Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Great Smoky Mountains

A few weeks ago, my daughter, who is 5, commented that some hill we were driving by was "a really big mountain."

"Sweetie, have you ever seen real mountains?"

"Yeah, mom, remember? We played on some big clay mountains at Mema's house." My Mema and Papa's house has a big hilly red clay area out back. This child has never seen real mountains, which means that her little brother hasn't either.

So, Daddy-O and I decided that rather than go home on interstates through Atlanta, we would go up to Chattanooga and then cut across the Appalachians. We didn't say anything to the kids about it-- we just figured we'd wait to see how long it took for them to notice the change in scenery.

It was a brilliant plan-- the kids loved being in the mountains, and we stopped off a few times for good views and little creeks. Then came the part that wasn't in the plan: Short Stuff, who had really bad chest congestion all weekend, started puking up mucus once we were about 45 minutes off of the interstate and on curvy mountain roads. We stopped a few times to take care of him and change his clothes ("We don't have to tell anyone I was outside in the mountains in my underwear and no pants, do we, mommy?"), and finally found an old McDonald's bag and gave it to him for if he got sick again. "Mom, do you have a pen?" asked Funky Monkey. "No, Funky Monkey, we are not going to write 'barf bag' on it," I asserted. Apparently his 9 year old sense of humor had been thwarted by my momminess--"Aw, man!"

By the time we got the puking all taken care of, the kids were getting hungry (we had eaten an early lunch), and we stopped for dinner. We got back on the road, and the sun started to set. That was when it occurred to us that we had picked some of the most mountainous, curvy paths to take, so that the kids would have stunning views the whole way home. We did not anticipate being delayed by a few hours, and taking these roads at night, with neither of us being experienced mountain-drivers.

Can I just say that the "Great Smoky Mountains" are not so great to navigate after dark when you aren't familiar with the roads and are not a mountain native? We spent FOUR hours driving 15 mph in the dark on winding mountain roads with terrifying dropoffs and no guardrail. Sassy Pants started crying about 1 hour into it.

"Why are you crying?"

"Because I'm scared?" *blows nose*

"Oh, baby, don't be scared! Why are you scared?"

"Because we're lost." sniff sniff

"Honey, we're not lost. We have a map, and we know where we're going."

This is where Short Stuff (the 4 year old firecracker) chimed in: "I think I saw a sign back there that says there's monsters ahead!"

Sassy Pants again: "Shut up! I know there's no such thing as monsters!"

Short Stuff: "Well, I thought I saw a sign, anyway."

Me: "There are no monsters, no signs about monsters, and we're not lost. I saw the map, and this road does go to South Carolina. It's just a curvy, hilly road, and we have to take it slowly. That's all."

This quieted the fretting for a bit, until we had been driving for another couple of hours on winding roads, and came upon a state line sign: Welcome to Georgia!

Funky Monkey read the sign out loud, and major freaking out ensued in the backseats.

"We are lost! I knew it!"

"I thought you said this road went to South Carolina?"

"Oh, great. Georgia. We're never going to get home."

I did my best stern mom bit: "Chill out, guys. We're not lost. We are going to South Carolina." Then I turned to Daddy-O, and under my breath muttered, "check the map."

Turns out, Highway 28 does a bit of a turn through Georgia for a few miles before heading into Oconee county, South Carolina. No problem. Not lost.

The rest of the drive home was pretty uneventful, which is fine by me, as driving 4 hours on death-trap roads was event enough. Oh yeah, one final note: If you are ever passing through South Carolina and see a sign for a town named "Walhalla," please be advised that the locals do not say "wall' ha la" like my Sarasota-raised Floridian husband does. If you're in the Carolina lowcountry, it's pronounced "Wawl hah' luh." If you're in the upstate, where we live and where Walhalla is actually located, you gotta get a little more redneck with it. "Wawl holler" will suffice.

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