Not to brag or anything, but my friends are pretty hilarious. We’ve known each other since high school and had some pretty wild rides. We enjoy adventure and new experiences, and generally have a jaded, sarcastic take on people, places and things. When the opportunity arose for us to stay at a free room in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in exchange for a two hour timeshare tour later, we immediately jumped on board.
For some background, I would say we’re all pretty stereotypically NoRtHeRn from a southern POV. I went to college in North Carolina, and got used to people smiling and talking to you, saying “Bless your heart!” and loving all things southern. We, on the other hand, don’t look at or speak to anyone unless forced, don’t hold doors and are used to everything being open 24/7. We also are a little bit insane.
Gatlinburg is nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, the most visited National Park. Upon some research, we learned that it is famous for pancakes, black light mini golf, Ripleys Believe It Or Not museums, moonshine tastings, and being near Dollywood. After a 9 hour drive from Delaware, we arrived at our hotel, which had a single glass enclosed elevator that fit about 4 people. We immediately set out for an afternoon/night on the town, and visited the Ole Smoky Moonshine Factory.
Our moonshine sommelier lined up 20 thimble sized shots of moonshine and explained each one as we sat there drumming our fingers waiting for the next.
By the end, we had caught a nice buzz, and Aimee really, REALLY thought they tasted good:
From there we decided to try to find some good old fashioned southern BBQ and succeeded with Calhoun’s. We ate about 100 pounds of chicken, ribs, corn on the cob and butter, and it was fucking delicious.
We retreated to the hotel to watch Beverly Hills 90210, and think about going to Dollywood. The picture of the child gnawing on a chicken leg from the website put a stop to that plan.
The next morning, Aimee attended the mandatory timeshare tour with me, where we met Benji, a fast talking salesman with a Phillipino girlfriend and an estranged baby mama. Thankfully Aimee is better at saying no than I am, otherwise I would be the proud owner of a timeshare in any number of the trashiest destinations in America. As you can see, he was VERY convincing.
We joined Steve and Charlene and headed to Great Smoky Outdoors for some white water rafting down the Pigeon River. We had been making predications about our rafting experience leading up to the trip. Basically, we expected to be the group that didn’t listen to the instructor at all and someone (most likely Charlene, who was terrified and did not want to go in the first place) would fall out.
We all fell in love with our raft guide, Tucker, who we affectionately renamed Mother Tucker. Unfortunately for him, we all started screaming, didn’t hold on to our paddles correctly, and then started laughing too hard to hear his frustrated instructions.
After we looked through our CD of pictures, you could clearly see the evolution of Tucker’s frustration. He even said “okay guys, we are all supposedly intelligent adults…you can do this.” All in all, he was a very effective raft guide and we plotted on how to get him to hang out with us. I should also mention that there was another couple in the raft with us– the husband hates our antics, but his wife wanted to ditch him and be our BFF.
After we successfully figured out whether Tucker was saying “fjord”, “four”, or “forward”, he decided we were ready for the big leagues. Tucker must have overestimated our abilities, because he planned to jump the raft over Tombstone Rock. We got stuck and Aimee went “asshole over elbows” (Tucker’s description, not ours) into the frothing river. I can only describe the look on her face as a smug smile, which made us all question if she did it on purpose because when she was rescued, she got to sit next to Tucker.
We made it through the remaining Rapids with no incidents, but Steve and I got a faceful of Tucker’s junk when he pulled us into the raft after a leisurely swim. But hey, we weren’t mad at him. The actual rafting was really enjoyable; it lasted about 2 hours and no one else fell out from any of the other rafts, so don’t let our story deter you.
Afterwards we all argued about who we thought Tucker liked the most, then decided he and Steve were probably making out as we squabbled amongst ourselves. Then we realized he probably gets so much poo-tang as a traveling, rugged rafting instructor that he thought we were all freaks.
On the way back, we stopped at Cobbly Nob Pizza, where I’m pretty sure everyone was on pills. The waitress brought out Steves food, then got extremely confused when there was more food to be delivered. She kept coming to the door, looking at her reflection, then going back in the kitchen. We decided she kept thinking “wait, I didn’t order food…this must be wrong.”
We also encountered The 3-Way Inn…ill let you decide what happens there.
When we returned to town, we drove up the Roaring Fork Auto Trail which weaves through a beautiful forest with stopping points along the way. I read aloud from the driving guide until it got unnecessarily sexual, telling us to stroke the river’s special spot where it gets wet… All hot and bothered, we tried to go back to the moonshine distillery only to find they stop serving at 11pm. Like any northerners, we threw a giant temper tantrum and went back for more 90210.
The next day, we drove further into the park to take a hike. Lots of trails intersect with the famous Appalachian Trail, and they are marked “moderate” even though they are mostly vertical climbs and you have to maneuver over treacherous bridges, aka mossy logs.
Afterwards, we drove to Klingman’s Dome, which is a steep mile climb to the highest point in the mountains. They claim you can see 5 states from the summit, yet didn’t identify what/where those states were. It was still majestic nonetheless
Famished after our trek in the woods, we went to Best Italian in the heart of Gatlinburg. Our Romanian waiter, Raul, judged us immensely on the amount of rolls we ordered FOR NO GOOD REASON, and continuously bossed us around. He also forced us to order Italian dressing even though we all wanted something quite the opposite. “Ranch, please.” “No, you want Italian.” “Do you have just vinegar and oil?” “Yes, Italian, it’s like it.”
I took a Polaroid of him to include, and also gave him my blogs address, so Raul I apologize your picture isn’t in here. I know you’re checking.
We wandered to the Smoky Mountain Brewery where everyone was a total bitch in response to us ordering 4 beer samplers. We proceeded to get very drunk, and decided to venture to a small karaoke bar around the corner. We ordered a bucket at 12:55, and the girl said we had until 1:10 to finish it. Challenge accepted.
We met some bachelorettes from Chattanooga who were in awe that we came all the way from Delaware, and were probably the only people drunker than us in the town.
Long story short, we were asked to leave as soon as the clock hit one. When we got back to the hotel, we were yelled at by the security guard and decided we hated Gatlinburg.
Also, at some point in this trip we tried to get biscuits and gravy at 10:30 in the morning, but were told they weren’t serving breakfast anymore. However, there was a fudge shop down the street that opened at 9.
This picture is from before they told us they weren’t serving, which is why everyone is smiling. We also tried to buy some moonshine cherries on a Sunday, only to find out they couldn’t sell them past 7 pm…but were still open to taunt us with shelves and shelves. People say you don’t have to buy a drink in this town, but that’s because you can’t if you want to.
At this point we were all desperate for a fresh pressed juice and some farm to table cuisine, so we headed to Asheville, NC. When we got there, the heavens opened over the adorable artsy town, and we got the most anti-Gatlinburg meal possible– CREPES. Take that, pancakes.
Asheville was so cute, and we all considered taking an extra day to stay there, but alas we had a 10 hour drive back to the land of Wawa.
We listened to some podcasts and reminisced about the craziness we had encountered, vowing to start a Vacation Burn Book podcast someday. Peace out Tennesee, it’s been real…weird.
2 thoughts on “tennessee travels: north meets south”
I’m Tuckers roommate and best friend. Let me just say, truer words have never been written. I’m glad y’all had fun.
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I am from Delaware and visit the Smokies at least 4 times a year. I occasionally see license plates from DE and always stop to say hi.