Saturday, June 19, 2010

White Trash Vacation

“Where are we going mama? To the mountains—with your cousins Jimmy and Fran and Aunt Mildred”. Okey doke…as if I had a choice and any trip with my one year older Cousin Jimmy would be fun.
I remain a fan of brow high and low and like many of you, I’ve been blessed with opportunities to experience things elegant and intriguing—literally bumping in to Marissa Berenson at the Ritz in Paris immediately comes to mind. 
But I also relish with equal enthusiasm Albert G’s barbecue joint in Tulsa Oklahoma whose locale is a former gas station. I sat in what was an oil change bay while enjoying their version of the hallowed pig.
My mother says that everything in my life happened when I was four. I counter her silliness with the fact that my memories are most vivid beginning at said age and indeed, the summer of my fourth year saw us embark on a vacation week that to this day, rivets my memory with what was possibly the most fun I EVER had as a child. Butcept maybe when Roxanne Burgess and I played “doctor” at recess one time—in the eleventh grade.
So we piled in to my mama’s station wagon—air conditioning wide a_s open and four kids cousins…brother and sister squared … fighting like cats and dogs. My mama drove a serial line up of wood paneled station wagons for twenty five years. We embarked on our Smokey mountain jaunt in a wagon that was similar to the car pictured at the masthead of this drivel. I can see my mama right now, switching her Tareyton 100’s cig from one hand to the other so that she could use her best hand to reach back and slap my aggravating little self into a vertigoid state for messing with my sister. My sis would be about seven at this time. I hated her—she hated me.
These kids might be a bit older than me when I made the Smokey Mountain Pilgrimage but the era seems about right. Brother-sister-cousins-bookends...that harassed and harangued each other constantly.
Maps? Itineraries? Nope. We were just headed to “the mountains” whatever that meant. I’d never seen actual mountains. And through four year old eyes, the Smokies…older, smoother and less jagged…more undulating and rolling than their younger arrogant Rocky Mountain cousins, were mind blowing for me. My vivid imagination already had Daniel Boone and Mingo…Fess Parker and Ed Ames…waiting on me somewhere up in the hills of our destination.
I’m thinking that our first stop was somewhere near Brevard because I can still feel the icy waters of Sliding Rock. I can also remember standing out in front of a little cabin…certainly it was one of the motor lodges that hosted our stay…and not being able to see the blue sky when looking up.
I can’t assemble words to explain this but my little neck wasn’t craning enough to see beyond the surrounding mountains and I was flipping out—in a good way. All I could see was green when I looked up and I talked about it all night. For all I knew we were on another planet—actually planet North Carolina—about four hours from home. I rested well that night...knowing that I'd need all of my energy to conquer our first tourist trap of the next morning. Tweetsie Railroad.
Tweetsie Railroad tested all of my mettle as a young frontiersman. The formulaic showdown would be repeated at Ghost Town in the Sky as well as at Frontier Land. I loved each redundant display and my mom was only too happy to endure a stop at each ersatz Western xenophobic kill the Indians and bad guys tourist trap.
But the train robbery on Tweetsie Railroad almost did me in. I was screaming and hollering and burying my head in my mama’s lap while looking up every second or so to see if I needed to defend the life and honor of same said woman. Good thing I didn’t because ultimately, I buried my little head so far inside her big ass vinyl pocketbook—literally ostriching my crew cut noggin in there amongst her little packets of Kleenex, Tareyton 100’s, a huge tube of red lipstick and other mama supplies. She coulda just zipped my head up in there. And I can remember—it was prolly ninety-five degrees outside—and it must have been four hundred degrees inside the sanctuarial recesses of that pocketbook. I was awash in a combination of four year old little boy sweat and tears but felt marginally safer in there. Back in the car, I recounted a different story involving my conduct during the raid but was immediately branded a coward by my cousin Jimmy. It was ok. We had five more days.
I think Frontier Land was next. Not to be confused with Frontier Land at Disneyland. This contrivance was a bit more down-market. I like to recall it as being, shall we say, more granular.
And granular it was as we stood up on the walls of the fort and watched the ensuing massacre. Kinda like watching a cock or dog fight I suppose. Can you imagine the outcries of a dozen human rights and civil liberties groups if the same campy version of this stuff prevailed today? God I love my childhood memories.
And another interesting commonality comes to mind—the chair lift. I suppose that a bunch of southern flatlanders got a kick out riding these things to whatever not too far away destination it delivered us—because every one of these places had one. I was scared—real scared. I didn’t bury my head in my mama’s pocketbook but I clenched that mutha with a strong grip—of the lions paw.
The Ghost Town in the Sky chairlift delivered us guessed it...another Bonanza movie set just begging for a shootout.
The next night my mama wanted to see some play about the Cherokee Nation’s displacement…the whole Trail of Tears thang and of course, I had to go. I wore my new coonskin cap that I got at Frontier Land. It was an orlon-dacron-whatever “__on” synthetic coon fur rig that I think, had been glued to leftover bathing caps. It coulda been three below while wearing my Crocket-Boon lid and my little head woulda still been sweating. Jimmy got one too.
I don’t think mine was as nice as this fella’s but that’s ok—my ears weren’t as big as his either. My sister yanked the tail off on about day four.There’s just something about a coonskin cap without the tail that shouts nerd and I was heartbroken. Till my mama reached inside that big ole vinyl pocketbook of hers—this was not a purse—and with safety pin in hand—put me back in coonskin cap business. 
I didn’t like Unto These Hills but I allowed all of us to go because mama wanted to see it. And after all, she was financing this entire boondoggle. Well my dad was actually financing it and you can best believe he took a big ole pass on joining us for these trips.
Ruby Falls was chilly down in the bowels. Stalactites and stalagmites? Who gives a sh_t? Let’s go back to the motor lodge and swim.
Rock City saw my next tchotchke acquisition. To this day I’m a sucker for a touristy-campy-resort junk shop. Jimmy and I got a canteen in a pouch. Labeled “Rock City Firewater”. 
Identical to this one I found on eBay. Probably came from the same vendor…just different branding. 
I put Kickapoo Joy Juice in mine—and it got all sticky with the sugar and such. Jimmy’s fell from his hands as we walked along one of the treacherous bridges at Rock City. My sister offered to scale down the ravine and fetch it. My mama vetoed it and Jimmy got another one when we went back through the gift shop. They were probably a dollar.
Incline Railway was a must do. I won’t retell the ostrich in vinyl pocketbook sand story again. Suffice it to say that my head was interred just as deep during this absurd defiance of gravity.
Then we finally hit the big city. Nashville. And we stayed in a hotel for the first time on this sortie. Until now we’d stayed in those quaint little roadside motels. I prefer to call them motor courts ‘cause back then—honorable middle class people were their carriage. Not the “by the hour” Third Rate Romance clientele that South Asian entrepreneurs today rely so heavily on to stay in business. This might have been the first time I had room service.
Why Nashville? My mama’s boyfriend was performing at the Mother Church—the Ryman Auditorium and she was gonna see him come hell or high water. Johnny Cash performed and for all of the vivid memories I’ve shared in this tale so far, I can say unequivocally that I don’t remember a damn thing about that night regarding the Opry performers. 
All I remember is that it was hot in there. They gave us paper fans with wooden stick handles—surely they’d be worth something today. Seems like they had a picture of the Ryman and a picture of Jesus on them. I could be mixing up the funeral home paper fans with the Opry ones. Who knows. I was four. 
I also remember the pews—you sat on pews in the Ryman and I can remember my little legs not coming near close enough to touch the floor. I didn’t bury my head in mama’s vinyl pocketbook but I probably fell asleep on it—while Johnny sang to mama.

Onward—On Vacation


K.S.Anthony said...

When I first moved to Nashville, I got a job working as a swing shift security guard at the Ryman. On the nights when there was no show, I'd basically have the big empty building to myself after 6pm until midnight or so.

There are ghosts. Everyone talks about how the Ryman MIGHT be haunted. I am certain that it is.

Oh, and it's still damn hot.

Anonymous English Female said...

ADG - Believe it or not, I've spent a few hot summer days cooling off at Sliding Rock then having dinner at Green River BBQ in Saluda. I can eat any amount of barbecue. I also have a coonskin hat, when I wear it in America men of a certain age always stop and ask me where I got it from; when I wear it in England men of any age fall over laughing...

Young Fogey said...

Wow. Thanks for the memories. Now I have to give my children the same sort of great memories. Fortunately, we have a road trip coming up in a couple weeks, so....

Pigtown*Design said...

Great vacation story! We always drove from B-more to northern Vermont in the summers, until my mother got sick of staying in a remote "camp" with four kids under 10, and sold the house there. From then on, it was the beach.

In The Littoral said...

Great story and great memories. I, too, got a coonskin cap as a kid and recently discoved that I still have it. Couldn't believe it when, while moving, I pulled it out of a box. I think it would probably fit over my fist now, not my head.

Our vacations were always spent with family in Mississippi or Canada so the stays at the hotels were just stops for the night before pressing onward to our destination. No stops for sliding rocks or anything fun except the rare stop to look at Niagra Falls.

Have a wonderful and safe vacation with your muse (LFG).


M.Lane said...

What a great post. There was even one of these cowboy and indian towns up in Northern Wisconsin where I lived in the woods. A visit was always a summer highlight. One time my little brother liberated all the animals out of the petting zoo and you should have seen those cowboys and indians all turn into impromptu goat-rustlers!!!

You brought back that memory with this post. Thanks.


Scott said...

Dang, Maggie Valley, Cherokee, Lookout Mountain AND Nashville's Lower Broad. What a trip! But surely Gatlinburg was not ommited from this Grand Tour.

I haven't thought of Kickapoo Joy Juice in years. Thanks for bringing that back.


heavy tweed jacket said...

Great post, especially with summer vacation season around the corner. I can remember family vacation in the car with the dog, who was hot, tired and drooling all over my shorts and legs as he slept. I kid you not, I saw a guy with a "Sliding Rock" t-shirt on in Tokyo two days ago. Can't be referencing the same place in the Pisgah Forest.

James said...

What wonderful memories. Lookout mountain was one of our annual stops on the trip north to see my grandparents. My mother always told us to be on the lookout for Snuffy Smith. So my trips were just a tad earlier than yours!

Sandra said...

Honestly, this post is probably the first time I have thought about the Tweetsie Railroad since I went there as a child! I relished in every word of this post. Thank you so much!

We took many trips to Gatlinburg. My brother always got the coonskin cap. I actually preferred the Indian tom-tom drum or the Indian Princess doll. :-)

And there was just a ton of politically incorrectness back in the "olden" days. I mean my high school was called the Indians and we always had a student - the most dark-skinned girl in the class - dressed in full regalia that would've impressed Mingo. Of course, back then no one said a word.

Happy Father's Day Mr. Max. I hope you have a fabulous day that you certainly deserve!


lisa golightly said...

Great memories and brought many of my own to mind. Including Slide Rock, sleeping on my mother's lap at the Ryman and Johnny Cash backing his car into our next door neighbor's lamp post.

Gail, in northern California said...

This is your day in so many, many ways. Enjoy your little golden-haired girl.

Karena said...

Really does remind me of our vacations as a child, and even Family reunions at the farm now!!

We go from the sublime elegance to the easy country live. Good no?

Art by Karena

Ginnie said...

Great post. Went to all the same places when I was a child. Grandmother lived near Brevard so Sliding Rock was always a fun stop. Did you ever go to "Pretty Place" at the YMCA camp? Outdoor chapel that was just divine.

Mary Kay Andrews said...

Our family took similar trips--but all the way from St. Pete,FL. with five kids, in a Plymouth Fury, and my mom only switched cigarette hands to back-slap us with her flip-flop, while my dad threatened to "turn this car right around and go back home--do you think every kid in America gets to go on vacation like this?" In between my brothers bought bullwhips in Gatlinburg, and we ruby-mined. Good times!

ADG said...'s "Africa hot in South Carolina right now". You are a far cry from the Ryman this morning aren't you?

MaryKay...they were THE best times. I've got a Florida story brewing now. And YES I forgot about the bullwhips

Ginnie...Brevard is lovely. I did not go to the "Pretty Place".

Karena...LFG and I are going down to my paternal grandparent's old farm place tomorrow.

Gail...thanks.How's your range of motion?

LisaGolightly-Traveling...Great memories indeed.

Preppy101...Yes! And I also got the tom-tom with the inner tube rubber stretched over the top. My Junior High school mascot was a Rebel.

James...I bet we are about a decade or less apart in these memories. mom didn't allow the dog on vacation...even when we went to the beach house for a week.

Scott...Gatlinburg was not omitted but I just don't remember too much about that particular day.

M.Lane....Classic! ...the actors turned goat herders...funny. I think the Indian in the Tweetsie Railroad picture that I found is wearing Topsiders.

DaveLittoral...thanks. Speaking of finding childhood stuff, my brother, ten years younger, found some of my Hot Wheels cars last night.

MegTown...y'all were much more refined than us. We had a little bit of money but it was brandass new. are fibbing.

YoungFogey...say something sublime so I can guest post you again.

Debi said...

Fabulous post! I live the proverbial hop, skip and a jump from Tweetsie and when the kids were little we had a season pass.

Can you imagine it? The boys and their cousins thought it was heaven. The girls screamed every single time the indians boarded the train.

Sliding Rock was, and still is, a favorite summertime destination.

Did you happen to catch the outdoor drama "Horn In the West"? The brother of a family friend, who is a local theater teacher, plays Daniel Boone every summer.

Gail, in northern California said...

Range of motion improves daily, thanks for asking! I can now hold a hair brush in one hand-blow dryer in the other, and reach the back of my head. This is a crucial milestone and one any woman would sweat bullets to achieve.
Just sign me---Stylin' in northern California

Lisa said...

I don't know if my upcoming vacay with my 14-yr-old is "white trash" but it will include Philadelphia and Hershey, PA, DC (staying in Alexandria), Virginia and all points in between. We're doing a 'Route 66' road trip without the Route 66. Actually I'm looking forward to it as I'm thinkin' that the window of opportunity that my son will want to spend 24/7 with his mum is fast closing. Husband is bowing out of road trip siting some lame excuse in the form of "work" and financing said trip. Excuses, excuses.

Anonymous said...

You are hilarious. Why didn't I know about this blog? I had googled Belgian Shoes and after reading your post I had to go to the source. Very very funny.

This blog will be a regular read for me now.

Thank you !!!

San Francisco Bay Area....Home to The Winchester Mystery House, Santa's Village, The Mystery Spot and a couple hours drive north to The Ponderosa Ranch !!!!

Young Fogey said...

Sublime? The only difference between my drivel and yours is that I use more 25¢ words.

Anonymous said...

Nudiesque chemise Tweetsie cowpoke chappie's none other than Ferd Kirby.

On the TeeVee influenced many a credulous Centrolina young'un to nag Mumsey & Pater into a trip to Blowed Rock for some Injun'n'outlaw shootin'.


ADG said...

Taytaytayter...damn. Leave it to you to pull rank on me what with your knowledge of Carolina-low brow. I'd not have known that it was Fred Kirby 'causa my head being in that Naugahyde purse of moma's. I bet you or your older cousins were the ones dancing on Kilgo's Canteen. I'm in Florence right now by the way--hotter than a mutha this week.

CDClaycomb...we might have seen Horn in the all runs together for me these days!

YoungFogey...thirty cent words. You use.

AnonymousSFBay...thanks. Things must be real slow in your world.

LisaRoute66...The Philly Hershey experience can be a little trashy but it seems to me a bit more upmarket than the Carolina-Smokey-Opry jaunt! Let us know if you need a suggestion or two while you are in Alexandria-we live there.

GailNorCal...great to hear that things are progressing ok. Could you reach back and slap a young'un in the car?

TWJ said...

WOW! My brother and I did this trip when we were around 8 and 5. We didn’t have a station wagon, we had the 65 Plymouth Belvedere. Of course we had the 75/4 ac, (75 miles per hour with 4 windows rolled down). I loved Tweetsie Railroad. My brother and I were so cool, we even had on our cowboy outfits for this, (complete with cowboy gun and holster). My mom said that when the cowboys ran through the train and outside to fight the Indians we got up and went to the window to help shoot the Indians. Yes, I know that this is not politically correct but hell, we were just good old cowpokes.

When my four children were between 8 and 4 we took them on the same trip. I was so excited to go back to all the places I had been. I just knew the kids would love it as much as I did. Funny thing, kids have a way of remembering things differently than they are when you grow up. My kids loved it as much as I did back then. I don’t think my wife had quite as much fun though, (even though I know she had a Dale Evens cowgirl outfit with matching stick pony).

Thanks for the trip and great post cards.

PS- I also remember going someplace called Mother Goose Land or Fairy Tale Land on this Smokey Mountain trip but could not find any listing on google.

Anonymous said...

My world is pretty fast actually. That is why I don't have time to waste reading BAD blogs. I peruse authors' blogs. It is necessary to my work. I thought at first I had stumbled on one that I was not aware of. But I see that your profile nails you to healthcare marketing. ???

Not to kiss your Lilly clad ass further but, you have the talent to be a real grown-up writer. Perhaps you already are. I can't determine if you have published from your blog. Your writing is f%&#ing great.

Slow World Movement
SF Bay Area

ilovelimegreen said...

Recess? In 11th grade? I don't believe we had recess after 7th grade...but maybe that's because I was at an all-girl school. Hmmm....

ADG said...

LimeGreenGal...I made my own damn recess in the 11th grade. Roxanne Burgess could motivate a young guy to arrange anything. I gotta look up Roxann.

AnonymousSlowWorld/ live in a sublime place-I think. Thanks for your kind words. I am not a professional writer and have no aspirations to be one. I am a healthcare strategy/marketing consultant. I drank my way through undergrad and begged my way through grad school and making a living writing was never on my radar screen. What I love is the proverbial back story...the lore...and obviously, clothes. Blogging gives me a venue to share stories and dump unedited rambles for all to see. Thank you for liking what I write.

TWJ...I'm really glad that this fostered such a provocative memory. I've got a Florida version steeping in my noggin' right now.

Anonymous said...

Well, you are welcome.
And that was my next question: What is the reason for your blog? Answer: A ramble dumping venue. OK. That's lovely. It will be fun to read your stories and your daughter's. Hope I can maintain comment decorum, as I am new to your blog and tend to unfetter the F word inappropriately. Will try to watch that.

Fetterless in SF

Unknown said...

Hey! Im really interested in the pic of Fred Kirby and the Indians. My dad was an Indian back in the 60's and the one running away looks like it could be my dad. He has now passed away and I think it would be awesome if we have stumbled across a picture that could be him. Do you have any idea what year that was taken? If so would you email me at Thanks!