In my usual post-trip blogging format, here are some pics from the trip, along with a rambling play-by-play, for anyone on the planet truly interested. It's quite lengthy, so read at your own risk of nodding off and falling out of your chair.
First, let me say that I almost didn't do the trip. Heartaches at home have kept me downcast and struggling to smile most days. However, despite the ache in my heart, I can't lose sight of the good things in my life, and the beauty in the world around me.
With that in mind, I took some deep breaths, packed some deep suitcases, and by dawn's early light, the twin and I were heading northeast.
Not everyone likes driving, but I do, so half the fun for me is the road trip. I'm not sure it's half the fun for Dayle, however, since she claims I drive "like a bat outta hell." I'm really a great driver—in the daylight, of course. Nighttime? Ride at your own risk.
The highway yielded some unexpected stops and slowdowns, but once we got out of Louisiana, it was smooth sailing. Here I am smiling with the adorable scarecrows at the Mississippi Welcome Center near the state line.
And onward we go!
By late afternoon, our destination was in sight. Normally, we stay in a cabin on a smoky mountain top, but this year, we opted for a condo in town, right off the Parkway. We loved it.
Located on the top floor, it was very tastefully decorated, and the fireplace added a special touch of home.
The next day, we took in the Apple Barn Cider Mill and General Store. It was a first for me, and what a great discovery! The grounds are quaint and inviting, and everything was decked out for fall.
In a nutshell, anything you want from apples is made and sold here, including apple dumplings and donuts. Mouth-watering aromas going on.
We chose a fried apple pie with ice-cream and hot apple cider. Oh, yum!
Did I mention the scenic landscape across the street, where peace flows like a river?
The weather was perfect, and I could've lingered on the banks all day. Dayle actually lingered a little too long and left her glasses. But she found them upon return. All's well that ends well.
Peace, peace. Wonderful peace. Only God can create such wonder.
I love this shot from the gazebo. The restaurant is in the background. You can't see it, but it's huge.
As the sun dipped behind the mountains, we met up with some dear kindred for a little fun and food on The Island. Here we are with Edward our cousin. He and his beautiful wife Sharon were vacationing the whole month, and thanks to her Dollywood connections, we rode the wheel for free. Woohoo!
Us and Edward—quite the trio, I'd say.
I love this shot from beneath the big wheel before we boarded.
Here's one from up high. The colored water fountains you see are synchronized to music. And even though the night air was quite nippy, dozens of people were huddled over hot beverages, sitting in rocking chairs, watching the show.
A great shot of the wheel after dark. It's massive!
One of my favorite shops was the Incredible Christmas Place. I'd never been before, but the minute I walked in, I was wishing my little granddaughter was with me.
You look up, and there's Santa and his reindeer flying against a midnight blue "sky," complete with twinkling stars. Magical! I would definitely recommend this stop for any Christmas lovers like me. Ornaments out the wazoo, and trees, trees, trees.
If anybody is still with me and awake, the play-by-play continues.
Mid-week, we took a slow drive down Wears Valley Road. It's always a drive to remember. Quaint little antique stores, gift shops, pumpkin patches, cafes and the most stunning countryside you'll ever see. Made me want to pack up and move to the foothills.
Evenings at the condo were magnificent. Mountainside cabins in the distance sparkled like tiny packages of gold as the sun waved goodbye for another day. If you look closely, you'll see the cabins on the upper left side.
To me, the best part of visiting the Great Smoky Mountains is driving through the national park. It's a long drive, and can be treacherous, and you don't get to focus on the views if you're behind the wheel. However, since the twin had just visited last year, she offered to drive and let me look. She's really sweet like that.
Only the human eye can truly appreciate the splendor, but the next few pictures give you a tiny idea of what we saw.
My sweet twin, taking it all in.
Beauty around this curve...
...and that curve.
Simple picnic; spectacular view.
Me and her.
The reflections fascinated me.
The leaf painter, showing how much he loves you and me.
The sights and sounds from this wooden bridge were soothing to the soul.
How did I end up in Houston?
The roots on this tree are so bizarre! I had to snap a picture.
The final sunset was one for the picture books. This is from our front balcony.
And here's the back balcony.
And last but certainly not least, when the twin and I take birthday trips, we try to take an official birthday picture. This trip was no exception. We wanted one on the back balcony which seemed easy enough.
However, after building a makeshift tripod of stacked books and other trappings that closely resembled the Leaning Tower of Pisa, we had to accept that the official birthday picture wasn’t going to happen on the balcony exactly as planned.
But it did happen.
We ultimately decided that, instead of the makeshift tripod doing the leaning (and risking a broken camera in the deal), we'd have to do the leaning and risk personal breakage in the deal. I'm happy to report that nothing of ours was broken during the leaning process, and we managed to get some decent shots.
This was my favorite.
And—sigh—just like that, another birthday is over. Only God knows how much I love the birthday girl behind me, and only he knew how much I would need her in my life. She's is a rock in my storms, a shoulder in my sorrow, a hand when I stumble, and a lighthouse when I lose my way.
I am forever grateful that God chose Dayle to be my wombmate, and I pray her heart doesn't stop beating before mine. ♦