GATLINBURG: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

The beauty of Gatlinburg is in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that is located just south of town. The photos in my previous blog post demonstrate just a snippet of what can be seen in the beautiful Smokies.

The beast is in Parkway Drive, one of the tackiest and touristy streets I have ever seen in the U.S.A. Just about anywhere with a “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” is bound to have a tacky element to it, but Gatlinburg has nearly 10 properties owned and operated by Ripley’s. Add to it all of the arcades, miniature golf outfits, and other “family attractions,” and it rivals Panama City Beach and other tourist traps for the “Top Tacky Tourist Trap” award.

Now, add “redneck” to the mix. You can see where I’m going with this…

All bets were off, however, when I saw the variety of Confederate flag attire and Made-in-China (ironic, isn’t it?) crap on display in the stores along Parkway Drive. Want a Confederate flag bikini? How about a huge Confederate flag to fly on a pole in the back of your pickup truck? Check out these shirts. Pick any one; they all turned my stomach.

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I had no intention of really spending anytime on that street; however, after sitting at our craft show booth all day yesterday at the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair, I was ready to get some exercise. After dinner, I walked the couple of blocks from our hotel to the main drag just to see what was drawing so many cars and pedestrians.

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OK, I’ll ‘fess up. I also wanted to buy some fudge, so I thought I would hunt down a shop recommended on Trip Advisor.

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Along the way, I passed “The Fudgery” and sampled a taste offered by the guy behind the counter. As soon as I saw the Confederate baseball cap on his head, though, I told him, “No, thank you,” and, I turned around and walked out.

After picking up some dark chocolate fudge at Fudge Shoppe of the Smokies, I had seen enough and returned to the comfort of our room at Mountain House Motor Inn.

I went to sleep last night wondering if I would ever see the day when the United States of America is truly the United States. In my dreams…

ROAD TRIP DAY 46: GONE TO CAROLINA IN MY MIND

Today reminds me of that song by James Taylor. We left North Carolina this morning and headed to Columbia, South Carolina for one last day away before returning home.

Upon arrival, we headed straight to Riverfront Park for a walk along the Columbia Canal; however, it was too hot and humid to enjoy. After less than one mile of walking, we returned to the car and blasted the airconditioning to cool down.

Next, we thought we would see the state capitol. BIG MISTAKE. You should have seen the swarm of people and news vans around that place! The crowd was larger than when we lined up for our tour at the White House a couple of years back, and we wanted no part of any of it.

I’m sure by now you have figured out why: the Confederate flag.

Honestly, I was shocked to hear that the capitol had been flying that flag. We are 100% behind the One Nation, One Flag camp, and wonder why it took South Carolina’s governor this long to speak out about it. Hmmm, could it be that she was sticking her finger up in the air to see which way the wind was blowing? Just how long would that flag have been left to fly if it weren’t for the Charleston murders?

Between the heat and the crowds in downtown Columbia, we decided to call it quits and just head to our hotel, instead. Ahhh, a nice cold drink and airconditioning!

As I sit nice and comfy in our room, I thought I would reflect back on our past 45 days on the road. Here’s a “by the numbers” look:

4,939– Miles driven (including tomorrow’s drive home)

3,054– ┬áNumber of pictures taken.

46– Blog posts written. I thoroughly enjoyed our evening routine of editing photos and writing while Bruce read the newspaper, solved the Sudoku puzzle, and researched the place we would be seeing the following day.

17– States traveled (Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana*, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia). * very briefly!

14– Chocolate shops where I purchased chocolates. Yikes! In addition to eating some along the way, I’m bringing a cooler full of the stuff home with me!

15– Factory tours (Corvette, Maker’s Mark, Louisville Slugger, Rebecca Ruth Candies, Chocolate F/X, Konzelmann Winery, Bully Hill Vineyards, Magic Hat Brewery, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Martin Guitars, Hershey Chocolates, Julius Sturgis Pretzels, Harley Davidson Motorcycles, and Utz Potato Chips.)

7– Costco Warehouses we visited for a very casual and inexpensive dinner. (Their $3.99 Caesar salads are large, fresh, and delicious!) Our favorite? Lancaster! We loved seeing the horse and buggy parked in the special designated area in the parking lot!

1– Marriage still happily intact!

0– Times either of us got sick.

Would we do a trip like this again? ABSOLUTELY! Like with everything else, there are those negatives to go along with all of the great positives; however, that’s with anything else in life. You take the bad with the good, and keep looking at the glass as being half full.

The biggest negative is having to lug stuff in and out of the hotel each time, and I have to give credit to my sherpa, Bruce. He was a trouper! As the cooler grew heavier with each chocolate purchase, he still insisted on taking care of that task while I handled the packing and unpacking.

There were also those times we hit unexpected traffic caused by an accident, and times (like now) when the weather was out of whack for the time of year we were traveling. So what?

We saw so many amazing things and beautiful places, learned about other cultures (yes, right here in the U.S.A.!), had a lot of fun, and enjoyed our time together. Nothing can top that!

Until the next time the mood strikes to write and post to my blog, CHEERS!

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