Daddy-Daughter-Dolly Road Trip

I had a plan. It was a loosely formed plan, but a plan nonetheless. Once Daughter and I had consumed all that the International Biscuit Festival had to offer, I figured we could find something else fun to do between here and there. We had driven all that way (meaning, I had driven all that way) after all, so why not? It didn’t take long for a plan to firm up in Daughter’s mind. She’d been bugging me to go to Six Flags Over Georgia since spring break (it opened a week after our trip to Atlanta), and thought that would be a good place to stop by on the way home. (In her defense, she is generally a map-less passenger, content for us to tell her “how much farther”.)

I am most definitely an amusement park kind of guy. I like the opportunity to eat unique theme park foods, and I like wild and wooly roller coasters. I don’t necessarily recommend them in that order, but that’s just me. So when Daughter laid out her plan, I was game in principle; I just knew Six Flags wouldn’t work. But since I had a little better handle on the geography and timetable, I suggested Dollywood. Despite numerous Spring Break trips to Pigeon Forge, we always seemed to get there a week before it opened. (Are you noticing a pattern here? Could we work on that, Starkville Public Schools?) After a little Googling to determine coaster quality we decided it was worth a shot.

We pulled onto Dollywood Boulevard just after three o’clock on Saturday afternoon – perfect timing because an entrance after that time allowed us to get in free the next day. For the better part of five hours, we rode the coasters without eating a thing. Not normal. Then again, it wasn’t exactly normal that we spent most of the morning inhaling biscuits. But by the time we got back to Pigeon Forge that night, we had both worked up a pretty good appetite. I thought it would be fun to find a pancake place; a good carb-loading seemed to be in order for the next day’s dashes from queue to queue. None on our end of the parkway were open. (Whoever is working on spring break scheduling, could you look into that, too?) With breakfast for dinner now on the brain, I sought refuge elsewhere. Krispy Kreme was already on our radar, but I was saving that for dessert. Cracker Barrel was next door and a sure bet for Daughter, so we headed for the porch.

I could not believe the breakfast special I found on the Barrel menu. I forget what they named it, but when I was growing up we called it an Egg-in-a-Hole. As a kid this was a breakfast standard and as a parent I cook it for my own. There’s a recipe for it in my NASCAR cookbook, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in a restaurant. I ordered it and the waiter asked me how I’d like my eggs. I think I said, “Really?” out loud. As an expert egg-in-a-hole maker, I only knew one method. You take a piece of loaf bread, tear out a hole in the center, butter it up on both sides, throw it in a skillet, and crack an egg in the hole. Cook till the egg is done on both sides and you’re done. He said I could get my egg any old way, including scrambled. I was flabbergasted. Scrambled eggs-in-the-hole? I don’t think so. (Figure out an omelet-in-a-hole and we can talk.) We agreed on over medium and he left me alone to shake my head. By the way, it was terrific, and I don’t say that often about the Barrel. Daughter ordered the Old Timer’s breakfast plate, which I thought was a bit bold for someone who usually eats like a bird, but she did some pretty heavy damage – I was impressed. And as for Krispy Kreme, the line was out the door and it was after ten – we decided to wait till morning.

With hot donuts to maintain our energy for another morning of intense coaster chasing, and only a few hours to chase, we waited until the absolute last minute and grabbed some food to go. Our first stop was for a loaf of cinnamon bread. I watched – practically drooling – as the baker cut slits in the top of the dough, submerged it in a pool of melted butter, and rolled it in a bowl of cinnamon and sugar. Do I really need to say how good that was? Perhaps there should have been a warning: “This bread not for everyday use.” But we don’t go to Dollywood every day, do we. To balance my sugared-butter levels, I stopped at Granny Ogle’s Ham n’Beans for a pulled ham sandwich to go. The waitress asked if I wanted an extra pack of chips or the usual beans and cornbread that came with it. Duh. Tiny bag of Lay’s? Or beans and a small pone of cornbread? You know what I got. Yes, I got a mess in the car. Not far down the highway we discovered that the beans had tipped over and all that bean juice I was hoping would soak into my cornbread was instead running around the bottom of the (thankfully) plastic bag. You live. You learn.

Dinner wasn’t really necessary, but I needed a Frappuccino around Birmingham since Daughter refused to take a turn driving. (She’s twelve – in hindsight, she made the right choice.) And since I could smell smoke across the street from Starbucks, I introduced her to the glories of a Golden Rule barbecue sandwich (chopped) and a cup of the sweetest tea on the planet. By that time, messy foods were no big deal.

Burgers to start the weekend, biscuits in the middle, and barbecue at the end. Daddy-Daughter-Dolly weekend was – yes, I’m going to say it – a Barrel of fun.

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