Bob Bestler

Hot dogs in the Tennessee hills: Why our 45th wedding anniversary was one to remember

Eight days ago, we left a campsite at Kentucky Horse Park outside Lexington.

As always, that meant taking down the screen house, putting up the carpet, stowing Smokey Joe, putting away the chairs (two for us, one for a spoiled dog named Wasabi), strapping on the bikes, unhooking the water and electricity, and, finally, attaching the tow line for the Fiat.

Then it was off to Big Ridge State Park high in the Tennessee hills outside outside Knoxville, a mere three-hour drive, and doing it all again, but in reverse.

Untow the car, hook up the water and electricity, take out the chairs, put down the carpet, put up the screen house, unstow Smokey Joe.

Finally all was in place and now came Miller time — or, in our world, cocktail time.

As we sat down with our drinks, Elaine offered a toast: “Happy anniversary.”

OMG! Happy anniversary? Happy 45th anniversary? Is this the day? Wow.

Normally, our wedding anniversary called for a visit to a nice restaurant.

On this day, it was too late and we were too tired to travel back down the winding mountain road in search of a restaurant worthy of 45 years.

Instead, we opened the fridge and pulled out a couple of hot dogs and a prepackaged salad, vowing to do better tomorrow.

As we ate, we laughingly recalled our first meal as a married couple in 1974. It was at one of Charlotte’s finest restaurants, where we could bring our own bottle if the wine steward could not match it.

We brought a 1964 Chateau Haute Briand, which Elaine had brought from Paris, and the properly impressed steward kept our glasses filled through the meal.

Recalling the day and looking at her hot dog, Elaine remarked: “How the mighty have fallen.”

“Not fallen,” I said. “Changed.”

As bad as it sounded, our 45th anniversary was hardly the worst.

That honor will always belong to our 15th anniversary, on Sept. 21, 1989.

That’s the one we celebrated with our children in my sister-in-law’s basement in Camden, hunkering down as Hurricane Hugo swept over us.

Yeah, I’ll celebrate with a hot dog in the hills of Tennessee any day.

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