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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Family Vacation: Gatlinburg, TN

The blog's been extra quiet lately because we were ROAD TRIPPIN' to Tennessee!

We took a week-long family trip to Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge with Matt's parents, his sister, and his brother and sister-in-law (plus their 15 month old daughter, Josie). Since Matt's brother lives in Connecticut, his parents and sister live in Houston, and we live in DFW, we're never in the same place at the same time, so we've started a new tradition that instead of going all out on gifts for Christmas, we're going to take a family trip each year. We were SO excited to finally spend some time with everybody!

We headed east early last Saturday morning, and the kids were so great in the car. We only had a few cranky moments because they were completely entertained by books, toys, sleep, music, and the occasional DVD.

But holy cow, we made a kajillion stops along the way. Our first one was to our alma mater, ETBU! We couldn't drive through Marshall without showing the kiddos where our love story began (cue sappy music here), and we were in awe of all the changes they've made on campus since we graduated! I loved ETBU and thought it was a beautiful campus when I went there, but it is even more gorgeous now! There's a new student commons, and they completely renovated the old cafeteria and bookstore. Sigh, I have so many great memories there and we had fun reminiscing. Too bad we were there too early to grab some Chateau Snow on our way out. Best snow cones ever!

All those upgrades and they still haven't done anything about the dinky fountain...

We continued our trek down I-20 by stopping at pretty much every state welcome center because we're dorks like that. We even found a Chick-fil-a for lunch, not that anyone should be surprised.

We met up with NeNe, Pop Pop, and Carrie in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for dinner at the worst Cracker Barrel I've ever been to (because how can you go on a road trip and NOT eat at a Cracker Barrel?) and to stop for the night. We even ran into one of my former (and Matt's current) co-workers at our hotel. How random is that?!?

Justin, Miriam, and Josie beat us to the cabin, but we all made it to Tennessee by Sunday afternoon. And who wants to cook after two days of driving? No one, that's who. So we went to the Mellow Mushroom for dinner. I'm officially a fan. That is some yummy pizza, and there's one about 30 minutes from our house! Seriously, you should try it, and when you do, you should get the Red Skin Potato Pie and your life will never be the same. I might be being a tad dramatic, but it's pretty good. Promise.

Landon loves lemons

Sour face!

We spent the rest of the evening unpacking and exploring the amazing cabin that would be our home for the week. It was gorgeous! And it was way too cold, but I guess you can't have it all.

Monday took us to Ober Gatlinburg. Have I mentioned yet that it rained pretty much the entire time we were in Tennessee? Because it rained pretty much the entire time we were in Tennessee. Fortunately it dried up long enough for us to go down the Alpine Slide, but then it rained again. So we had a fun (albeit wet) day anyway.

Photo courtesy of Avery

On Tuesday we went to an indoor water park. The kids had a BLAST, and okay, we had fun too. :) We spent the day going between the lazy river (which Avery loved because it was the perfect height for her to walk in), the big water slides, and the kiddie area. The best part? No sunscreen required. (I'm easy to please.)

Wednesday was supposed to be our awesome hiking day through Smoky Mountain National Park. Instead it was our drive-forever-to-see-nothing-because-of-the-fog-and-rain day. We didn't get to hike or picnic or anything. Bleh. The only redeeming element was the black bear that walked right in front of our car while we were at Cades Cove. You don't see that every day! We played lots of games that afternoon/evening.

On Thursday we went to downtown Gatlinburg to check out the tourist traps shops and eat dinner. One of the nice things about being in a cabin was that we were able to cook our own meals, but it was also fun to go out to eat on our last night in town. Upon hearing rave reviews and multiple recommendations, we chose The Peddler for dinner, and it did not disappoint! They cut your steak right at your table, the rolls were amazing, and the salad bar was incredible.

After dinner, half of our crew decided to go back to the cabin, but we wanted to spend some more time looking around and hanging out. We were finally able to ride the Ober Gatlinburg aerial tramway, and we even bought some delicious fudge to take home. We ended our evening with a splurge at Ben and Jerry's for some seriously-overpriced-but-completely-worth-it cups of ice cream. (For the record, if you're ever in a scoop shop, you have to try Coconut Seven Layer Bar. And Matt said the Coffee Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz was pretty dang good. Don't be like Avery and just get vanilla. Although to her credit, she did get sprinkles.)

We began our looooong journey home early on Friday morning. We left at 6 am (central time) and didn't get home until 2 am. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to drive straight back with two young kids. We did make one completely worthwhile stop in Nashville though. Thanks to the power of Facebook via text message, we were told about the Loveless Cafe. It was completely out of the way, but those biscuits and homemade jam were worth every extra minute.

So that's where we've been! We had such a great time, and we can't wait for our next family trip!

And now Matt and I leave again tomorrow. We're taking 12 preteens to camp this week while Avery and Landon go to Camp Grandma and Grandaddy. Pray for us!


Brooklynn said...

Looks like fun! I'm jealous!! :)

Stephanie said...

Looks like tons of fun and looks like I need to get over to see ETBU too!