The road to truth is long, and lined the entire way with annoying bastards. - Alexander Jablokov, The place of no shadows

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The Great Firefly Hunt

Friday, June 5

- Left Calgary at 12:55 AM and flew to Toronto. We were worried about our carry-on luggage being too large for the new Air Canada regulations, but in the end, nobody even looked at our bags.

- Flew from Toronto to Nashville on Air Georgia/Canada in a small 12 seat plane.

- Landed at BNA, and ended up using our original car reservation at Alamo, which was lucky, since Thrifty was very busy.

- Went for hot dogs at Cori's Doghouse, on our way to Asheville. CB had the 'Washington D.C.' - while I had the special (macaroni and cheese hot dog) and 'The Arizona' (bacon, salsa, jalapenos). All were tasty! We took a look at the wall full of people who ate at all 37 locations.

- From there we went to Whole Foods in Knoxville. I bought a half chicken, and we also picked up some snacks (chips, cheesies and cookies). There were also a lot of free samples available throughout Whole Foods, the first time we've seen that.

- Continued on towards Asheville. Checked into our AirBNB. Met Jeff, who showed us to our room. There was a concert recital going on in the house when we arrived.

- Got changed and walked into town. Went to Bruisin' Ales and bought some beers. Met a really tiny white dog in the store that really wanted to play. Bought a Wit, Hefeweizen, Tripel Over Head, and Apricot.

- Checked out 'Loft'.

- Went to dinner at Limones. Fancier than we expected. Less Mexican food on the menu than we expected. But pretty good! (especially the margaritas, we had tamarind and caliente (habanero and berry flavor).

- Walked over to Wicked Weed Brewery. Had: Coolcumber, Mint Julep, and the XLV Jaded Saison.

- Then we went to Highwire Brewery. Had: The Brown, and Uprisin' Hefeweizen.

- Walked home and tried out the hot tub at our AirBNB. Surrounded by the garden. Sebastian the cat walked by.

Saturday, June 6

- Had a muffin and a coffee for breakfast at our AirBnB and then headed out to drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Lots of green trees. Our Craggy Gardens. It turns out we pulled off at the Craggy Gardens Picnic area instead of "Craggy Gardens" so the short hike that we did wasn't the one we had intended to do. Saw lots of Rhodendrons which were blooming at that time of year. We also saw at bright orange salamander in the middle of the trail. At first we thought it was a toy that someone had dropped but then it started moving.

- Next stop was Mt. Mictchell, the highest point east of the Missippi. We parked near the top and then "hiked" the last 280 yards to the peak.

- Continued to Linnville Falls where we did a short hike to the falls and then headed back to Asheville.

- Went for lunch at White Duck Taco, Chris had the the Thai chicken and I had a fish and an Vietnamese tofu. Chris stole lemonade out the machine by accident.

- Checked out some stores in Asheville and bought a few souvenirs, including a wood cutting board from Woolworth walk,soap from Appalachian Soap and a Yeti toy for Yeti from a petstore.

- That night went out for dinner at Curate, a tapas restaurant. We ordered way too much. Had a cheese plate, tortilla, chicken fritters, patatas bravas, shrimp and goat cheese stuffed peppers. We were pretty full after that and even forgot to order the almonds that we had intended to.

- After dinner we went to Burial Beer, Chris enjoyed the "awesome" mural of Magnum PI and Sloth. We tried Begium Trippel, Abricot, Honey Saison, Trippel Cruxifix and Saison Haysaw.

- Next we went to the Funkatorium which specializes in sour beers, we tried and cherry one and a peach one.

Sunday, June 7

- Our first stop was Greenlife Grocery to stock up for our trip to the Smoky Mountains. Then we headed for breakfast at Sunny Point Cafe. I had a breakfast burrito and Chris had the Huevos Rancheros. We had to wait awhile to get in and then eat in a rush because we booked and glass blowing glass for 10am. Turns out the wait was worth it.

- We went to Asheville Glass for our glass blowing lesson. I went first and made an ornament. I chose my colours (purple and red) and then got a lesson on how to heat the stick and the glass. It was kind of roasting a marshmallow in a 1000 degree oven. And then Chris made a pint glass - blue and white and then got to do some extra steps in making the glass including helping to hold the mold and shaping the glass.

- After that we hit the road to head to the Smoky Mountains. We stopped in Cherokee at Smoky Mountain Tubing where we loaded onto a bus and were driven upstream and dropped off with our tubes. Got off to a bit of a slow start as the water was shallow and we kept getting stuck on rocks.

- After that though, it was a fun float down the river, alternating between slow and peaceful and the occasional rapids with rocks to dodge. We passed by a few fly-fisherman trying their luck in the stream, and a bear zoo. Rained a little towards the end.

- Back in our car, we continued north through the Smoky Mountains National Park. Eventually we hit the 'town' of Pigeon Forge. How to describe Pigeon Forge? The best comparison we could think of, is, if you took the worst of everything that is touristy (souvenir shops, lame rides, go-kart tracks, bad arcades, gift shops featuring bears, sharks, or alligators, mini-golf, mini-golf, and more mini-golf), and cheesy dinner shows, and built an entire city dedicated to *only* those attractions, you would have Pigeon Forge.

- Continued on to our AirBNB cabin in the woods. It was definitely as nice ss the pictures. Wrap-around deck, nice kitchen, huge master bedroom, a hot tub, and even a pool table! A bottle of white wine was waiting for us.

- Barbecued our dinner from Green Life: my unusually cheap spicy thai chicken and salmon patties.

- Drove to Elkmont campground. At first we were worried we might not be on 'the list' but it turned out we were. Hiked up the road to where the fireflies were. Were given some red covers for our flashlights. Lots of people there already. Many were obviously veterans as they had lawn chairs, picnics, snacks, games and more, to pass the time until the sun went down.

- We found ourselves a bench/log towards the end of the trail and waited. And waited. As darkness approached we saw our first firefly. It looked like a spark from a fire. Then another appeared. And another. And another. Eventually, there were a large number of fireflies, that were synchronizing their flashing to start and stop around the same time.

- As the night progressed, it felt like there were hundreds flashing at a time, and walking around, it felt like thousands. Definitely an amazing sight to see! The peak was around 10PM.

- Heading home, we walked past the gigantic lineup that was waiting for the 'trollies' (buses), and walked back to the campground. We started driving home, but after 40 minutes or so, we realized we had missed our turn, and were now taking the scenic route. Every twist and turn started to look the same. Eventually we made it back to the main highway and found our way back to the cabin.

Monday, June 8

- Went for breakfast in Pigeon Forge at Sawyer's Farmhouse. We had banana foster french toast, bacon, egg, and buttermilk pancakes with peanut butter maple syrup. Pretty good! When we left, we were given 2 coupons, one for a 1/4 pound of free fudge at the Three Bears general store, next door, and the other for free viewing of the caged black bears outside of it. Good ol' Pigeon Forge!

- We fed the bears some grapes, but regret visiting this general store altogether. Even though we didn't spend a dime there, it still felt like we had supported this terrible 'zoo' - which is really just a cement enclosure. It definitely wasn't a large enough area to comfortably support 3 bears. We later learned that PETA has been trying to get this place shut down for many years.

- Headed to Hill-Billy Golf. Rode a small version of a funicular up the side of a mountain, and then played mini-golf down the side of it. It rained a little bit towards the beginning. Despite getting 3 holes-in-one, CB still beat me, even though she didn't realize it after adding up the scores incorrectly.

- Tried to find a parking spot in Gatlinburg. Gatlinburg wasn't *quite* as tourist-town ugly as Pigeon Forge, but it was still basically just a street full of bad tourist attractions (Ripley's haunted houses, arcades, gift shops, etc). First we walked around NOC, and bought some inflatable travel pillows.

- Next we went to Arrowcraft (local arts & handmade products). Bought some earrings. Then we went to Sugarlands Distillery. This is where the fun began. Sampled a variety of moonshines. 'Sug' was our host, and she guided us through the samples.

- After that we went to Ole' Smokey Distillery for some more samples. Then right across it, we went to Bootleggers Wine and bought some strawberry wine.

- Next up was Smokey Mountain Brewery. No free samples there, but had a burger and tried some tasty beers (raspberry, a wit, a brown ale). Bought a growler to go, but after getting home, we realized it had been filled with the wrong beer.

- The last stop on the drinking train was Sugarlands Cellars. CB had some more wine samples. I was done by this point.

- Went for a drive on the Roaring Fork Nature Trail. Had to pull over at one point and take a short nap.

- On to Smoky Mountain Coaster, where we bought our tickets, got in line, got in our roller coaster car, and juuuust as we were about to depart, lightning was spotted, and they had to shut the whole place down.

- So instead we went over to Kroger's, bought a frozen pizza, and went back to our cabin. Made our pizza, played some pool, played some crib, went in the hot tub. Had to fill it up a little more. It started raining quite heavily while we were in the hot tub. A few fireflies did come out for us though.

Tuesday, June 9

- Went back to Smoky Mountain Coaster. No rain this time! 'Push to go, pull to slow, no chickens!' It turned out to be a pretty fun ride and you actually got some pretty decent speed.

- Headed towards Nashville. Stopped in Knoxville for lunch at Tomato Head, located on the main square (fountains, trees). I had a chicken burrito, and CB had stacked enchiladas. Both were tasty. Not too much else to see in Knoxville!

- On the outskirts of Nashville, we visited the Belle Mead Plantation. Took a tour through the mansion and learned about the history of the family that lived there for 100 years, including their involvement with thoroughbred horse racing. The tour included a bit of wine sampling at the end.

- Made our way to Nashville. A bit pressed for time, we only had time to visit Hattie B's Hot Chicken - a very popular chicken restaurant. Deliciously spicy! Had to eat it on the run, as rush hour was starting, and we didn't have much time to spare to catch our flight.

- Traffic crawled on the way to the airport, and we still needed to re-fill the rental car, so it was getting a bit stressful.

- In the end, it turned out not to matter, as our flight was really late departing, and we ended up missing our connection in Toronto. We spent the night there at a Best Western, and flew home the next morning.