DOLLYWOOD, Tenn. - The first tear fell when we turned on Dollywood Lane.
And I'm not sure when they stopped.
For my wife, it was the equivalent of heaven on earth: a theme park full of roller coasters, water rides and living history displays set to a Dolly Parton soundtrack.
And to top it off, I had given her two tickets to Dolly's Saturday afternoon concert.
It was a fully Dolly day.
We toured the museum, the replica of the house that Dolly grew up in, even took pictures inside her now-retired tour bus. Miriam, according to the tour guide, was the first guest ever to actually lay down in the tub in the $750,000 pink and brown palace on wheels.
It was in line to tour the tour bus that we met Roger and Gerald, a couple of hardcore Dolly fans.
OK, Gerald is a fan. Roger is committed. His friends back in Indianapolis call him "Dolly Roger." And Dolly Roger drives a Dolly Ranger and has a Dolly Room at his Dolly Home.
Miriam may have met her match. Or, worse, her inspiration.
Actually, they were both thrilled to find a couple of folks on their first trip to Dollywood, and shared all the secrets of the park - including the "surprise" park carriage tour Dolly had planned for later in the day. Dolly Roger also knew just how old Dolly is, where her homes are located, and suggested a few videos that we should watch to see how some fans have taken being Dolly-ites to a new level.
And that was just the start of things I learned on my weekend away.
I learned that strangers from across America can become fast friends when their common ground wears rhinestones and wigs, puts on a heck of a concert and giggly grasps the double-entendre when singing "Islands in the Stream."
We learned that we live in a truly small world. Just ask Judy Giles and her family. The McDuffie County residents - and Dollywood season pass holders - also took in the 2 p.m. Dolly concert. I'm always a little astounded when I can go hundreds of miles from home and see a friendly, familiar face.
And, for the record, the concert was a fundraiser for Dolly's Imagination Library - a reading program that served as the impetus of the original Ferst Foundation literacy effort. The local Ferst program really needs your help. Call Beverly Dunn at Partners for Success - 706-595-7160 - to find out how. Or you could just subscribe to The Mirror and we'll donate $5 to the program for you.
I also learned there are some things you don't want to see. Like those underwear worn by the Red Hat Lady who cut in front of Miriam and I as we entered the auditorium for the concert. Now, I've never seen a leopard-print tent, but, trust me, someone, somewhere is missing one. And I have an idea where they can find it.