Eastern Tennessee and Me

I promised Tennessee, so here it is. Years ago, my parents gave us a membership to a sort of timeshare thingie. This year, to use our points, we decided we wanted to see the Smoky Mountains. To reserve a week during fall color season, we had to decide last January. Although we chose by what we read online, our stay got bumped back a week, color was late this year, and we ended up before the color had really begun to change. ALTHOUGH. The gardener kept pointing out “color” whenever he saw the faintest hint of rust or red in a sea of green. Very annoying.

I didn’t feel well, so that probably made me crabby.

My left foot had developed plantar fasciitis and hurt, that caused my back to go “out” and that hurt, and my reflux was in an uproar. After a trip to Walgreens, I was set to explore.

Unfortunately, an area we thought would be rustic and relaxing turned out to be the cheesiest tourist trap in the country: Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Gatlinburg. CHEESY.

Fake Alcatraz might have been the most educational place there (from the outside at least). We couldn’t find anything worth doing, didn’t want to do the crowds at Dollywood, and there was no place to eat gluten free food in that gluten-crazy, kid-friendly zoo. (Although we did end up going to one place in Pigeon Forge–I write about further down).

Fortunately, our timeshare was a lovely condo in a beautiful complex, and we ate almost all our meals there and packed cooler lunches to take with us. What a blessing.

View from our condo pool.

We ended up traveling to Ashville, NC, and the Biltmore (largest private home in the country); Knoxville with its history and art museum; Cumberland Falls in Kentucky; and towards Chattanooga, although we didn’t make it that far because we took country roads and explored.


Art that intrigued me in Knoxville

The second painting is from a large collection the museum owns by Joseph Delaney, an African-American artist from Tennessee. He studied at the Art Students’ League in NYC a little before my MIL, and I can see a similarity in their styles. This painting, in fact, is of the lobby of the Art Students’ League.

Cumberland Falls

Two touristy places we went to turned out great. We chose well. One was Parrot Mountain and Gardens in Pigeon Forge. The collection of colorful exotic birds is extraordinary. They also give homes to pet birds that find themselves homeless–and you can find a pet there, too. Although I don’t usually like zoos, this place does seem to do a really good job providing well for birds that could not live independently in the United States.

The other thing we did that is very touristy was a boat ride on an underground lake (in a cave). Called the Lost Sea, it’s located in Sweetwater, TN.

I do think Dollywood “ruined” the general vicinity. The traffic and all the cheesy establishments were such a disappointment. It probably brought jobs to people, and if so, that is good. But ugh. I would never return to that specific area. Luckily, we had a decent time with all our side excursions.

The only thing that was a real dark side for me was something that I’m sure I’ve seen elsewhere, but hadn’t really paid attention to. I had just finished a Rita Mae Brown Sneaky Pie mystery on the plane ride to TN. Those books take place in Virginia, and there was mention of kudzu and the destruction it wreaks. So when we arrived at our destination in Pigeon Forge, I couldn’t help but notice the Little Shop of Horrors monstrosities growing all around me. The large-leafed plant that spreads over everything: ground, bushes, trees, cars, old buildings, you name it. I felt as if I had fallen into Poison Ivy’s Garden of Hell.

I tried and tried to take good pix from the car, but it was impossible–and where I saw it was generally from the car.

 You have to look carefully, but in the photo just above, you can see beyond the first line of trees to the massive section covered with the creepy stuff. It’s actually a pretty plant, so while I was gazing from the parking lot at this view, a woman said to me, “Pretty, isn’t it?” Direct me said, “It makes me feel as if I’m in a nightmare. It creeps me out.” Then she agreed with me. Here is a great link to learn how kudzu got to our country and how dangerous it is (and how stupid people are): HISTORY OF KUDZU IN THE U.S.

On a positive note, we saw deer and lots of cows and sheep, but it was the woodchucks that stole my heart. As we drove on rural roads, woodchucks would be in the woods just off the shoulder of the road. They traveled in pairs or singly, and they were cute. WOODCHUCKS I doubt any of my pix turned out as our meetings were sudden and brief, but follow that link and you can see what we saw.

OK, that, in a nutshell, was our visit to eastern Tennessee.

Most of my writing lately has been working on finalizing the Broad Street magazine articles and writing reviews. There have been a lot of family activities lately, and now the holidays loom ahead. #wishIwerewritingmore My first review is out in the fall issue of Main Street Rag. I reviewed J. R. Solonche’s Invisible, a full-length collection of poetry.

Make it a great week, peeps!




Filed under #writerslife, Book Review, Poetry, Sightseeing & Travel, travel

42 responses to “Eastern Tennessee and Me

  1. So much to see in Eastern Tennessee! Thanks for sharing your fantastic photos, Luanne.

    • Thanks, Jill! Yes, there was a lot. And if there had been fall color even more haha. Oh well, maybe we will approach the area from a different way next day–certainly not the Dollywood area.

  2. I’m sorry about your feet and back, Luanne. I’ve never been to TN, and I’ve never had a desire to visit Dollywood. It all seems so touristy to me. Or as you said, cheesy. I do love the Biltmore Gardens. But, I love the waterfalls the most! Oh, don’t even get me started on kudzu. So many people remark, “Isn’t it pretty.” I reply, “Pretty invasive!” The artwork was intriguing; I’ll need to look at it closer. I feel the same about zoos. I wrote an article on animal sanctuaries and rescues, but also had to write about zoos. I think some do a great job of animal conservation, and some do not. I am always inspired by your writing, and what you are working on. Hope your back feels better soon. (Ps. My WordPress is acting up. I get your email notices, but your posts don’t show up in my Reader. It won’t let me “follow” you in the Reader. I’m going to try and fix this sometime soon. If it looks like I’ve unfollowed your posts, know that I’m actually trying to fix that problem.)

    • Cheryl, the waterfall is so beautiful. What I really loved, too, was that it was just my size. Niagara Falls is so humongous and overpowering that it is almost scary and certainly beyond awe-inspiring. But this falls is just perfect. Beautiful without even a hint of terror-inducing haha. So special. Yes, I agree so much about zoos! I’m sorry about WordPress screwing around with you. On the rare occasion that has happened to me I find it so annoying. Either you have not been posting very often or I don’t see your posts in my reader either. I’ll go check!!! One last thing: the kudzu. Right?!!! Theoretically it could take over the country. I will say that I was mapping out sci fi plots in my head . . . .

      • Kudzu: It’s Alive, It’s Alive! Ha! Sad enough, I have not been posting regularly. My last post was my n Italy. I am getting ready to respond to comments today. I’ve been so busy (I abhor those words, but…) with other projects and also traveling. My website is in need of an overhaul. Long overdue! I plan to get on that after this next batch of article deadlines is passed. Thank you for reading when I do post:)

  3. It sounds like after a bad start you had a fun trip. I like that artwork. I had to look up woodchuck to see they’re the same thing as groundhogs, which we have around here.

  4. I’ve heard, but never seen, kudzu. Sounds like the blob (remember that movie? maybe you are too young!). I was in Nashville and Memphis when I was in Tennessee and while I enjoyed Nashville, I loved Memphis because of all the music history. I was very surprised at how unhealthy most of the food choices were (said by someone who is not a health food addict!). We tried to go to places the locals loved and found a lot of fried foods (which were delicious) and iceberg lettuce. Most trips are a mixed bag. Some good, some bad and it seems like you got a lot of good out of some disappointments.

  5. Oh yes, Gatlinburg – what a Disneyland of a town. At least you found some real gems in your wandering! Hope your feet and back are feeling better!

  6. Pigeon Forge! The land of 1000 pancake houses! I cannot imagine a less gluten-friendly place. We did the almost exact same thing: we bid on a condo at a church fundraiser and went that fall. As you said, the views from the condo were wonderful, but, man—I had heard of Gatlinburg my whole life and had no idea. I was agog. And, as this article notes, kudzu is edible. Lord knows why we don’t turn the tables and eat it the same way it’s eating the South.

  7. Thanks for the tour of Tennessee Luanne – it sounds as though you saw some very interesting sights after a false start with the touristy ones!

  8. Super tour, Luanne. Thank you. I was in Gatlinburg in the early 70s and it was a mess then.

  9. I read that entire kudzu article! I saw those mounds of green when I was in the States, usually moving in a train or a car – none of the folks I was with said anything about it when I exclaimed how pretty it was 🙂 It’s amazing how in our arrogance we never figure out that we don’t know everything yet! My country has had many brushes with being overrun by plants brought in because the settlers didn’t know how to utilise the natives (not to mention the decimation of our native bird population due to the introduction of exotic mammals) but nothing like your kudzu!

  10. What an interesting post! Thanks for taking us, your loyal followers, to Eastern Tennessee! Actually, you saved me from having to go 🙂 Wonderful photos, as always. Every time I go back east (relatives in Florida, Amelia Island – I’ll visit them over Thanksgiving weekend), I’m always glad I live in the Southwest. Heavy snow here today, school cancelled, so I’m on a roll with my novel-writing.
    Have a great, productive week.

    • I had no idea you had snow today! I was thinking the northeastern U.S. and parts of Colorado. Wow. We were grumbling that it was in the 60s today. So glad to hear about your novel writing! Go forth and write, Elaine! xo

  11. We did the underground boat ride in Greece many years ago and I still look back and think, “What was I thinking?! What if there had been an earthquake.”

  12. Hi Luanne, I’m sorry you weren’t feeling your best when you visited eastern Tennessee…which borders the Carolinas…I wish you could have made it farther south to Columbia!
    Actually, I love the Great Smoky Mountains but most often visit the “hollers” in western North Carolina and the foothills around Caesar’s Head in northern South Carolina. I could have helped you with a few suggestions!
    I visited Gatlinburg in the late 60s and 70s and it was “touristy” then but I loved the two-lane road from I-40 west toward there – Dollywood was after my time. I understand Dolly uses her profits for philanthropy. Don’t quote me on that. 🙂
    Your photos are fabulous! Come see me next time…

  13. Thanks for sharing your trip! We got kudzu all over the place here. Creepy (literally and figuratively) is right 😉 We were in Chattanooga for one night a few years ago. We were driving to New York and because of flooding in South Carolina, we detoured to Chattanooga. We liked the little bit we saw while walking around that evening, and have often talked about going back. As far as writing, #wishIwerewriting. My long weekend is just about over and I’ve only worked on one essay 😦

  14. Nice photos, Luanne, and it sounds as if you guys had some great fun, despite everything. I loved Nashville, but I was sick while we were there so didn’t see all of what I wanted to see. I have always wanted to go to Asheville! Thanks for the tips on Dollywood. 🙂

  15. My mother and I have long talked about going to Biltmore, and one day, when we do go, it will be amazing.
    I’ve spent a lot of time in eastern Tennessee and while it’s beautiful, even the kudzu, it’s not my kinda place. My husband loves it, lived there a while, and I love him anyway.
    I hope you’re feeling better now.

    • Well, first of all, get approved for a loan for the Biltmore. $160 BUCKS for two of us. The only reason we paid it was 1) once in a lifetime as we weren’t going back, and 2) THE largest house in the country. In other words, if it was #2 or 3 we probably wouldn’t have done it as it irritated me to pay all that to the Vanderbilt family (who still owns it)! And if you want to see more of the house you have to pay more BTW. Yeah, it’s not my kind of place either, but then I live in the desert hahaha. My foot and back are continuing to plague me. Alas. Thanks for asking though.

      • Oh mercy!
        We’re into it, we are, but the money isn’t so much as the time. She’s bound to her husband, who is ten years older, and I’m bound to my children, who are thirty years younger and we are six states apart.

        I truly hope you get some relief soon.

  16. I have never visited that part of the county, and you make it look most attractive. The boat ride in the cave is something that Phil and I wouldn’t be able to pass up. It’s really different there. What month do you recommend?

  17. Asheville is a wonderful town where you can spend hours just walking around downtown – it’s fun, a little weird, and very diverse. 🙂
    As for Gatlinburg, well, I’m not big on pancakes. 😀

  18. A lively and interesting post, so well written – and photographed! Just caught up with it. Am sending URL to another blogger pal, Anne Mehrling, who lives near Asheville. Not sure if you two already know each other or not, but here goes! 😉

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