Friday, July 27, 2012


Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge, TN

This morning was our "leaving day" but we weren't in a hurry to get back home.

We woke up fairly early, packed, and decided to forgo the hotel restaurant so that Steve could avoid the overly friendly host. Heehee.

(I'd like to tell you which hotel we were staying in, because it was a nice place and a great place to stay if you're in the area, but I've been burned by the random corporate web-bots crawling around and finding my blog, and I don't want to get the guy fired.  Overly friendly host or not, I don't want to be responsible for getting anyone fired!)

We had heard great things about a place called "Log Cabin Pancakes," which is apparently a town institution, so we decided to have breakfast over there.  The parking lot wasn't full, so we thought we'd be able to get something to eat fairly quickly, but I had forgotten a very important detail about staying in Gatlinburg...people can walk to most places!  We got as far as the porch and that is it.  The line was insane, and trailing out the door and down the front of the building.  It was like Clary's in Savannah.  We pretty much decided that no pancakes were worth standing in a line like that, so we left.  It wasn't just that place, though.  Every pancake/breakfast place we saw was completely packed out with a line out the door.  Alas, no pancakes for us!  Oh, well...

We drove out of Gatlinburg and headed towards Pigeon forge so that we could go to the outlets.  I love shopping at outlet malls.  I don't know why, though, because I'm fairly sure that the prices aren't that much less than the regular stores, but it's the IDEA that you can get cheap stuff I suppose!

On our way there, we stopped at what I dubbed "THE MALL 'O CRAP" which was a really big store full of all of those cheesy souvenirs that are the staple and lifeblood of the tourist trade in places like that!  I loved it.  I always love to see the trashy t-shirts and tacky stuff that tourist traps have to offer.  Don't worry, though, we didn't buy anything.  I think the highlight of that visit was a shirt that I'm pretty sure was marketing that reality show "Swamp People" that said "Gator Done!"  Now that's good stuff! :)  When we left there, we hadn't gotten too far when Steve happened to look out of his window and say "HEY!"  Right there, in plain sight of where we had actually stopped yesterday while we were looking for the store that I was convinced didn't really exist, was the store that we had been looking for!  No, honestly, it was right there.  I felt so stupid.  Not only was it in plain sight, it was right next to a restaurant I'd told Steve I wanted to try the day before.  We had just somehow blanked out the whole thing, which is even more amazing since the place is frickin' huge. Even the GPS hadn't found it, so I'm under the impression that it was built overnight just to mess with us.

The store is called "The Incredible Christmas Store" and it contains everything you could ever imagine might be wanted for Christmas decor.  We even saw a life size nativity scene, which my mom would have loved, but we didn't have the trunk space for the entire holy family. ; )  We stayed in there a long time, mainly because the place was enormous.  I found a couple of mermaid ornaments that I wanted to put in my bathroom (nothing for the tree, alas) and I also found a gorgeous music box that I fell in love with.  It was a big, wooden thing that had these giant brass disks that played kind of like a record would.  It was so beautiful.  I don't know if my description makes any sense, but I wanted it so bad.  Unfortunately, I didn't have $16,500 to spare.  Ouch. 

After we left there, we figured we'd go ahead and eat lunch, so we went to "The Partridge and Pear," which was the restaurant I'd seen the day before.  It was such a neat place!  It was Christmas themed, but not in a cheesy way.  It looked like a really lovely home that had been decorated for Christmas, but not with Santas or anything like that, and each dining room was different.  We were in the atrium, which was lined with windows and had an inset, hand-painted pear tree on the ceiling. That painting even had atmospheric distortion, which amazed me.  It was gorgeous and the food was so good!  We ordered way too much, but everything we tried was delicious.  We'll go back on our next trip!

We got back on the road and finally made it to the outlets.  Oh, and have I mentioned that traffic in these towns is horrible?  It took us forever to get to every place we went.  It was frustrating!  Anyways, we walked the entire mall and, surprisingly, didn't buy much of anything.  The prices weren't very low, and it was too hot to try on clothes.  We did get shoes at the Croc store, and before you laugh and point, I need to specify that we got flip-flops, not the ugly kind.  They are the most comfortable shoes on the planet!  The last pair I bought, I have worn until the bottoms have flattened out and the tread is completely gone.  I was lucky to find my size, so I got the only two pairs they had left in a size 7 so that I could stock up. :)

We drove out of town to buy some medicine for Steve (he was feeling better, but still not so hot) and then we decided to head back to Gatlinburg so that we could drive through the national park.  Well, that was the original idea. We got back into town and Steve decided he wanted something to drink, so we walked back to the Parkway to find a place where slushies could be attained.  We stopped long enough to ride a chair lift (and had a picture made like the one we had on our honeymoon) and then we got our drinks.  Back in the car, I asked how far away the park was and Steve decided that he wanted to skip it.  BAIT AND SWITCH!  He really just wanted a slushy!  BOOOOOOO!  Oh, well....Gatlinburg isn't that far away!  We'll go back and look at the mountains one day.  Heehee.

So, we headed home & now we're here.  We'd had a very good trip!

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Gatlinburg, Tennessee

This morning I had to get Steve out of bed before he slept the day away. It wasn't very late, but had I not woken him and made him feel guilty for not getting up, I'm fairly certain he wouldn't have gotten out of bed till noon! I probably should have let him sleep, it is his vacation and all, but this is the only full day we'd have to do a lot of stuff, and I didn't want to waste it. : )

We started out getting breakfast in the hotel restaurant. The host was very, very friendly with Steve. Like, weirdly friendly. He followed us to our table and actually asked Steve some inappropriate questions, like how much he weighed! Wha? It was very strange. I thought maybe he was flirting with Steve, as he was a bit effete, but I noticed he was wearing a wedding band. Of course, that could mean anything these days. My guess is that his marriage may not have been legal in Tennessee, if you know what I mean. :). It is actually kind of funny in retrospect, because Steve was trying to be nice, but you could tell he was very uncomfortable.  I asked him later if he was weirded out because the guy was flirting with him, but he said no.  He was actually more uncomfortable with a complete stranger trying to start a conversation with him! Ha!  I'm sure the guy didn't mean any harm, but he had some boundary issues for sure.

After escaping from the restaurant, we headed towards the Parkway, which is what the main drag here is actually called. We parked and began walking. our first stop was at Cooter's, the Dukes of Hazzard museum and gift shop place. We spent a loooong time in there. Steve is a big fan, remember? The museum was actually fairly small, but had a lot of neat stuff in it. Mostly the things on display were props, costumes and merchandise, but it was pretty interesting.  Steve got a few souvenirs, but he wouldn't let me get a Dixie horn for the Seabring. I was crushed. 

We walked on, popping in and out of different shops that looked interesting. It was really muggy outside, and I was sweating so bad. It was gross!  We visited a Hollywood Car Museum, which was fun (and also had awesome air conditioning.) We walked on along a bit further, but soon decided to cross the road and start heading back. By this time we were really hot and probably more than a little dehydrated, so to remedy that, guess what we decided to do? A moonshine tasting! True story. Did you know that there is a distillery right here in Gatlinburg that makes legal moonshine in many different favors? Did you also know that the distillery's store lets you taste all the flavors you want, for free, like some kind of hillbilly wine tasting?  Steve and I were curious as to what it would taste like, so we showed our IDs and got a tiny plastic cup that looked like the kind we use during the Lord's Supper. I chose the peach kind, while Steve got the plain White Lightening. You know what? Moonshine is gross. No offense to the fine distillers or anything, because I'm sure the product is just not for me, but it tasted like rubbing alcohol that someone had soaked a gummi bear in. Bleh.  Steve was also not impressed.  Needless to say, we did not try another flavor! Oh, and to add some fun to that, I was just dehydrated enough to get a tiny bit buzzed. Honestly, a thimble-full of moonshine and my hearing got dim and my head and nose got really warm on the inside. It's sad, really. We walked a bit further and visited a "mall" where I convinced Steve to get into one of those water massage chambers. He had hurt his back on the golf course, and I thought it would help. Unfortunately for him, he didn't take the lady's advice and drink any water after he was done to flush the lactic acid, so he began feeling bad, but he didn't tell me until way later.

We finally got down to the aquarium, which I was so excited about! Seeing it was the only thing I knew for sure I wanted to do while we were here. Honestly, though, the visit immediately started off being very, very irritating and disappointing. First off, the place was packed. Apparently a lot of people had decided to visit that day, including a very large group from a family reunion (you knew they were all together because they were wearing the same reunion t-shirt.) I knew the place wasn't going to be empty, so the problem wasn't that it was crowded, but the people with that family reunion were so freaking rude!

There is a kind of courtesy I always assume most people should try to follow while in a place like an aquarium or a museum: you go and look at the things, don't surround it so that other people can see, don't shove your way in front of people, and after a reasonable amount of time, you move on.  This family had either never been to an aquarium, or quite possibly had never been in public, before because they did the opposite of all of those things. I approached the first tank, and was immediately shoved out of the way by some kids who apparently didn't think I needed to see the fish. I stood back, waiting my turn, but they didn't move! Seriously, I kept waiting and that knot of people just stood there talking. Ok then, I moved on. At every freaking tank, a knot of people from this family would block everyone else. They'd stand there and talk, scream, laugh, and make camera videos of the fish. Seriously?  That kind of thing is ok if you don't have a thousand people waiting behind you, but to bottleneck a whole room full of people while you pretend you are the only ones there? Unacceptable. To make matters worse, 3/4ths of the women there were pushing strollers the size of Volkswagens. Why would a baby the size of a house cat need a thing so big? Hell even if they did need it, wouldn't it make sense not to bring it into a place so full of people that you can barely move, much less maneuver a stroller? I don't mean to offend any mothers out there, and I speak from the ignorant position of someone who is child-free, but that was the icing on the cake of inconsideration. I'm sure it wasn't meant to be that way, but it would seem like common sense to me.  Anyways...enough about that. Steve and I kept getting separated, so I was basically by myself for most of the time. Boo. We met up and lost each other a hundred times, but we finally managed to get to the moving sidewalk at the same time! Woot! That was actually pretty neat, because it took us through a glass tube that ran through the big tank in the middle of the aquarium, and we got to see the sharks and sea turtles and stuff. The only bad part was that the family got behind us and spent most of the excursion screaming and bumping into us. I ended up walking off of the conveyer belt before it was over just to get away from them.  Luckily, after that things got much better.  It was still plenty crowded, but the family reunion people must have left, because I didn't see many of them after that, and the groups of people that remained seemed to have a better idea how to behave in public.  I enjoyed everything much more after that, and although I was disappointed that there were no otters at this aquarium, I did make friends with a penguin named Riley. He was so cute. I'd never seen penguins up close before, and now I love them! :)

We finally made our way out, and started back to the car. We'd decided to drive into Pigeon Forge and go to a store we'd been told about, but we never found it. We used the GPS to no avail, we drove around forever, and although we saw the buildings that were supposed to be near it, we just never saw it.  I'm beginning to think we were tricked!  We finally gave up looking and stopped in a place to get some dinner.  We apparently got seated in one of the "event" rooms where a small wedding reception was going on, so that was a bit awkward. There were a couple of other people not involved with the wedding sitting in there, too, so it wasn't too bad. I just felt like we were intruding a bit. By the time we were done eating, Steve had really begun to feel bad, so we came back to the room at about 6:00 and he fell asleep. He's been asleep ever since. I hope whatever is wrong doesn't get any worse! I'm still wide awake, though, so I've got to figure out something to do until I get sleepy.

It was a long, and except for a few wrinkles, fun day. :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Things had been kind of stressful around our house at the beginning of this month, so Steve and I decided to take a weekend to get away.

Actually, we'd been talking about taking a weekend trip for a while, and after dealing with the long, drawn out deal with the cabinets, the whole thing with Bear, me starting a new job (more on that later,) and Steve being generally stressed out from work, we just decided to do it. The sooner the better.

One of Steve's friends from work told him that his family was planning a trip to Pigeon Forge, and that he was going to spend a day golfing. After hearing that we were thinking of going on a trip to Gatlinburg, he invited Steve to go golfing with him one day, if we happened to be close by.

We got up early this morning and, believe it or not, actually left in a timely manner. We had taken Butler to his pet "resort" the day before, so that helped out a lot! Don't tell him I said that. :). We had to drive through a lot of rain, but once we got to Tennessee, the day got much prettier.  We were listening to the audio book "Around the World In 80 Days," and just in case your curious, that is probably not the best book to listen to while you're traveling. The whole time it was on I felt like we were running behind!  We only had to make one stop, wherein I literally got chased around the car by an angry yellow jacket. I'm sure the other cars at the gas station just loved that.  The stupid bug even followed me into the car when I finally got in, but after a short freak out, we finally got him outside.

I haven't actually been to Gatlinburg since our honeymoon, and I had forgotten how gorgeous the Smokey Mountains really are. I also think that my trips out west have made me forget how green everything is out here. Everything is just so beautiful, even the kudzu!  Well, let me rephrase, the mountains and scenery are beautiful, but Pigeon Forge and the main strip of Gatlinburg are typically "tourist ugly." Tacky stores and tourist traps are kind of a scab on the edges of things, but once you get out of that, it's like Rivendell.

It took us forever to get through the Gatlinburg strip, but we finally made it to our hotel. It's right off the main drag, but far enough away that the tacky is not visible. The hotel is tall and cylindrical , and the rooms all surround the middle where the elevators are. The rooms are shaped like a piece of pie with the pointy bit cut off, which is kind of fun, but the bathrooms are tiny! The scenery is first rate, though, so small bathrooms are not a problem.

Steve had to leave almost immediately to drive back to Pigeon Forge to make his tee time, and I'm just chilling in the room.  I walked downstairs to check things out, and the hotel is packed this weekend. There is a huge family reunion being held here that I'm thinking of crashing. Do you think it would be suspect if I was the only white person attending? There is also a wedding, so I could crash that too. I guess.  I'd walk to the strip to shop or something, but we are a bit too far for that.  If Steve is gone long enough, I'm going to get into all kinds of shenanigans.

Right now I'm watching the CNN coverage of the Colorado theater shootings, which is just awful. Mitt Romney is giving a speech about it "not as a man who is running for office, but as a father..." which would be more believable if he weren't on a stage backed with a Patton worthy American flag. His speech was very lovely, though, so I shouldn't make fun.  I hate that this is happening, and it's scary since that is very, very nearby where Josh and Jeoff live.

Hopefully, once Steve gets back we can go and find something to get into. :)


Ok, he's still not back and I am so bored!


Freaking finally. Steve got back almost an hour and a half later than I thought. I was hungry, but I had waited to eat in case Steve came back early. Luckily it had been arranged for us to have dinner at the Pigeon Forge Mill restaurant with the family of Steve's coworker. That place was crazy busy, but we were seated relatively quickly. The food was delicious and they gave us generous portions. Very generous portions. Almost too generous. :). We were stuffed, but all of us got a chance to walk it off while we walked down the main drag of Gatlinburg's shopping area. It was a fun night, but I'm very tired.


Wednesday, July 04, 2012

BEAR 2003-2012

I suppose most of you already know that we had to put Bear to sleep yesterday afternoon.  We finally heard from the vet that the ultrasound and the other tests that they did showed that Bear had Lymphoma, which caused him to have an enlarged spleen.  It would have progressed, no matter what, and eventually he would have either starved or bled to death.  We could have brought him home and given him a few last days with us, but Steve and I knew that it would have been cruel to prolong the inevitable.  We got to see him for a while at the vet and love on him, but ultimately we had to let him go. I was there while they did it and I held his head and talked to him, and I cried like a baby. 

It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, and it feels like I murdered one of my best friends. He trusted me.  I feel like the worst person who has ever lived.

I know in my head that we did the right thing and that he would have just gotten sicker and sicker, and I couldn't stand to see that, and even if we had brought him home we would have eventually had to take him back and have the deed done.  In my heart, though, I feel like I've done something inexcusable and that I'll never really feel good again.  I realize that's probably stupid, but right now I hurt so much that it feels true.

Butler is also taking it hard.  As far as he's concerned, Bear has always been with him, and he's sitting out in the backyard looking for Bear and wondering where he is.  It's heart breaking.

So many people have been kind and it means so much when they say that they're sorry.  I never thought that would matter, but it does.

I know that other people think we're being silly, because Bear was just a dog, but he was more than that to us.  He was our dog, our friend, our child, and a member of our family.  We love him so much, and there will always be a hole in us where he once was. We keep crying, and it just feels so awful, like we will never feel better again.

We're going to miss you, Bear.  We love you.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


Over the past few days we've been noticing that Bear has been acting odd.  He is very apathetic and he hasn't eating very much.  We put it down to the heat, and we tried bringing the dogs inside during the hottest part of the day, but I felt guilty keeping them shut up in their kennels for so long and I'd let them back out when it got a little cooler. Of course, a little cooler was still really hot, but they always had plenty of water and shade, so I wasn't too worried.

At night, though, he was just acting very strange and he wasn't eating very much at all.  Normally, he eats all of his food, but for the past few days he'd only eat half, or maybe just a few bites total.  I tried giving him other things, like cheese and soft training treats, and he'd eat that, but his regular food was barely being touched.   At first we thought maybe there was something wrong with the food, but Butler had no trouble eating it and it didn't seems to cause him any problems.

Last night, he barely ate at all, no matter what we did, and when I took him outside before he went to bed, he got sick out there and then he just found a place and lay down without moving.  That's not normal for him at all.  After some debate, we took him to the emergency vet clinic to get him checked out.  I wasn't expecting anything big, but he was so pitiful that I was afraid not to have him checked out as soon as possible.

The vet did some tests and took X-Rays, and when they came back it showed that Bear had a possible mass in his abdomen.  Yuck.  Since the emergency clinic didn't have an ultrasound, they couldn't be sure what kind of mass it is, so we were going to have to take him to his regular vet and have that done.

Of course, you probably already know that both Steve and I have been basket cases since we found out. There is a slight chance that the mass is nothing serious, but the vet told us that his blood work was abnormal and that some of his internal organs seem to be pushed aside, plus he seemed to think we needed to get this ultrasound quick, so we don't believe that it is "nothing."  We took him to his regular vet this morning to be under observation and to have an ultrasound, so we won't really know anything until later today.

I'm so worried about him, because he's such a sweet dog and he has no idea what is going on.  All he knows is that he doesn't feel good and that we've left him at the place he hates worse than anything.  I feel so terrible.  If this really is serious, we will have to make a very difficult decision that I'm not sure I could handle.  I'm so soft hearted about animals, and the fact that Bear is like my own kid makes this a million times worse.

I just hope he's going to be OK.  If you don't feel weird about praying for a dog, say a quick prayer for Bear.  We just want him to be OK.