Monday, July 29, 2013

Gatlinburg, Oh Gatlinburg

I just remembered that I haven't finished boring you with more details about my vacation! In my last blog entry, I mentioned Dollywood.  We did, indeed, visit Dollywood on Tuesday.  We didn't go until the afternoon.  In the morning, my wee baby sister and I (plus her youngest son) went to a craftsman's fair that was going on in Gatlinburg. It was fun. People were friendly. I bought two handmade dog collars.  The lady running the booth told me, "That'll be around $22.00."  I thought, around $22.00? I guess things are just more laid-back in the south.  Even the parking attendant called me "hon" and asked me how my day was going.

One thing we quickly learned on this vacation was that it was not easily possible for all 13 of us to choose a single event or location and then head there en masse. What usually happened was that the three families just made their own separate plans or two families went somewhere together. Or, we sometimes swapped kids. P and I took one nephew to the National Park. My middle sister took my kid on a couple of excursions as well. 

Anyway, our little family plus my middle sister and her family headed to Dollywood on Tuesday afternoon. When we got there, we were advised that if you arrive after 3:00 p.m., you get to come back for free the next day. Apparently it is a well-known secret in the area, although there is no mention of it on the website.

Let's see. How shall I describe Dollywood?  Well, once you've been to DisneyWorld, other theme parks automatically rate lower on the awesomeness spectrum. It is just really hard to top Disney.  Dollywood markets itself as the "friendliest theme park."  Now, I don't know whether or not they took the tram drivers into consideration when coming up with this marketing plan.  Because, really, nothing makes your day like having a tram operator scream, "DON'T LEAVE NO PERSONAL BELONGINGS BEHIND!" at you. If you really want to be treated poorly at Dollywood, be sure to bring a stroller. The drivers save up most of their fury for parents. We happened to sit in the row right behind the stroller area. We watched each parent being eviscerated in turn as they attempted to load the stroller into the tram. "THE HANDLES MUST FACE THE OTHER WAY!"  "SIR! YOU CAN'T MOVE SOMEONE ELSE'S STROLLER!"  They keep their microphones on at all times so that everyone on the tram can hear their helpful guidance. And keep in mind that all of this happens in the parking lot, before you even get into the amusement park.

Other than that, though, the park itself was pretty nice. Lots of, um, interesting people there. A was able to ride most of the rides. She is currently 47 inches tall and some rides had a minimum height of 48 inches. Assuming she can squeeze out one more inch over the course of the next year, she should be in good shape for roller coasters for next summer. It was a hot day and we rode several water rides. I was determined to ride the wooden roller coaster, so my sister watched the kid while P and I rode it. We left the park just as the fireworks were getting started. This time it was my sister and her fiance who bore the wrath of the tram driver because they had the handles facing the wrong way on my nephew's stroller. It was a fun day, though. And thank God we didn't "leave no personal belongings behind."

On Wednesday, the three of us went to Pigeon Forge to engage in some touristy stuff.  We ate lunch and then went to a go-kart track.  They had kiddie ones that short stuff could ride.  Then we rode the bigger go-karts.  I rode in a single kart and P got a double so that he could ride with the kid. We were all having a blast until our daughter was stung by a bee while she was on the ride. This was her first bee sting, so I guess it's at least noteworthy that she made it eight years with NO bee stings.  An employee brought us some anti-itch cream for the sting.  We iced her arm and then applied the goop. A few minutes later, she was just fine. She wanted to ride the bumper boats.  I wasn't too keen on doing it, but I felt badly about the bee sting so I took one for the team. I should add that the each bumper boat comes equipped with a built-in sprayer so that you can soak all of the other people. Some little snot shot me in the side of the head for about three minutes straight.  So, I was soaked but the kid had fun.

Later in the evening, my sister and her family returned to Dollywood (taking advantage of the free return passes) and took my kid along. I had reached Maximum Fun for the day.  Instead, I volunteered to watch some of the younger kids while everyone else went out. I may as well confess it right now: yes, I drank on the job.

I'll regale you with more Gatlinburg tales in my next blog entry. And that's a threat promise!

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