Wednesday, April 5, 2017

50 for 50: Post-8 -- Still in Tennessee with Steve

The way my scheduling worked for this trip, I actually stayed in Tennessee until now (which is Wednesday).  I'm presently cooling my heels in the Knoxville airport Starbucks, awaiting my flight to my next city (Atlanta).  We're a bit delayed, due to the major storm in Atlanta I'll apparently be flying into.  (I made a reservation for a nice dinner in Atlanta tonight.  The restaurant called me to confirm my 6:45 reservation, and I said, "That's my plan, yes."  Five minutes later, I got the text that my flight was delayed to 3:30.)

So, yes, even though I've technically finished the 50 for 50 with Steve, we still had a couple days of fun, which I didn't get a chance to journal because I was so freakin' exhausted.

Our original plan had been to go back to Dollywood on Monday.  Indeed, if you plan to go to Dollywood one day, you can get in for free after 3:00 the day before.  So our afternoon at Dollywood on Sunday was really supposed to just be our free add-on to a full day at Dollywood on Monday.  

Excepting it rained.  A lot.  I saw pictures from Dollywood and a tree got knocked down.  The word "monsoon" was used.  We decided staying dry would be the better plan so nixed Dollywood.

There followed a good deal of trying to figure out what to do, because all of the other indoor activities at Pigeon Forge were totally overwhelmed by all the other people dodging the rain.  We opted for a road trip to see Gatlinburg (and some of the Smoky Mountains on the way).  Back in Pigeon Forge, it was still raining, so we opted for the indoor attraction:  Alcatraz East.

Not actually a prison, more of a crime museum.  (John Wayne Gacy's clown suit!  Al Cowlings's Ford Bronco!)  We kind of cheated and parked in a lot reserved for a western wear store next door, so we first went into said store and I got an education on just how many ways there are to put an American flag on a pair of cowboy boots (more than you would think).  Then, the crime museum.  Which I quite enjoyed.  Although I think Steve might have been a bit put off as to how much I knew about famous criminals.  I remembered -- and told him -- that when I was young, I read a lot of true crime.  And my parents never really minded because, hey, I'm reading.  It's only when we're standing in the middle of the "serial killer artifacts" room and I'm excitedly looking at all the stuff that I think, "hmmm, maybe that WAS a little odd."

(I am probably in the right line of work.)

The rain cleared a bit while we were in Alcatraz East, but it was too late to get to Dollywood by then, as we had another show that night.  So we went for a nice dinner at one of those places that claims to be all locally-sourced food (and, for some reason, was playing the Dodgers' Season opener on a big TV right in front of me) and then off to the "Smoky Mountain Opry," which had some really good singers (and some not-so-good) singing all kinds of music.  I got a little thrown when they began their "classic rock" segment with music (and costumes) from the '80s, and I thought, "Fuck, I'm old," but eventually the leather jackets and motorcycles came out, so I felt better about that.

Tuesday, I had booked us an Escape Room (yet another Groupon).  I had booked it for way too early in the morning, and the nice lady let us change the time to a bit later, so we could sleep in, which I really needed.  It was Steve's first time in an Escape Room, and we did pretty well, although ultimately failing.  (The lady running the place said we were only two clues from the end.  The first, I would have gotten if time hadn't run out.  The second, I probably could have stared at for hours and not figured out.)  Although, admittedly, part of the decor of this room (a secret terrorist lair) included a chair with handcuffs and ropes for tying someone down, and I kept getting distracted by trying to untie the ropes.  (There was no clue at the end, I just like solving knot puzzles.)

After allowing the world to get blown up by terrorists (sorry) we did a little wandering around "The Island" and a bit of shopping.  

I wanted a photo with Steve to commemorate this 50 for 50.  Well, every damn place you go in Pigeon Forge stands you in front of Green Screen, takes your picture, puts it in front of a related background (the ferris wheel, the Hatfield/McCoy cabins, the Opry stage....) and tries to sell it to you for $20.

There's a place in Pigeon Forge called Parrot Mountain.  There's a little annex of Parrot Mountain at the Island where you can "have your picture made with parrots."  (I love that they actually use the phrase "have your picture made.")  And it's ACTUAL PARROTS, not a damn green screen.  And it's only $15.  (And the nice guy lets you take a ton of pics with your cell phone, too.)  So now we've got pix of me and Steve holding parrots, being high-fived by parrots, cuddling parrots, being "blessed" by a parrot....

.... ok, big aside here.  Parrot Mountain isn't JUST Parrot Mountain.  It's Parrot Mountain "and the Garden of Eden."  It's real Bible-y.  Pigeon Forge is a really fun place, and I thought it might make a good spot for a family vacation for my family (I'm getting my brother-in-law in a Zorb someday) but we'd have avoid the stuff that gets all New Testament on you.  Steve and I discussed the idea of assigning attractions a "Jesus Rating" for the level of Jesus involved.  Parrot Mountain is probably a "J7."  But Parrot Mountain at the Island is way more like a J2.  But the nice man (with the bad teeth) who made my picture asked if I minded being blessed by a parrot.  I didn't mind.  I do not even come from a frame of reference where I'd even think to ask that -- that one's faith might be so serious that having a parrot tap them on a forehead would somehow be questionable from a religious point of view.  But, hey, live and learn.  Points to the guy for asking, I reckon.

THEN we went to MagiQuest, because I'm 12.  MagiQuest is a place where they give you an LED magic wand and you wave it at stuff and stuff happens.  Like, you wave it a treasure chest and the chest opens and you see treasure inside and a voice says "you have found 50 gold pieces!"  The establishment has a bunch of little areas (a forest, a village, a dragon's lair) and it sends you on a bunch of quests of increasing difficulty.  Like, you have to find four different crystals, light 'em up with your wand, and then "give" them to the Pixie.  (And then the Pixie -- an animated character on a screen -- giggles happily and "gives" you a magic rune you can use for ... something or other, I never got that far.)  ANYWAY, you get about an hour on your admission, in which I obtained the first six runes.  Steve had played before, so was on one the way harder quests, and it took him an hour to complete it, but he ended up being a Master Magi (while I only made it to Junior Magi).  As we were leaving, we saw a group of pre-teen girls checking in for a party of some sort, and they were wearing homemade magician robes.  Love anyone who brings their own costumes.

MagiQuest also had a mirror maze, which Steve and I got lost (and eventually found) in.  And a laser maze, which we raced through.  I am surprisingly competitive.  At first, I didn't want to get down on the floor, but after I heard a buzzer 'cause I hit a laser beam, I got all angry and dropped down so's I could properly get around under them things.

After MagiQuest, we went back to the Island, bought some smoothies, and sat around chatting and watching the fountains dance (everything from "Rolling in the Deep" to "The Devil Went Down to Georgia") until it was time for our last dinner/show:  The Dixie Stampede.

We actually saw the shows in the right order, in terms of ... fiscal investment in the shows.  The magician the first night was in a tiny theatre, had a cast of six, and two of them were running the lights and waving you into the parking lot.  Hatfield/McCoy the second night was in a large theatre (a dinner theatre) with a larger cast and better production values.  The third night Opry stage was about twice the size of the magician's stage, and the show was all about costumes and aerialists and quick-change artists (and singing).  Dixie Stampede was in a large arena, with an equestrian competition and trick riders and some woman standing on the backs of two horses and all three of 'em jumping through a ring of fire.  (And because Dolly Parton presented it, it was all just good-time family fun, with some comedy and some magic and an all-you-can-eat meal served without utensils, so's instead of clapping you just stamp your feet, 'cause your hands are too greasy to clap and you can't holler 'cause you got food in your face.  And OMG, I can't believe the genius of serving this meal without forks, because that ALONE was so much fun for the young 'uns, they could barely stand it.)  Steve was proud of me for not using the plastic spork he snuck in for me, but, y'know, I'm in for the full experience.  

(The pre-show had some gospel music, but the show itself was a straight-up J0.  And I learned that it isn't just Jesus and America.  In these parts, it's Dolly, Jesus, and America.  The order may vary.)

After Dixie Stampede, we drove back to Knoxville, and I spent another night in Steve's guest room, before he drove me to the airport this afternoon.  And now my flight for Atlanta is showing a departure around 6:00, so I better cancel that dinner reservation.

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