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» Monday, November 03, 2008We're Walkin', Yes Indeed...
No weird dreams last night, thankfully. We did the breakfast-at-home thing again, bade the animals farewell, and squiggled down the mountain for the next-to-the-last time. And this time we made the correct turn without making a mistake! Of course we will remember when it's almost time to leave. On the way down, there were no cars behind us, so we stopped on some of the curves early in the ride to take some photos of the vista below. This road is just...drama; the convoluted curves and the switchbacks, the narrowness of the upper part of the route, the steep drops just inches from the asphalt edge.
If the car had a say in this, I would expect it would be relieved at going back home!
We parked the car at a lot in back of the main road. Now that it's Monday, the weekenders and daytrippers are gone and parking is aplenty. We emerged at a seafood restaurant, next to the Hollywood Wax Museum and decided to turn left instead of right. This turned out to be a good idea as there wasn't much if you walked in that direction, besides hotels, a couple of restaurants, and a few inexpensive gift shops.
We really didn't go into most of the myriad attractions on the main street: besides the wax museum, there is a famous cars display, a dinosaur exhibit, a magic show, and several Ripley's attractions including the "believe it or not" museum, aquarium, a mirror maze, and a "haunted adventure," but one of the first things we did do was go up in something called "the Space Needle." This is a spire resembling, but not similar in design to, the real Space Needle in Seattle. The tip of the spire of the structure is at 407 feet, but the observation deck (no restaurant, just a concrete platform) is several feet below that.
Once we stepped off that elevator, we were surrounded by hills painted in brilliant autumn color. I cannot even describe how beautiful it was...like a painting, a symphony of varied pigment, a fantasia of leaves. I burst into tears it was so beautifulbut didn't waste much time crying because I would have been missing the scenery! We wandered from one point of the compass to the next and drank up the scenery. Give me a phone and an internet connection with a laptop and a desk and chair, and I would have stayed happily up there working until the color faded! Took lots of photos as well as a movie and left reluctantly.
For the rest of the day we just walked the area and wandered in any store that took our fancy. There was a little Christmas shop that was going out of business, various little knicknack shops, etc. We stopped at a little store that sold nothing but magnets to buy a Gatlinburg one for our fridge collection. We found a very simple one shaped and colored like an oak leaf, and I also found a budgie magnet that comes in two parts; you can put it up on either side of a glass to make it look like the bird is flying through empty space rather than glass.
We stopped at a kitchen store and sampled homemade local jams and butters, and I bought a potato peeler that works in the palm of your hand. We peeked in a clock store that my dad would have adored: there were rows of beautiful wood-and-brass grandfather clocks and cuckoo clocks on one wall.
They have a system here, and also down in Pigeon Forge, where they number the traffic lights. This way you don't have to count lights or crane your neck to read a street sign and is super convenient. (They are just numbers, not mileage or any other distance measurement.) We had begun our walk at traffic signal #8 and walked all the way down to #5.
One place we stopped was a little...well, grotto is the only way I can describe it. This was an area of shops off the main road that was made to emulate a little European village, with narrow walkways punctuated with the occasional seat or fountain with shops on either side. We popped into a little toy shop, wandered about the Thomas Kincade gallery (they had dimmer switches so you could turn the lights down low; they were aimed directly at the "light" portions of each painting so that the paintings had a glow), and went into a Celtic shop that sold Scottish and Irish items. They were playing a toe-tapping CD called "Gaelic Thunder." Must hunt that up!
We reversed course here and started back up the street. By now it was early afternoon, and, although it was not hot, it was quite warm in the sun. Needless to say, we were a bit hot! So we stopped for lunch at a Chinese restaurant. James had something called "twice cooked pork" and I had cashew chicken that was made simply with celery and chopped water chestnuts. It was also quite garlicky, but that's okay...I like garlic. I now have no worries about vampires. LOL.
We walked the rest of the way back to traffic light #8 and then had to decide what we wanted to do. What we had considered doing was riding one or two of the trolleys that circle the town or go out to various places like Pigeon Forge or the arts and crafts community. But we were nowhere near a trolley stop at the moment. Finally we just started walking back down the street. We each had a small cone of Ben & Jerry's ice cream and then, thus refreshed, this time walked past traffic light #5 to one of the small Welcome Centers. We were going to buy a trolley pass, but by this time it was 3:30 and the woman there said she did not think it was economical for us because the trolleys stopped running at six, and the last one would go up to the arts and crafts community at five. (She actually recommended taking a car there. We'll have to go another time since we have to leave tomorrow.)
So instead we walked a little further down to traffic light #3 and stopped at a gallery called "Beneath the Smoke." This is the official gallery of photographer Ken Jenkins, who does nature studies. I knew him already because the beautiful autumn print that I had purchased yesterday at the Incredible Christmas Place was his. Upstairs is also a nature store with books about birds and other wildlife. I bought a card with a photo of a mother wolf and her newborn cubs and another of a vixen with one of her kits, and James bought me some things for my birthday (one's a calendar, the other is a surprise). These are stunning photos, and Mr. Jenkins has traveled to all of the national parks in search of subjects for them. The most breathtaking was a shot of a puma caught in mid-leap from one butte top to another. Another I liked but I didn't see a small card of was of an adult wolf leading a "community sing" of three cubs, all howling in unison. There were also spectacular shots ofeagles, bears, and deer.
We made our way back to the aquarium, crossed the road there to a bridge over the river, and stood for quite a while watching the mallard ducks in the stream below. This was very shallow and so clear you could see tiny fishes swimming about in slightly deeper pools. There were several dozen ducks, some hunting for dinner (I have several shots of "duck butts"), some on rocks sunning themselves and preening, the rest darting about in the water (and they can move remarkably fast!). Then we crossed the street to the trolley shelter and waited for the next red trolley (the one that circled the Gatlinburg area proper). There was a woman there talking on a cell phone...she had been there when we crossed the street to see the ducks and she was still there when we came back and was still talking ten minutes later!
We rode the entire circuit of the red trolley. These are not for tour purposes, but simply a transportation system. The best part of the ride was driving up a narrow road similar to the one we have been navigating twice a day...with something as big as a trolley! Now there was drama!...to a circular hotel called the Park Vista, and then through some back streets where the smaller motels like the Scottish Inn and other places were. To my surprise, we saw what they used to call a "motor court" back in the 40s, 50s and early 60s, the type of motel we would have stopped at for vacations when I was a kid: wooden screen doors, metal chairs outside to sit on...the whole magilla. Talk about going back in time!
We hopped offwell, by this time, actually limped off...LOLthe trolley when we completed the circuit and went into a place called "the Mall." This was a six-story building full of little shops: we visited a smaller version of Book Warehouse, a shop that sold nothing but turtle-themed items, and another little toy shop. From there we began walking back up to traffic light #8.
You see, we were waiting for dark. When you ride the elevator in the Space Needle, you get a receipt good for a second trip within a 24-hour period. I wanted to go up just as darkness fell, to see the town illuminated. It was not quite late enough, so I took an opportunity to return to a little gift shop called The Maple's Tree, which we had stopped at early this morning before we went to the Space Needle. They had a section with a large selection of small "prim" sculptures (primitives, which look like Early American folk art) and I wanted an inexpensive one. I got a little sheep sitting in a still life of saltbox house, shaker boxes, candle, and red star that said "dream out loud" and also a set of tiny blocks with a snowman and snowflakes on it that says "winter blessings."
The sun had gone down, but the sky was still rosy as we emerged on the platform, and there was a wonderful cool breeze. We watched the darkness deepen and the sky turn to the color of dark plum as we circled the platform, checking out the sites that looked so different from this morning. In the distance, the Mysterious Mansion glowed purple. One set of buildings was lined with white. The Wax Museum's sign glowed bright scarlet. Even without the Christmas lights (the decorations are all up, but the winterfest activities don't start until Friday) dark, it was nearly as colorful as it had been earlier.
What an end to the day!
We trudged back through the restaurant complex and down to the parking lot. James wanted to eat at someplace called the Great American Steak and Buffet that we had seen in Pigeon Forge, so off we went. This was quite nice, with very flavorful meats. A plus: the place was near the Incredible Christmas Place, so I was able to get a photo or two of the beautiful blue lights decorating the store exterior.
Finally back to hearth (which we haven't used since it's still too warm in here for usthe temperature is over 70 although I have the thermostat set on 60!) and "home."
It's been the shortest long weekend ever. Dammit.