Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Flashback Thursday | Gatlinburg Ramblings Part 1

We have loved traveling for as long as we have been together and I feel there have been many EPIC trips over the years.  Up until now, I have been posting "Throwback Thursday" pictures via Facebook with little insights into our travel past.  And then last week it came to me...what about "Throwback Thursday" articles?  I have wanted to write more, to fill the blog with interesting content, but have fallen short.  This idea could be part of the solution.

Though refreshing, these past 6 months in the cabin in the "middle of nowhere" Arizona have made it easy to drift back into the trap of the "daily grind".  Our lease ended the 30th of April and it appears we will be extending our stay here.  It was about a week ago, as we were coming up on this "deadline" to move on, I came across an article posted by The Big Blue Bus Tour.  Our lives seemed so parallel.  We were traveling and then we stopped.  Something remains unfulfilled.  And then, the day after reading the article Brian looked at me and said, "This 6 months was supposed to be about relaxing and regrouping and I feel neither".  I couldn't disagree with his statement.  I had been feeling the exact same way.  We we have decided we will stay a minimum of three more months.  This decision has been followed by a sense of peace and a renewed enthusiasm in the atmosphere.

The first year of our journey started on a whim and a prayer...and a bit of a dare.  There was some serious lack of preparation and excess "flying by the seat of our pants" going on, but we never gave up.  We kept moving forward.  Along the way we learned a lot and carved a new path for our mended family.  Now armed with experience and a renewed spirit we have begun planning our future.  Brian and I have spent a lot of time recently in deep discussion and brainstorm sessions trying to figure out "where do we go next"?  And I'm excited to say that there are some winning ideas in the works.  As I mentioned above, it is going to take us a few more months here to reach our goals to make this next step possible.  In the meanwhile, I intend to give the blog portion of G3W more attention and I think committing myself to a "Throwback Thursday" article will at the very least get me producing at least one written piece a week.  In addition, we have plans to visit a "bucket list" of places within a day's drive.

I think one of the things that motivates continued travel is the database of positive travel memories stored in your mind from previous trips.  I'm talking about that warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgia.  This Thursday's Throwback article is just that.  It was actually written July 2, 2010.  The day after it was experienced...captured there, in the moment.  We had been planning our trip to the Smokey Mountains all Summer...and had been training since Spring.  We were about to embark on a 6 day back country experience.  3 days on land and 3 days on water and all our gear on our backs.  This day included my first glimpse of the Great Smokey Mountains and their gateway town Gatlinburg.  We kept hand written journals for the duration of our trip.  This article is the first of many I hope to share.  Enjoy!
The Great Smokey Mountains

We didn't get into Gatlinburg until about 5pm leaving too little time to get into the first site on our itinerary before dark. Apparently the road to Fontana Lake from here is only 30 miles, but takes about 2 hrs to drive. Plus, we wanted to check out this cool little mountain town.
Smokey Moonshine Holler Distillery

We picked the Hampton Inn because it's a name we knew, reasonably priced, and always clean. Plus, the beds rock! Brian checked us in. He came out telling me he had secured a creekside room with a fireplace! I couldn't have been more excited! We parked and made our way up to our room to find a gorgeous view from our window. Literally dropping everything in our path and our door to our hotel room open we found ourselves drawn out to the patio. Feeling the breeze and a renewed energy, we both turned to go inside and a strong wind slammed the door shut. Brian reached for the door to find...it was locked. LOCKED! We were locked on the balcony, the front door to the room wide open and all our valuables right in the path where we had dropped them when we entered the room and raced to the patio...including cell phones. We are on the 3rd floor. A three floor drop to a rock filled creek! Climbing down...out of the question. We looked at the open door of our room through the window...hoping for a by passer. We pounded on the door, tapped on the window...nothing. We could see the pool, but no one was swimming. We saw a passer by on the street, but she could not see us through the trees and probably thought she was hearing voices. We started to yell...HELLO! HELP! HELLO! To be perfectly honest...panic was starting to set in and irritation...and then the blame game began. I turned to Brian and snapped..."Did they tell you about this at Check In?" "Were you paying attention?". He responded just as irritated..."NO!". So I moved on to the hotel "They should have told us about this when you checked in!" "This is a safety hazard!" Anxiety attack begin now...3, 2, 1.

All of a sudden we hear a "Hello?!?" It's coming from the balcony below. A southern gentleman, about our parents' age was on the balcony below looking up. I think he thought at first we were goofing around...until he saw the look on our faces. He said he would call the front desk and disappeared from view and back into his room. We looked nervously down where he had been, every second feeling like forever, waiting for him to reappear. He popped his head back out and said "Someone will be up soon! Hang tight!" And we continued to wait!

About 10 mins later, a kid showed up with tools to let us back into our room. He had to use a tool to fix the lock to let us back into our room. As calmly as possible I asked if there was a manager on duty that we could speak with...he told us nonchalantly "tomorrow". TOMORROW!!!! In my mind this was unacceptable. I called the front desk and recounted our harrowing experience. The woman at the front desk was unsympathetic and said we could speak with a manager tomorrow.

At a dead end, we decided to ready ourselves for any evening out on the town. We walked the entire main street of Gatlinburg. We checked out every nook and cranny. We found ourselves in the Moonshine Holler nook. It's the home of the first legal Moonshine in Tennessee and their grand opening was last night. Free samples of straight Moonshine, as well as a little table set up with free samples of mixed drinks made with the Moonshine that got bigger and bigger as the evening progressed...and we got to know the bartenders better. Shout out to Jude and Marc Anthony the best bartenders in Gatlinburg!
There was indeed "free moonshine tasting"

There was also live music on almost every corner. The best Bluegrass band of the night was...Wherelse?!? Moonshine Holler...you got it! The fiddler was straight out of an old time photo. Overalls and all! We shared a few stories, drinks and laughs with the fiddler while the band was packing up.
Lovely live music!

Not ready to move and a bit tipsy, we continued to sit on a bench in the "Holler". An older couple walking past asked if they could join us. We sat and talked for at least an hour. Brian and the husband, me and the wife talking about everything under the sun. We felt like we'd known them for years and that we were simply catching up since a previous meeting...in another life maybe?
Our view from dinner

Then we were off again...on to dinner at 10:30 at night. We decided to try out Bubba Gump Shrimp. Great service...horrible food. We paid $50 for a meal we barely touched. And we were HUNGRY! Oh well...too tired to complain. We paid our bill and strolled back to our hotel. The air was clean, the night was clear and cool. Brian wrapped his arm around my shoulders keeping me warm as we walked.
#tbtG3W

Back in the room we collapsed into sweet sleep.

This morning I got up early and went down to speak with manager. Kudos to the sympathetic manager and our free stay last night at the Hampton Inn in Gatlinburg. Because he showed sincere concern for our experience on the balcony and comped our room we have already secured a reservation for when we get back from the wilderness!

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