did go on like a mini-literary/religious pilgrimage to visit Norwich, which is where my patron saint and fave religious author Julian of Norwich came from. Does that count? It was nice! I prayed a lot and read many books, and a nice nun told me I was good at washing dishes.

    • wordsfor

      That is so cool! I love it! I only recently discovered that St. Catherine of Sweden’s feast day is on my birthday which is extra crazy because my real name is Kathryn. So. Good job, parents. I’m sure it was unintentional. But a trip to Sweden sounds nice…

  2. Kristen M.

    I haven’t done any literary tourism that I can remember but I’ve done movie/tv tourism. It seems weird now that I haven’t done any of the literary variety. Can that be? I have to think.

  3. Michelle

    I have not done Rock City but we did do Lookout Mountain in college. Also, I drive past The House on the Rock regularly, and remembering that scene in American Gods has always made me want to visit but scared to do so at the same time.

  4. Megan M.

    I went into some caverns on a trip with my grandparents that were a similar experience – wandering around in the cold dim with a bunch of people staring stalactites and stalagmites and a few dioramas with life-sized mannequins. (The place had, of course, supposedly been a hideout for some famous gangster-type.)

    My literary frame of reference for Rock City is that in a Nancy Drew mystery there was a license place that said “CRCKCT” that they eventually figured out meant “See Rock City”. I can’t remember if they actually went there in the book, though.

Talk to me, Bookworms!

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