Our day outing yielded valuable reconnaissance, but no furniture.

With confirmation in place that Christmas will indeed be celebrated here in Knoxville (an entire story unto itself), it is full speed ahead to render as much of the house as merry as possible. That necessarily entailed opening the sunroof of the wagon on a glorious autumn Saturday and heading into the Smoky Mountains and their antique stores in search of “perfect” pieces for various places in the house. The contractors will begin doing their merry-making thing next week.

So off we set this past weekend into the fog to a Holiday Craftsman’s Fair at the Smoky Mountain Heritage Center. Sounded suspiciously like a Christmas Market to us.

 Did I mention the drive was foggy?

“Tuckaleechee” is a word everyone should say aloud daily, just for the pure pleasure of doing so.

A stop at the Apple Valley General Store, in the Peaceful Side of the Smokies.

Inside the store, make-you-chuckle kitsch and tempting treats.

In another, “Are we in Austria?” moment, a collection of good luck tokens very much like those we collected around the New Year.

At the craftsman’s fair. Are we in Niederösterreich or East Tennessee? 

The fair was pleasant but we left without any treasures, then decided to head up through the mountains to Gatlinburg for lunch.

What is this? A Rodelbahn?

Because of the extended hot summer the colors are not as brilliant as they might otherwise be, but we’ll take the scenic mountain route any day over the interstate.

At the Moonshine Ridge Country Store. I’m not certain why Mama Bear is topless.

A very patriotic Christmas tree.

The holiday decor in this country store was much to my liking. (No, I am not swapping out my love of the bovines for the bears, just giving credit where credit is due.)

Slow-rolling into Gatlinburg because the traffic was soul-crushing. Beautiful autumn Saturday, go figure. That’s when we realized that our lofty plan to spend Christmas week in Tennessee, complete with Dollywood and all things Pigeon Forge, was probably a terrible idea.

At the first place we could find parking we stopped for lunch. My burger as described on the menu came with 35 toppings (figuratively) plus a side of fries, and our waitstaff struggled to understand why I only wanted a burger with avocado (“But the fries are free.”) When the server brought our order he made a distinct point of saying, with a slight note of concern, “I was informed that you only wanted a burger and some avocado. I hope this is correct.”  (The burger was aces delicious.)

On the drive home we reaffirmed our decision to scrap Christmas week in Knoxville; traffic just isn’t holly and jolly. Once back at home we scoured the remaining vacation rentals within a day’s drive of Knoxville and booked the best-reviewed airbnb that met our criteria (near the beach and doggo-friendly). Christmas will be spent in Knoxville, and then it’s on to Charleston and a bungalow on Folly Beach.

Dollywood will always be there.