Case in point: Outside magazine has named Chattanooga "the best Outside town in America" and one of the "Best Towns Ever." Chattanooga! The decaying railroad town in the shadow of Lookout Mountain and Rock City. I have been there dozens of times over more than 50 years and was moved to congratulate Candace Davis of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"Thank you John," she replied in an email. "I typically don’t send out mag ranks either, but we do have a list of them compiled. With this being such a great publication with national and international recognition, we thought it was definitely appropriate. I mean how often do you get to be the Best EVER??"
If you are not familiar with it, Outside features extreme sports and doesn't give a damn about football, baseball, or golf. I like to look at the nice pictures and read the articles which remind me of so many things I either cannot or would not do, like rock climbing, hang gliding, or paddling a surfboard from a standing position like I saw people doing this year in Florida and California and Shelby Farms.
The press release says "Outside scoured the nation to find dream cities that offered a balance of great culture, perfect scenery, stress-free and reasonable cost of living, and, of course, easy access to the outdoors." Finalists included Charleston, SC; Madison, WI; Portland, OR; Portland, ME; Santa Fe, NM; Ashland, OR; Boulder, CO; Burlington, VT; Tucson, AZ. A Facebook poll put our Tennessee neighbor over the top.
While I'm sure researchers put in long hours weighing "stress-free and reasonable cost of living" factors, the emphasis was on the visuals, just as Miss Universe must have, oh, never mind. Chattanooga, if you expand its radius 75 miles, has the goods from whitewater to mountain bluffs to the downtown river walk.
Memphis can play this game. Many of us have seen the warts in Chattanooga and the other finalists, and they are glossed over in such contests. If Shelby Farms, the riverfront, the Harahan Project, the Kroc Center, and Bass Pro work out as hoped, Memphis could and should be on someone's list of best outdoor places.
As I wrote in this blog last week, I would pair that brag with a not-too-subtle reminder that Memphis is pretty much disaster free at a time when the rest of the country is reeling from floods, droughts, hurricanes, blizzards, forest fires, and monumental traffic jams. In today's Wall Street Journal there is a story about a bridge closing on Interstate 64 in Louisville (one of our peer cities) that has "doubled commuting times for thousands" and backed up traffic for six miles in Indiana. UPS, Humana, and the University of Louisville are in scramble mode. Sorry, guys, FedEx is running like clockwork.
In the same newspaper, I read that Texas set a record as the temperature hit 100 degrees for the 70th day this year. The state is parched. Tennessee, and Memphis, are mostly green, and we are the Saudi princes of water.
If I were selling Memphis I would point that out. If it's good enough for FedEx, maybe it's good enough for you, etc. etc. If you like to bike, skate, run, fish, or paddle, come check us out.
Nobody said contests were fair and balanced.