everyone – showed up for JournalCon 2, but my main memory of the dream is that I ate Patrick’s frosted cherry Poptarts, and man was he ever pissed at me. And I don’t even like cherry Poptarts! So we got on the road as soon as the spud got home from school Thursday, and were at the hotel around 9 (eastern time, ’cause we go from central to eastern somewhere around Chattanooga. Or is it Knoxville? One or the other, anyway). We ended up in a particularly nice hotel suite, where I managed to not take a single picture at all, but you can see it here. The balcony off the bedroom overlooked a lovely mountain stream, and there were no other balconies in sight. Neither Fred nor I slept well Thursday night – we hadn’t expected to, since it was the first night in an unfamiliar bed – and we were up and out of the hotel by 9 Friday morning. We spent the next five or six hours walking around the town of Gatlinburg, going into shop after shop, spending money on this and this, and going into places like the Ripley’s Believe it or Not! museum (which was kinda cool, but mostly lame) and others of it’s ilk. We went through a haunted house which was quite an experience. You walk through the haunted house, and you have to go through in single file, with one of your hands on the shoulder of the person in front of you. Large portions of the walk were pitch black, and the guy at the head of the line had to feel his way along, leading us. He and his girlfriend were at the head of the line, then Fred, the spud, myself, and three girls behind us. The girl behind me had both her hands on my shoulders and her chin on my shoulder as well. I was practically carrying the girl piggyback, I’m telling you. If I’d’ve been a guy, I’m sure I’d have loved it. The girl in the very back was in serious hysterics the whole time, because apparently someone was walking behind her and whispering "You’ll never get out! You’ll never get out!" in her ear. I mean, the girl was sobbing loudly to the point that people working at the haunted house were breaking character to ask if she was okay. The best part was at the end, though, when a guy came running at us with a chainsaw. The girl in front of Fred screamed and ran off, and the three girls in back of me all but lifted me off my feet, they were pushing so hard. We also went up in Gatlinburg’s answer to the Space Needle, where Fred stood by the edge and tried not to look nervous while I snapped his picture. Despite our plans to go back to the hotel room and make sandwiches for lunch, we ended up having lunch at a fairly nice restaurant, which ended up being the only nice restaurant we visited whilst in town. After lunch we did some more poking through gift shops and then I went back to the car to wait for Fred and the spud, who came along twenty minutes or so later. We went back to the hotel room and I laid on the bed and complained about how much my feet hurt. Fred proved how much he was listening by trying to talk me into going to Dollywood and spending another five or six hours walking around. Finally, he took the spud down the street to a mini amusement park sorta thing, and they rode rides and played games for a few hours while I relaxed, read, and ate candy (since that’s really what vacation is all about, isn’t it?). Our search for dinner in Pigeon Forge was absolutely abysmal, because traffice was bumper-to-bumper, and every restaurant we came across was packed with lines spilling out the doors. We finally found a small Mexican place and stopped there, discovering that Pigeon Forge is a dry county, and I couldn’t order a margarita or beer or anything to make me forget the pain in my feet, but the chicken quesadilla was pretty damn good. At least there was candy back in the room. Saturday morning, Fred jumped out of bed, stretched happily, and sang a chorus of Oh what a beautiful morning! "I slept REALLY well last night!" he giggled. Whereupon I pulled out a gun and killed him, then pushed him into the lovely mountain stream our balcony overlooked for good measure. "Oh," he said with false concern. "Did you not sleep well?" I had to bite my tongue very, very hard lest a stream of obscenities be loosed loud enough for the entire town to appreciate. "No," I informed him. "I did NOT sleep well. I did NOT sleep well AT ALL." "Why not?" he asked, continuing with the false concern. "Oh, I don’t KNOW," I said, snarling despite my efforts to remain calm. "Maybe it was the fact that you breathe REALLY LOUDLY. Or the SNORING. Or the CONSTANT TWITCHING. Or the fact that you shut the door so that instead of hearing a wave of white noise, all I could hear was you BREATHING AND SNORING AND FARTING all the live-long night! BUT I’M GLAD YOU SLEPT WELL!" Luckily, he didn’t take my snarlings personally, and soon enough I had calmed down. We had our showers, breakfast, and soon enough were on our way into the National Park on a search for waterfalls. You may or may not recall, but last time we were in Gatlinburg, my waterfall pictures didn’t come out very well because the sun wasn’t shining, and it was dark and dreary. Well, apparently all the waterfalls in the first 15 miles of the National Park had dried up, because there wasn’t a one to be found, damnit. After returning to Gatlinburg, we parked and walked up the street a ways to take the tram to the top of the mountain (well, a mountain anyway). It sucked, because I couldn’t get any good pictures, and all I wanted to do was ride the tram to the top and then back down, but there was SKEE BALL, and Fred has never met a skee ball he didn’t like, so he hauled the spud off to the game room while I sat on a bench and watched the people wander by. Then we rode the tram back down the mountain, and Fred bonded with an older black guy, who was telling his wife all the things Fred was trying to get me to believe (ie, "If the tram cable breaks, as long as you jump just before it hits the ground, you’ll be okay!"), and we listened to the guy who was running the tram chat with the aforementioned older black guy. I wish I’d gotten the camera out, because the tram operator, while seeming to be a very nice guy, had about the smuggest expression I’ve ever seen on anyone’s face, ever. After the tram, we walked even further up the street, because Fred had spotted a Thomas Kinkaid (is that how you spell it? I don’t really care, I know y’all know who I mean) Gallery, and wanted to check out the pictures. There were no prices anywhere to be seen, so we assumed they were a tad too rich for our blood, and after a cursory glance around, we were on the move again. It was about lunchtime, and I’d seen an advertisement for a seafood restaurant which served oysters on the half-shell, so I insisted we go there. We ordered our sodas and Fred ordered the oysters for me, and we began perusing the menu. Fred rapidly got disgusted at the price of the offerings and decided there was nothing he wanted, and I couldn’t find anything I wanted – for crying out loud, everything they had was deep-fried, haven’t they heard of BROILING? Apparently not – and so we finished our sodas, I snarfed down the oysters, and we went back out onto the strip. The spud and I sat and watched people while Fred went into some "moving theater" something or other (I really wasn’t paying much attention), and then he and the spud went up the street to buy corn dogs to take back to the hotel for lunch, and I went back to the car to read and wait for them. We ate lunch, blah blah blah, and then were off to Dollywood. Now, when I say "Dollywood" what, aside from a buxom blonde, do you think of? You think of an amusement park, something along the lines of a smaller DisneyLand, right? (Just say "yes", you smartasses) Well, me too. Except that that’s not really what Dollywood is like. Dollywood, instead of having all those fun rides and amusement-type things, only really had two rides for adults, a bunch of shops, and some what seemed to be fairly lame shows. Fred and the spud rode the log flume ride three times, getting fairly wet in the process (and ending up cold since the sun went down while we were there, and it was something like 40 degrees out), and Fred rode the roller coaster ride a couple of times, we visited the kiddy section, where he played ten thousand rounds of skee ball, a couple of other games, and spent twenty some-odd dollars to finally win me a small stuffed Grinch. After three hours or so – maybe longer, it FELT longer – we left, stopping to buy a few candles and a "best of Dolly Parton" tape, so Fred could listen to "Love is like a butterfly". We had another abysmal search for a place to eat dinner. I suggested finally that we go back into Gatlinburg, take a left, and eat at The Alamo, for which we’d seen the advertisement and liked. When we pulled up to The Alamo, Fred complained that it looked packed. I pointed out that we could go back to the hotel room, but by the time we got back to the hotel room we’d have been seated and ready to order. Fred talked over me, suggesting that we go up the road to a pizza place instead. "Fine," I shrugged. The fine pizza establishment up the road, which had many cars full of very scary people parked around it, had no booths for eating, so we had to order the pizza and take it back to the hotel. Forty fucking minutes it took them to make the pizza. Man, was I pissed. I don’t know about y’all, but I don’t go on vacation to eat pizza. Fred and I snarled back and forth at each other a few times, ate the incredibly crappy pizza ("I thought it was pretty good!" he lied), watched TV, read, and went to sleep. Except for Fred’s twitching and brief turning on of the light sometime around 3:30, I slept fairly well. We got up around 7:30 and were packed and out of the room by 8:30. We had to stop in Georgia for about an hour because there was a bad accident on Interstate 40 (or 75, I don’t remember which), but we still made pretty good time home. Miz Poo has been all over me since we got home, sleeping on my head at night and following me around the house all day long. It’s good to be home. —–]]>