Road Trip: Vegas Without The Casinos
This is the second part in a series of posts about my road trip in June 2016.
Sunday PM: We went on a bit of a leisurely ride. First, through the Smoky Mountain National Park and took some nature pictures. We then ended up in Pigeon Forge, which is essentially Vegas Without The Tall Buildings. Meaning, tacky attractions, big signs, unbelievable crowds. That makes sense, though, when you consider Dollywood is nearby. After grabbing some fresh Krispy Kremes, we headed over to The Old Mill District, which is a cozy historical site and appropriately themed shopping. I even tried some moonshine and bought a sampler to take home. The car ride continued up a mountain where we found Ober Gatlinburg, a ski resort and amusement park. I had a gourmet grilled cheese that I instagrammed about.
Monday AM: After checking out Ober Gatlinburg the night before, we decided to make the Aerial Tramway our first stop of the day. Tramways are not popular in the U.S., outside of Disney parks, but it allowed for some tremendous views of the mountaintops and the valley below. While back at Ober, we checked out their “Wildlife Encounter” which is too small to call a zoo, but it still had several black bears and a pair of otters worth seeing. Coming back from Ober, I stopped at a store called Kandy Kitchen (for predictable reasons) while I treated Ann to one of her birthday gifts – a water massage.
Monday PM: After loading up on candy, we hauled ourselves two hours out of town, to head back to Greeneville. Ann wanted to see President’s Andrew Johnson historical site, which including a museum, a replica of his tailor shop, and his post-presidential home. The guide gave us a lot of information on the renovations his family did to the place, as well as filling us in on the sad story of how TB killed most of his family. After another two hours driving, we were back in Gatlinburg and went to a place called No Way Jose for mexican food. Their guacamole and flour chips has got to be the best guac dish I’ve had in ages. I washed that down with a Corona but Ann got crazy with a very tall glass of margaritas.
Tuesday AM: Gatlinburg is home to more than 100 small businesses that showcase arts & crafts that are usually done by local artists in a variety of media, usually small sculptures or prints, and almost always Smoky Mountain themed. Ann dragged me to several of the communities (usually clusters of about 20 shops). All was not lost, however, as I did score some apple cider.
Random impression: Where are all the Starbucks? They are on every corner in DC, but not a single one is in sight here. Also, I get better cell reception in most of these places than I do when I am in my apartment back home – what’s wrong with this?