With the help of an enormously competent young man named Jesse, we were able to reroute home via Chicago. A few minutes later we heard that our original flight had been further delayed until 9:30 PM! A full 13 hours behind schedule, and too late to get any flights out of Dallas even if we got there. We had definitely made the right choice.
The flight to O’Hare was quick and easy. Now we are ensconced in the Admirals Club, waiting for a 5 pm flight to SFO.
We will end up about 6 1/2 hours behind schedule, wasting a day we each had plans for.
I try to remember we’re still having a better trip west than the Donner Party had.
Mike and I finished playing in Gatlinburg yesterday and headed to Knoxville and the airport Hilton. We had a gorgeous drive on back roads through pouring rain and the beautiful, lush Tennessee open space.
Up far too early this morning, I walk the 200 yards to the airport and checked in for my flight. All was well as we boarded and backed away from the gate.
Then disaster struck. The pilot said we had some mechanical issue and we’re taxiing back to the gate. This is never good.
After about 15 minutes he announced that it would be over an hour and we should all deplane.
Settling back in on the oh so comfortable airport benches I got on the phone to American Airlines to rebook our flight, hoping that would be faster than waiting in line with everyone else. Mike, who is no fool, handed me his boarding pass so I could rebook us both.
The good news is we are on a flight about three hours later. The bad news is we are both in middle seats. I asked to be put on the upgrade list, but was told they couldn’t because I had already checked in, in Tennessee. This makes no sense of course, but that’s not surprising when dealing with the airlines.
So we’ll sit here until we finally take off and fly to Dallas, sit some more, and fly home squooshed into middle seats.
If all goes well.
Saturday night in Gatlinburg, Mike and I traditionally do something non-bridge. Frequently, this involves miniature golf, but that seemed too presidential this year so we went to the theater.
Not Hamilton or The Lion King or Streetcar, but the Sweet Fanny Adams Theater which has a comedy show every night, right there in downtown G’burg. We learned about it while having dinner at the Trout House. The players come through the local restaurants advertising their shows.
This is a small troupe, just 4 actors play all the parts. Of course, one of the skits is just one actor playing all the parts in Romeo and Juliet by himself. Other skits make good use of the audience for stooges, actors and foils. The guy in the suspenders turned out to be a great singer, for instance.
The show runs 2 hours, with a 15 minute intermission. They sell soft drinks but no alcohol, which disappointed Micky. They also sell a CD of the performance, taped live every night, which is great if you were one of the ones called onstage and need to watch your humiliation anew. That may explain why they try to get so many people into the act.
Scott Johnson performs a number of tap dance acts. Christopher Sullivan is a comic, clown, juggler and magician. Stephanie Butters is the femme fatale, the straight woman and singer.
Chris MacPherson was born into this theater: his parents founded it in 1977. He does it all–hosts, sings, dances, acts and is creative director of the joint as well.
Most theaters give dire warnings about taking photos–this place encourages it. So here is what the show looks like:
The price is a pittance–$25. The actors are in front as you walk out so you can shake hands and say hello. We had a completely enjoyable evening, and you will too.
I’ve always contended that the people around here would fry coffee if they could figure out how, and tonight did nothing to dissuade me from that opinion. We made our annual stop at Bennett’s Barbecue, and the new delicacy on the menu is deep fried deviled eggs. naturally, we had to order them for the table.
(And yes, one of our number suggested that the waitress could split the $7.99 six way and add it to each of our checks. We found a better way.)
They batter and fry the whites before piping the yolk mixture into the now crispy whatever you would call that item, then top it all with “chow chow”, a supposedly “oriental” topping of pickled I don’t want to know what.
It tastes good. I’m starting to figure out why I have had to heart issues twice right after Gatlinburg.
After the eggs, I had the salad bar, which is at least the illusion of healthy, and a brisket sandwich. Nothing special in any of that. Then came dessert:
I’m a sucker for fresh baked, still warm, peach cobbler with ice cream. It was all it was supposed to be, with still crisp peaches, a gooey crust and cooling vanilla ice cream dripping off every spoonful. The bad news is that I just can’t east as much these days and offered it to the rest of the gang to share.
Bridge continues to be desultory. We win a bit, lose a bit, just can’t hit a groove. I still enjoy the trip–where else can I get deep fried eggs?
This seems like meat country to me–the restaurants serve steaks and ribs and chicken, not pasta and veggies and fish. There is usually some token piscatorial choice on the menu, like the salmon at Calhouns, but they don’t really know what to do with it and only Californians order it anyway.
We found an exception to this rule, thanks to ACBL President Bob Heller’s wife, Barbara. She recommended The Trout House, and we were off on another Tennessee adventure.
The Trout House is a small place, east of the main drag on the road to Pigeon Forge. So small that you need reservations, in a town where nobody else even takes them. It seemed strange to see our table for 6 with its little “RESERVED” sign on it just waiting for us.
Our waitress was a Gatlinburg institution. She is 76 years old, bent and crooked, and has been scuttling around the Trout House for over 25 years. She’s friendly and capable without any of that “hon” and “dear” and “sugar bear” that you get from so many others. She’s a true delight.
The Trout House serves trout. Grilled, fried, smothered in almonds, smothered in lemon rice, smothered in dill, sauteed, smoked, broiled, baked, smothered in cheese, and a few more variations. They have a prime rib on the menu for people who can’t read the name of the place, but it isn’t a specialty.
We started with hush puppies, the quintessential Southern balls of deep fried cornmeal.
They were significantly dry and hard, but dipping them in honey made them pretty interesting. The first time I came to Gatlinburg I kept expecting to find them on every menu, but that hasn’t happened. I think this was only the second time I’ve seen them here.
I had the trout, just grilled. Being the healthy person that I am, I chose the glazed carrots instead of some variation of potatoes.
My dish was fine. Nothing fancy, nothing that would get the chef an audition at a restaurant with a Michelin star. Just a solid, decent meal. The fish was cooked just right, properly de-boned and nicely presented with excellent glazed carrots.
Bill had the trout stuffed with lemon rice.
I have a hard time getting over the low prices on things here. The key lime pie was $3.95. Limes are fruit, so that made it a healthy think to eat.
Unfortunately, $3.95 is about what it was worth. If Nancy Munson ever made a crust like that she would not let it see the light of day, and neither should the Trout House. The filling was good.
Prices were tiny. As little as they charge, we got a 10% discount because we were from the bridge tournament. My dinner, with un-sweet iced tea, trout and pie, was about $24. The waitress got the bills all mixed up and put the pie on Bill’s check. She wanted to straighten it out, but we thought that might take forever so we took care of it ourselves–Bill and Danny are CPA’s, so they can figure these things to the last cent. $3.95, minus 10%, plus sales tax, plus tip. I just left a huge tip and Bill didn’t have to leave any.
The Trout House is an adventure, a delight, a big change of pace for G’burg. I’m glad we found it and will put it in the rotation for next year. Hold the pie.
Dinner at Calhoun’s. It’s pretty much like everywhere else around here, except they have wild salmon on the menu. Gail won’t let me have farmed salmon, so this was a happy find.
Interesting events in the ordering process. After I asked for the dish, the waitress inquired if I wants the rass. “Rass?” I asked. “Rass. Do you want the rass?”
So I’m not too bright. She was saying “rice”. The meal comes with rice. Somebody translated it for me. I’m sort of accustomed to the Tennessee accent, but this was the worst I’ve heard. I took the rice.
Sadly, the fish was seriously overcooked. The “corn puddin’ ” that accompanied it was sweet and buttery, and that’s about all you can expect from corn puddin’.
Mike and Bob ordered the brisket. The manager came out to tell us they had run out of brisket and they needed to make another choice. I asked if that meant we all got dessert, and managed to promote to desserts for the table. How you run out of something 5 minutes after you open is a mystery–either somebody forgot to order brisket or the purveyor forgot to deliver.
A basket of breatstuff was presented–rolls, biscuits and corn muffins. I had the biscuit, and it was magnificent. Bruce said the muffins were first rate, there were no leftovers.
The desserts were great. There was a key lime pie and a banana macadamia nut pudding (no apostrophe this time). We kept passing them around the table, but I noticed the pie got stuck in front of me and the pudding in front of Bill.
This was another absurdly cheap meal, about $26 including a lavish tip. Great service, as you almost always get here. The food isn’t all that good, but the low prices and friendly service almost make up for it.
Dinner tonight at the Texas Roadhouse, a monument to cheap prices and fast service.
I was back at the cabin, but the other guys got here early, only to find that they adamantly would not be seated until all six of us were in atendance. I showed up, and we were crammed into a booth, because there are no tables. The tables all have buckets of unshelled peanuts to munch on, and of course shovel the shells onto the floor.
Danny distributed menus, pointedly placing them all with the back page up, so we could see the early bird specials. Can’t slip that past an accountant.
Being a big spender, I chose the 10 oz rib eye steak, served with 2 sides for $16.99. I chose the sweet potato as one of the side dishes, and ordered it “loaded” which I thought meant butter, cinnamon and brown sugar. Nobody mentioned the melted marshmallow on top, but being a well behaved young man I ate it all politely.
The rib eye was very good. The potato was good. I noticed all my compatriots finishing their meals. Texas Roadhouse serves a pretty darned good meal, fast and cheap. Steak, sides, peanuts, un-sweet iced tea and rolls came to $22.88. The waitress brought separate checks as a matter of course.
I reminded everyone that the server was making $2.13/hour here in the unreconstructed south, and they should tip well. I hope we made her day. The marshmallows made mine.
There was a big fire here last November. 14 people died, two young men are now doing 60 years in stony lonesome for being the jerks who started it.
We were very afraid that the cabin we stay in would be destroyed but were relieved to find that we had been spared. We are in the main fire area, though, as two houses right next to us were reduced to rubble.
The fire was capricious, rushing up the hills and burning houses randomly. I was struck by this site, where you can see an untouched cabin just a few feet behind a place with nothing left but the chimney.
The homes here are large, and get larger as you go up the hill. Being made mostly of stone is no protection against the firestorm, apparently.Buildings on this hill were, for the most part, either spared or destroyed. I only saw one home with repairable damage.
Being behind stone walls and iron gates gives you a false sense of security. The fire will not be denied.
Downtown Gatlinburg seems to be untouched; all the damage is up the hills from the commercial center. The motels and inns are all open for business, and they all seem to have vacancies. I think people got scared by the new stories and are staying away, as the town seems half empty and the tournament (although it is only the first day) seems smaller.
Today we were in the top bracket, which rarely happens here. And we got killed in the first round, which is why we don’t like the top bracket. Tomorrow is another day, and if more people show up we’ll be in bracket 2 and have a much better chance. Cross your fingers.
UPDATE: Micky is cranky that I said we got killed in the KO when we lost by exactly 5 IMPs. Apparently that isn’t sufficient to be deemed ‘killed’. So consider us wounded. Winger. Edged. Nosed. Squeaked.
But he other guys are playing round 2 while Mike and I are playing the side game. That’s killed enough for me.
Lunch today at the Lazy Dog, a casual sports bar kind of joint where El Torito was at the south end of the Willows.
They gutted the building, so it’s just one huge room with a full bar, five huge TV screens and too much noise. There is a good looking patio for a slightly warmer day.
I don’t mind casual, but when the greeter refers to us five separate times in two minutes as ‘you guys’ I think casual has gone overboard.
The menu has all the sports bar kind of thing–burgers, sandwiches, pastas, a few main courses. There was a weekend brunch menu as well, and Gail ordered the chilaquiles from that. What she got was more a plate of nachos and scrambled eggs, but she liked it and carefully found all the eggs.
I had the walnut chicken salad sandwich. The menu promised chunks of chicken, but it was finely shredded and mixed with the walnuts, golden raisins, celery and what was billed as curry mayo. There was no taste of curry in my sandwich, but it was a decent meal with quite nice fries.
One thing we noticed was the huge portions. Although prices were reasonable, you get an absurd amount of food. My sandwich was $9.95, and it was vastly more than I could hope to finish. Gail’s dish was immense. Even my iced tea cane in a huge glass–it needed four packets of sweetener instead of the usual three.
On our way out, the greeter said “have a good day, folks.” I think that’s a promotion from ‘you guys’.
The Lazy Dog is a decent place for a quick meal, or a place to go to have a. See and watch the game. Seriously consider sharing a dish–there will still be leftovers. You guys will save money and calories and feel virtuous and frugal.
Claudia was getting too darned shaggy, and we didn’t know how she could see out of all the hair covering her eyes, so it was time to make that traumatic first trip to the groomer. Traumatic for us, that is. The pup couldn’t care less. Just one more person to love her.
We asked Dr. Ruth, our caring vet who also has a couple of small dogs, who was the best around. She recommended Deanna, now working out of Patty’s Pet Parlor in Concord. An appointment was arranged, and off we went.
The first meeting went well–Claudia jumped into her arms and started kissing.
More hugging ensued until some calm could be arranged.
Deanna and Gail had a serious talk about what was required–just a trim of face, feet and tail. No big haircut. No scalped dog. Plenty of fuzzy, rag-mop left to run around the house.
Getting ready to say good bye. You can see how overgrown her face was.
Deanna wanted 90 minutes to give her a bath, blow her dry and make her beautiful. That’s when Gail and I went to Mimi’s Cafe for breakfast, with Gail slightly trepidacious all the while.
When we went to pick her up, Gail stayed in the car. Which was good because Deanna had placed a pretty bow in Claudia’s hair, and I knew that wasn’t Gail’s style at all. Safely de-bowed, I brought her out to the car and Gail was very happy with the results. So happy that when we went home I set the newly shorn puppy on the stool in my photo studio and took a formal portrait for you:
Here’s one more I took Sunday
We are lucky to have such a cute pup, and I’m awfully glad we found Deanna. Next up: a full dog trim, not cut, just trim. I doubt that she can get any cuter, though.
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