We drove south a couple days before our friends so as to spend some time in Knoxville with Jim's mama, whom we hadn't seen since Easter. The children and I met Uncle Bernie and Aunt Renee for lunch one day and my brother's wife just after; she was returning to my brother in Baltimore and traded me her older son for her younger.
Our East Tennessee experience was unique in that we didn't visit my home county at all but, instead, camped in Pigeon Forge and tooled around its surrounding areas. I didn't use my camera as consistently as I usually do and failed to get a good photo of the cabins where we stayed. Thank goodness Rachel got one, because I really want you to marvel with me that we slept seven people in ours.
|Photo by Rachel Huff. This is Ray, who opened his Indiana home to us earlier this summer. Can you believe we had seven people in one of those cabins? It was like a clown car, Man.|
I discovered that East Tennessee as a "tourist" can be incredibly expensive. Holy cow. We'll be eating in for awhile. I don't have any regrets but don't think we'll return to Dollywood with little children...or big children, for that matter, unless they're up for roller coasters. The little kids had fun, but I could've taken them to ride kiddie rides elsewhere for a whole lot less money.
I did love spending time with my parents, who have season passes to Dollywood. I spent more time with Dad than Mom, who enjoys the coasters and wanted to ride them with Jim and the boys.
I think my favorite Dollywood moment was watching The Little Engine That Could with Rachel (and with the others, but especially with Rachel). It could've been better only if Ray's wife Daleen had been with us. It's a long story, but I chose a Little Engine theme for Rachel's and Daleen's (joint) baby shower almost four years ago. It was surreal to be far away from our home in Virginia, watching that play with Rachel and her tow-headed tractor man.
I loved the no-pressure vibe among our group of twenty-five. We broke up into smaller groups for most of the weekend, each family making its own decisions in terms of activities. Here's the only shot of everyone:
Ray and Daleen, who originally hosted our small group, live with their children near Indianapolis, now. The rest of us--and three other families, besides--gather in Jim's and my log cabin every week during the school year. Five of our seven families have been studying together for at least five years, but I've grown so attached even to those who've joined very recently. I hold in my heart the wild hope that our children will grow up together.
Here are some more photos from our trip:
|That's my nephew CJ, holding Chip.|
|Little Pigeon River Near Cades Cove|
|The Track, Pigeon Forge|
|The Man and Me (because I'm wilder than you think I am). :)|