Saturday, October 25, 2008

Our Vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains

I could think of no better way to describe our trip to the Great Smoky Mountains than in pictures. It was gorgeous! We drove through the mountains, hiked up to a waterfall, played in the streams, and explored the Tuckaleechee Caverns - all this in addition to some wonderful meals at the Old Mill Restaurant and the Apple Barn. Now there was quite a lot of the super-touristy type stuff, but we just pretty much avoided it. If you can handle lots of women with big hair and thick make up, phrases such as 'hootenanny', and the main attraction (amongst hundreds) being Dollywood and the Dixie Stampede, then you can handle Tennessee.

Amidst all the beauty, there were some extremely comical sightings and experiences. The first came the morning after we checked in (at 2 AM). We stepped onto our porch to observe our surroundings and could hear the faint sounds of heavy diesel machinery. And then we noticed 'it'. . . Just across the parking lot was a small mountain which we discovered was a dump. Granted, it was largely hidden by a thin row of pine trees and some shrubbery, but nevertheless, our view was of the parking lot and a dump. When we went down to the front desk to request a different room (with the excuses of noise from diesel machinery at the dump, a leaky toilet and a dim fireplace - which were real, but not the real reason for our desire of a room change) we mentioned that it would sure be nice to have a room not overlooking the dump. "A dump?" the clerk responded quizzically. "I don't think I've ever noticed a dump. . " I had been helping the kids, and upon hearing the clerks answer, I couldn't even look at her; I mean, who did she think she was fooling? (We later discovered that from the main road, the dump across from our hotel was clearly visible.) Then another clerk, likely the manager, stepped in to 'handle' our observation. "I can see your hearing machinery from this side of the building," she commented in a thick twangy accent which almost didn't even seem believable as she pointed to the opposite side of the hotel, "because there's a new building going up, but there's nothing going on over there. . I've never heard anything about a dump. . We'll have to get back with you later on your room change." Fortunately, we were able to get a different room not overseeing the dump.

That same day, we made a trip to Wal-Mart so I could pick up a few things we needed. I found the general atmosphere to be totally unique from any other Wal-Mart I'd ever visited. First off, it was obvious that most people were not locals; they were vacationers. But they weren't distant vacationers; in general most people seemed to be deep south vacationers - as in, they weren't necessarily from Florida, but might be from the Carolinas, Georgia or just another city in Tennessee. This was where the big hair coupled with uber thick makeup was first really noted. Although that was by far the most common style, there were several individuals noted who were sporting mullets (yes, I did a double take just to be sure). But the real kicker of my Wal-Mart shopping experience came as I stood in line with my milk and cereal listening to the accents surrounding me and observing the decor of this Wal-Mart in particular. Up on some sort of shelf above the bathrooms and the hair salon were some white washed, faceless mannequins portrayed camping in the great outdoors with a tent and maybe a fishing rod. But next to the mannequins was a larg black bear. I then noticed that the main faceless mannequin was missing an arm. It struck me as a rather odd advertisement for the city and camping in the mountains.

Despite the fabulous trip we experienced, I feel we didn't really get the full experience of the area because we didn't go to Dollywood. Granted, I had no desire to make a visit there, but it seemed almost expected of us as tourists. Everyplace we went the sentiments of the locals echoed the theme of "Did you go to Dollywood?", "'R' you going to the Dixie Stampede today?". We didn't go to any real shows, but that's not to say we weren't tempted. There was a magic show, a Ripley's Believe It or Not, and various country dinner shows with singers and dancers - much like I-Drive but with a greater southern emphasis. One show we saw advertised in a large tv type sign on the road was "The Miracle." As you might guess, it was story of Jesus as portrayed by these folks. Jim and I noted on the tv sign a women whom we believe was supposed to be Mary, but by her dress, had she actually lived in Jesus time, would've more likely been a harlequin. Well, maybe we'll convince ourselves of these little bits of entertainment the next time we come back, but I kind of doubt it. No, we'll be back, I'm sure of that, but we'll spend our time in the same fashion we did on this trip - playing in the mountains and eating at the Apple Barn. If you have any interest in visiting the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, I highly recommend it.

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