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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.



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.

Day Six:

We started today by heading up the mountain on Dayton Mt. Hwy. to Walden’s Ridge.  Downtown Dayton was small and filled with a few cafes and some quirky shops.  The mountain began right on the outskirts of town.

About halfway up the mountain, the van quit.  John got out and checked things.  We were a little low on oil, so we coasted down the mountain to the next gas station.  John filled the oil tank, and the van started back up – not an oil problem.  Who knows what now?

We had no idea what we would find on the ridge.  I had some house numbers, but no road names.  Upon reaching the top it was obvious we wouldn’t be finding the house where Arizona lived with her husband.  We went up a road bearing their last name, a popular name in the area.  I took a picture of a house #294, which was on the road and looked older.


I have no idea if this was the vicinity where they lived or not.  The ridge is a large residential area and was when Arizona lived there from what I have learned.  It is amazing what can exist on a mountaintop.

Many moved to the ridge for health reasons for it was rumored that the air and water there was pure.  Arizona’s youngest brother was brought to the ridge for tuberculosis treatment.  Mostly, we saw small cattle farms.  The ridge was the picture of country.  It was a slow moving place.  Arizona’s husband didn’t farm, but worked for the Dayton Coal and Iron Company.  I read later that most of the farmer’s on the ridge grew strawberries.  Dayton has an annual Strawberry Festival.

After looking through the graves of two cemeteries, and watching Deladis sniff all the new plastic and silk Memorial Day flowers on them, I decided my best choice would be to see what the town library had in its special collections.  In the library, I found Arizona with her husband in the 1910 census and some basic historic information for the period.  Most of the information was on the coal and iron industry.  I didn’t find much at all on Walden’s Ridge.  No one I asked could provided me with more information than I was able to find.  The ridge is going to be elusive.

Ivy gave John a run for his money while I researched.  She climbed on top of a table while he tried to read to Deladis.  Ivy cried when he tried to corral her.  I had to end my looking before I was really ready, but not before I found a corn meal/peanut butter biscuit recipe from WWI days – wheat free!

We decided the girls needed rest and a chance to play, so we went back to the hotel to eat.  A train travels by the hotel several times day and night – a throwback to the coal and iron days.  Since the meal at Ruby Tuesday we’re eating out of the cooler for all of our meals.  More than likely the rest of the week.

This evening, we took the girls to a cute little park and they played until their hair was wet with sweat and their faces were blood red.  It is still in the 90s temperature wise.  I’m starting to feel guilty myself for only being able to formally exercise twice since we left.  Now, I’m short on patience and exhausted.  I think I have enough to work with for the novel.  I have the names of a few people here who might can help me fill in the gaps later – one is a man from the town historical society.

On the way to the park, the van quit again.  Tomorrow we are leaving for Mt. Airy, NC and stopping in Gatlinburg, TN to take the girls to the Ripley’s Aquarium.  That’s a five hour trip, so the stop in Gatlinburg will be good.  I hope we make it.  This will be the last night with a shower, indoor toilet, and bed until Sunday.

The trip is winding down.  There is always that loss of the rush of anticipation.  Arizona left the ridge with the coal and iron bust that happened here around 1913.  They moved to Kentucky to find work in the mines for her husband.  Completion of a journey that made her never feel settled.  I remember the letter Mamaw shared with me.  A farm in Ohio was on her mind.

I hope the changing gears is refreshing with no more van trouble.  I want the girls to see the Aquarium.


About Me

An Appalachian woman born and raised, mothering two little girls in a place that is non-existent to AT&T or UPS. Happily working toward a sustainable lifestyle and writing on the demand of a loud muse.

June 2023

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