Heading West


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Published: May 7th 2015
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The early morning view across the Sound was beautiful but we had no time to linger and enjoy with precious close to 600 miles to cover. The journey took 10 1/2 hours and saw the scenery change from coastal through rural to heavily populated and then finally across the border into Tennessee over the Smokey Mountains.
I don't like to generalize but sometimes it's just too tempting! The Americans are decisive drivers - they decide on which lane they like the look of and stick to it. End of. Unless they are texting whilst driving in which case they seem to waver between the nearest two.
Anyway, we made it to Pigeon Forge, in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains, tired but in one piece. Pigeon Forge is like the 192 in Orlando has been picked up and dropped in another state, except it has the most beautiful mountains towering above in the distance. With my back to said mountains I have to think that it is the singularly most unattractive place I have ever visited. The Parkway is about 5 miles of fast food outlets and discount stores interspersed with enormous billboards, some of which have Dolly Parton smiling down at you from a great height. For those not in the know, about a mile outside of Pigeon Forge is Dollywood, Dolly's own theme park, but more of that later....
Traveling along the parkway looking towards those magnificent mountains a giant King Kong hangs from a mock up of the Empire State Building, a Mount Rushmore with three faces we couldn't recognise plus Charlie Chaplin hoves into view and a large Rhine-style castle promises everything you need for Christmas.
Tired and not wanting to get back in the car we opted to walk from our hotel to the nearest set of food outlets. Wanting to avoid fast food burger bars we opted for an all you can eat buffet, the first of this trip. The amount of food on offer was incredible. Most people seemed to be doing their best to have some of everything. Nearly two weeks on from my last spin session I have reached that stage in my holiday where I'm starting to feel like eating out is the last thing I want to do but at least with a buffet one can be quite minimal. The food was actually better than I expected, but all I really wanted was to indulge in watching American Idol on the TV and going to bed!!
Today we went to Dollywood, the aforementioned theme park. I was expecting glitz and tat, especially after the Vista of Pigeon Forge itself. Wrong, Dollywood is a beautifully laid out, tranquil, and generally attractive theme park. We visited with the intention of spending the day strolling around, taking in the odd show and ride, but mostly people watching. With temperatures rising to over 90 degrees this was a good plan. Three water rides saw us get soaked and dry out again twice. Even being pelted by a waterfall didn't feel cold. The highlight of the day was a show by for string musicians on the guitar, fiddle, banjo and double bass playing blue grass music. They were excellent and highly entertaining and I could have listened too then for a lot longer than the allotted 30 minutes.
We had planned to end the day with a spot of dinner theatre at Dolly's Dixie Stampede. To be honest, by 4 o'clock I'd had about as much God and Country I could take in one day. Since we arrived over here the overt expression of Christianity has been remarkable. It's a subject that dominates radio broadcasts, car registration plates, t shirts and baseball caps. Dollywood had a chapel that hosts Sunday Service 7 days a week. You don't get that at Alton Towers. The Americans are also definitely more openly patriotic than us British. Both were full on at Dollywood so we gave The Stampede a miss and opted for the more hedonistic Hard Rock Cafe instead - I wasn't keen on the t shirts at Dollywood and it is at least 48 hours since I last bought one so Hard Rock it had to be!!
Shock news of the day - the election just got a mention on the TV. If you blinked you'd have missed it but at least it got a mention... on that note it feels incredibly strange to not be at home for a general election - a first for both of us. Thankfully the ease of access to wifi on our tablets in our hotel means that we can at least keep abreast of events.
Our sponsor would now like to add a few words..

Mr Bill. Yes that is my new title. Breakfast this morning was freshly cooked omelettes, cooked to order. Having chosen a ham omelette I was asked for my name, Bill I said. That was it I was Mr Bill from there on not bad you say until I tell you that this was broadcast to all and sundry at a volume befitting a sergeant major on the parade ground!
Not a bad omelette!

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