It wouldn’t be a trip to the Mountains without Rubber Chickens, Government Contracts, and Stromboli

A few tips and observations from a recent trip into the Appalachians and Smokies:

Rafting, and Chickens:  If you schedule a rafting trip and notice that the guide has replaced the T-grip of his paddle with a rubber chicken, don’t go.  The rubber chicken is detachable and he will drop it into the river.  And then, with the apparent mental constitution of Tom Hanks after months on a deserted island, he will dive out of the raft to retrieve it, abandoning you and the folks from Sheboygan who can’t row in rhythm to save their fucking lives and keep hitting your damn paddle.  But he will at least recommend that you watch out for that big rock there called “Jaws” and most certainly to avoid the one farther down named “Timmy.”  “Why is it named Timmy?” you’ll ask stupidly, wasting the few precious moments that remain of your life.  And as he grabs for his chicken, he will yell “Oh, that’s the boy who, you know… least we raised enough money for his momma to get him a real nice wheelchair!”

Car Engines, and Prayer:  If you intend to drive a car in small mountain towns, know that it will not start unless you hold a lit cigarette in your left hand, which you must hang on the steering wheel like a ham hock drying in the sun, and say “oh gawd damn” each time the engine fails to turn over.  When it does eventually start, offer the quick mountain prayer, “that’s right mutherfucker.”

Hiking, and How To Do Local TV Interviews:  When you are told about a good four-mile day hike, this means the U.S. Forest Service will dispatch all available Rangers to search for your ass when you don’t return home by Thursday.  When you are pulled out of the helicopter at the closest trauma center to an awaiting crowd of local TV reporters who ask you what happened, and you blame the person that recommended the trail, you will be told, to the sound of great laughter, that all folks in those parts learn about distance by teaching crows how to fly in a straight line and then come back and report how far it is.

Photography, and Government Contracts:  If you stop to take a picture of a junkyard and the political signs posted there, be prepared to engage in a conversation with a local about the infamous Contract of ’43 which he ain’t never seen a dern penny from even though he’s “got a stake in it,” and the government done seen fit to take all the taxable land and now it’s only about 10%.  And Heath Shuler, who ran for Congress before but he ain’t runnin’ again cause there ain’t no more taxable land, well he ain’t worth a shit and whusn’t much good a quarterback anyhow.

Telling Time, and Coffee Makers:  If you visit in the offseason, know that all towns are inundated by busloads of New Jersey tourists, all of whom wear three watches, and each of which are calibrated to the atomic clock in Switzerland.  And by god, I promise you that if the complimentary hotel breakfast starts at 7, they will descend on it at 7, each and every last one of them, telling the poor old lady at the omelette station that they have a bus tour to get on by 8 but they really need to get on by 7:45, no later, so they can sit on the left side because the driver said it’s the best side, and just add a little more cheese to theirs, oh just a little more, and where is the coffee, oh it’s in the same place as yesterday, and the day before?

Restaurants, and Divorce Paperwork:  Many restaurants have two hostess stations, one outside and one inside.  The one outside is presumably for patrons who are inhaling or shoving a tobacco product into a facial orifice and, as a result, aren’t allowed within 75 feet of food prep areas.  If you are one of the few non-employees to actually go inside, just before you are able to ask for a table, the hostess will abandon her station with a cell phone mashed into her ear and shout “where the papers at? How’s I supposed to know where the fuckin’ papers at? They ain’t never sent me that crap!”  And you will wonder if she is, for the time being, married to or otherwise related to the rubber chicken raft guide.  (Additional note on Stromboli:  If you are dumb enough to order one, know that they are made entirely of cheese.  Trust me, that’s not bread crust, nor is the other material pepperoni.  And despite all your chewing and swallowing, your body wants nothing to do with this so-called “pepperoni cheese pie” and will not absorb even one single calorie of it.  In other words, the train’s gonna come out the tunnel the same way it come in.  And to punish you for this poor menu choice, your body will keep you in bed for three days without tolerating food or water while somehow causing you to gain seven percent of your body weight).

For the Pigeon Forgers:  It’s Vegas-on-crack for kids, Batman!

And Dollywood:  “Free ice water is available at many venues.  It’s a perk that few people at Dollywood know about,” or so a customer service representative will tell you if you ask where you can park.