On Friday we took our time heading out of town. The wedding wasn't until Saturday at 5pm, so I sort of thought we'd play it by ear on Friday... leave when we got around to it, stop when we got sick of driving, perhaps wander around one of those darling towns in the Southwestern part of the state that nary a Virginian sees. (I mean, seriously, how many native Virginians do you know who have ventured into that little tail part down there??)
What ended up happening was Bryan decided my car was in dire need of a bath and some serious cleanin', and I puttered around packing and picking up around the house until about 3:30 when we finally headed west. This late departure meant that there would be no daylight wandering in any town I'd never been to, but we did stop in cute Marion, VA and eat at a Macado's "downtown." Anytime you have to put "downtown" in quotes, you know it's tiny. Like, 3 blocks tiny. :) But it was nice... and I considered it a cultural experience. Amazing how different the accents are there from Richmond...
Since it was barely 10pm, we decided to keep going. We ended up saving $40 that night by staying in a Motel 6 about 40 miles outside of Knoxville. This hotel was clean, cheap, and right next to a Cracker Barrel, but it made me realize how spoiled I've become when it comes to hotels after 7+ years of business travel. I mean, they didn't even provide SHAMPOO! And just TWO pillows on the bed?! Oh, the squalor... ;-) Luckily the proximity to Cracker Barrel and my hungry husband provided me the rare opportunity to eat my beloved biscuits and gravy, and Saturday was off to a good start.
We headed into Knoxville, checked into the Marriott Downtown (which had EIGHT pillows on the bed, The Body Shop toiletries, and a down comforter!), and went exploring. Knoxville, or Knoxvegas, as I hear it's sometimes called, is a pretty town, right on the river (the Tennessee?? who knows. I should look at a map...). We wandered around a cute shopping area, drove through the "old city," and tried to go to the World's Fair Park. Unfortunately there was a giant brewery festival there, and we weren't interested in standing in a 3-block line and paying to go to something we'd only be at for an hour or so. So instead we went over to the University of Tennessee and walked around the campus. It's nice... but it's no UVA. Heck, it's not even as pretty as Penn State! :)
Then, the wedding. Stacy and Chris got married at a beautiful Civil War manor house, also situated on a hill above the river. The ceremony was beautiful, but not as beautiful as the bride. The reception was fun and I was so glad to see Stacy and Chris looking so happy and so in love. A few photos from the wedding:
On Sunday, we decided to stop in Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg on the way home. These towns were a little ways off our direct route home, but only by about 30 minutes. Neither of us had ever been to either, so we figured we might as well take the opportunity. I had heard of both places and knew that they were tourist destinations in Tennessee. I've known about Pigeon Forge since I was little, because of Dollywood. I have no idea if my Pop and Grandma actually went there, but I remember either stuff about Dollywood or stuff from Dollywood in their house when I was little. I always pictured a quaint mountain town, driving through the forest and all of the sudden coming upon an amusement park. Gatlinburg I have heard mentioned, but know of mainly because my college roomie and her husband went there for their honeymoon and got a chalet for a week. Again, I pictured quaint little mountain town.
Holy crap, was I wrong.
Let's start with Pigeon Forge, which is a combination of the following:
- Suburban sprawl main drag, such as Broad Street.
- Virginia Beach (or any beach) Boardwalk
- Las Vegas Strip
- State Fair Midway
- The Beltway around DC at rush hour.
Finally, we made it through Pigeon Forge and started into the Great Smokey Mountains. Trees! Nature! This was what I was expecting. And a few miles later, Gatlinburg.
Yes, this is what we saw. Until we finally found somewhere to park and get out and actually walk around. Once we were out of the madness of traffic, we were actually able to enjoy this little town. Again, it wasn't what I expected, but I did at least feel like I could breathe in Gatlinburg. And it's beautiful there, surrounded by the Smokies.
We walked around for a bit and took a ride on the sky lift, which gave us a great view of the area.
After an essential stop at Auntie Mahalia's Candy Shop for fudge and chocolate covered pretzels, we headed home. We had a beautiful drive, and made it home by just after 10:00.