Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Anniversary Adventures (Part 1)

This past weekend, the wife and I made good on my formerly secret plan from last August to return to our honeymoon cabin in Gatlinburg, TN, for a mini-vacation in celebration of our 10th wedding anniversary. And while the weekend was largely an enjoyable one filled with great food and fine spirits (not to mention other typical honeymoon activity--AWW YEAHHHHHH!) it was not entirely without incident.

The plan as I'd conceived it was to pack the car up Friday morning, drop the dogs off at Doggie Jail, go eat a leisurely breakfast and then hit the road for G-burg, with the intent of arriving around the time of check-in for our cabin. The only major roadblock to this plan, however, was the impending blizzard that was scheduled to hit Borderland Friday morning and bury it under what was rumored to be a sheet of treacherous black ice. Thursday afternoon, the wife phoned to suggest that it might behoove us to depart a day early to avoid the risk that we might be trapped at home altogether. Sounded like a plan to me. I figured we could get as far as Bristol and get a hotel for the night, but she was all for going the full distance and checking into our cabin for an extra day. I got to packing and made arrangements for the dogs to head to Doggie Jail a day early.

We didn't leave town until after dark and didn't make it to Pigeon Forge until 10:30 or so, but I thought we'd made excellent time. The rainy weather for driving wasn't the greatest, but at least it wasn't icy.

The trouble with being away from a touristy spot such as the Gatlinburg area is that over the course of a decade they have a tendency to expand and shape-shift in the interim. This was especially true for Pigeon Forge, which had apparently decided that it no longer wanted to be a quaint little Appalachian town with Dollywood as its only major attraction, but instead aspired to be Myrtle Beach with every bit of the tourist trap crap that comes with it. Whereas 10 years ago there were some touristy places, such as gold and gem panning stations and a few miniature golf places, now there were seemingly dozens of sprawling theaters (one of which was impressively built upside down), gigantic prefab castles, and a full-size, building-in-progress replica of the Titanic. The place was almost unrecognizable.

We drove very slowly through the rain-soaked streets Pigeon Forge (average speed limit for the area is 35 mph, though it sometimes dips as low as 15), then slowly eased along the parkway at 45 mph (actually slower in some places, because the four lane had been reduced to two lanes because a chunk of a hillside had fallen and buried a section of the southbound side of it the day before) and on into Gatlinburg.

Our directions to the cabin led us through Gatlinburg and onto the outskirts of town along route 321. We noticed that this area had seen quite a bit more expansion in past 10 years as well, with more stores and businesses present. By then it was nearly 11:30 at night and we were ready to get to the cabin. Unfortunately, the directions for getting to the actual cabin had changed, taking us along a three mile stretch of road leading through the Arts and Crafts community before intersecting with Buckhorn road, the road off of which our cabin was supposed to be located. We could have reached Buckhorn via 321 directly, but we decided to take the suggested route instead. Unfortunately, we soon learned that the directions to the cabin, which had been written by the owners of the cabin, were factually incorrect. From the intersection with Buckhorn, the directions said it was 1.2 miles before we reached the road on which our cabin was located. In actuality, it was .5 miles, but because we were obediently following the readings of the odometer, we drove right past the road. And because we were coming at it from the opposite direction to a decade ago, we had no hope of recognizing it when we saw it--particularly since the road sign for that road was hidden in shadow, even beyond it being a dark and stormy night. We had to retrace our steps twice and finally go road by road by road looking at all the signs before we finally found it. And even when we found the correct road, I had trouble believing it led to "our" cabin, as in my memory "our" cabin had been located at the very end of a secluded, dirt road off of a scarcely-traveled rural route, with only one or two other cabins around. It was the very sort of place where you could walk around the exterior deck nekkid, as newlyweds are apt to do, with no fear of anyone seeing anything. The road as we found it that night, though, was paved, and lined with enough homes that we could see it was now practically a subdivision. Was this really the same cabin? Then we reached a familiar steep slope of road, one which my 1985 Chevy Caprice Classic automatic had been hard pressed to climb a decade back without manual down-shifting, and soon we were around the corner and there stood "our" little cabin--an A-frame tucked onto the side of the steep hill. Other than a new roof, its exterior looked pretty much as it had when we'd left it in 2000 and, other than some rearranged furniture, it looked pretty much the same within. Being nearly midnight, we soon tucked into the log-framed king-size bed, and snuggled up in the first bed we'd ever slept in as man and wife.


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