It was time to take Ben to the whitewater kayaking camp in the foothills of North Carolina. He was ambivalent; he wanted to spend every minute with his friends, but he acquiesced. (Acquiesced. I would kill to go to this camp! Zen, Birdie, zen.)
He and I drove down to Knoxville for the night. Ben “claimed” the hotel room TV and I spent the evening with my online blogger friends. Nice night. We were heading for a stop with my parents at their rental house in Highlands, NC. They’ve been doing this every July for twenty years, inviting all of the kids to join them. It’s one of my favorite times of the year.
The next day we drove through Pigeon Forge, Tennessee before going through Smoky Mountain National Park. Pigeon Forge is a commercial tribute to the blue collar Christian; not being completely a part of that particular demographic, I felt like an outsider there. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but notice how happy everyone was to be there. They were having a good time.
Our family has had a tradition the past several years of hitting a go-kart track as we pass through Pigeon Forge. We tried a woodie—a wide wooden track that goes in spirals, curves, and hills—years ago and had a great time. But Abe, being the World’s Most Careful Man, decided that it was safer to go on the asphalt tracks and insisted we do that the past couple of years. *Yawn*
But Abe wasn’t here this time. At Ben’s suggestion, I called Abe and told him Ben was eying the slingshot ride that flings its victims into the air, screaming while strapped to a flimsy frame on large bungee cords. Abe practically begged me not to let him do that. So I said, “Well, then we’ll go go-karting instead.” It’s all about perspective.
He said, “Promise me you won’t go on a woodie.”
I said, “Let’s see. You’re there. I’m here. I’ll think about that and get back to you.”
We had a blast on a huge wooden track (above), made bumpy over the years by karts careening around the spirals and taking air at the top. Whoo-hoo! I was sore from holding the steering wheel steady as I took the downward spiral without spinning out. I managed to pass the only kart in front of me; but it would have been more fun to have a few more karts to wrangle with. Ben complained that he had a “slow kart,” but he admitted it was great anyway.
Ben drove our car up the mountain in the national park and I drove down. We stopped, as always, at the top of Newfound Gap for the view. Smoky mountains, indeed, layered in varying shades of blue-gray haze fading in the distance. The undergrowth in the park is mostly rhododendrens, in full flower right now. This is when I regret having no photography skills. The scenery was spectacular and I found it impossible to catch it adequately in a frame.
We pulled into Highlands, a tiny upscale town 4,000 ft. up, in time for dinner. The only place to pull in a WiFi signal in the evening is an ice cream parlor, so we went there for dessert while I checked in online with work and friends. I was forced to get chocolate ice cream with Butterfinger mix-ins in order to get online. I suffer for my Internet.