Day 9

Friday, June 3, 2005Natural Bridge, VA
Miles: 1272Health: Fabulous, dahling!
Woke up to more rain. We sat up in our comfy little van bed and looked at some maps. Since the activity for our next two days revolved around scenic overlooks, we decided to bail on the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway and instead get on I-81 and head for Tennessee and Great Smoky Mountain National Park, since that was where we were headed anyway. We were very excited about our first break from the plan and didn’t even get anything out for breakfast. We just put the curtains up, strapped stuff down and drove away. Other people were packing up tents. A world of suck.

This turned out to be a fabulous plan, as the rain didn’t let up and the fog never lifted. Also, Keath had never been able to work from the road, as we had been out of cell range, and now he could, since I-81 is a major route.

We made one brief stop in Natural Bridge, Virginia to see none other than the Natural Bridge which lays there. Although the official website of Natural Bridge claims it to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world, they seem to be the only ones who agree with this claim. (The most common list of seven is Mount Everest, the Great Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon, Victoria Falls, the harbor at Rio de Janeiro, Paricutin Volcano, and Aurora Borealis; although there are several other lists which include assorted and sundry other mountains (Fuji, Kilimanjaro) and falls (Angel, Niagara), Natural Bridge, though cool, seems to be alone in it's claim.) Anyway, we went to see it, and it was nice. Especially the getting out of the car and walking bit.

Miles: 1547Pigeon Forge, TN
Other than Natural Bridge, we basically hauled ass for most of the day, Keath working, me driving. We decided to stay the night in Pigeon Forge and go to Dollywood the next day. The Tennessee Welcome Center offered a myriad of lodging options, so we chose a campground that was off the Parkway. We didn’t know what this Parkway was, but once we arrived in Pigeon Forge, we were glad to see that we weren’t on it. Someone transplanted part of NJ into rural Tennessee. NJ or Vegas, one of the two, or perhaps a horrible, unnatural hybrid of the two. Whatever it was, Pigeon Forge was crowded with bumper to bumper traffic, cheap hotels and overpriced attractions.

When in Rome, do as the Romans, so we went to the most hyped of all attractions for dinner: Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, a dinner show with live animals with the ‘rivalry’ of the Civil War as the theme. After we got over making numerous comments about the anti-hyperbole of the theme, we made our way to the show. After all, Dolly Parton personally guaranteed that it was the most fun we’d ever have at dinner…

Buffalo. Stampeding, trained Buffalo. That’s how the show started. There were horses, there were trick riders, dancers, pig races and waltzers dropping from the sky. Square dancers rode horses and tiny girls rode ostriches. It was damn remarkable. In the end, everyone’s costumes lit up red, white and blue while a terrifyingly plastic looking Dolly sang. If your mind can fathom a combination rodeo/musical/circus/ren-faire, you might be coming close. It was a paratheatrical extravaganza in every sense of the term.

We went to bed in the van again, since this campground was so geared to RV’s that there was a small stream running through our site. Glad once again to have the van. Sleep.