Monday, March 9, 2009

Back from the Smokies

Well folks, it's Monday morning...anyone still trying to recover from losing that hour for Daylight Savings? The morning commute was different due to it actually being dark outside instead of me staring directly into the rising sun as I head East on I-285 to work. The traffic was abnormally light also. Guess I'm one of a few that managed to crawl out of bed at my normal time...even if I only got about 5 hours of sleep last night.

Anyways, we arrived back home last night after a nice weekend getaway to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. On Friday, Jill, Abby, Wayne, Anita, Toby & me all crammed into the Ford Freestyle for the first of what I'm sure will be many family road trips. We began shortly after I finished work and Wayne arrived from his flight from Tampa, and jumped on the road into the middle of North Atlanta post-work heavy traffic. Naturally, there was an accident on I-85 that slowed our progress for a little while (as the 3 left lanes of northbound traffic was shut down), but it wasn't all that bad once we passed the scene.

With the traffic jam came witty & random conversations, along with that eery feeling that I had entered into National Lampoon's latest "vacation" movie (minus Clark W. Griswold) that carried over when we made our first stop in Camellia for Abby's feeding as well as the rest of us. Normally when you're on the road and already running behind schedule, the idea is to grab a quick bite to eat and keep trucking along. In an attempt to throw that idea out the window, we decided on Pizza Hut, which isn't exactly FAST FOOD. Then someone (not pointing fingers) had the clever suggestion of ordering the pizza to go, which may have in fact outsmarted those thinking Pizza Hut couldn't be treated as fast food except for the fact that it still took 20 mins for the food to be cooked. My thinking was that I had reached my own personal version of family trip Hades already and we still had plenty more miles to go, so I trekked across the parking lot to the INGLES grocery store to buy soft drinks and leaky boob pads. I got back to the car to find the hot pizza ready for me to consume, and after 2 diaper changes, we hit the road again.

Thankfully, the rest of the drive was fairly easy. We took the eastern route to Pigeon Forge, which took us over and through the Smokey Mountains and Gatlinburg making the drive a little longer with plenty of twisty, curvy roads. Honestly, had it not been dark the drive probably would've been a scenic one, especially with the remnants of the previous snow storm still visible all over the top of the mountains. We stopped briefly in a Gatlinburg hotel parking lot so Abby could eat a little, and then finished the drive to the condo in Pigeon Forge. We unpacked and crashed while Wayne & Anita headed to Ed & Dee's with Toby where they would be staying for the weekend.

The next day began with breakfast at Flapjack's, which is one of probably a thousand pancake houses on the Pigeon Forge strip, but definitely one of our favs. Some good ole southern French Toast smothered in half a tub of butter and lots of syrup hit the spot for me, and once we all finished we jumped back into the cars and headed out. Our Saturday had no concrete plans, but we wanted to make it simple with visits to the Arts & Crafts district close to Gatlinburg. I also wanted to take plenty of photos while on this trip, so we took those winding roads into the countryside and enjoyed the gorgeous Springtime weather. We made a stop at the Greenbriar State Park where we walked and took photos along the river/creek for a while. At one point I decided to run up further ahead because I had spotted a fallen tree that crossed the river/creek, and although I got a few good shots, I missed the celebrity siting as former UT Vols football coach, Phil Fulmer and his wife walked by the rest of the gang. Mrs. Fulmer commented on how cute Abigail was, which was nice. I missed it, though, and am kicking myself for not walking back and asking him and his wife for a photo with Abby. Now I'm an Auburn fan, and have looked at Coach Fulmer as an "enemy" anytime they played my Tigers, but I still respect the guy and would've loved to have a photo.

Anyways, we left the park and headed towards the Arts & Crafts district next. We always love visiting that area because the crafts are unique, the people are very gifted, and the prices for their work are usually very reasonable. We made a few stops here or there for different things from rugs to candles to pottery, and eventually ended up at the Fox & Parrot Tavern, where Ed sometimes bartends and Dee is working to organize the owner's photo gallery. We had some fish and chips, a few pints, played some darts and I even showed some of my work to Brian, the owner, in case he would be interested in showcasing some of my work at his gallery. Altogether, it was just a great relaxing time with no plans, which was perfect considering the usual plans our trips have.

When it got to be time to leave, the ladies packed into one car and headed for the Ed & Dee's house while us guys took a separate car since Wayne and I wanted to stop along the way to take photos of all of those beautiful old barns and houses in the country hills. Since I'm here blogging this, I'm sure you now know that we were not shot at by any hillbillies for "trespassin" or anything. We had a great time making multiple roadside stops and taking plenty of photos, and eventually made it back to Ed & Dee's cabin where smoked ribs and wine were going to be on the dinner menu. After a patio dinner enjoying the cool country air, Wayne drove the 3 of us back to the condo and we called it a night.

On Sunday we knew it would be a short one, and we wanted to do a little shopping so we made a stop at the Apple Barn for breakfast and then headed to the Tanger Factory Outlets. We spent a few hours and few more dollars on stuff trying to make our own economic impact. During most of that time, Abby stayed attached to my chest via the Baby Bjorn. She wore her cute little sunglasses and hence became the center attraction out of our group. I didn't have to swat away too many hands reaching out for her, and she seemed to get a kick out of her shopping day....which is probably a bad sign for me and my wallet for the future. Ha!

After shopping, we headed back to Ed & Dee's for Toby, packed up the car, and then hit the road for the return trip to Marietta. This time we took the western route of I-75, and even though it wasn't as scenic and actually a little more mileage, the overall drive was by far much quicker. We got back into town around 9'ish and so ended our weekend trip to the Smokies. As always with most trips, we had a great time, but it just ended up being way too short for my liking. But hey, we're heading down to Tampa this coming weekend for a quick trip to see Dominico and family, so I'll get a few days of blah at work before heading out on the road again. Wooohoo!!