Doesn’t it seem like we’re gonna be able to go to Graceland and Dollywood soon? Those two destinations bookend middle Tennessee where Sue and I live with our dog, Maya and our cat, Minnie. That is Maya Angelou and Minnie Pearl. We’ve survived a year of co-existing in our little cabin in the woods. I’ve learned a lot of new recipes, not having sat down in a restaurant since early March of 2020. Sue has nearly read everything that Randy Wayne White has written.
We met in the winter of 2015 in January. We started dating in the fall of 2017, and we just married on March 21, 2021. We got our marriage license in Smithville at the DeKalb County Clerks office. They told us we had to marry within thirty days. I called the county courthouse to inquire about a justice of the peace or a judge who could marry us. I was told there wasn’t anyone in Smithville who could do that. They didn’t have any suggestions either. I found a justice of the peace in nearby Woodbury online. But then I thought, let’s make this a day to remember. Let’s make it a fun experience.
Enter the Drive Thru I Do. That’s right. You can pull up to the Chapel parking lot, never get out of your car, and vow to always stand by your man or woman, even when changing a driver’s side flat tire on an interstate with a short shoulder. Now that’s true love. I mentioned the possibility to Sue and she said, “Do we get fries with that?” I said, “Indeed.” She said, “We’re going to Pigeon Forge.”
Pigeon Forge is a mountain resort city in the Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. There are plenty of hotels, eateries, gift shops, indoor skydiving, Dollywood, Lodge Cookware and the Drive Thru I Do. I’ve never had an interest in jumping out of a plane, but jumping into a vertical indoor wind tunnel is something I’ve always had an interest in. I asked Sue, “Can we make the day a double date, a marriage and indoor sky diving?” Sue said, “how about a hike and a marriage?” Sounds adoringly aerobic.
Some friends on Short Mountain told us about the indoor skydiving at a Friday night equinox/marriage celebration drumming circle, two days before our big day. That Friday night was loads of fun. There were about fifteen of us drumming, dancing, drinking and breaking bread. There was even a wedding cake and cupcakes, homemade carrot cake with a tiara and a vintage toy car, all set to go to the Drive Thru I Do.
The wedding was booked for 2 pm. We figured it would take us three hours, one way being 171 miles. We left the house just before nine o’clock. We drove up to Crossville on the Cumberland Plateau. Sue had found some short trails at the Cumberland Mountain State Park. Maya was anxious to hit the trail. We did a very short hike around Byrd Lake. Then it was back to interstate 40 Eastbound towards Knoxville. The highway wasn’t crowded at all, it was a sunny Sunday, still in the pandemic.
Not long after leaving Crossville, a descent down the Cumberland Plateau begins when you reach Roane County. At Mile Marker 340 we entered the Eastern Time Zone. We were on our way into the Tennessee Valley. Sue had checked out the new Dolly Parton biography, Songteller-My Life in Lyrics, from the Smith County Public Library where she works part-time as a children’s librarian. It was a talking book with Dolly herself telling the stories, how her songs connected to her life. It was the perfect accompaniment for our journey to Pigeon Forge, just fifteen miles from Dolly’s birthplace, Pittman Center, Tennessee. The thing that struck us about her readings was that she remains first and foremost-the songwriter. She pitches songs that she has written that have not been recorded by anyone—yet. It certainly had us smiling, not that we needed any help. Afterall, we were going to Pigeon Forge to get married at the Drive Thru I Do.
As we approached Knoxville, the traffic got congested and then some, meaning it came to a standstill. We looked at the GPS, and it was saying we would arrive at 2:15- YIKES…We didn’t want to be late to our own wedding. Sue suggested to call the Drive Thru I Do, so I gave them a call. Sue was driving, we had taken her car. The Drive Thru I Do picked up the phone, and I told them our situation. They said it would be fine if we were there by 2:15. I said thank you, and it was back to my job of navigating. I began looking for alternate routes and found one that looked promising. We decided to get off of the interstate and take another way into Pigeon Forge. Most of that alternate was four lane, so we didn’t lose much time. At some point the GPS changed to 2:20. The last five miles or so was a one lane windy road, slow going. We stopped at a parking area just before we arrived and changed into our wedding clothes. Then it was back in the car and onward to our destination. “There it is.” Nestled in amongst the pines and parking lots, we found the Drive Thru I Do wedding chapel and parking lot.
There were two other cars already there. We hadn’t invited anyone, who were these strangers? I hopped out of the car and went into the chapel. I was greeted by Landree Brotherton, the officiant, who was wearing a mask. I had mine on as well. It was 2:20. He asked if we wouldn’t mind, since we were late, to doing the ceremony in the chapel. It would save him time as he mentioned he also had a 2:30. I ran out to the car and asked Sue, and we decided to do the ceremony in the chapel, as it would help Pastor Brotherton. Sue and I had a masked ceremony with Maya as our witness. It was all over in a matter of minutes. From divorced to married, nearly in a wink. We signed the official papers, thanked Landree and were on our way till death do us part. Landree’s 2:30 appointment proceded on time.
We found the nearest Jimmy John’s and had our first meal as husband and wife. It wasn’t easy for me to drive by the Lodge Cast Iron Factory Store without stopping. We didn’t go to Dollywood either.
It was back on the interstate heading west towards Liberty, back to our little cabin in the woods.
Thank you to all of our friends and family, standing by us through thick and thin, better or worse, rich or poor, in sickness and in health. We will love and cherish you all the days of our lives…
Play, music! And you, brides and bridegrooms all,
With measure heap’d in joy, to the measures fall.
(As You Like It, 5.4.174)