It used to mark the end of summer and the beginning of the new school year. In our neck of the woods they have decided to start school before Labor Day, so my daughter has been in school for two weeks already.
I do give kudos to the school board for having the wherewithal to schedule an extended weekend coinciding with Labor Day. It was their way of keeping the parents from rioting. Or enrolling their children into another school in protest.
So when you are granted a four day weekend, what do you do?
Why, yes! Head out of town! For a nice, relaxing weekend in the mountains...
Several months ago (six to be exact) we took a little trip down to the Great Smokey Mountains. We had a wonderful time. I wrote about it. For a refresher (if you'd like) you can read it here. I remember writing in the guest book at the cabin that we wanted to return, we enjoyed it so.
I placed a call and amazingly we were able to book the same beautiful, secluded cabin. So we packed up and off we went.
What I didn't take into consideration is that the majority of people visiting the Smokey Mountains do it in the summer months. Okay, so a little extra traffic...no big deal. I have patience. I utilize it daily, so it's finely tuned. Or so I thought.
The road that leads to our secluded little mountain haven is just north of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is where Dollyworld is. And that little tourist gem is just north of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Gateway to the Smokey Mountains...
...and home to one of the country's largest tourist traps.
Cute little city. I give it that. Multi-leveled shops, museums and money traps all along the street. Parking is a bear (no pun intended in referring to the plethora of black bear souvenirs one can buy), especially since I had the Thule carrier on top of the car. The height was greater than most of the parking garages, so I had to resort to other places to stash the car. I managed that without too much ado. I'm savvy like that. Unfortunately I am not a weather forecaster, so couldn't predict the mountain rain approaching. But for a mere $7.00 (which is $32.00 cheaper than when the rain hit us in Disney) I was able to procure us white trash bags sewn into a semblance of rain ponchos with 'Ripley's Aquarium' emblazoned all over them with different fish swimming lazily across our torsos.
We didn't mind too much. It was so much fun watching the people stuck on the Sky Lift without any rain protection. Nothing like moving at a snails pace up the side of a mountain in a chair lift up to 1800 ft. while it rains on you the entire time. Sure does sound like fun. Ah, no. Thank you.
Did you know that Gatlinburg houses over 35,000 people per night? And the city is only 2 miles, by 5 miles. Per their website they say that "The City of Gatlinburg has always provided excellent service for those who venture into our beautiful community."...
Such as: No traffic control.
There are traffic lights.
But what good does a traffic light do when no one obeys them?
The impatient souls who have to make it through this light, damn it, and then proceed to block traffic coming from the other way, the opposite way, and the way they are going? It's like a big Cluster F*ck. No one moving in any direction.
And then the horns start to blow....
But what's a little traffic jam when you are having so much fun. We dealt with it and then made our turn off into our mountain trail that led to our secluded cabin 1923 ft. up Cove Mountain. There...we had peace. And quiet.
Until we set off our fireworks...
Which I'm sure scared off anything wandering about on the mountain. No BigFoot sightings, and no creature sightings during the full moon. Unless you count the baby scorpion we found in the sink one morning. That freaked us out. Like a Vincent Price horror movie type freak out. Like check your shoes and bed each night and be careful where you step in the dark where are my Goddamned flipflops kind of freak out.
But that's whole 'nuther story...
The worst of the traffic we experienced was on the way out of town on Labor Day.
With a full eight hour drive ahead of us, we packed up and got a relatively early start. So did everyone else with a ten mile radius of the Smokeys.
I should've been alerted when approaching the first of three turnoffs. The line of cars was over two miles backed up before the stoplight.
But I was patient. I figured we were on a feeder road with only one turn lane, so of course it might be a little backed up. When we got closer and I saw the condition of the main drag I was disheartened by the sight. For miles in each direction there was bumper to bumper traffic. And none of it seemingly going anywhere.
No police to direct.
No volunteer fireman to help out.
Not a single city worker in sight to help with the mess.
One would think if you ran a city that drew it that many visitors a year, AND advertised it. AND spoke about what excellent services they had. AND that it was a holiday weekend...that they would have every single resident in the city out with vests on directing traffic.
Makes perfect sense to me. They do it when my town has festivals. It's what brings people back...because getting in and out is seamless.
But again, remember I'm an optimist. I figured the traffic can't be that bad. It couldn't be that bad. I wouldn't allow it to be that bad.
However after being a good Samaritan from Ohio and allowing people to pull into my lane, cut me off, block me out of the intersection for several lights in a row...I started to lose my temper.
I was in a Jeep Commander; bigger than some cars...yet smaller than some of the Beasty trucks down there in Tennessee. There was this one guy in a big ass pick up. You know, the kind with four wheels across the back? Pulling a trailer camper that was the length of two more of the huge truck he was driving. He stopped right in the middle of the intersection. And blocked six lanes of traffic for five traffic light turns. Nice. (well done asshole...)
Bronze Chevrolet 2500 pickup. Diesel. Licence plate number A06 BA4, Kentucky.
Just in case you know him, please give him my regards.
You can't miss me. I will be the one waving profusely at him with just a portion of my God given digits. Specifically the middle finger on both hands...
I like silver linings. I like to look at the bright side. It could have been worse.
I could still be there stuck in traffic. 2.2 miles in just under three hours. A test to the patience and braking system on your car. But there was another nine miles just to get to the highway.
I'm glad I purchased a few extra options on my car when I bought it. Like my friend, Matilda, the onboard computer. She was a huge help. I couldn't take sitting there a moment longer and took my destiny into my own hands.
"Hold on girls!" I called to the third row of seats.
The girls were minding their time watching a movie and playing on the Nintendo's. I suppose I could be stuck there still and they wouldn't have noticed. I made a sharp left turn out of the line of traffic and punched the Hemi into full gear as I burst across oncoming traffic into a parking lot.
I blasted through that Wal-Mart lot, behind a few fast food stores, over a grassy median and around a shed and hoped to God Matilda would route me home.
But not without complaint. She wasn't happy about me taking my own route. She never is. She kept telling me to "Make a U-turn at the next opportunity...."
"Oh, hell no, Matilda. I'm moving. I ain't sitting still...no more." I screamed at my dashboard.
And she did.
She found me another way. Which actually, I think, was a better route...more direct, than the original! See how things work out?
If only I could get those three hours back.
I'd have me a big ol' cocktail at the nearest pub/bar-b-q/moccasin and firework dealer down there on the strip. Charge it off to Mr. Who-gives-a rats-ass from Kentucky.
Amazing how the some of the tourist south cities bring out the inner redneck in all of us.
Next time I won't be so Ohioan polite whilst in traffic.
And be a little more Tennessee tourist aggressive.
Plus, I'm going in off peak season.
I like the solitude.
It's better for my neck. "Cause a little redneck goes a long way...