A Taste of Southern Hospitality
Trip Start Apr 17, 2011
23Trip End Jul 20, 2011
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The countryside was still very green and flat for most of the trip. The railway tracks seemed to be lined with trees with the occasional house and town. It made me want to watch the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe" again!
We spent 2 quiet days at Maureen & Neil's house and it was a good chance to catch our breath and get some laundry and blogging done
My youngest sister and her husband (Colleen & Gary) flew in on Saturday and the 6 of us headed West across the Great Smokey Mountains to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Now there is a story about why we headed to this particular place for our time together.... About 20 years ago (when I was single) I spent a week traveling with a New Zealander friend around some of the southern states. We stayed in a hotel in Gatlinburg (very near Pigeon Forge) and I noticed that there was a theme park near there called "Dollywood". You may have worked out that this theme park is owned by Dolly Parton! I'm not a huge Dolly fan, but I thought it would be a hoot to visit the park - my Kiwi friend was not interested in the slightest, so I thought "If I ever get back to that part of the world I'd like to visit Dollywood". So, when we knew that we would have some time to visit Maureen on this trip, we thought we could go there together (it's about a 4 hr drive from Maureen's). Well, Colleen & Gary didn't want to miss out on our time together, so that's how it all came about
Fifty years ago Pigeon Forge was just a sleepy little village - about an hour's drive from Knoxville. Today... well, I hate to say it, but it's a circus. Even Neil called it "Redneck Las Vegas" - but without the casinos and prostitutes. The main road was lined with hundreds of souvenir shops, restaurants, hotels and amusements. I guess you could say that Dollywood was to "blame" for this, but the plus side is that tourism has created a lot of jobs for a lot of people. As you can see, I had mixed feelings about the whole experience.
We stayed in the "Dollywood Vacation Cabins" - the pictures online were beautiful and we were very pleased that they lived up to their advertising. Three story log cabins with all the luxuries you could want. Three bedrooms, 2 spas, computer, wi-fi, cable TV in every room, nice kitchen, pool table, air hockey, pong, Nintendo - who could ask for more? Well, the "more" was million dollar views from the 3 balconies.
On our first morning, Max and I went to Dollywood and the others went to visit Gatlinburg. On the second day we all went to Dollywood. Dollywood is a bit hard to describe - it's an amusement park, but more low-key and green than other parks I've been too. Also, in addition to the mandatory kid's rides, it has a lot of music based shows - so there is a lot for older people to enjoy too. It's kind of nestled in a valley so there are forested hills on either side and a lot of trees in the park, which was a nice atmosphere. And yes, Dolly is everywhere (tho' not "in the flesh" when we were there!), so it helps if you like her style of music. (We're not big fans, but I don't hate it either.) I must say that this is the only theme park I've ever been to where you can hear Southern Gospel music and hymns playing all over the park
Our first afternoon we went to a musical show of 50's and 60's songs and near the end of the performance we heard thunder... but we thought it was just a part of the show. When we left a few minutes later we were shocked to see that the sky was black (about 6pm in early summer) and rain was pelting down. There must have been very high winds just before we came out too because there was debris all over including many broken trees. This was the tail end of the storms that caused such havoc and tragedy further north in Missouri and other places.
On our second day Colleen, Gary and Maureen wanted a bit more "action" so opted for doing a zipline through the forest (like a "flying fox" for all you Aussies). They enjoyed it though it was a bit more strenuous than they anticipated! Max and I went to a gospel quartet group show and we all enjoyed having a look at the mountain crafts of woodworking, musical instruments, leatherwork, etc. If you'd like to see more about Dollywood just click this link:
We left Pigeon Forge on Tuesday - Maureen & Neil took the rest of us to the airport at Knoxville for our flights home
This week has been spent washing laundry and taking care of preparations for our next adventure - 4 weeks traveling through the western states and visiting many national parks.