Monday, June 5, 2023

Getaway to Gatlinburg


Knowing that this was the last time mom and dad would visit me in the south, we decided we needed to do one last trip. Originally we were going to do Gulf Shores, but since we had already done that, we thought we could go somewhere we hadn't been. Plan B was to go to Myrtle Beach instead. That plan got canceled for a couple reasons - one, it was too far to drive AFTER my appointment on Wednesday, and two, they were having pretty big pollen issues (joke is on me after the havoc that Gatlinburg wreaked on my sinuses). Finally we went with Plan C - a quick little jaunt over to East Tennessee!

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

We left Clarksville after my neurology appointment. I slept most of the drive (still recovering from my 3:30AM return home from T. Swift on Sunday, I think). Once we got to Gatlinburg, we checked into our hotel and went in search of food. I was SO EXCITED because on the maps app it showed a Beavertails restaurant. Unfortunately, it seems to be temporarily non-existent. I think it’s seasonal.

We ended up driving to The Fox and Parrot Tavern, which is a British Pub. The menu all sounded really good, and I eeny meeny miney moed my way into choosing the steak and mushroom pie with chips. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was yummy, and I was stuffed!


On our way back into town, we saw a mama bear with her babies! I wasn’t fast enough to get a good photo of the babies, but I got a decent one of mama. As we pulled up on them, mom immediately rolled her window UP and I immediately rolled mine DOWN! I was not allowed to get out and pet them, however. 😜


Once back at the hotel, we took a walk down the main strip. I tried to find a cowboy hat (because I couldn’t find the one I wanted in Nashville) but I couldn’t find one here either. I did however find a waffle stand! It was called Waffle de Lys. As usual, my eyes were bigger than my stomach. I got the “Oh La La!” waffle which had raspberry coulis, French caramel, banana, caramelized hazelnuts, and ICE CREAM!


I ate the whole thing, and severely regretted it the rest of the night. It was delicious, but my tummy did NOT have the room for it. 

Thursday, May 11, 2023

We left the hotel before 7 to head to Clingmans Dome, which was #1 on my list of places to visit while we were in East Tennessee. Clingmans is the highest point in the park, and I expected the views to be great! 


On the drive up, we saw some turkeys, but no bears. The hike to the top wasn’t long (1 mile, round trip), but it was steep! Also, the temperature was 50 degrees. I severely regretted not packing my inhaler. The cold air + my lungs do NOT get along. Alas, we made it to the top. It was clearer than I expected it to be, and as to be expected, the pictures do not do it justice!

From there we went to Chimney Rock trail. The sign said it was a 1.75 mile trail, with the last 0.3 closed due to flooding. According to my watch, it was about 1.85 miles before we got to the closed part. Nearly all uphill. Including 707 steps! According to my Apple Watch, we hiked an elevation of nearly 1600 feet on this hike. I did not think I was going to make it up! Going down wasn’t as bad, except my legs were jello. My ankle gave out once and I had a graceful fall, but only a little blood!

From there, we headed back to the hotel for an hour rest. I did a bit of reading before we went for lunch. We just went to a little stand and I had a hot dog with chips and a soda. 

After a little longer rest back at the hotel, dad and I headed to Anakeesta! Mom didn't come because there was NO WAY she was going to ride the chondola. They did offer a bus to the top of the mountain, but she said there wasn't anything up there she would do anyway, so it seemed like a waste of money. Tickets were $34 per adult, though we did find a coupon in a coupon book.

The chondola ride took a hot minute. It was pretty long, and dad was trying not to panic every time it stopped. Once at the top, we started with the Treetop Skywalk. The Skywalk is 880 feet of hanging bridges between the trees on the mountain. 

I paid extra ($15) to do the Rail Runner Mountain Coaster. I had done an alpine coaster in Lutsen, MN last summer, but I went pretty slow on it because I didn't know what to expect. I wanted to go for speed this time! I wish they had offered an unlimited pass. I would have loved to do it more than once, but $15 each time would have been ridiculous.

Dad and I took the chondola back down and walked back to the hotel to meet mom before going to dinner.  We ate at one of my favorite places - Ole Red! (Now I just need to get to the Oklahoma location and I'll have been to them all!) An artist named Sara Collins was playing on this night, and she was pretty good! For dinner, I ordered the Southern Tater Tot Poutine, which was pulled pork, white gravy, white cheddar curds, green onion, fried egg, and hot sauce on their house-made tots (which are AMAZING!)

After dinner we walked around a bit more. I bought a shirt (because I don't have enough!) and then we went to the hotel for the night. On the walk I told my parents that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES was I allowed to get another waffle....even though they looked REALLY GOOD!

Friday, May 12, 2023

We had intended to do more hiking today, but MAN were we sore from yesterday! Not to mention, my throat was on FIRE from allergies.  Instead, we walked up the strip and I set forth to do the second MUST DO on my Gatlinburg list - the Gatlinburg Skywalk. Neither mom nor dad wanted anything to do with the SkyLift or the SkyBridge, so I went up by myself and made friends with the other visitors. 

The bridge is 1800 feet about sea level (though only 500 feet above the rest of Gatlinburg), and spans approximately 700 feet. My favorite part of it was the section in the middle with the glass! The view from the bridge was beautiful!

Afterwards, we were hungry for breakfast. I knew exactly what I wanted.....another waffle! This time I got the "La Classic," which was topped with banana, Belgian chocolate, strawberry, caramelized hazelnuts, and again, ICE CREAM! We had been talking about some flowers with the lady working, and she had said they had just planted them, which didn't help the allergens. She mentioned that the pollen had been really terrible the last three days. This made me feel a little better that my system wasn't being abnormal, and that everyone else with spring allergies was feeling my pain. (Well, I wasn't happy they were feeling pain, but I was happy that I wasn't some anomaly with how terrible I was feeling).

There wasn't anything else we wanted to do in Gatlinburg (well, except for some hiking, but my glutes and quads said NO! to that), so we decided to begin heading back to middle Tennessee. Dad had mentioned that he wanted to go indoor skydiving, and I made sure he remembered that! We went to Flyaway Indoor Skydiving, which was the first vertical wind tunnel in America. We signed a waiver, and our instructor Amanda, gave us a quick run down of what to expect and the hand signals she would use. 

I had no idea what this would be like, even though we did watch a guy do it before us.  We had to put on these giant clown suits, as well as helmets, goggles, and gloves. I ended up getting a blister on my thumb from the friction between the glove and my hand due to the intense wind! We both went into the wind tunnel at the same time, and while one stood along the outer boundary, the other "sky dived." ("Sky dove??") The first round we had to lay over the wind tunnel and then the guy in the room would turn the power up and Amanda would help us get into the air. The second round we jumped right off the edge over it in hopes that it would blow us up on our own. It was way more exhausting than I thought it would be! Our "jump time" was only 15 minutes total, and while that didn't seem like a lot before we went, I'm glad that is all it was! It was fun, but definitely contributed to my soreness from hiking.

Next up, we went to what I had been looking forward to doing since I saw a sign for it on Wednesday - Guy Fieri's Downtown Flavortown! I LOVE watching Triple D, and if I have the opportunity to go to a Guy Fieri restaurant, I will take it every time! I had looked at the menu and scoured instagram more than once over the past couple days and knew exactly what I was getting - the Nashville Hot Chicken Waffle! It was a cornbread waffle topped with chicken tenders, Nashville hot honey sauce, shaved cabbage, waffle fries, chicken wings, pickles, scallions, pickled red onions, sriracha and ranch. Yes, I brought home more than I ate.

Stuffed, we headed back to Clarksville afterward. Thankfully we hadn't done anymore hiking, because after the four hour drive home, I was so stiff and sore I could barely make it up the stairs!

Also, I was sick for weeks after this! My sinuses were horrible. Despite taking a 24-hour Claritin and nasal spray every day, my nose wouldn't stop running and my ears were filled with fluid. I talked to someone else who said they had the same problem after visiting there in the spring time. If you have allergies, come prepared!!

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