Thursday, October 27, 2011

Deal's Gap and Cherohala Skyway

Monday was a work day again at the office, and I'm training another lady, Pam.  Gary had to run over to the hospital for a shot of Nupogen to get those white cells pumping again.  It was a beautiful day and promised to be even more beautiful Tuesday, so we made plans to do the Dragon Tail again with Donna and Ron, but with Ron driving his Chevy diesel dually.  We packed a picnic lunch not sure if we'd want to stop at the Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort or carry on down the road to Robbinsville.  It was a gorgeous drive, and we stopped so many times to take photos.  Entering the Foothills Parkway the first pullover had a group of vehicles and people moving wooden platforms and camera equipment.  Obviously showing off the Smokies to the public unlucky enough not to see it in person. 

A guard rail decorated with decals. 

The mountains are now a tapestry of golds, greens and browns. Every corner we turned produced a more beautiful scene.  We finally made it down to Deal's Gap after twisting and turning all the way  around 318 curves in 11 miles.  Here we are in the picnic area enjoying our lunch.

Gary traded his shirt again and I did say this would be the last time visiting Deal's Gap.  He agreed.  It was fun to see the Tree of Shame and the T-shirt ceiling in the grill again.  We probably won't forget this ride ever.

After shopping a bit, we headed toward Robbinsville where we were going to take a right onto the Cherohala Scenic Skyway through the Joyce Kilmer Slickrock Wilderness area.  Joyce Kilmer is remembered most for a short poem entitled "Trees" (I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree...).  And he was born about 20 minutes from where I was born in Plainfield, NJ.

The Cherohala Skyway was completed in 1996 after being under construction for some thirty-four years. It is North Carolina's most expensive highway carrying a pricetag of $100,000,000. Winding up and over 5,400 foot mountains for 15 miles in North Carolina and descending another 21 miles into the deeply forested backcountry of Tennessee, the road crosses through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests thus the name 'Chero...hala'.

We're beginning the climb.  And then there was another turn-out with a platform to climb to.  The driver (Ron) and front-seat passenger (Gary) bring up the rear.

We keep climbing toward the very top, ears popping and voices ooohing and aaahhing all the way up to the final sign:

This little sign says:  Big Junction:  Elevation 5235 feet.  Almost a mile!  And there were hardly any trees up here, but the ones that were had no leaves at all.  Nekkid.  On our way down the mountain, the trees were again dressed up and with the brilliant blue sky were absolutely breathtaking.

I wish I had had my good camera with me.  But these photos were taken with our Kodak Playsport.  Not as good as my Canon Rebel xTi, however, not too shabby. 

If you ever get a chance to see the Smokies in fall, you will understand why people come from hundreds of miles away for the views.  They are spectacular.

Monday, while I was working, Donna and Ron drove to Knoxville to pickup their new home entertainment system.  They spent all morning moving shelves and pulling out the broken one to make room for the new set.  But they got tired of all the boxes and wires everywhere, and needed to find a Radio Shack for a cable.  We also went to Walmart, and JoAnne's for Donna to pick up some sample fabrics to redo her window treatments.  We found some pretty ones and headed home.  Ron and Gary got busy with wires and cables, and Donna and I were pinning different combinations of fabrics all over the windows.  So much fun.  Before we knew it, dinnertime was nearing 8 pm, so the boys ran over to the Shell station for some pizza.  Capelli's pizza started at 4.99 for a pie (just cheese, of course), but we put on a few toppings, and that baby was GOOD.  (or we could have just been starving).  We called it quits until tomorrow, but most of the hard work was done.

Today (Thursday) the weather was supposed to change from cloudless and 76 to rainy and 54.  For once, unfortunately, the weatherman was correct.  It was definitely a chili dinner day, so Donna and I got over to Walmart again to pick up ingredients, while the boys worked on finishing the connections.  We also stopped at the Corelleware Outlet to see if I could get a couple more dinner plates to match my set.  No luck.  We got home in the rain to find the boys had succeeded and now we had dinner music and the World Series (Cardinals and Rangers) with Donna's white chili and chocolate chip turtle cookies.  With that, we rolled home between the drops. 

 Life is good.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Catching UP

I hope you haven't crossed us off your reading list.  Computer issues again.  Sheesh.

Gary's little operation went very well and very fast.  Before and after pictures:

Tiny little incision with glue instead of stitches.  He was a little sleepy, but felt pretty good.  We went home to rest.

The next day they used his port for his infusion:  Don't look if you're queasy, but he didn't even feel the poke because of a very sweet nurse who told him to rub a little emla (lidocaine) on the spot 1/2 hour before.  And it worked!

Since I'm writing this on the following week's Sunday, I can't remember what else we did that day - probably not much.  Saturday I worked at the CG office, and Sunday I went back to work at Dollywood - a beautiful day with tons of people.  Brenda had called and asked if we would like to meet at Huck Finn's for dinner with her neighbors, also Dollywood workers, and a couple from our campground, Graham and Jan from New Zealand.  We talked for hours filling our tummies with bottomless fish.  Took some home for lunch tomorrow.  Monday was CG office day again, and the weekend was over!  Donna made deicious chicken potpies for dinner and we had a bottle of wine and talked late into the evening. 

Tuesday we all drove to Knoxville to take the computer in for fixing and lunch at Panera.  The boys were very patient as we hit practically every store in Knoxville.  Then we had dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings to celebrate Ron's belated birthday dinner.  Even though it was chilly on the patio, it was freezing inside.  The wings were yummy!

Wednesday Gary and I had to turn in our two week notices, and run up to the cancer center to fill out some record release forms for when we head out of Pigeon Forge.  Then we met Donna and Ron at McAllister's Deli and chowed down on some sandwiches and soup.  It was not a pretty day, but the boys were shopped out, so Donna and I hit the outlet malls together.  We both love the same things, so shopping is so much fun!  The guys wanted Mexican, so we tried No Way Jose's five minutes from our CG.  YUMMY! 

Then we made plans for breakfast at Cracker Barrel before investigating the Beehive store and Knife Museum.  It was cold and raw out, so after our little adventure we headed home to do some w-o-r-k (a four letter word) but necessary.  I cleaned our cupboards and found things and tossed things, noting what needed using and what was going to storage.  I am a little impressed with myself because from the beginning of our fulltiming 18 months ago, I was very selective about what I really would use.  I had a house kitchen FULL of cool things, but knew that weight was very important to the safety of our rig.  Fortunately, in our position, I knew that, after we got weighed, I might want to add some things, and was lucky enough to have a storage unit to hold them if needed.  Well, I'm happy to say that I never needed to take anything out for the kitchen at all.  I just put back things!  Remember: items can do double duty.  A metal bowl and pot is a double boiler.  I only use two frying pans: large and small.  Wine glasses are also juice glasses (I have the stemless kind thanks to my daughter - smart girl).  Just cut back, right?

We had Reubens at our place for dinner and talked with Donna and Ron about our upcoming travels together to South Padre Island the first of January.  They had done some dance lessons last year, so we YouTubed the Tush Push, Cotton-Eye Joe, the Schottische, and Progressive Barn Dance.  It looks like so much fun.  I'm not that great at dancing (I've tried to master the Electric Slide at various functions) but it's too far in between, so I can't remember it.  So we've decided to practice before we get there, so we don't look like total imbiciles. 

Friday Gary had his regular infusion, and we had planned to vamooose the week he was off, over to Raleigh, get a couple of treatments there and then drive down to Florida to continue treatments.  Hopefully he won't need very many more, but then the Dr. said he needed injections of Nupogen to boost his white count.  This particular drug is very hard on the platelets.  Fortunately they have shots that counteract that effect.  We decided it was too difficult to get a Dr. in Raleigh for two weeks of treatments, so we will be staying in Pigeon Forge until November 29th.  That will be after his next three treatments (gosh, this is boring you, I know) when we will hustle down to Florida for his next three in December.  These days we are writing plans in barely legible pencil. 

We are going to try to make it to Raleigh for Thanksgiving inbetween treatments because they are closed on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  Anyhow, I'll be posting what REALLY happens in future days.

Friday was my dear littlest grandson's first birthday.  It was so awful that we couldn't be there, but fortunately he won't remember.  Happy Birthday, little Henry.  After his infusion, we drove to Knoxville again to pick up our "fixed" computer.  Along the drive, Brenda and Larry invited us to dinner for Tortilla Soup which was Delicious with a capital D.  We hung out there for a little while, but Gary was yawning, so we called it a night around nine-thirty. 

Saturday:  me CG office and Gary to the Dragon Tail once again to return the 3XL shirt he bought by mistake for a L.  Here are a couple of pictures he took "on the fly":

 The leaves were really beautiful this time down the Dragon's Tail.  Donna and Ron still want to do this, so we may be down this road again! 

Today, Sunday the 23rd, was my last day working at Dollywood.  I was supposed to work 12-5, but they called me off at 4 pm.  I hugged everyone and said that we'd be by as guests next time we saw them.  I loved working with these people.  And I can't believe another six months of our fulltiming has flown by so fast!  You know the old saying:  Time flies when you're having fun!  It's true, it's true. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Little Work and Some Dear Friends

The weather is supposed to turn rainy due to a tropical thing coming up from the southeast for the next few days.  While I was at work at the CG Office, it was breezy enough for me to call Gary at our coach to find out if he had put the awning in yet.  He told me that not even the little flags were moving.  Huh, I guess we're very protected tucked back between the mountains. 

Only fifteen rigs came in today, but the best arrivals were Terri and John Shea and Terri's sister, Cherrilynn ('scuse the spelling) and her husband, Wayne.  We had met John on the Myakka River in Florida in our respective kayaks.  The Myakka is not for the faint of heart.  There are alligators LINING the banks only 10 feet away from your boat in some places.  This was our maiden voyage back in 2009 in our inflatable SeaEagle kayak.  As we were getting further down river, and more and more uncomfortable we heard voices behind us.  Two men in hard kayaks were gaining on us and we slowed to let them catch up.  It was John and a friend of his nearing the end of their journey.  John noticed the branding on our kayak, asked about it, and when we told him that we discovered it on a blog called RV-Dreams, he said he read that very blog as well.  He and his wife were counting down to fulltiming, and planning to attend the RV-Dreams Rally in Longs, SC that spring.  Well, we were planning to make that our first stop on our fulltiming adventure.  So with promises to see eachother in a couple of months, we ended our journey on the Myakka.

That first meeting seemed like such a long time ago, and we've met twice at subsequent RV-Dreams rallies.  They are now living in their fifth wheel on friend's property in Sebring, Florida heading towards retirement so they can move around Florida but still be close to an aunt for a while.  They are so excited to travel the country. 

However, they are on vacation this week, and we had dinner with all of them last night at the Smokey Mountain Brewery for half-price pizza night.  Terri and I shared the veggie pizza, and the rest of the crew had the Baker's choice:  lots of everything.  We talked a couple hours about how we met again and how excited they are to hit the road fulltime.  We left in the rain, and headed home.

Earlier that day we decided to investigate Newfound Gap Road, even though it was promising rain.  The trees at the bottom of the mountain were pretty green, but we climbed and climbed to more and more beautiful colors:

A shot of the two chimneys.  There's a trail to these that we will take later in better weather.

We went through four of these tunnels.  Look at the guy who came out of one!

Get ready to see some beautiful leaves:

Ever see a road sign like this???  It was a road that wound around in a complete circle going down about 300' in elevation to the top where it straightened out somewhat. 

We finally made it up to the state line at 5046 feet in the clouds.  It was also 47 degrees and as you can see we couldn't see much. 

During the 1930s, President Roosevelt created the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) to help lift the nation out of depression.  Over 4000 men worked in the Smokies building roads, trails, campgrounds and buildings.  The Rockefeller Memorial, Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Park Headquarters near Gatlinburg are all enduring examples of the work of the CCC stonemasons.
Around a corner there was a small bear jam.  These cute little guys were right next to the road - very obliging, don't you think? 

We didn't even have to get out of the Jeep to get shots, but it scares me that people get out of their cars and get that close to cubs when they are not looking out for mama. Several people were doing just that.

My favorite shot of the day:

It had really started to rain a gentle rain, so we headed home with our bliss renewed.

This morning we were going to Dollywood with Donna, Ron, their daughter, Erin and her two daughters, Natalie and Megan.  It was very cloudy, but promised no rain.  We covered the whole park, ate at a couple places, visited The Sweet Shoppe and tried all the major rides.  I also found out that I was working this Sunday and the next Sunday.  Yay.

After dinner, we rode over to Cirque de Chine to use our passes to get Erin and the girls in to see the show.  I sure hope they get to see the finale that we saw last June.  All of Ron and Donna's company will be leaving tomorrow.  Also tomorrow, Gary gets his port surgery done at noon.  Hopefully all will go well.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pumpkins Galore

Friday I felt lazy, so slept in while Gary ran off to have his labs done at 7:45 am.  When he returned, he was hungry (of course) so we drove off to find food.  But it was lunch time by the time we got our rears in gear, and that was perfect, because we had wanted to try to have lunch at J.T. Hannah's, a new restaurant.  We settled on the chicken/steak combo fajitas (which we shared) and they were really good.  We continued on to Gatlinburg, but stopped before town at the liquor store for some wine.  Pigeon Forge does not have liquor stores, but you can buy beer in the grocery store, not wine and only get drinks at a restaurant.  Each restaurant has its own rules, and may not have mixed drinks, just beer and/or wine.  Strange around here.  Here we are (with iced tea).

I am impressed with the fall decorations around here.  They really go all out, so I wanted to give you an idea of the number of pumpkins, gourds and cornstalk bundles decking out the town AND our campground!

That's one BIG pumpkin - I wonder where they store that out of season?  Our campground is decorated nicely, too, considering the guys did it. (lol)

This evening we saw Cirque de Chine which was the second time for us, but the first time for Dixie and Willis.  Dixie sat next to me, and continued to gasp and grab the handles of her seat.  Some of the unbelievable contortions these young Chinese did could actually make you wince.  The finale was cancelled because of a previous accident.  The first time we went we remember sitting in disbelief as 6, yes 6, motorcyclists drove around and around in a mesh ball barely missing eachother.  We hope the 'accident' only involved hurting the motorcycles, not the performers.  Once again, we walked out truly amazed, and wondered if the physical strain on their young bodies would plague them later in life, or actually improve their physical wellness. 

Saturday was a work day at the CG Office, and I checked in 18 rigs.  I still am not comfortable just driving into a campground and asking for a space.  I know lots of people always do that, but I'm one that always makes a reservation.  We don't drive too far and I check out the campground reviews beforehand, sometimes weeks before.  We might get to the point when we feel comfortable just driving generally in the direction we want to go, and find something along the way.  But not just yet.

Today is also a great memory day for me - it is my son's 25th birthday.  Happy Birthday, sweetie!  He is on his way back from his fall tour of the east coast with his band.  You can check out his music at

After work, Dixie had cooked up hamburger stew and fresh cornbread.  We ate outside just as the moon was coming up over the mountain and three police cars and an ambulance arrived opposite our rig.  This is the same site where the ambulance had visited a couple months ago when the daughter had been choking.  I don't know what happened, but they gradually left with no flashing lights, so I guess all was well in the end. 

We hung out in Willis and Dixie's fiver talking about our upcoming trip to Texas until we called it a night.  It's very chilly at night, but warms up to upper 70s and low 80s.  Perfect Indian summer weather. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Power Port and Pigs

Wednesday morning was our appointment with Dr. Parnell regarding Gary's new installation - his Power Port!  Sounds kinda sci-fi transformerish, no?  Well, it will help with input and output so that surgery will happen next Thursday with his regular infusion happening on Friday.  Business as usual.  Cellulitis is very painful, but he is looking sooo much better!  Just a bump in the road.

It was our turn to do dinner.  Gary grilled a couple of pork loins and I threw together some tortellini, roasted butternut squash and poured some Alfredo sauce over it all.  Yummy.  Then we headed over to Memories Theater to see impersonators of famous singers.  Tonight it was Elvis, Willie Nelson, Rod Stewart and Patsy Cline.  I loved Rod Stewart's performance.  I don't know if Rod Stewart is really that personable on stage, but this guy was really interacting with the audience.  After the show it was too late to do anything else, so off to beddy-bye.

Thursday promised to be a beautiful day in the upper 80s, but with a chilly start.  While Ron was having his checkup appointment we did a little cleaning.  Then we all got together and headed to my favorite place:  Cades Cove for a picnic and to see what we could see.

It was a gorgeous drive, and a little busy, but that was expected.  We drove almost half the 11 mile loop, and stopped for lunch with this view:

Leaves are beginning to turn

Here we are enjoying pimento cheese sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies, thanks to Dixie!

We made it half way round the loop and stopped at the visitor center to walk around.  Donna got some medallions for her walking stick and Gary took some artistic shots. 

Getting back in the car, we were crossing a bridge and a young lady pointed behind us and said "Bear!"  We stopped and watched a mama and two cubs trot through the woods towards the creek.  There was a gentleman fly fishing 10 yards from the direction the bears were heading, so she alerted him.  He kept on fishing, and the bears ran right by.  Nerves of steel, I guess.  If you look real hard, you might see a black dot, and you'll have to trust me that it is a black bear. 

I wanted to see the Cades Cove campground where Donna and Ron took their kids on vacation every summer.  But first we had icecream outside the campground store with a dozen others. 
The trees were really turning at this elevation, and as we drove through Loop B, we noticed this little one oblivious to all the commotion around him. 

We continued our drive around the Cades Cove loop and passed my favorite homestead, the Dan Lawson house.  This was the view they woke up to every morning.  At least in the autumn.  It probably looks a lot different in the winter.  But I would love to see this vista from my warm, heated cabin for a part of my life.  Never knew the Smokies would hold such a spell over me.

Nearing the end of our drive, I spotted what I thought was a bear, but when Gary looked through his binoculars, he discovered it was a wild pig!  Wow, that sucker was huge!  Didn't get a shot of him though...

Back at the campground we relaxed a little before dinner: French dip sandwiches which had been cooking all day in Donna's crockpot.  Yummy.  Then we hung out at our place with a campfire and various people stopping by, including Brenda and Larry whom we could not convince to stay awhile. 

It started getting too chilly to stay out without blankets and heaters (haha) so after our hot chocolate, we separated into our cozy homes for a good night's sleep.  Tomorrow is another beautiful day in Pigeon Forge!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Getting Cooooooooler!

The temperature dropped last night, but the winds never picked up even though we had our awning rolled up tight.  An ounce of prevention never hurts.

I worked all day at the campground office, had lunch there with my sweetie, people came and went, and then I went home to a surprise dinner of corned beef and cabbage my honey had prepared.  Oh, my, gosh!  Delicious!  Thanks, honey!

Sunday I got to go back to Dollywood to work!  I didn't know what I was going to do when I got there, but I was very excited to see everyone again.  I was assigned to the Pines Theatre for concessions.  That was my first time there.  Just before the three shows begin, we make fresh popcorn enticing noses to come our way.  I worked the register, then walked over to sausage to relieve a worker for their lunch break.  The high today was 64.  Very pleasant if you're from the north.  On the way there, Donna called and asked if I could get lunch at 3 so we could go together to use our passes to purchase tickets to Dixie Stampede for her daughter and two granddaughters.  I was a little late, but we got all the tickets.  Then I met Betsy, who was waiting for her husband to finish work, and we walked over to the quilting bee.  I left her there to work on the community quilt and walked up to the Grist Mill to purchase some Popcorn Grits on her recommendation.  They had a bag and it was a great price with my discount - Gary will love them (southern boy that he is)!

When I got home, he was complaining of a swelling and extreme tenderness on his left wrist, left shoulder and right tricep.  What???  The wrist and tricep were sites of injections, but his shoulder left me perplexed.  We were a little concerned about blood clots.  But, of course, it was Sunday, so he stuck it out. 

Monday I worked at the campground office, and he hobbled in with the laundry.  Undecided as to whether to call the Dr. or see if it got better, in the end he waited.  Big mistake.

One-thirty in the morning he wakes up in severe pain and is now scared.  He calls the Dr. and she assures him that it isn't blood clots.  He goes right back to sleep, and I lay awake for an hour. 
Tuesday morning, and he puts in another call to the office.   Off we go, and the diagnosis is:  cellulitis. According to Wikipedia, cellulitis is a diffuse inflammation of connective tissue with severe inflammation of dermal and subcutaneous layers of the skin. Cellulitis can be caused by normal skin flora or by exogenous bacteria, and often occurs where the skin has previously been broken: cracks in the skin, cuts, blisters, burns, insect bites, surgical wounds, intravenous drug injection or sites of  intravenous catheter insertion. So. there we are.   Intraveneous antibiotic for an hour, a prescription, and we're outta there.  They did suggest he get a port, and tomorrow we have an appointment with a surgeon to discuss that.  Oh, joy.

Meanwhile, he was tucked up in bed, soup and sandwich was administered with lots of kisses, and promises of feeling better tomorrow.  Hopefully we'll get a better night's sleep tonight. 

Donna did some BBQ chicken for dinner, and then we piled in Willis' truck and drove to Gatlinburg for the 8 o'clock performance at the Sweet Fanny Adams theatre.  The best part of the show was the "Silent Movie Director" who chose people in the audience by placing hats on their heads and bringing them up on stage.  Everyone chosen really got into the act, and it was hysterical.  The rest of the show was eh.

It was getting chilly and we chose to opt out of a banana split at Mel's Diner.  We said our goodnights to all and headed inside to cozy up together.  Nite!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fried Chicken and Birthday Cupcakes

Gary needed to get his third shot of Neupogen, so after that we stopped at JoAnne's so I could check out some fabric for the windows.  I decided exactly what I wanted to do, but needed some more measurements.  Gary waited for me at Books A Million, and we browsed there for forty-five minutes.  We got home and ate some lunch then I brought over the Navajo blanket my parents had bought many years ago for Donna to put some holes in it.  What I was planning to do with it was use it on the back seat of our Jeep as a seat cover (the previous owners had been smokers and there were many burn holes in the upholstery).  It fit perfectly, but needed holes for the seat belts to come up through.  With a little calculation, she used her fabulous Husqvarna to sew two large buttonholes that fit the buckles perfectly.  Gary and I tucked it in all around the edges, pulled the belts up through the holes and wha-la!  (I would have taken a photo, but it got cold overnight and he put the top back up).

Today was Donna's birthdy (no, I'm not telling) so we had a birthday dinner of Dixie's fried chicken, field peas, tomatoes and mashed potatoes. 

Oh, I almost forgot the gravy!

Happy Campers!

Happy Birthday, Donna!

We hung out at Dixie and Willis's fifth wheel for a while enjoying the last of the sun's warmth and then Ron wanted to go in, and Gary was pooped, so we said our goodnights.

Today was chemo day, but it was just warm enough to leave the windows down and put the heater on in the Jeep.  It is supposed to go down to 38 on Sunday night ---brrrrr. 

We asked if we were to see the Dr. today, but no, the PA told Gary that his white count was up appreciably and they were ready to give him the juice.  Perhaps we will find out next time how many more weeks we will be here in Pigeon Forge. 

It got cloudier and cloudier and there is a wind warning for tonight for gusts up to 25 mph.  You know our awning will be tucked up safely before we hit the sack.

Till tomorrow!