Dolly Parton… And So Much More.

When I was young– like 12 or so– I can’t remember exactly, my parents, grandparents and I loaded into the car and headed south to Kentucky. There, we visited “Uncle Sherman” at his mutton shop. Mutton is the meat from an adult sheep.

Now, I still don’t know if “Uncle Sherman” was an actual relative or just someone the family called “Uncle,” but he was a nice old guy. And the mutton was actually pretty good, too.

After that, the fully-loaded automobile headed East and South through Tennessee. And by “fully-loaded,” I don’t mean features. The car was damn packed— four adults and porky little Nick. I remember two funny things from the rest of the trip: my Grandpa Myrel was so irritated from the constant air conditioning that Grandma Violet insisted upon that he actually went dumpster-diving for a giant piece of cardboard. This was used to wrap around himself in the front seat, thus blocking the air conditioning.

Beyond that, my Dad and Grandpa Myrel were fond of whiskey here and there… and a vacation like this practically required it. The problem was, that once we arrived in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, they discovered that it was a dry county. So what do two desperate men do? They drove… and drove… and drove. Three hours later, they returned with their treasure. Luckily for Mom and Grandma, there were plenty of stores selling Cherokee trinkets and Moccasins to keep them busy for days. I don’t quite recall how I spent my time, though I’m sure there was complaining involved.

What I do remember about the trip is our visit to Dollywood. What other celebrity alive today has built a whole tourist city around their lovable persona? Dollywood, though, was as much about the whole Smoky Mountain region and history as it was about its namesake, though. As a kid, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to this piece of Americana.

So, when we had school visits planned in Lexington, Kentucky and Fayetteville, North Carolina– with two days off in between, I looked at the map and saw Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg… and The Great Smoky Mountains. I knew where our days off would be.

We didn’t visit Dollywood– book sales haven’t warranted too much extra expense in our travels. And while the town of Pigeon Forge has been built up into all it’s touristy gaud, the charm certainly remains. We spent most of our time exploring the nearby Great Smoky Mountain National Park. You haven’t seen fall color until visiting this National treasure in middle-October. And we were lucky enough to be there the morning after a swift rainfall, so the rapid-filled rivers and waterfalls were flowing nicely.

Please enjoy this slideshow video… there are some fun pictures and some beautiful ones, too.

And please consider visiting to sponsor a child on our tour. Each donation directly helps us continue visiting schools for free— to teach kids how to encourage each other every single day!

Have a great day!




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