My girlfriend and I ventured to the gambling capital of the Old North State for a holiday weekend of outdoor fun. I wanted to shit in the woods like Bill Bryson. I never did.
We settled at Jellystone Park, a family resort with a costumed Yogi that rides through camp in the back of a pickup truck surrounded by children. We stayed in a sleeper cabin that wore the label "bear bones." Actually, the cabin had cable television and air conditioning.
Saturday morning we went to a bear zoo that advertised itself as "the best in town." Bear viewing is in high supply in Cherokee. We fed black, cinnamon, asiatic and grizzly bears while some of them performed for our half-rotten apples. A couple clumsy kids couldn't keep their food in their trays, so we stuck around picking up scraps for an hour.
Saturday afternoon we hit the casino, which happens to suck because it has no poker room. The blackjack minimum was set at $15. Saddened, we spent $10 on video poker and left. The weekend would have to be defined by outdoor adventure.
Our cabin neighbors were father-and-son bikers from Macon, Ga. They, of course, were more seasoned campers than us.
"You shit in the woods yet?" the son asked Saturday night after I had explained my hope for the weekend the night before. The truth was that I hadn't had a bowel movement at all despite some earnest effort. I made a mental note to pick up some fiber bars at the nearby Food Lion. We cooked well despite not rounding out the food groups. We set our own campfires, which were always smokier than our neighbors'. We ate s'mores and turkey dogs. I was fine with it; my body was not. Grant and his father were friendly and humorous until more bikers, who were cooler than us, showed up.
"Where's your bike?" a grimy biker asked me.
"I have a four-wheeler," I said without bringing attention to my Accord directly behind him. I shirked back into my cabin to watch three consecutive episodes of Law and Order.
The bikers recommended that we spend the next day at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Motorists wait along the 11-mile auto tour to watch the park's famous elk step into grassy clearings. That was fun until I realized that waiting for elk is an incredibly slow process. We got restless and walked through the mountain's three century-old buildings: a well-preserved wooden house, a two-classroom schoolhouse and a church with an enormous Bible and working bell.
I have only one regret from the weekend. We passed a mechanical bull every time we drove to and from the town. I promise to write about my elimination of that regret reasonably soon.