up the mountain I go
Part of the joy of driving up to the Smokies is that the weather is generally a little more moderate—cooler and less humid—than the basin where Nashville sits. This year…it was not. I mentioned last week that the forecast was hot with chances of rain daily. The forecast was half accurate: there wasn’t a drop of rain that I saw the several days I was there, but the hot? Yeah. Tourists were complaining. I was joining with locals to assure them that no, they were not crazy, and yes, it usually isn’t this muggy and funky up there.
I packed some jeans, a couple pair of leggings, and a pair of shorts. I usually overpack. In this case, I underpacked. It was so hot I broke down when I went to Wal-Mart (which, yeah, another place mom loved to go, once they got one up there. What? All Wal-Marts don’t have exactly the same stuff. LOL) and looked for some more shorts. All the ones in the ladies’ departments were flimsy and too short. My thighs embarrass me, seriously. My lower legs are one of my better features, I think, but above the knee, not so much. I wandered through the guys’ department, mostly because they have the coolest t-shirts, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but an adorable pair of black shorts with little red roses sprigged all over them! They fit! AND they had pockets! Lots of pockets! I was beside myself.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Lemme tell this story in something approaching chronological order.
Sunday I drove straight up early, and got to the flea market before lunchtime, even with the hour change for time zones. It was mostly vendors of—well, stuff, as opposed to antiques and crafts, which is what I like most. There were a few craftspeople, but yeah, it was largely weird handbags, sports collectibles, knock-off perfumes, biker T’s, that sort of thing. It wasn’t so bad though. I happened upon a jewelry maker who sold me a great chain for my angel necklace (you know, the one I wear all the time). I also got him to make me some earrings and bought a couple of Christmas gifts (REDACTED because spoilers!), grabbed a lemonade and ate my peanut butter sandwich in the shade.
The knife store was its usual delightful self, indoor waterfalls and all. They even started carrying their own line of canned goods: jams, relishes and so forth. I caved and got a mixed-berry variety they call, appropriately considering some weekends up there, Traffic Jam. :D
The last time mom and I went up to the mountains, with my cousin, we hit the cast-iron skillet outlet store and I got this weird little block thing you use to clean rust off skillets. It’s almost worn out and I’ve never been able to find them anyplace else, online, B&M, nothing. The outlet up there still sells them though! Worth the trip, just for that.
Norma-Dan is still the best. I checked in and they asked if I minded a handicapped room. Why would I MIND? Those usually have the biggest bathrooms and most space to move around. Literally the only thing that didn’t bring me great joy was that it was on the ground floor, so no view of the mountains. Then again, I didn’t have to haul my suitcase up stairs, I was going to the mountains so I didn’t really need a view, and I bet if I needed to get to my car I could jump right over the patio railing. (this bet was not a good one. More on that in a minute.)
The Cuban place I love isn’t open on Sundays so the front desk ladies pointed me toward a small but nice steak place within an easy walk of the hotel. I really needed that walk, after several hours in the car, and hoped to get a lot more walking in while there. I hit Baskin Robbins on the way back, but resolved, as usual, to keep my food expenditures to a minimum. Translated, pick up a couple of snacks at Stewarts drugstore (or Dollar General which just opened in town!) to keep in the room.
Monday was spent roaming the Five Oaks outlet mall, with a midday stop on a shady bench for a coke and my sandwich. I almost escaped without spending a dime, but fell for a pretty blue braided leather bracelet. It was a bit disappointing, because I was actively hunting for just the right top to wear with my denim miniskirt, but had no luck. Things were too long, too short, wrong color, no sleeves, too snug, not a good-feeling fabric, etc etc. My dogs were barking, even in my snazzy high-tops which got a lot of compliments, so I took them back to the hotel to relax (ie. My feet hurt, for you non-Southerners. lol). I had suppers for the stay planned out and landed at Huck Finn’s for chicken livers again. Even a half order is huge; I only ate half of it and took the rest back to my room fridge.
While chilling on the patio, I thought maybe I should take my skirt with me if I wanted to have a better chance of finding a top to go with. Hey, I’ll jump over this railing and toss it in the car, I think. No problem, I think. I should have thought better. I got over the railing and back, but ended up hung up and with a nasty bruise on my thigh. Oops. Embarrassing, even though nobody saw the incident. I had second thoughts about swimsuit’ing it, especially since the sun was absolutely merciless, and I have no base tan at all. In other words, even with sunscreen, I would be courting a sunburn, unless I went out very late in the evening or very early in the morning, that would wreck what was left of my stay. Also, I’m lazy, like air conditioning, and prefer to kick back in my comfy hotel room and write or read or cross-stitch when I’m not out and about. Kids, let this be a lesson to you: heeeey, I could do X, does NOT always mean you can do X. Trust.
Anyway. Tuesday was Quest for the Right Top II, which still ended in defeat ☹ I did however spend a most enjoyable half a morning in the old Book Warehouse, where among other things I found some bite sized moon pies and a favorite old soft drink from back in the day! Nehi peach is very hard to find anymore, so I got one to drink and two to take home. I hit Wal-Mart late morning and discovered my great shorts, as well as the most awesome Christmas present ever (zips lip) and a teeny stuffed black bear cub for a certain smol someone.
I was planning to go back to the hotel and fix a sandwich, but I realized about this time…I really didn’t want peanut butter again. And there was a Panda Express right next door, and it was not crowded, and I ended up sticking my head into a lovely bowl of beef and broccoli. I rarely if ever eat chain food on a trip unless time or money constraints dictate, but it was what my mouth wanted at the time, so, who am I to argue?
The customary visit to Stewarts ensued, and that was the first time I got a tad emotional. It really hasn’t changed a bit, and when it inevitably does, I will freak out, I know I will, For now, though, when I walked in and wandered around for a few minutes, I half expected mom to holler for me from across the store, or daddy to come around a corner carrying lunch meat and a bag of chips. This being the first time I went up there since mom passed, I was waiting for the storm of feels to hit, but it was more a brief, gentle shower.
After another feet-up in my room, I headed for the Island shopping area, mostly for the bratwurst and insane fries at Poyner’s, the teeny German restaurant.
Truth in advertising: that isn’t my pic, but my fries did look about like that. I ate my fill and ended up with a to-go box full enough that I had to beg a rubber band to keep it closed (and two dipping sauces even though I only paid for one…I couldn’t remember which of two I got the last time I was there, so the guy gave me one of each) I got my aunt her traditional fudge and talked myself out of an Iron Man Build-a-bear (or so I thought)
The Island is in the hills above Pigeon Forge and the view of the mountains from the top of the drive that leads down into the parking area is amazing, but I never can really capture it on camera. If there was a sidewalk, I’d park and hike up there to try, but, no such luck. Take my word for it, it’s great.
Wednesday I headed for Gatlinburg! The new skybridge just opened the Friday before, and I was considering checking it out; but the lines were enormous, as reported by facebook friends who posted pix and videos. Plus it meant having to find parking downtown, which is invariably suckitude incarnate, hike to the skylift, stand in line in the heat for Lord only knew how long, then pay 20-something dollars to ride to the top of the hill, walk around, and ride back down. I decided I just wasn’t in the mood.
Instead, I drove up to the local yarn store I always visit, then walked across the street to the place my parents and I always stayed, the one that burned out in the big fire several years ago. They were scheduled to reopen the day after I left, but I wanted to see it and maybe say hi (turned out the folks there looked really busy so I just stayed out of the way) The building we stayed it escaped without damage, and I spent some time sitting by the creek thinking about my folks.
Then up to the mountains, to the craft shops, to an umbrella-covered table where I ate my sandwich and sent pix to friends in a facebook chat. Amazing that I could sit above Gatlinburg TN, and pals from Iowa, Florida, Trinidad and Hungary were virtually hanging with me!
The Glades, where the crafters set up shop, is another area where I feel especially close to mom. Walking across the parking lot to go back down, my ear was caught by an older woman calling something that sounded unnervingly like the last part of my name, which is usually what I would hear if mom was calling me. I figure that was her way of reminding me she is always here. 😊
Made my final decision against inflicting unappealing abuse on my feets (next year, skybridge!) and headed back to Pigeon Forge. One thing I hadn’t yet done that I wanted to was a small wine crawl; there’s a group of wineries that, like most in the area, offer free samples, but also offer free gifts if you visit several of their number. I made the rounds, tried a dozen or so wines (don’t panic anybody, I wasn’t driving impaired; a sample is about the size of a communion glass, hehe) and a couple of hard ciders (Apple Barn! Please come back to Nashville!) and took my wine glass and t-shirt with me!
On the way back to the hotel to start packing (it’s time to go home already? NOOOOO) I made one more quick run back to the Island, to grab an amusing little gift for a cousinling.
Yes, that is a volume knob. lolol
I considered trying some moonshine, but Old Smoky, the major distiller in the area, now charges for samples! BOOOOO. At least the bluegrass music is still free. i hate that this place didn't open until well after daddy passed; he would have loved to sit back in a big chair with some iced tea and enjoy live picking.
Then I made my big mistake…I wandered back into Build-a-bear. They only had one Iron Man bear left. I mean, face it, it was meant to be…
Everybody needs a superhero to squish, I think, and my tiny Tony, while still my favorite, isn’t big enough to really squish reliably.
Thank you for listening to me ramble about my mini-vacation. I’m terrible for wanting to talk about a trip when I come back, every little piddly detail. Daddy used to like to listen to me babble, mom never had the slightest interest. Aunt Peggy is a great listener, but it’s nice to be able to spew it all out here onto my blog.