Vacation in the Smoky’s

We just got back from a sweet little vacation to the Smoky Mountains.  Here’s some pictures and a bit of story.  It was an adventure!

We started out our vacation with a trip to the doctor.  Abby had these strange bumps all over her face that looked like the measles.  She had been screaming for two days.  Turned out to be a double ear infection and 30 mosquito bites.  Glad we went to the doctor, though.  I had forgotten that I took her outside the night before around midnight to try to quiet her screaming. Thank you, Delta, may I never underestimate you.

In order to keep the girls a little happier, we stopped in Nashville on the way and stayed in a nice little find.  We got a $200 hotel room for $55!  If you haven’t tried priceline, do!  Our first night in a hotel room with the four of us was a success.  It was really hard to get Sophia to go to sleep in a big bed all by herself.  She was so excited.  But, it was a good start to our trip.

Our first night in the Smoky’s we camped outside of Gatlinburg, TN.  All four of us in a large tent.  We did a test run a few weeks ago to make sure we could do it, and we were prepared.  What we weren’t prepared for, though, was a huge rain storm.  We arrived at our campsite on Saturday afternoon with blue, sunny skies and just enough time to set-up and get dinner before the bottom fell out.  I have no idea how much it rained, but let me tell you this: the floor of our tent was a waterbed!  I’m not kidding!  Under our tent was at least 2 inches deep, and you could slosh it like a waterbed. Thank you, NORTH FACE for making such great tents!  I tell you, I prayed so hard all night.  It thundered and lightening all night from about 8 to 8, but not a drop got in.  It was a long night, but totally fun, too.  I lied there watching the lightening, praying we would all be dry and safe, and thinking about how romantic it would be if the kids hadn’t have been there.  Shucks.  Instead, it was just frightening. We woke up a little cranky the next morning, tired of being in the tent, and a little worried about how the rest of the trip would go.  Sophia kept saying that she was ready to go home.  So, we hopped into the car and headed into the mountains.  No schedule, just adventure.  We did a lot of hiking and exploring and were gone about 12 hours.

On Monday, after an exhausting hike and a bear sighting, we made it to Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg, TN.  Gatlinburg is an absolutely beautiful mountain town with it’s share of huge tourist traps.  The Aquarium was breathtaking, though.  The tanks were immaculate, huge and so clean.  It was only second to being in the water with them.  The best part was a slow conveyor belt ride under/through a huge shark tank.  They were all around us.  At one point, I noticed two swordfish laying on the ceiling above us, and started laughing uncontrollably.  The enormity of it was unbelievable and put you into a sort of trance that made you feel like you were in the water with them.  Breathtaking, really.  Sophia didn’t quite appreciate what all she was seeing, and she definitely didn’t care for the sharks, but it was really something to see.  The pictures don’t do it justice but here’s a few.

Overall, we had a wonderful trip.  It was restful, it was fun, it was so enjoyable to be with our family.

Let me tell you about our trip home, though.  Here’s a story.  Monday night we got ourselves prepared to leave early Tuesday morning for the long drive back.  We hoped to make it home in one day.  It was a terribly cold night, and Abby woke up 6 times through the night.  Abby, my princess, does not know how to soothe herself back to sleep.  Throughout her life, I’ve done what works, and nursing works.  So, Monday night I nursed her 6 times through the night, the 6th time giving up and letting her sleep with us.  We all slept in a bit that morning, feeling somewhat rested and also somewhat cranky.  What a night.  With a positive attitude and a sweet, encouraging Daddy, we packed it all up, muddy tent and all, and headed out of town.

About 30 minutes into our journey home, we stopped at a local coffee shop to jumpstart our departure only to realize that Will’s wallet was missing.  In the middle of Gatlinburg in this small coffee shop’s parking lot at 10 a.m., we unloaded the van and went through everything.  No wallet.  We went through every bag, under every seat, in every pair of pants he wore.  Nothing.  We called the campsite and the last few places we were the evening before.  Nothing.  No leads.  I took the girls inside.  We were all getting restless.  I got a latte.  Still no wallet.  I mentally prepared myself to call all the credit card companies and find us a hotel room for the night.  Then, as if an angel whispered in his ear, Will wondered if the wallet might be in a pocket inside the tent.  Could it be?  So, he took everything back out of the van again, took out the tent and found the wallet tucked inside.  AH, breathe.

We sighed, thanked God, got our coffee and got back in the car.  I was driving.  I was running on adrenaline.  Not 30 minutes from Gatlinburg on the way home is a town called Pigeon Forge.  If you don’t know it, think all the bad stuff about Branson, on only 1 strip of road.  We had to pass through Pigeon Forge to get to Gatlinburg on Saturday, and it took us over 30 minutes to get through the town driving at an average rate of about 3mph.  Apparently, there had been some sort of car show or a parade.  Now, I had fully planned to figure out how to drive around Pigeon Forge so that this would not happen to us again, but this sweet old lady who worked for the Park Service told me that all the tourists would be headed home on Sunday, and traffic through the week would be fine.

So, we headed into Pigeon Forge about 11:00.  We thought we’d stop for breakfast.  Fill up everyone’s bellies, and maybe they’ll all fall asleep.  It didn’t look too crowded, and after all, we found the wallet.  After a nice breakfast we headed back out to leave Pigeon Forge and head on our 8 hour trip home.  While we’re driving down the 1 strip of highway, we notice that there’s a firetruck or a police car at every light, blocking the left turning lane.  Will and I exchange nervous glances.  What’s going on? We see a billboard that says “Dont try church–Satan”.  Well, that’s weird. Then, we see two firetrucks in the middle of a stoplight with their ladders up and an American flag hanging down between them.  We look at each other again. Oh, crap. Now, the car show is still in effect apparently, camping chairs are still set up along the highway, we do not have any idea what’s going on.  Another parade perhaps?  We look up at the next light.  There’s another policeman.  And, at the next light, and the next one.  What is going on? Traffic is slowing down and I see far up ahead at the next light a firetruck pulling ahead of us.  Sophia says, “Caillou’s favorite toy!”  We watch the firetruck, and it pulls into the traffic light just ahead of us.  It stops, backs up, turns sideways, and blocks all traffic.  I watch the light turn red.  Traffic stops.  I watch the light turn green.  Red. Green.  Red.  Green. What the what?! Well, about 10 minutes later, we see a very slow line of about a hundred police cars.  Apparently, there was a funeral for an officer of the law, God rest his soul.  I mean no disrespect to his family, but we waited there for them to pass a good 30 minutes.  We finally left Pigeon Forge at noon.

We spent the rest of the day balancing when to stop for potty breaks, trying to induce naps, and limiting the amount of times we allowed “Yo Gabba Gabba: Volume 1” to loop on the cd player.  Here’s the short of the rest of the day: Sophia never napped.  Abby slept about an hour total all day.  We stopped in Jackson, TN, where Sophia got stuck inside some playground equipment at Chick-Fil-A.  Sophia had a poopy accident in the men’s bathroom while Daddy simultaneously had IBS, and Abby began a crying spell about 2 hours from home. Trying to soothe Abby, Will and I sang a medley of popular nursery rhymes only to be bombarded with a screaming, crying Sophia.  Both children echoed each other with tears and screams, and for the last 45 minutes from home, Will and I sang the one song that kept them both quiet: Old MacDonald had a Farm.  On this farm, he had a whole lot of funny things that shouldn’t belong on a farm, and we had a whole lot of laughs.  Ah, family vacation.  😉