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Monday, October 6, 2008

Monday Mug Shot

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Gatlinburg, Tennessee

This is such a fun mug to me. I like the shape and that it looks small, but holds a full regular size cup if coffee. Okay, sure, I usually drink my coffee in the bigger cups, but this one is still a full regulation size cup for socializing! I could drink coffee in it at breakfast if David and I are both having coffee.

As the seasons are changing and really meaning it now in Northwest Ohio, with warm oranges and yellows in the trees and a cool bite in the air, I look at this mug and feel happy memories flood my mind...and a craving for good Mexican food!

In 1993 when Mom and I went on vacation taking advantage of Thanksgiving weekend to extend our week’s trip, it was just a little cloudy on the second day. That was the day we were headed to Gatlinburg, Tennessee and through The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

We got into Pigeon Forge right around lunchtime. The traffic in Pigeon Forge was PACKED! I’ll say two things that will explain it all - outlet mall shopping and the weekend after Thanksgiving! We did a little Christmas shopping on that trip, but not any shopping for things we could get in Michigan, so, after driving in and realizing that the road we needed to take to the park was right through outlet central, we were ready for lunch when we finally got into Gatlinburg.

Gatlinburg was a sweet town, all decked out for Christmas with the crisp late November mountain air and the smells of apple-cinnamon potpourri coming from the gift shop doorways and the welcoming aroma of restaurants at lunchtime in the air. Mom and I caught a whiff of a familiar smell, but here? Really? It was a smell of REAL Mexican food, not fast food garbage or homogenized Tex-Mex, but authentic South of the Border fare. We had a favorite restaurant in Walled Lake, Michigan, that served authentic Mexican that we just loved and this was a smell like that.

I suppose the first thing you want when you walk into any ethnic restaurant is to hear the cook using the native language as a first language. We were greeted by the host, who spoke accented English, a server who spoke slowly with an accent and a smile, and other members of the staff who seemed to understand a little English, but sure didn't seem to speak any. But they were all so courteous and proud of their food, and with reason! Mom and I agreed that it was even better than our favorite at home, although we agreed we could be eating a little atmosphere too. But there were tamales in real corn husks, flautas and rellenos stuffed with just perfectly spiced queso, my mouth is watering remembering it! We weren’t expecting authentic Mexican in Gatlinburg. We were thinking we’d be enjoying some local cuisine, but boy we were not at all disappointed!

After lunch and a little shopping in the shops on The Great Smoky Mountains Parkway, we got back in the car and went deeper into the park.

The plan was that we’d drive through the park and then take the Blue Ridge Parkway through into South Carolina. What a thrilling drive! It was the first time in my life I’d ever used low gear on my car, and I used it a LOT on those roads! In the National Park, there are some very steep grades, but guard rails all the way through and a lot of traffic but not too much. The scenery was just gorgeous! By the afternoon there was just a little bit of sun coming through the clouds and the tops of the trees. We stopped a few times to take it all in and get a couple of pictures.

The real thrill came on the Blue Ridge Parkway! (If David reads this, he’ll be amazed that I lived to blog about it one day!) The Blue Ridge Parkway is not a National Park. Much of the Parkway his no guard rails and the drops are, well, into the mountains. The drops are like jumping off a cliff! The grades were still steep in places and there were one lane tunnels, where the signs instruct you to turn on your headlights and honk your horn before proceeding! We hit a very dense patch of fog that I was VERY nervous driving through. I couldn’t see a thing and I knew the drop was a big one if I ran off the road. Needless to say it was a slow drive at that time. We continued up until the fog dissipated and we stopped at the next turn off to take a break. You know, pry my white-knuckled fingers off the steering wheel!

We got out of the car to stretch and just take a look. What a view at that turn off of the mountains and clouds below. CLOUDS BELOW? Mom and I just laughed at ourselves. It wasn’t dense fog, I’d driven through a cloud! WOW!

The rest of the drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway was a bit more routine. We got off the parkway in South Carolina, before dark. (I think we would have been sleeping in the car that night if it had gotten dark before we were off the mountain) and caught the freeway into Columbia where we stayed for the night. Sleep was pretty easy to fall into that night after our exciting adventure driving in the mountains with Jonathan, the Mountain Marauding Camaro!

1 comment:

Edna B said...

Goodness, this sounds like a fantastic fun trip. Not that I enjoy driving where there are no guard rails. Now that I'm older, I'm pretty wimpy about things like that.

I drove through the mountains a little bit back some years when I drove to Nashville. Afterwards, we drove across to Carolina and upward into Virginia to visit my daughter.

Now I'm a bit leery of driving so far by myself. Tootsie doesn't talk all that much when we're in the car, so long trips get lonely.
That's it for today, hugs, Edna B.