We coasted into our last La Quinta late in the evening in Tennessee and were eager to find something for dinner. An ominous-looking abandoned wooden hotel straight out of the old west was directly across from the entrance to our modern chain motel. The Old faced The New and each seemed to tip their hats respectfully to the other. It's always interesting to see the different ways a City, big or small, reveals it's character to to its visitors.
While at first oblivious to our location, we soon learned that we were only about 2 miles up the road from Pigeon Forge, a Smokey Mountains tourist spot known for being nothing less than the starry entrance to the famed Dollywood theme park. Upon discussing dinner recommendations with our concierge who suggested a steak house attached to a Bass Pro shop we decided to take our chances and drive around Pigeon Forge exploring some other local options. In addition to Dollywood, the area is home to other entertainment attractions that include a dinosaur exhibit, a water park, and an upside-down house theme park called Wonderworks. We came across what seemed like a popular spot called the Longhorn Steakhouse. Later we found out that it's a chain restaurant that you don't start seeing until you hit Texas. Ha...well, nonetheless, our server told us they make most everything in house and on their website it reads: "The West of loyalty, hospitality, and of course, real good food." It's nice at least, that it is the restaurant's intention to make Real Food and create a hospitable experience for the diner reminiscent of the American Old West.
Starting off the next morning knowing that this was the last leg of our long journey made it seem...less long. It was that magical moment of the road trip experience where you stare so long at the road it soothes you into a neutral space where you forget about the day-to-day stresses and begin to notice subtle things that might otherwise get lost in the chaos: a beautiful red farmhouse in the middle of an emerald field trimmed with white picket fencing, a picturesque white chapel, and what seemed like an endless corridor of colorful autumn trees. All the time in the car had been relaxing and reconnected us to each other and our changing surroundings.
For the first time in twelve years we pulled into the driveway of my in-law's house in our own car. We were really here. Ahead of us lies a trip to St. John in the Virgin Islands, Olio Nuovo season, a new food city to explore, and time for us to settle into our new place with a big set of windows to look upon the city lights of a new home. While this concludes our mini blog series, the adventure is only beginning.
|photo courtesy of Mike Miley - Flickr|