Painting Trip, Days 7 & 8

My trip is flying by and I am having a hard time keeping the blog current. But I still want to do it because I am having such a wonderful time!

So… to recap…

On Monday, September 7th (Labor Day) I left home and drove to Lewisburg, West Virginia. I ended up at this charming Craftsman bungalow.


I was very at home here while I took the 4 day painting class from John Poon at the incomparable Greenbrier Resort. In fact, I looked longingly back at the picture-perfect front porch as I drove away on the following Saturday morning.

Bungalow front porch

On Saturday, September 12, I drove to Sevierville, Tennessee and landed at this mountain home.

mountain b&b

My hosts, Liz and James, were extremely welcoming and made me feel like part of the family. I described hanging out with James and the kids in my last post. We had a fun time having art lessons.

Well, on Saturday night, I realized my camera battery was drained and I got out the charger to plug it in. It didn’t work. I didn’t quite believe it so I walked it from room to room plugging it into different outlets. It still didn’t work. Daggone it!

I got on line to look for one and it was quite confusing. I decided to look for a local camera shop since this IS a tourist area. I thought I found one but had to wait till morning to call.

Meanwhile, I fell asleep early and then woke up early as well. I got on the computer from about 5 am until 7 am and started feeling sleepy again. That’s when I crashed. I slept HARD for several hours and roused about 10. Wonderful! I needed that!

I got up and did a load of laundry – one of the perks of staying in this B&B – and tried to call a couple camera places. That didn’t work out so I looked up where the nearest Walmart was. They had what I needed online and I could only hope they would have it in the store in this tourist hotspot.

But they didn’t. Drats.

Oh well, while I was here, I wanted to get the kids from last night a “kneaded eraser.” They loved mine because they hadn’t seen one before and they decided that real artists have to have one. So I got the erasers and more. I got the kids a small sketchbook, mechanical pencils and a drawing pen. The little girl got a coloring book and crayons and some stickers. Then I threw in packs of animal crackers, pouches of juicy juice and some Dove chocolates. I bought some large freezer bags to make each kid (and James) a goody bag. I knew they would love it.

Then I wanted to drive through Pigeon Forge and maybe find a place to eat.

DollywoodAs I drove down the crowded strip, all I could think was… Good Golly, Miss Dolly, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?

Yes, this is the original home of Dolly Parton, country music queen. She was one of 12 children, born and raised on a run-down tobacco farm in Sevier County. But these days, Pigeon Forge is no longer a scenic Cherokee hunting ground. It is a country-style Las Vegas hokey hoe down that completely overshadows the beauty of the Smoky Mountains. Honestly, if you bring a kid here will they even notice the mountains? I don’t see how they can when all you see are wall to wall billboards, flashing signs, arcades, amusement park rides, go karts, magic shows, water parks, laser tag, black-light mini-golf and a ride through a fake Egyptian tomb. What does any of this have to do with anything? And what in the world does it cost?

Pigeon Forge 2The beauty and grandeur of this place has been lost to outlet malls and Dolly’s marketing team. Just this summer her new 100-acre DreamMore Resort opened. It is decorated with her instruments and album covers and guests are greeted with a signature drink… pink lemonade. The logo and décor focus on Dolly’s personal fascination with butterflies and you can even get a “bedazzled butterfly” manicure or pedicure in the spa.

Just what we all need. It’s what I would fight this traffic for… NOT!!!

Paula DeenThen I saw this face on a big ole billboard… seems she’s getting in on the action with her new “Family Kitchen.” Is there no end to this?

I actually did stop for dinner at one of the restaurants and it was terrible. I felt herded in and out like one of a flock of sheep. The food was mediocre as was the service. If I had booked a show I would have had to white knuckle the arms of my seat to stay in it. But I didn’t. I couldn’t wait to get back to my room outside of town and get away from this hot mess of commercialism.

Naturally everyone says it is ok because it creates jobs in a notoriously poor area. Well get this…

When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park opened in 1934, there were NO tourism-oriented businesses in Pigeon Forge. In the 50s through the 80s, theme parks and factory outlets arrived. This drove up land value to the point that local farmers could no longer afford their property taxes and were forced to sell their land.

This meant that the cost of living in Pigeon Force went up, but the only jobs to be had were low wage opportunities in the tourist business like go-kart operator, T-shirt salesperson, or cabin cleaner.

Only 13.7% of Pigeon Forge residents have a college degree because the local economy favors uneducated part-time labor in the tourist industry. There are few long-term career opportunities since non-local business owners have no interest or incentive in providing benefits such as health insurance or paid sick leave.

I don’t see the value in any of it. How many millions of dollars are people spending here and not even looking at a mountain? Lord help us.

So I drove back to my home away from home to watch the sun go down behind the blue misty mountain in the distance. James tried to help me with my camera and we couldn’t get it charged, so he loaned me his to use for the evening. I was able to download the photos off his memory card, delete them from the card and return it. It was great!

TN mountain11

Sunday had been my one free day of the trip – no driving and no class – and I was able to recharge my batteries a bit. Now I needed to get my game plan together again.

Monday morning it was time to pack up and go. It’s amazing how spread out I can get in a couple days and it took me a while to get organized. I lugged all my stuff out to the car to load up. The chickens were still penned in from the night before, but there were two overly friendly cats on the scene. I kept having to shoo them away from the door as I went in and out. Finally, I was loading the last of the bags into the trunk and the black cat leaped onto the wet front windshield and slid backwards. He made a screeching sound as he tried to regain his footing.

The cat disappeared from sight and I assumed he fell off the hood of the car. But when I reached up to pull down the hatch, there was that midnight-black cat, perched in mid-air, ready to jump straight into my face. I screeched and flew backwards, the cat made a mighty arching leap past my shoulder and the hatch slammed shut. I lost my breath for a minute.

Geez o pete! At least I didn’t full-out scream! Sorry, folks. I just don’t like cats. Those who do say they are playful or mischievous – I think they’re sneaky. And Mr. Black Cat didn’t endear me any further. Ugh!

So I was on my way to my next destination. It was about 5 hours or so to Franklin Tennessee and I was already enjoying the journey. As usual, my goal was to drive a couple hours before I had to stop – because I always have to stop to break up the trip.

When I first started out, I was still in the country. And it’s amazing what you see. For instance, did you know that at Floyd’s Market you can also buy fireworks and get a tattoo? Or maybe it’s just in the same complex, I’m not sure. But that’s just one example of one-stop shopping. And I won’t describe the billboard I saw for dental implants… people with missing teeth aren’t normally used for advertising… are they?

Then, every couple miles or so, I saw a hamburger joint called Krystal. It kept saying “the original square slider.”

Hmmm… sounds like “White Castle” back home. I rather like White Castle once in a while, so I decided that was what I wanted for lunch. But I had my two hour driving rule in place. I’d have to wait for a bit, but then I could compare the little square burgers…

Well, two hours passed and I started looking for a Krystal sign. They had started getting scarce. What I DID see was a Waffle House at almost every exit. Which is what I had been hungry for a week ago when I left home and couldn’t find one after my two hour rule was up.

Darn it, all Waffle Houses and no Krystal. Then I saw a White Castle sign. That meant I must be out of Krystal territory. Ah well…. Waffle House it would be. And besides, I needed a good cup of coffee to go.

It was a quick lunch and I was right back on the road. I had most of the day’s drive under my belt and only about an hour and a half to go. I’m getting pretty good at this driving stuff!

Soon I was near my destination and I was now in beautiful country. This area reminds me of the splendid landscapes around Louisville, Kentucky. Suddenly there were horse farms with long stretches of black fencing and fields full of those rolled up hay bales gleaming in the sun. I NEED MY CAMERA!!!

At last I pulled into the drive of my B&B here in Leiper’s Fork and it is a stunning place. I can’t believe these people even share their home with strangers! Here’s a view of the front of the house…


When I get my camera charged up, I’ll take some more shots. This home is downright gorgeous and I have the whole upstairs to myself… library/sitting room, 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. Plus fridge space and the outdoors. I took my knitting out on the front porch for a while and sat in one of those classic white-painted rockers. What a treat to stay in such beautiful surroundings!

Now I need to get to bed as my class starts tomorrow. I’m very excited for it, but I know I’m going into it a bit worn out. I’m sure adrenaline will take over. I can’t wait!

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Patti
    Sep 18, 2015 @ 01:14:02

    This is so funny! I can just see you and that black cat and though some things have been challenging, my goodness what a great time you are having. I really am quite envious of this adventure and your hosts are a major plus….making you feel so at home. Gulp it all down, my friend!! ❤ ~Patti


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