The ol' ball and chain. My better half. My significant other. One flesh. The happy couple.
I'll spare you the details of my honeymoon, which I am tempted to line up and parade out in front of acquaintances who word queries on my wellbeing, "how was your honeymoon?" but I thought you'd enjoy a few word pictures from our travels to the great Smoky Mountains, or, as I insisted on calling them, the Misty Mountains, thank you Bilbo Baggins.
A major piece of advice to anyone unmarried: if you are doing a lot of your own labor on your wedding, like making your own bouquets (which we did) or decorating your own reception hall (which we did), plan a low maintenance honeymoon. It's bless-ed. A honeymoon within driving distance means: no lost luggage at an airport; no delayed or cancelled flights; a chance on the drive to debrief and unwind and compare notes on the previous days; and less expense.
Blue Mountain Mist Inn and Cottages made our stay blissful(http://bluemountainmist.com/). A laden breakfast basket was delivered to our cottage every morning, tucked with juice, biscuits, sausage gravy, French toast, fruit, and other delectable trimmings. A fireplace warmed our toes, and the ample movie library kept us entertained, as did the 2,000 piece Van Gogh puzzle that was more of an intimidating undertaking than I expected. Had the season been different, we could have enjoyed the rocking chairs on the back porch overlooking grand, hooded peaks in the distance, or the grill and picnic table nestled under the trees.
A few minutes away, Pigeon Forge (the Vegas of Appalachia) and Gatlinburg (the Smoky Mountain counterpart to Frankenmuth, Michigan) attracted all kinds of tourists. All kinds. Pigeon Forge has things like Dollywood, Black Bear Show and Dinner, about three million pancake houses, and an Elvis museum. Gatlinburg has things like skiing, hiking, a Hard Rock Cafe, tons of charming antique stores and restaurants, and the Smoky Mountain National Forest.
In nearby Sevierville, we visited The World's Largest Knife Store. I didn't know A) how many knives there are in the world, and B) how many people like all those knives. John finally found the whittling knife his heart craved, and, after lusting for a few of the swords on display, settled on a couple throwing knives. You know, in case we ran into bars. That's right. Bars. One of the local store owners warned us of the black bars in the mountains. Don't worry. We didn't see any bars. We did, however, see a guy dressed up like Elvis chewing the fat with people at Smoky Mountain Knife Works.
We finally steeled ourselves to get out of the cabin and go hiking, so we drove the ascending curves into the mountains, wheeled around hairpin turns, and found a trail (to John's disappointment - he loves to hack his own trails). For the record, my muscles are still recuperating from that "hike". Ha! "Hike." Mountain climbing is more like it. To reach Chimney Tops, the first half of the trail is tame - water gushing below foot bridges, amiable paths gently steering upward. Then the trail says, "ha! I fool you!" and the mud, and the rock, and the harsh, harsh steepness begin. Well, steep for someone who has stayed inside all week watching movies and putting together a puzzle. And, well. You know. We made our way further up, and watched our running shoes get covered in mud, and wished for bottled water, and hiking boots.
Technically - technically - I did not climb the summit. There was a sheer rock face between me and the tip. But as I had muddy shoes, and little traction, and as I have a thing about edges, and living, I stopped maybe fifty feet shy of the narrow, protruding rock that some so optimistically called the "summit." I had a bird's eye view anyway, eye to eye with the mountaintops around me, valleys and gulleys scooped out from the landscape below. John went a bit further, decided he didn't want to die on his honeymoon, and came back to my welcoming arms. The hike down was, as always, so much easier. Round trip we climbed and descended about five miles worth of Smoky Mountain turf and drove, exhausted and hungry, to Johnny Carino's, where we sank down and let a waitress bring us lots of carbs and water. It's amusing - I always have a few moments on one of these adventures when, in misery and despair, I am certain I will die if I take one more step. I suppose it was like being on a stairstepper or elliptical machine at the gym for two hours. I always have a moment, or usually a series of moments, in which I know that This Will Be The End, a marker will stand by my last point reading "Here fell Elizabeth, the mountain beat her, and she was happy to roll over and let sheep nibble her ears away." But then, for some reason - and I'll never know exactly why - I keep going. Maybe it's because there's always someone with me at these moments. Maybe it's because I hate defeat. Maybe it's because I know, in my heart of hearts, that I want to get to the top more than I want to lay down and let sheep nibble at me. Whatever the case, I find myself drawing on past victories, or - what? something, and I Keep Going. At one resting spot to catch my breath, John asked me what I was doing. As it happened, I had a blank stare. But I was staring at a tree, willing myself to be under it, to get to it, to eliminate the distance between myself and it. So I responded, with what I hoped was an athletic air, "I'm visualizing." As in "visualizing the end zone" or "visualizing the green." Whatever it was, it helped. That, and pride. John's several years younger than me, and while I don't mind being the Older Woman, I don't want to be AN Older Woman.
I got my comeuppance in the end. The quick, jarring descent and low blood sugar left John slightly dizzy and with sharp pangs in his knees as we headed Down the Mountain. This time, my asthma was fine, so I steadied him, and got the opportunity to enjoy all the scenery I had missed on my grueling way up.
So shine on, Honey Moon, as we unpack suitcases and navigate around the mountains of cardboard boxes defining the landscape of our apartment. Sorting and unpacking are no picnic, but after Chimney Tops, it should be a piece of cake.
Speaking of which, anybody want some leftover wedding cake?