Our Trip Begins...

Thursday, March 15, 2007


The plan was to get up early Thursday morning and leave before rush hour traffic (which is always a good plan when you live in a city ranked in the top 3 worst rush hours in the entire US). Unfortunately, CW woke up around 2am and insinuated himself into my bed. At 6am I was still dead tired, and the last thing I wanted to do was get on the road tired.

B10 ended up waking up around 7:10 and was distraught that he could “see the blue coming in the sky” and we had not yet left the house. He was dressed by 7:15 and “helping” me put my pillow and blanket in the car (FiancĂ© had loaded the car for me Wednesday night). In departing, I gave CW his special bag of goodies (B10’s was sitting on his seat in the car) and we were on the road by 7:40 am.

It’s about a four-hour drive from Atlanta to Gatlinburg, TN. I had decided as soon as I picked the trip, though, that the goal was to spend time with B10, even if that meant taking my time and being more laid back. (This is a huge deal for me, as I am a self-acknowledged Type-A Control freak with OCD tendencies.) After much prayer, I realized that if I had our hotel room reserved in Gatlinburg, I didn’t need to stress about getting there.

Off we went and I enjoyed the first hour of simply having a conversation with B10 with no interruptions. We stopped at 8:30 to pick up breakfast at a gas station and check our directions, which were correct. (And no judging my mothering skills about breakfast – he got Fruit Loops and Chocolate Milk, not a candy bar and soda!)

Then we continued on to the town of Tallulah Falls, where Tallulah Gorge is. We stopped at the Tallulah Gorge Overlook, where B10 was given some advice by a fellow traveler on picture taking skills (today’s lesson – determining the subject of your photo and focusing on your subject). I was able to take a picture of B10 next to the same point where I have pictures from when I was a kid with my Daddy AND we have pictures of my Daddy as a kid with my Granddaddy. For me, this was the coolest part of the whole day, seeing B10 experience a moment from my own childhood.

We drove into Tallulah Falls to the Jane Hurt Yarn Interpretive Center and hiked one-half of the North Rim Trail, which is labeled as Easy/Moderate. B10 really wanted to walk over the Suspension Bridge, and I was in agreement – not even hesitating when I saw the following sign:

Note to fellow travelers: When encountering a sign such as the one above, do not under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES fail to read the sign carefully. If you do read the sign carefully, try and remember that the nice Park Rangers wouldn’t put up a sign if it wasn’t a valid sign.

I am in relatively good shape, but I was bone-dead after walking down those steps and back up again. B10 had thought ahead enough to ask me to bring a bottled water, and I’ve never been happier to have carried a load on my back than I was today.

Back at the Interpretive Center, we did a self-guided tour which explained how the Hydropower Plant worked. It was pretty cool, we learned about how they regulate how much water is released into the Gorge – on certain weekends they increase it for “Better Viewing of Waterfalls” and twice a year they increase it almost four times the normal amount for phenomenal kayaking rapids. B10’s word of the day was “hydro” and we talked about “hydropower” and “hydroelectricity”. The Tallulah Falls Hydropower Plant can produce enough electricity to power much of the Southeastern area.

I’m not ashamed to admit that we visited the gift shop, and I left with an adorable stuffed beaver.

From there it was a short drive across the State Line to North Carolina, where we stopped at the Visitor’s Center and were told of the small town of Dillsboro. Dillsboro, NC not ONLY has a Chocolate Factory but ALSO boasts the Dillsboro Smokehouse – which was rated 3rd in the entire U.S. by the National Geographic Traveler 2006 Edition (“10 Best of Everything” Category). It was delish – some of the best Barbeque I have ever tasted, even B10 cleaned his plate. The Chocolate Factory was quaint: I found Harry Potter goodies for my Person back at work (She’s my version of Sandra Oh), B10 got a bag of Gummi critters (various and assorted animals), but my biggest find was sugar-free Gummi Bears for CW.

CW had a Dentist come into his Pre-K classroom and scared the living sugar out of those children. He had my Mum print SIGNS out and post them around the house reminding him to brush his teeth. (And my Mum, being a wonderful grandmother, did as she was bidden.)

By this point, it’s 2:15 pm, B10 and I have been on the road for almost 7 hours, and having a wonderful time. B10 decided to use the time in the car to work on his photography. My favorite is the “Husky on a Gorilla’s Head” still life.

I mean, you can’t buy this kind of Modernistic Work in a store.

Our next stop was Cherokee, NC, which is an actual reservation. There was a group of dancers out in front of one of the stores performing, and B10 had his face painted. The Indian (yes, it’s okay to call them that, it’s what they call themselves) said the design was a “Tee-Pee” design. The stores mainly sell goods that are handcrafted by the Cherokee population, so it was pretty educational just walking around. B10 ended up with a spear (which we got in a matching color for CW) and I purchased a leather holder for my ponytail. They also sold very nice patches, we got two (a Great Smokey Mountains patch and a Cherokee Indian Reservation patch).

Finally, at 3:30 pm, we crossed into the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, beginning with the obligatory stop at the Visitor’s Center (that in itself may have been B10’s new “word of the day!”). Our drive through the mountains was beautiful. At one point I stopped and let B10 take off his shoes and go wading in the cool water. He loved it! I enjoyed the drive and being able to stop every few miles. I love that area of the country, with the mountains and the sheer drops and the rock outcrops that jut out next to the road.

We arrived at our hotel at 4:45 pm, check in was a breeze – the only downside to the whole day was the fact that Gatlinburg is repaving their roads and the roads are only two lanes going through town. The people at the hotel were friendly and wonderful, they helped us figure out what we would have for dinner.

Our educational moments spread into dinner – as B10 experienced for the first time ever The Hard Rock CafĂ© (yes, he got a shirt). At the end of the meal, after we had gone over our experiences from the day, I asked him what his favorite moment had been.

His answer: The really cool guy with the Mohawk and skirt (kilt) that sat us at The Hard Rock. And he DID get his picture with the very obliging host.

My friends, this is why I love homeschooling.

Back at the hotel room (by 6:30 pm) B10 finished three pages of math homework and is now watching Animal Planet, before he takes a shower and we both head to bed.

With maybe a chapter out of Bridge to Terabitha before we go to sleep.

Tomorrow’s plan: the Aquarium of the Smokies!