Discovering that there was a train that we could ride through the Smoky Mountains… awesome! But that wasn’t the clincher that caused me to reroute our mother-and-sons road trip to visit friends in Raleigh. It wasn’t even the Wizard of Oz performance that was to take place ON THE TRAIN! It was a magical tiny home on a hill overlooking Bryson City… a tiny home in the form of a caboose!
The drive from Nashville to Bryson City was beautiful. It’s now my second favorite leg of a road trip (crossing the state line into Utah… seeing the salt flats for the first time remains #1). The Smoky Mountain roads are known for their fall foliage, but in summer months they are heavily traveled by whitewater adventurers. Rivers and creeks spread through the mountains like veins. US-64 is sprinkled with tubing and rafting stands. I rolled down our windows, and the smell of the woods, mixed with a hint suntan lotion, lofted in. At times, 64 would track just along the Ocoee River, and you could hear the thrills and spills of the rafters making their way down the rapids.
I could have driven alongside that river all day! The boys, on the other hand, were over it. Forget the rivers and trees and the mountains and my Apple Music playlist with all of the mountain songs I so carefully selected for this leg of our trip , where was that TRAIN I promised them?! Siri led us right to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad depot. Really, we couldn’t have missed it once we got to Bryson City. It is right smack dab in the center of this cute Norman Rockwell-ish town.
When we walked into the train station, I had 25 pounds of Arlo in an ErgoBaby pack, strapped to my front and a backpack of equal size on my back, and Coen at my side- wide-eyed and grinning ear to ear, pulling me towards the life-sized cardboard cutouts of the Wizard of Oz characters. Maybe it looked like I needed help, or maybe people in this town were just extra nice… but people went out of their way to help us navigate from the station, to the concession stand, to the giant event tent that served as the setting for the first act of the play.