* * * So, ever since we spent 12 hours driving to Memphis, hanging around Memphis, and then driving home from Memphis the week before last, we’ve really REALLY not been looking forward to making the 4 1/2 – 5 hour drive to Gatlinburg. We bitched and moaned about how long the drive would be, we talked about staying home (but not seriously), and then on Tuesday Fred said “I’m kind of looking forward to the drive. It’ll be fun!” But come Wednesday morning he called me from work and said “God. I do NOT want to drive for five hours tomorrow. Wah!” “Baby,” I said. “We are not canceling our vacation! No other place on earth can provide me with the high levels of sugar that are contained within the boundaries of the Gatlinburg/ Pigeon Forge area! We are GOING, so quit your bitching!” But Fred, he is a resourceful person and he came up with a way to get to Gatlinburg fast. Very very fast. Like, in a little more than an hour. And it didn’t even require a transporter machine! It’s a Dakota Piper. Fred is one of three owners of his company. One of the other owners – longtime readers will remember the man known as “Tex” – has his pilot’s license, and he’s not only visually rated, he’s also instrument rated and a whole bunch of other ratings that mean nothing to me. He actually teaches other people to fly. He’s flown 800 hours in the last year and had nary a single scary incident. AND he owns a small plane with two other guys. “Think of it!” Fred said. “We can leave the house at 8:00, and we’ll be in Gatlinburg by 10:00! We’ll have the whole day, and all day Friday, and all day Saturday, and then he can pick us up on Sunday!” Because I am a brave soul and because I have no desire to spend five hours in a car when I can spend one hour in a plane, I agreed. (I didn’t tell y’all I was flying because I knew you’d worry. Aren’t I sweet? Also, I knew you’d tell me horror stories about your aunt’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s sixth cousin once removed who knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who flew a small plane directly upwards into the sun, and the plane melted and fell apart and the guy who was flying the plane ALMOST DIED!) We left the house at 8:00, got to the tiny little airport near Decatur, and were taking off around 8:30ish. Tex on the left, Fred on the right. Fred was the “copilot”, and promised to scream for help if Tex keeled over and had a heart attack. The runway. The Tennessee River, on the other side of that line of trees. You can’t really see it, but believe me – it’s there! Passing through the clouds. Fluffy clouds. Hey, look! Clouds! The horizon (and more clouds). Mountains… and traffic and houses and stores, oh my! We did a sudden sharp turn when we were about to land at the Gatlinburg/ Pigeon Forge airport (which is actually located in Sevierville) and it felt like the wing was about to touch these houses. Heading for the runway. All in all, it was a pretty cool experience. It was like being in a flying SUV. I sat in the back seat, and had plenty of leg room (though, granted, I have short, stubby legs). There was a storage area behind me where we put our luggage. It was pretty smooth flying most of the way, though we went through a couple of big clouds that were bumpy. Rather than being scared, I laughed my ass off – it was like being on a roller coaster. I was honestly not scared for one minute of the flight. And I think we’ve been spoiled rotten – I don’t ever want to have to drive to Gatlinburg again! Once we were at the airport, we got our luggage and our rental car (yes, that’s money we wouldn’t have had to spend if we’d driven, but we decided our time was worth it – and then some!) and were headed for Gatlinburg in no time. Two hours after we’d left the house, we were ordering lunch. An hour and a half after that, we checked into our hotel room (they let us check in early), and we headed downtown to do some looking around. We spent an hour or so in the aquarium (I took a buttload of pictures, which I will put up at some later date). We bought some coffee, we looked in a few stores, and after a few hours, we headed back to our hotel room, but not before stopping for… Fudge! Oh, I almost forgot! We were looking through one of the many many t-shirt stores that Gatlinburg has, and Fred poked me. When I looked at him, he nodded toward the back of the store, where there was an airbrushing booth. Leaning on the counter of the booth were two girls. One of them was wearing a skirt so short that had she been standing straight up might have just covered her ass. But she wasn’t standing straight up – she was leaning forward on the counter, as I mentioned. And her bare ass was sticking out for the world to see. She MIGHT have been wearing a thong, but I couldn’t tell for certain. I swear, I felt like I was seeing live porn right there in front of me. I have no idea how old she was, either – everyone under the age of 30 looks like they’re about 12 to me now. I guess that’s one of the signs that I’m getting old, eh? Friday we walked back down into Gatlinburg, stopped in almost every store, and then went to the Ripley’s Moving Theater, because they had new movies this year. This is a ride where you get 3-D glasses, and you go strap yourself into a seat. When the movie starts, your seat moves as though you’re on a roller coaster, or whatever the movie is showing. It’s usually pretty cool, but this time around both the movies were particularly violent, and when I woke up Saturday morning I had bruises on my thighs and arms from being thrown around. I hated it, but Fred loved it. Go figure. We ate lunch at Blaine’s (we always eat there at least once – Fred loves their steak fajitas), then spent another couple of hours walking around downtown before heading back to the hotel with our purchases. Fred ran our bags up to the room while I started the car, and then we went to Pigeon Forge for a few hours before going back to the room and hanging out for the rest of the evening. Saturday was more of the same – shopping, people-watching, eating lunch at The Alamo. We had talked about going on a hike, but since it rained Friday figured it would be rather muddy to go hiking, and opted not to. Sunday morning Fred woke up to find that it was raining like hell. He called Tex to see if we’d still be able to fly home. Tex checked the something-or-other and told Fred that it should be no problem. We showered and packed and ate the last of our fudge (okay, that would be ME), then checked out and headed to the airport to wait for Tex. Twenty minutes later, he was there, and we were loaded and on our way. The trip back was a lot less smooth than the trip there – it was very cloudy and we had to go through a large number of clouds, which was very very bumpy. I wasn’t worried, though, and we were home by 12:30ish. This is the first time we’ve been gone for a few days since we got Mister Boogers, and he was very VERY vocal in expressing his displeasure all afternoon yesterday. Fred went out into the garage to work out, and Mister Boogers sat by the garage door and howled and howled until I went to pick him up. He actually slept on the bed with me all last night, too. Which sucked a little, because he’s a total bed hog. Good thing he’s cute. “I SO don’t hog the bed. Much.” ]]>