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Chronicles of a Vacation: Getting There

June 21, 2009

Warning: This post is a little lengthy! 🙂

The Itinerary

 I am here at last, snug in the huge king-sized bed in the little cabin in the woods, aptly named “Bear Country” because it is full of bear chotsky and cutesy country décor. That aside, it is soothing and restful, and after a day on the road, I am glad to be here. We spent the morning darting from site to site at Tweetsie Railroad before we finally made our way back to the Parkway and labored on down the road to complete our annual pilgrimage to Sevierville and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

 If you’ve never been to Tweetsie, it’s an old-fashioned, simple amusement park, full of…well, simple amusements…and rides, heralding an age when entertainment did not necessitate anything elaborate, digital, violent, or completely over-the-top. It’s full of Western flair, friendly people, and cool breezes. It’s become tradition with our kids to take an extra few days to drive down through the Blue Ridge Parkway, stop at a few key spots, and spend a morning at Tweetsie. They ride the Ferris Wheel, the go-cars, feed deer, goats, bunnies and emus, pan for fools’ gold, eat fudge and candied apples, ride the Tweetsie train (a real steam locomotive), and visit a Western general store, where they con Grandma Anne into buying them Completely Useless Junk.

 vac collage1

 Next stop: Wendy’s.

 Never let it be said that my father-in-law is not a man of impulse. Oh, no. It’s just that his impulse is to do precisely the same thing that he did the year before.

 To the letter.

Should he require one, I can provide an itemized, detailed itinerary in a snap:

  •  Leave Forest at 9 a.m. SHARP.
  • Stop at Food Lion for a bag of ice with which to submerge the 12 shortie bottles of water and 6 bottles of Diet Rite soda pop. Plus one bag of miniature Snickers.
  • Take Parkway. Stop at first stop, for pee break and twenty minute walk through woods. Anne has a rough time walking it, so we wait at the rest area and I snap some photos.
  • Take second break, this time for lunch and a longer ramble: Mabry Mill. Mabry Mill is actually great, and I’m glad we stop there. My father used to take me there as a child after my parents divorced and I have some great memories of this larger-than-life mill, so I’m glad that the kids get to storehouse this entity in their memories, as well. I’ll write more about that sometime, and include the photos.
  • Take third break: Northwest Trading Post. NTP is a quaint shop that exhibits equal amounts artisan crafts, junk, and overpriced necessities. Anne enjoys shopping. After I was robbed of $2 for a Pepsi that I desperately needed to keep my eyes open, I refused to spend another dime.
  • Arrival in Blowing Rock, NC. Check into hotel and walk across two parking lots to this great pit barbecue restaurant, Buddy’s. Eat, return to hotel.
  • For Dan, bedtime. By this time, it’s around 8 pm, which means bedtime approacheth for Dan and the kids. No, I’m serious. Once I’ve gotten the kids taken care of (no easy feat, because I decided to allow Dan to allow my children to have sweet tea with supper), my time is my own. Workout in the fitness room, computer time, Kindle time. Aaaah. Bliss.
  • Wake with the roosters the next morning, go to Tweetsie, and wait with the employees for it to open. (Again, I’m serious. Can you see why Duane stayed home? No, I’m teasing. With Autumn’s competition, it was just going to be too much time away from work.)
  • Play at Tweetsie, then go to Wendy’s for lunch. Order 2 side salads and a baked potato and split it, and one pack of ranch dressing. Wouldn’t want to splurge…
  • Back on the Parkway. Two scenic overlook stops, then get serious about this driving to Sevierville thing. After all, if we hadn’t taken the Parkway, it would have taken us four hours. As it is, it’s taken us two days…


And the crazy thing is, the kids never get bored. Never. Ever. They would revolt if I were to suggest any deviation from form. So I plod along, staring fixedly at the KING RANCH icon on the back of the truck as it rolls along in front of me, thinking at least I have my tunes.

I love my father-in-law. I do. He’s frustrating, exasperating, comical, and we definitely have our moments, but he is the most generous, loving person where my kids are concerned that I know. I can even take following behind him for two days, although I do wish he’d find that cruise control button.


 My frustration level with this and with just following in general finally hit an all-time high shortly after lunch. We had just driven blithely by the second or third overlook that I wanted to stop and explore and enough was enough. I stopped at the next turnout, pulled out my camera, and went traipsing down a hillside that ended up being pretty steep and not especially suited to my sandals. And there was nothing there, in particular, that merited a photo—it was just insult to injury. That was fine, though. When I returned to the car I pulled out my hiking boots and striped socks and tugged them on. I’d be ready next time.


 I GPSed the remainder of the trip, fairly certain I knew which way to go, but ever curious about which direction it would lead me in this time. GPSes are curious things, forever getting exit numbers incorrect, forever “recalculating,” forever leading you down the primrose path of uncertainty, only to ultimately come out, somehow, ahead. I have a love/hate relationship with mine, whom Duane has affectionately named Sarah-Ann-Jean, except all one Southern sounding word, so it comes out like “saranjean.” Why, I don’t know. She doesn’t sound like a Saranjean.

 But, anyway, Saranjean got a little ornery today and decided to take me through Gap Creek. Remember Gap Creek? It’s a book, an Oprah selection, actually. It was kind of cool to put a picture to the novel.

 So that’s today. Getting there. Point A to point B to point C. And now I’m here. Sorry it’s so long, but dang it, it did take me a while to get here.

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