Last fall, we celebrated Mimi's birthday in the mountains and we enjoyed it so much that we decided to make it an annual tradition. So, the first weekend in November we planned an extended weekend and headed for Pigeon Forge after an early Saturday morning breakfast. We had grandiose plans of all we wanted to do over the few days we would be there, but Mother Nature had a different idea...What started out looking so pretty soon became one of the most nerve-wracking trips I've been on since the boys were born.
An unexpected cold front came through and dropped 16 inches of snow in the mountains the night before we left. The DOT was unprepared and had not salted the roads. The snow and ice shut down several of the roads going up into the mountains as well as parts of the interstate and we had no idea until we got stuck 2 hours into the our drive up. Typically it takes us 3 and a half hours to get to Pigeon Forge but seven hours later we were sitting in a parking lot of ice on the interstate. We drove 2 cars up since Mimi was going to leave going back to her house from Pigeon Forge so I drove her car and Ben drove separately. I left plenty of room between us and whoever was in front of us, prayed that no one slid into our car, and that the 18 wheelers knew what they were doing. Having the boys in the car with me made me extremely nervous. Ethan and Caden were amazing the whole day, no fussing, crying, potty emergencies, or complaining about the extra long time spent in the car strapped in car seats. They had their snacks, drinks, DVD player, as well as the iPad and Kindle and were oblivious to everything except getting to see the snow and being right next to all of the big trucks.
When we did move, it was at 4 miles an hour and between intermittently sitting with the car in park and moving at a snail's pace, we were eventually able to turn around and head back down the interstate going South. In brainstorming our options it was either go home or find another entertaining weekend destination that was kid-friendly. When we reached the next exit, we went straight to a gas station for restroom breaks and to stretch. As I stood in line behind the 30 ladies that were in front of me (not kidding, the line went from the back of the store to the door at the front), the cashier behind the register announced that there had been an accident a couple of miles further south and the interstate had been shut down for 4 hours in that direction. Sooooo, since we couldn't go north or south, we took back roads and headed west. We made a quick decision to spend the weekend in Cherokee, which had absolutely no snow and was 15 degrees warmer. When we finally arrived that evening, we found out that The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad in Bryson City was 10 miles from where we stayed so we booked reservations for the next day's train ride. We had a wonderful time checking out the countryside, stopping in quaint little Dillsboro for lunch and sightseeing, and walking through the largest interactive miniature train museum that I have ever seen. It was an amazing experience and completely redeemed our weekend.
The train was so long that you could see it going around the bend in front of us and our rail car was in the middle of the train.
The scenery was beautiful!
Caden loved checking it all out
The train ride came with a guitarist for our entertainment, drinks and snacks, and a tour guide. Our entertainer played a few favorites and then tried to get to know the crowd a bit by asking if it was anyone's birthday or anniversary. Well, since it was Mimi's actual birthday she got serenaded by the whole train car :-)
She was a great sport!
Happy Birthday Mimi!!
Photo op at the Dillsboro stop
When we returned from the train ride, we headed back to Cherokee and walked through town visitng the shops and watching the Native Americans in their traditional Indian dress weave yarn and whittle wooden objects along the sidewalk. After dinner that night and a wonderful breakfast the next day, we said goodbye to Mimi and loaded up to go back home. Two and a half hours later we were unloading the car in 60 degree weather. What an amazing contrast to our drive up! Although the weekend took an unexpected turn, we ended up having a great trip and got to experience something that we never would have had it not been for a treacherous 7 hours and quick thinking.