He did 96% of the driving. Linda stayed with Ashton while Mike and I threw a bunch of stuff in my car and proceeded to drive to Tennessee. I was born there, but I had never pronounced it TEN-essee before we went there last weekend.
It is a long drive, but a scenic one. Kentucky is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to look at. When you spend so long without greenery (hospital) you kinda just want to roll down one of those rolling hills until you reek of grass. I would like to roll over all the Tennessee hills with the people I love. Then build a cabin and live on one of them.
We arrived in Pidgeon Forge, home of Dollywood, at about 930pm. I had NO idea what this place was about. I thought we were going camping. It was bumper-to bumper traffic and the only thing I can compare it to in my experience is the Strip in Las Vegas. Redneck Vegas. It was awesome and I was awestruck! I looked at Mike and said, “How is it that you didn’t tell me about this?” He said, “Now, how in the HAIL could I have explained THIS?”
In the middle of flipping nowhere there was an enormous fake Titanic, the Empire State Building complete with Godzilla, a giant Shark screaming out of a building and an ice cream joint every ten feet. It was like a secret ice cream cult. Oh! My favorite part: store after store of “As Seen On T.V.” places to shop. I didn’t go in to one but I pictured rows of Pillow Pets and other various $19.99/buy one get a free steak knife items.
We did the cowboy store and outdoor store circuit and tried on hats and clothes but didn’t buy anything except one legitimate pair of Justin cowboy boots for Ashton<since he’s a cowboy and all.
The first night I was stricken with my first panic attack in many years. I could feel it creeping in. If you know panic, you know it can settle in for a day or so once you give way. The only time it can really get me is when I wake from a sudden sleep. It catches me while I am unprepared. We were sleeping in the tent for only four hours and it started to rain just ever so gently. I had to zip the fly and that was the trigger. I do not know why. It was a combo of being far away from Ashton( a situation I can’t control even while I am sitting next to him) and lack of sleep. I used all my tools to distract myself. It wasn’t really working. At all.
Here’s when you know you have someone good in your life: that man crawled out of the tent and said well, let’s go get your mind off of this. It was 430am.
And he drove us through winding, foggy roads up the Smokies while our ears popped and we laughed our asses off from delirium. Then we waited. The most memorable part of this excursion was this sunrise. Cotton candy clouds seemed like you could reach them if you just stretched your arm out. It was chilly. He held me while I was shaking and we watched. It looked like a white lake with islands in it and pinky orange clouds just barely moving above it.
He drove us down the mountain afterwards and I was still having a lot of anxiety. I kept telling him he had to talk to distract me. Then we got another great distraction: a mama and her cub! I was so intrigued by the fact that they were not afraid. Only the baby would dart in to the brush every so often. They had found something on the roadside to nibble and were determined to eat all of it. I didn’t deem it necessary to explore what it was.<that would be stupid. But people do dumb things around bears who stand still. They look like pets, but they are NOT. Anyway, they popped me out of my panic.
The idea was to do a big hike that day. I couldn’t. I felt like I ruined the trip. I could not stop thinking of Ashton. Word came to me that he was sick. I spent that day worrying about being a buzz-kill, worried about my son, worrying I would have a heart attack. Worried worried worried.
We did go to Gatlinburg. I am so happy we did that! Even if I was distracted and on 4 hours of sleep, I would be so disappointed if we hadn’t gone. Mike was able to by-pass the four hour traffic by way of a beautiful Tennessee back road. Gatlinburg is more low-key than Pidgeon Forge but still, it’s a riot! This city girl was a bit IMPATIENT. I used to get annoyed trying to walk downtown Chi- Town. They were too slow. I am a fast walker. Holy SLOW walkers in Gatlinburg. I do not SAUNTER. Ever. It seems this year is the year to learn patience. I really wanted to kick the back of some knee caps so I could make my way, but I just stayed and held Mike’s hand. I really tried to saunter. I wasn’t very good at it.
All in all, we made some sweet memories. I’m pretty sure I annoyed a man. We will go back in the Fall to see the colors. Maybe Ashton could go? Probably not. Next time I will be medicated and I won’t be a freak show. We will do that hike.
xoxo thank you for taking me. It meant a great deal to get out of Ohio even if I wasn’t able to make the best of it. Next time, Michael.