...Sunday morning started with a very long adventure down (and up) a mountain on our way out of Pigeon Forge. I had been saying all weekend that I wanted to take a stab at driving in the mountains and I sure got what I bargained for! We're still not sure if our GPS was confused or if that truly was the way out of the Smokies, but we had a pretty hairy drive for awhile. After an hour of hairpin turns, a dad who was feeling a little car sick, and less than two cars met, our adventurous spirit started turning a bit panicky, especially when GPS eventually lost signal completely. Then, I really started losing it when we met a "Pavement Ends" sign on the side of the road. Turns out, the pavement ends where the Appalachian Trail begins. Luckily, right next to the Appalachian Trail sign was another wooden sign with the words, "Interstate Four Miles Ahead" etched in permanent marker. Well, at least we weren't the only ones to get caught up in the wilderness with a lost GPS! We trusted the sign (at this point, we had nothing to lose), and sure enough, after about four miles of extremely hairy gravel road, we made it to the interstate and were on our way to North Carolina in no time! Just a couple hours behind schedule...
Goodbye Smoky Mountains...
The interstate never looked so good! Except I quickly learned the interstates in the mountains are a little different than the flat Midwest. No cruise control at 70+ for me!
...We ate lunch at a southern road trip classic, Waffle House, and were pleased with our decision. We started having contests to see if the number of Waffle Houses along the interstate surpassed the number of Cracker Barrels, but we lost count after 75 or so...:)
...If there was one thing that was an absolute must for us tourists, I wanted juicy Georgia peaches and Beau wanted boiled peanuts. We made plans to stop at the very first roadside stand we found as soon as we crossed into the Georgia border. Little did we know, the first stand (in a strip club parking lot, mind you) was a bit of a scam! I bought a pack of peaches for ten bucks from a nice toothless couple, but they were out of boiled peanuts, and we later saw a peach stand with a pack for $3! Blame it on the excitement of finally reaching our destination! And the peaches were out of this world! I've seriously never had a peach that tasted like that.
...Crossed the HUGE bridge that led straight to our hotel on the Savannah River. The bridge stood 185 feet above the river and the guys wondered why they would need to build a bridge that tall on what seemed to be a small river. It didn't take us long to figure out why...:)
...We were on the fifth floor of the Hyatt Regency, two adjoining rooms with a killer view of the river. We kept seeing postcards and pictures of the river and river boats and laughed because they looked like they were taken from our room!
Our view of River Street.
The land of palm trees!
...Our first night, we all got to go to a welcome dinner at the hotel with a reception honoring the agents and all the hard work. Cruz looked so cute in his light blue polo and plaid shorts and did a great job at dinner. He carefully drank water from his wine glass using both hands and sat contentedly with his cloth napkin on his lap. Soon, however, he discovered that we were just feet away from the hotel lobby and one of his favorite parts of the entire trip --- the escalators!
...During dinner, a higher up at Farm Bureau was giving a welcome to the crowd when he suddenly became drowned out by quite the sight behind him! The reception hall was lined with large picture windows facing the river and soon, the largest ship I have ever seen filled the windows and sounded its horn. We suddenly knew why the bridge had to be so high! Turns out, we were staying at the 2nd largest port on the Eastern Seaboard. A few times each day, a very large container ship made its way down the river to the Atlantic Ocean. Every time we heard those horns, we knew we'd have quite the sight out our window. My father was especially interested in the ships and would get up in the middle of the night when he heard a horn sound!
...After dinner, we walked down the famous Savannah River Street, just steps from our hotel, to see the boats up close and get a taste of the unique culture in Savannah. I instantly loved it --- the old brick buildings, the open air (and open container) vibe of the bars and shrimp houses, the old guy playing guitar and singing, "Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay," and the ballast-stoned streets, all against a beautiful backdrop of a river that led to the mighty Atlantic Ocean.
We got pretty used to these pretty river boats this week.
We had arrived to our final destination! We happily waved goodbye to our mini-van for the next few days and sank into our hotel beds anticipating a full week ahead.