The drive from Dayton to Gatlinburg was pleasant.  The van kept doing the quitting thing, but it would start back on it’s own (really weird).  We think it might be some kind of loose wiring.  As much as we don’t want to believe it sometimes, I know driving through the creek reeks havoc on our vehicles.

Driving into Gatlinburg, John brought up that it is funny how we just ended up there almost exactly 10 years after going there on our honeymoon. 🙂  This time with two little girls in tow.  We were all excited as this part of the trip wasn’t in our original plans, but I decided to use my award money from the Gurney Norman Prize to take us there instead of putting the money on my credit card debt.  Don’t tell Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey.  I’d hate to hear what they’d have to say to me. 😉

It has amazed me every time I have been driven through Pigeon Forge.  I remember it as a kid and I felt the exact same way this time – just wow!  John and I both decided after this trip that we would like to have enough money just one time to go and do everything there that interests us.  I love Dolly Parton, too.  I’d like to see her in concert.

The drive into Gatlinburg is pretty.  They knew what they were doing planning that one.  It sets the mood.  We stopped the van at the park and ride and rode the trolley – standing room only- to the Ripley’s Aquarium.  Deladis loved that.  A train on wheels!

The line at the ticket counter was practically non-existent and in no time, we were in and on the tour.  We had visited the Newport Aquarium several times, but hadn’t gotten to it in awhile.  Deladis has always been fascinated with fish and underwater life.  She used to call fish “swishy-we”, because that is what they say as they swim.  My sweet girl is growing up so fast.  Now her funny sayings are more like this:  “Mommy, what is her name?” Deladis says.  I say, “Verushka.”  “I don’t think she’s from around here,” Deladis says.  This coming from a child with the name “Deladis”… and where in the world did she get that.

The aquarium was set up beautifully.  At the beginning, you walk under a waterfall.  Ivy saw the fish and called them “goggie” of course.  To Ivy, everything is either a dog or a cookie.  Deladis spent ample time at each exhibit.

Coral Reef

Coral Reef

It was hard for me to get pictures inside because the lights were low and most of the exhibits were lit with varying luminosity.  I got a few good ones.  Ivy wanted to pet the fish.

"Goggie"

"Goggie"

I really wish I could have gotten pictures in the moving shark tunnel.  They had plenty of sharks, and the girls loved it when they swam passed and over top of us.  It was a great thing to see.  In a large exhibit area, we got to see a diver feeding the rays.  That was a big hit with Deladis.  Ivy was more interested in socializing and trying to drink from other babies’ sipper cups.

I think the girls had the most fun in the Discovery Zone, where it was free play all the way.

Ahoy Captain

Ahoy Captain

Dream Come True

Dream Come True

The neatest thing they had there were tanks with puffers and sea horses that you could crawl under and stick your head up in the middle of.  They made Deladis’s day.  There was also a tree that you could crawl through for “in the dark” exhibit.  It was obvious after getting inside that it was not meant for adults.

My only qualm with the whole thing was we paid $50 for it to end way too soon.  We kept thinking there had to be more.  At the end of the walk, Deladis tried to pet some rays, but her little arms couldn’t reach.

We left the aquarium and found food for the four of us for $16.00 at Shoney’s on the main drag!  I was pleased, and we all found enough food that we felt fit our needs.  We walked in the rain back to the trolley stop and had to bum money to get back to the van on the trolley, after no one had change for a $50.  Some bikers gave us the money.  Thank God for bikers. 🙂

We headed out of town.  John called our friend Joe about the van.  It was decided, when we were passing US 23, that John would take us on home and go to Mt. Airy alone.  He didn’t want to risk us camping in rain, or getting stranded on the highway in the van.  He wanted another night in a bed.  I was okay with it, but really hated to miss out.  It meant he would be gone on our milestone anniversary, but so goes life.

With that, we were on our way home in quiet, tired rain.  Gray clouds covered like a blanket.  And the feeling of an end consumed me with relief and dread.  Arizona surely felt that way on going to Kentucky.  It was an unknown and she and her husband were taking a chance.  I wonder if she could have known in any small way how much it is  home to me – her offspring.  It felt wonderful to see the my mountains again.

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