Vacation redux.

Not only is this the “family vacation retrospective” post, today actually is the last day of summer vacation for me. It went fast, and I’m a little sad because I like being home… but I also love my job and I’m looking foward to being with my students as well.

Ok, so we went to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for vacation, which is also near Gatlinburg. We preferred Gatlinburg and the Smokey Mountain National Park to Pigeon Forge, but PF still had some nice things. We loved it. I’m going to spare you long explanations and detaile descriptions, because pictures are way more interesting to look at. And if there’s one thing I have an excess of, it’s pictures to show. So… left on Friday and arrived at our cabin in the late afternoon. The cabin looked like this:

When we arrived, there was a guest waiting in the bathroom to greet us. Here is a picture of him or her, I didn’t get close enough to look:

Yep, that’s a scorpion. But don’t get the wrong idea… the cabin was very nice. In fact, the word “cabin” conjures up images of roughing it in the wilderness. Our cabin was not rough at all. It had a jacuzzi, a hottub, and a dishwasher. It looked like this:

I know, how did we ever manage to have a good time in such harsh accommodations, right? We made it through, though. Here is the view from the street in front of the cabin and the view off the back porch:

On Saturday we swam. This is the view from the pool:

On Sunday we went to Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg. It was *way cool*. We saw all kinds of cool sea creatures, but the ones that made the biggest impression were the

sharks, and the

jellyfish.

On Monday, we went into Smokey Mountain National Park. I have hundreds of beautiful, gorgeous, scenic pictures I could show you, so I’ll try to keep it to just a couple… but hands down this was my very most favoritest day of vacation. I could have driven, walked, hiked here the whole vacation. It was absolutely glorious.

These last two pictures were taken from “Clingman’s Dome,” which is the highest point of the Smokey Mountains. Little Miss G, who evidently doesn’t enjoy hiking, told her father that she “hoped we never come here again!” She meant to the “Dome”; she loved Tennessee overall. Tuesday and Wednesday were fairly low-key because, well, hiking up a mountain kicked our butts. We did some shopping and went to a place called Wonder Works. It’s pretty much like a science center, but it’s a cool looking building from the outside. See?

I got to relive a childhood dream of becoming an astronaut. Friday we went back to the mountains after eating breakfast a place called “The Doughnut Friar.” Doesn’t that just sound cool? The Doughnut Friar. And the owner/operator was cool too. John and I bought matching coffee mugs from there. We didn’t realize we had bought the exact same mug. But it just proves that we a java-addicted dorks.

Anyhoo, after The Doughnut Friar, we returned to the mountains and *I made* my family take a second hike to see a waterfall.  We all bitched and moaned on the way up the mountain because it’s required by law that you do so. We learned that in the old adage, “What goes up must come down,” down is definitely better. But nobody was complaining once we arrived at the falls because they looked like this:

(note to my family: you can show your appreciation for making you hike and see this by rubbing my back and feet nightly for the next two weeks.) Seriously, it was beautiful. And that is just the top half of the falls. I couldn’t get a full picture of the whole 80 feet of the falls because I would have had to climb down a sharp, steep, dangerous, deathly, terrifying side of a mountain to do so. And even if death was not certain going down, there was no way I was going to get back up. The pictures of the top half are pretty enough, don’t you think? We’re glad we made the effort to go see it.

We also went to a bear habitat, which pretty much sucked. The bears in the St. Louis zoo have it much better. But we got a good chuckle when Super L told us that she could see this bear’s…

butt! What did you think she was going to say?  I will forever hear that little giggle of hers…

On Saturday Little Miss G was in my Uncle Joe’s wedding. It was her sixth birthday. And what 6 year-old little girl doesn’t want to dress up like this on her birthday?

She wasn’t just pretty; she was gorgeous. And it’s with a mixture of pride, joy, and sadness that when I look at this second picture I don’t have to look very hard to see the 16 year-old she will be in the blink of an eye. That beautiful creature is my daughter. And she’s getting to be so grown up.

Super L was rocking her pink and green frock with a bow she calls “Happy birthdays.” I have no idea why.

And, of course, this was the scene the night before we left to come home:

But a part of me will always be here:

A family vacation: with special appearances by wild turkeys, scorpions, racoons, sharks, bears, jellyfish, sunny skies, sweet tea, vomit, weddings, waterfalls, temper-tantrums, bona fide Cheerokee Indians and Michael Phelps. (Okay, not really Michael Phelps, but I totally felt like I was there with him those last two races. Does that make me a stalker?)

I honestly don’t have time to relate all the details about our fantastic vacation to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg TN, but check back because I’ll be updating this post when I have time. Suffice it to say for the moment that it was exactly what a family vacation should be (except for maybe the vomit and 104 fever part).

The tree on the house goes “Boom, Boom, Boom!”

When you have beautiful but huge, shade-providing, 50 year old trees, you have to worry about things like this happening.

Usually, though, you worry about things like this during ice storms (like Nov. 2006 when we were displaced from our home for 7 days because a utility pole snapped and hit our house) or during violent downburst storms (like in summer of 2000 when when lightening struck our neighbor’s big tree and fell about a fourth of the tree a mere 10 feet from our bedroom). But usually, things like this don’t happen on muggy, perfectly still evenings like Saturday night was.

Fortunately for us, this happened sometime between 8:30 and 9:00 Saturday night. We were all still awake, and when the branch landed on the roof it shook the whole house. Now, I’m trying not to freak out, but I just keep thinking, what if… what if this had happened at 10:30 in the morning when we’re likely to be outside. You can’t tell from the pictures, but our patio is just on the other side of the tree. The girls are constantly playing in that area under the three because it stands between the patio and the house–they run to and from the garage bringing out toys and things. Basically, we’re right there all the time.

I thank God that this happened when we were all safe inside, but this doesn’t ease my apprehension about being outside. That branch was perfectly healthy when it fell. There was absolutely no indication that it was going to fall– no rain, no wind, nothing. Just down it went. Our neighbor’s tree also lost a formidable, perfectly healthy branch a few weeks ago. Our sister in law’s windshield was shattered by a branch that fell as well, but that was during a storm. Why are these good trees dropping huge limbs? John’s theory is that that it has been such a good summer for plants (plenty of rain and not too hot until recently) that the foilage is just getting really heavy. If he’s right, it would explain why our backyard has been gloriously comfortable all summer, until, you know, the threat of being crushed under a massive, falling branch.

We love spending time in our back yard. It’s one of our favorite things about our home. And now I’m a little more than freaked about going back there, and I don’t really scare easily. We will most likely have the tree taken down, which means that we’re going to lose a lot of really good shade, but when it comes to protecting the family, it’s a small sacrifice.

A question for my loyal readers: Will homeowner’s insurance cover the damage or perhaps pay for the tree to be taken down since it is clearly a healthy tree? [We’re pretty certain that it would not cover the damage if the tree were dead/diseased, because then we would be negligable in not having it taken down before the branch fell. But what if it was a healthy tree with no signs of damage?] Any body who has any info about this, please feel free to comment.