Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Birthday Road Trip ~ Pics and a Rambling Play-by-Play

In celebration of our birthday this month, my identical twin and I vacationed in Pigeon Forge for a week.

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 here we both are smiling in front of the lovely Mississippi sign, the state where we were born. Woot!

After a night's rest in Bessemer, Alabama, the final stretch of the journey began. By lunchtime, car fever was evident, so we took some de-stressing selfies under a grove of shade trees.

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 view from the balcony and master bedroom was captivating. Of course, no lens can capture the full majesty of the Creator's hand, but I always try.

Dinner that evening was at the popular Old Mill Restaurant (duh), and here we are, looking spiffy in our glasses before heading out.

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.

One of the many breathtaking vistas along the road. If I had a dime for every picture that's been taken at this popular spot, I could retire, I'm sure.

My sweet twin, taking it all in.

The national park has about 2,900 miles of streams within its boundaries, and fishing is permitted. It's quite amazing how the streams wind alongside the roads for miles and miles. We stopped numerous times to listen, look and snap pictures. Stunning!

Beauty around this curve...

...and that curve.

Simple picnic; spectacular view.

Me and her.

Just wow.

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.

These crude steps of stone, scattered with colors of fall, intrigued me. I love this impromptu picture of the tip of my boots, peeking out.

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. ♦


  1. Your account of our wonderful trip was just perfect, and your sweet words touched my heart. I always love celebrating birthdays with you!

  2. Everything about this sounds just wonderful to me. I know I have said it before, but having a TWIN sister has got to be just about one of the best gifts from our God I can think of. What a wonderful way to celebrate. Happy birthday to you both!

    1. Having a twin is absolutely the best gift from God, Debbie. I don't know how I got so blessed, but I am so blessed!

  3. I just don't know where to begin. I read every words and enjoyed every photo...I felt like I was right there with you guys. It's been a while since I have visited the Smokey Mountains so I'm glad I decided to go with you! Although I am saddened by the fact that you are going through some struggles, I am so glad you decided to go. There is nothing that can heal a wounded spirit like being in the midst of God's glorious creation...that is where I find peace as well...and having your best friend with you is even better. Happy Birthday, my sweet friend and I just gotta say that you and Dayle are just so darn cute!!

    1. Thank you for the birthday wishes, Debby. It was a great trip. There were some tears shared, but also lots of laughs.

  4. My sisters... and my dear and best friends just got back.... we have some of the exact same shots of that beloved place!! We absolutely love the Smokey Mountain area... and try to go every Autumn!!! We love the road trip part as well.... we travel from Florida and stop over in Maggie Valley and then .... "It's Mountain Time!!" We head to the hills... and always spend time in beautiful Wears Valley!!! So glad you shared your pics with us!!!!!!!

  5. Well, I stuck with it and I'm glad I did. Not only is your writing interesting, but the photos are beautiful. We have never really explored the Smokies, an area I know I would love. And then there is the whole sister connection... I have just one. I would love to spend time with her like this, we are 4 years apart and so similar in many ways. And as I close out this comment, I will pray that things are settling down at home for you, Gayle.