Monday, June 18, 2007

I *heart* summer.....

Once again, I'm behind in my blogging duties, so I'll do a bit of catching up. I went to Pigeon Forge on June 1, and Mom and Dad took me to Dollywood on one of their guest passes. As soon as we went in the gate, we went up the hill to "The Thunderhead", Dollywood's terrific wooden roller coaster. The line was short, because most guests were headed further up the hill to this season's newest roller coaster. I loved Thunderhead; there's nothing quite like the sound and feel of a wooden roller coaster!

When I came off Thunderhead, Daddy asked if I was going to ride the new coaster, the Mystery Mine. I hadn't really planned to, to tell the truth, but I said we could walk up there and see how long the line was. As we walked up, we saw one carload of passengers finishing up their ride. They appeared to be suspended upside down! Mom said, "You're not really going to ride that, are you?" I just laughed and said, "Oh, yeah!" The line wasn't very long, and they were moving passengers through quickly. It was a really great coaster. I'd had to remove my glasses, so I'm sure I missed a lot of the scary special effects (eyes glowing in the dark, etc.), but the ride was worth it all the same.

We saw a few shows, had lunch at the Backstage Restaurant (I had the always-delicious chicken salad and fresh fruit platter), and I left the park with a bucket of my favorite snack, kettle corn. All in all, a wonderful day.

The next weekend, I unfortunately lost Friday and Saturday to a migraine. *ick* At least it didn't happen on a weekend that I'd planned a mini-trip!

Last Friday morning, MeggieDog and I went back to Natural Tunnel for the weekend. It was pretty warm and humid while I was setting up camp, the usual precursor to a thunderstorm. Sure enough, a storm swept through late that afternoon. Hard rain and lots of thunder and lightning. Meg was NOT pleased, but we passed the storm curled up in the tent. I read while she shuddered at thunder and dozed intermittently. After the storm passed, we had a bit of supper and watched the world go by. A rather unruly group of young children was camped beside us. I learned that they were a Vacation Bible School class....oh boy, were they something!

Friday evening there was a "welcome campfire" with entertainment provided by a wonderful young man, Stewart, who is a volunteer at the park. He played guitar and banjo (has never had a lesson) and sings really well. I was really happy to hear that he is a Johnny Hartford devotee; he played several Hartford tunes for me when I told him I was a fan, too. He sang Hartford's touching "In Tall Buildings", which always breaks my heart a little. He did "Gentle On My Mind" at my request. It did me so much good to know that an 18-year-old knows and respects the work of a late, great musical genius.

After the campfire group broke up (a little after 10:00), we went back to the campsite and settled down for the night. Unfortunately, the VBS kids were still carrying on at 12:30! I thought, "Oh well, I'll just sleep in tomorrow morning." Fat chance. They were out shrieking and playing the campground at 6:00 Saturday morning. (Apparently, the grownups "supervising" them had no respect whatsoever for the "quiet time" hours of 10:00 pm to 8:00 am!!)

The chairlift at Natural Tunnel begins running at 10:00 am. I'd bought a season pass during my last visit, so Meg and I went down to the Tunnel. She was a little uneasy the first time I had her on the chairlift in May, but now she really enjoys it. Her favorite thing is when someone happens to be walking on the trail that crosses beneath the chairlift in a couple of places. She looks down at them, curious about how they got down there.

We were lucky enough to be at the Tunnel entrance when a coal train passed through. I got a few photos, and remembered to count the coal cars. I counted 94; I was more impressed than Meggie. (She doesn't like the train; too big, too noisy!).

Tony Scales came to the platform and set up a table. He was selling autographed copies of his book, Natural Tunnel: Nature's Marvel in Stone. I explained to him that I hadn't brought any cash, but would go to the parking lot and be right back. We took the chairlift back up to the parking lot, got some money, and took the chairlift back down to buy a book. (Meg had a little trouble understanding two chairlift trips so close together, but enjoyed the ride all the same.) The book is lovely, informative, well-written, and packed with wonderful photographs. I talked with Mr. Scales for a bit and told him that I'd been at the campfire the night before and enjoyed the talents of his son, Stewart. He said he's very proud of Stewart; I told him he certainly seems to be a fine young man. He told me that he and Stewart are going to provide the musical entertainment for the "Lighting of the Tunnel" on July 7. I'm certainly going to try to go back for that.

It was getting pretty warm by the time we got back to the parking lot again, so I decided to treat myself to an air-conditioned drive to Duffield (only 5 miles or so away) to Hardee's for a mushroom/swiss burger for lunch. I took my lunch up to an overlook just up on Powell Mountain out of Duffield and parked to eat my burger. I called and talked to Daddy for a few minutes while I was there to let him know all was going well. (I don't have cellular service at the park.)

We took a scenic out-of-the-way route back to the campground, then pulled a lounge chair under a shade tree for an afternoon of restful reading. I had thought about going on a night hike that was going to be led that evening. However, when I saw the little VBS hooligans headed up to the gathering point, I decided I'd stay in the campground for some much-enjoyed quiet time under the stars.

Yesterday morning, I began packing things up soon after breakfast so I could take breaks as needed. It was really hot, so I was careful (I thought) to take my time and cool down. After I left the park (just past noon), I called Mom and Dad to let them know I'd be stopping by for a bit on my way home. I stopped at Pal's for a small sandwich and one of their famous delicious ice teas. Apparently, the heat had bothered me more than I realized, because I started feeling a bit ill while munching on the sandwich. I developed a mild case of the shakes (common when my glucose level falls below normal). I called Mom again and asked if she'd fix me a glass of grapefruit juice. She had it ready when I arrived. I sipped it slowly and soon felt fine again.

I visited for awhile and got home about 4:00; I was tired, but it had been a good weekend. Meg immediately climbed up into the recliner and pretty much stayed there until bedtime. Not a bad plan, actually. *LOL*

I confess that I'm going to leave my bed unmade this morning when I go to work. I just don't have the heart to make her get out of it. She enjoys the camping trips, but she likes to get back to her air-conditioned apartment when it's over!

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