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Smoky Mountain Misery

Matt and I left for a holiday in the Smoky Mountains on Thursday, arriving at our chalet at dinner-time. The first thing I did was pinch my finger in a corner cabinet, creating an immediate and painful blood blister.

No big deal, I thought,

Then we realized our phone didn’t work in the house, and that we had no cell reception, either.

Not great, but no big deal, I thought. We’re still on vacation. Look how cute Matt and Simon look. We’ll still have fun.

Couch Buddies

Couch Buddies

Then the weather forecast changed from 40s and rain to 30s and snow. Snow was supposed to arrive on our mountain at around 7 p.m. Friday and end at around 7 p.m. Saturday. Since we were at the top of a mountain without four-wheel drive, this meant we were going to be able to go out briefly on Friday, then head up to our house for Simon’s nap, during which time Matt would do one more grocery run. After that, we’d have to go into hibernation mode until Sunday mid-day or so.

Not what we had planned, but doable. Still a vacation.

So we duly went to the Aquarium of the Smokies, took in some amazing sea life, and headed back up our mountain. It started to snow at 2, when we left the aquarium. The big wet flakes changed to small dry ones as we headed up Ski Mountain Rd.

And the road got more slippery.

And we watched a big truck get stuck in front of us.

And we saw another car on its side that had totally run off the road.

And then we ourselves got stuck about four-fifths of the way up the mountain.

Big deal.

At this point, Matt stayed behind with our stuck car to await assistance, which arrived shortly and helped him to push the car off the road.

I grabbed Simon and his back-pack and started to carry them up the road in the snow. Ten minutes or so into my walk, a family in a truck offered me a ride. I tried to decide whether walking on a narrow road with Simon was more or less dangerous than hitching a ride with strangers without a car-seat and, God help me, chose the ride.

These kind folks took South Baden Drive, our street, to Arbon Drive, their street, to drop off stranded neighbors, whereupon they got stuck in their driveway and could not get back to the road. The man of the house, Kenny, then insisted that he walk with me back to South Baden and further on up the mountain to our house.

By this point, it was getting colder, Simon’s hands were turning bright red (his mittens were back at the house), my visibility from snow and glasses was getting quite bad, and Simon was shrieking from cold and fear and would not let Kenny carry him no matter how my arms or back ached from all the carrying I had already done in the parking garage (which scared him), up the stairs to the aquarium (we were running late), and through the aquarium at various points when Simon kept going in circles and I was trying to get us headed in a particular direction.

We ended up over-shooting our street, then doubling back and finally reaching our little mountain house. A little snuggling and Caillou went a long way towards fixing things, and Simon gave Matt a pretty accurate accounting of events when he arrived at the house about 10 minutes after we did.

“We were in the car, and I cried. And Mommy carry me in the snow. And the man tried to carry me. And I was cold, and I got scared, and I cried. And then we made it home.”

While Simon napped off the stress, Matt and I went into planning mode. Should we wait out the storm? Try to walk down with bare essentials in the morning? We had just about talked ourselves into staying when the lights went out during dinner, scaring the bejeezus out of Simon. The house had neither candles nor flashlights, our car was a half mile down the road, and our tepid fire wasn’t going to go far towards keeping us warm. Suddenly, we stopped thinking in terms of “vacation saving” and started thinking in terms of “disaster planning.”

The View from our Window

The View from our Window

The lights came on an hour later, and by Saturday morning, the forecast was for more snow.  I went out on a morning reconnaissance mission and was pleased to see that South Baden was plowed. Our court wasn’t, but we could walk supplies to the car if Matt could dislodge it and get it back on the main road. If he couldn’t, we were going to have to wait everything out, as a careful reading of our maps showed that a walk into town was going to be long, miserable, and dangerous. Snow was expected to resume mid-day. I began to look at our food supply and mentally ration how much Matt and I could have each day so Simon could eat his regular amounts at regular intervals.

We finally got a lucky break when Matt was able to roll his car back onto the road and make it to our court. As quickly as we could, we packed up our toys, our kitchen, and all our clothes, and headed into town to a rather corporate hotel. Our A plan was to spend two nights here, enjoy downtown Gatlinburg, and salvage the trip.

Thing is, our hotel suite was small and soulless. It featured generic checked carpeting, an electric fireplace on a timed dial, and a sleeper sofa that’s pretty uncomfortable before you even unfold it. After you unfold it, it’s unspeakable. And town itself? More relentlessly tacky than I remembered. Our “street view” featured not pretty Christmas lights, but rather a red glowing Texas Roadhouse sign; the Christmas lights in town weren’t that impressive; and a little shop across the street allows you to take an old-timey picture of your small child dressed as an outlaw holding a Jack Daniels bottle.

There was no salvaging this trip. So we finally cut our losses and came home Sunday. I was hoping we’d have a nice little break away from home, but it turned out being home was the best break of all.  Maybe next year….

One Response to “Smoky Mountain Misery”

  1. blg says:

    Ohh, I am so sorry.
    You tell the story pretty matter of factly, but I am sure there were moments when you were on the verge of freaking out.

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