Monday, October 29, 2012

Junk Love Monday: Tennessee (Is Not For Me)

I realize that I'm going to be insulting the entire great state of Tennessee in this post, but from a junk love perspective, Tennessee stinks. (Sorry.) It is a pretty good neighbor to good old NC, and I have had several great family vacations there, but our buying trip in TN was so bad that the very mention of it results in A). instant despair; or B). deep bitterness (with a bit of stink eye aimed at whomever dared to utter the word). It was, we have decided, our worst trip ever (although Canada is still a top contender, but that story will come later).

We had originally planned to spend a long weekend in the North Carolina mountains for Easter, visiting our favorite junk shops and antique malls and enjoying the perfection of Asheville in the springtime. But, someone we knew called us to say that they had won a free weekend at a nice hotel in Gatlinburg, but they had other obligations that weekend, so they offered it to us. What a nice surprise! We accepted. This was the worst decision that we have ever made.

We should have known that the Universe was trying to tell us something when we hit the traffic on I-40 in Asheville. There was major road construction, and a series of detours partnered with our evil GPS to keep leading us back into Asheville. We spent two and a half hours in traffic jams, looking for detour signs, reprogramming the GPS, and passing the same gas station over and over again (but from different directions). I finally pulled my trusty old atlas out of the back and navigated us out of the chaos. We ended up on a curvy country highway, which led us into the most deserted part of the mountains that I have ever been to. At this point, we had been on the road for around seven hours (it should have been half that), it was dark, and we were winding our way past widely spaced cabins with no lights on, in an area where the GPS and cell phone refused to pick up a signal. Finally, the GPS came to life and pinpointed the location of our hotel. This is when we learned that you should never trust a GPS in the mountains after dark.

It was midnight, and we were in a manual transmission automobile on a nearly vertical incline, performing acrobatic feats around hairpin turns in an unfamiliar place (still with no cell phone signal), and then the GPS decided we needed just a little more spice in our lives. We ended up on a gravel, single lane road that took us up and over the peak of a mountain. The incline was so steep that we slid on the gravel in places. We were nearly hyperventilating by the time we got back down out of the clouds and spotted the bright lights of a hotel. We finally located an entrance, which strangely took us through a corridor of dumpsters and to the back side of the building. We thought it was weird that the entrance would be in the back, until we circled the (huge) building and discovered...a well-populated area with an INTERSTATE running by A HUGE ENTRANCE with A HUGE SIGN for the hotel. Yes, the GPS took us the back way. It was now almost 2am, and we had been on the road for around twelve hours. (For the geographically impaired, it should not take anywhere near twelve hours to get from the center of North Carolina to just barely over the Tennessee border. We could have made it to New York in that amount of time.) Needless to say, this was not an auspicious beginning to our journey.

But, you pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and blah blah blah. So, the next morning, we were up and ready to find junk. We had a list of shops in the surrounding cities, and enough time to search for more, and we hit the road. And...nothing. It took us over an hour to find a shop that even still existed, and it had the bad kind of junk. We finally drove to Knoxville, where the majority of the shops on our list were supposed to be, and discovered that 99% of them had gone out of business. (This is why we now call if a shop is more than 5 miles from our current location.) We did find one gem, an antique mall called Nostalgia (, which was absolutely fabulous, but one good hit is still not enough to cancel out all of those misses...and the misses just kept coming. We found nothing. The Goodwills have moved or shut down. Same for the Salvation Army stores. Little independent thrift stores are actually car part shops in a part of town where everybody's got bars on the windows. We were incredibly depressed by the end of the day, which is made even worse by the fact that our favorite remedy for depression is junk shopping (oh, the tragedy!).  And yes, the trip got worse.

The next morning, we received a phone call from a perky person asking if we were ready for the tour. What tour? Oh, yeah. Our free hotel miracle weekend, so lovingly passed on to us, was actually a timeshare tour. And, I quickly found out, if you don't take the tour, they bill you for the entire stay. We had already been there two nights, and the regular rate is $191 per night. And, they were expecting the person who had actually "given" us the stay, so I had to pretend to be somebody else for four hours in a golf cart, making up funny anecdotes about a nonexistent husband and firmly declining to purchase a timeshare. Granted, this part I don't blame on the great state of Tennessee. This can be blamed on an actual person.

Did the trip get worse? You betcha. This was Easter weekend, so before we left home, we called our favorite shops in the Asheville area to make sure that they would be open on Easter Sunday as we were driving back home. They said yes. They lied. We drove to Asheville, and then spent two hours driving to places that were, in fact, closed for the holiday. At this point, we realized that nobody else stays open on Easter, either. Target? Nope. The mall? Nope. We actually got so desperate to buy something--anything!--that we drove from town to town (in the general direction of home) looking for something to be open. We finally found a Big Lots, and I would bet that those employees still remember the two crazy girls who rushed in like castaways reaching dry land for the first time, piling a shopping cart full of a weird assortment of items and making loud, exclamatory statements about everything. Look at these socks! I have to have these socks! I want two pairs of these socks! Oh, look--garden hoses!!!

I had developed an eye twitch by the time we got home. (By the way, where we come from, the shops DO stay open on Easter. We made it back one hour too late to go to any of them.) At this point, we were so disillusioned with the world, it was like somebody had just stabbed Santa right in front of us. The funk lasted for days. We were even too depressed to go to Goodwill. Eventually, we got back on the horse. But the trauma lingers, even today. When we are disappointed by other things, we tend to remark, "At least it's better than Tennessee." Oh, Tennessee. You are definitely not for me.

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