Monday, December 12, 2011
We pictured Gatlinburg as a quaint little town, outdoorsy and earthy, snuggled up next to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The drive there was both beautiful and a little strange. It looked seriously poverty-stricken as we drove by ramshackle houses, the occasional tent, and loads of people living in RV's, and then, all of a sudden, a golf course with vacation cabins and condos scattered across the hillsides. The contrast was a little astonishing. As we neared the town we started seeing giant, for the lack of a better word, tacky Christmas decorations lining the road. Heavy rain was in the forecast so we opted to spend the first night in a hotel in an attempt to keep the camper van dry so that boys' bed would not freeze in the upcoming below-freezing nights. Upon checking into our hotel with a Daniel Boone mini-golf course out front (complete with intermittent explosion noises), we discovered that we had landed in a crazy theme park town including two Dolly Parton amusement parks. Driving down the main street we saw Ripley's-Believe-It-or-Not theme parks scattered throughout town, a Dukes of Hazard museum (very educational, I am sure), and more air-soft gun/sword/remote-control-helicopter/tae-kwon-do shops than anyone would have dreamed possible, which made us feel like we were passing through a surreal, southern, hill-billy interpretation of Disney World. Not exactly what we were expecting.
Click here for through-the-window snapshots.