A Titanic coincidence with a side of banana pudding makes Tennessee travel a treat

Susan R. Pollack
Special to The Detroit News

Two strange coincidences happened on my recent getaway to Tennessee and they’re just one of the many reasons I’m so hooked on travel.

One involved my husband, who was traveling with me, and the other involved our daughter, who was traveling with her friends hundreds of miles away. Both incidents left me shaking my head and marveling, “What are the chances of that?”

(Note: This post was originally published May 23, 2019, on our previous publishing platform. It is being republished here.)

A Titanic display made from LEGO bricks is a conversation piece at the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

The first happened when Steve and I toured the Titanic Museum, an eye-catching attraction in Pigeon Forge, a folksy, family-friendly gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in eastern Tennessee.

We were traveling with a group and got separated, as we sometimes do, into two different groups with different guides.

Upon entry, each of us, like all visitors, received a boarding pass for one of the 2,208 passengers or crew members who sailed on the ill-fated ship, which famously struck an iceberg on April 15, 1912 and sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on its maiden voyage.

My boarding pass was for Helene Baxter, a first-class passenger from Montreal, Canada, who was traveling with two of her adult children, “happily ensconced in two of Titanic’s most expensive suites.”

My info-card told how she’d had an anxiety attack when the ship “stopped mid-ocean.” She’d been helped up the Grand Staircase — familiar to many of us from the blockbuster 1997 “Titanic” disaster-romance film starring 

Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio — and into a lifeboat by her son, Quigg.

The Titanic Museum is a popular attraction on the parkway in Pigeon Forge.

After touring the many galleries and checking out hundreds of artifacts, reaching my hand into 28-degree water, touching a real iceberg and trying to stand on a facsimile of the Titanic’s sloping deck, I finally found out Mrs. Baxter’s fate near the tour’s end in the Memorial Room. Like three out of four women aboard, she survived.

While comparing notes with my husband afterward in the gift shop, I asked if his passenger had survived. Sadly, like four out of five of the men on the Titanic, he hadn’t. I got a chill when Steve glanced at his boarding pass and told me his passenger’s name was Quigg Baxter — my passenger’s son.

No one passing out the info-cards when we entered the Titanic Museum even knew we were together.

Real banana pudding is a treat at Sweet P's Downtown Dive in Knoxville.

As strange as that was, the second coincidence on our Tennessee trip was freaky, too, though thankfully sunnier. As we drove out of nearby Knoxville a few days later, I was still raving about the yummy banana pudding I’d tasted at a barbecue joint called Sweet P’s Downtown Dive. It was creamy and delicious, made with vanilla wafers, whipped topping and real bananas without a hint of that artificial banana flavor from my childhood. Plus, it was a bargain at $3.50.

When I called our daughter, Jenny, to see how her visit with friends in New York City was going, she mentioned all kinds of fun and memorable museums, restaurants and adventures. And then she started talking about a stop at Magnolia Bakery where she’d tasted a “life-changing” banana pudding made with vanilla cookies and real bananas.

I mean, how crazy is that?

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