Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Weekend Trip to Gatlinburg

Terrell, Garrison, and I took our first solo trip as a family this past weekend. Every other time we've been on a trip/vacation since having the little man has been with family, so this was a first for us.... and it turned out to be an adventure from start to finish.

We arrived in Gatlinburg around 6:00 Friday evening and made our way up the mountain to our condo. Garrison did pretty well on the trip. He had his occasional moments of being tired of the car seat, but overall he did good for such a long trip. After quickly unpacking our stuffed-to-the-max car, we went back down the mountain to find a place to eat and watch Gatlinburg's annual Christmas parade. The parade is a big deal there (it lasts an hour and a half and this year they expected 80,000 people to watch) so we really wanted to at least catch a glimpse of it. The main drag was already blocked off and the streets were quickly filling up so we ate at the first place we came to, KFC. After supper we went in search of a parking space. I think every single lot was full by that point because the parade started at 7:30 and it was about that time when we left KFC. After circling around and pulling in and out of full lots, we finally found a safe place to park on a side street. Since the parade had already started when we got there, we didn't have front row seats... but the little man still saw plenty I think. He was on Terrell's shoulders the majority of the night with a few breaks being held by one of us or just sitting in his stroller. I think his favorite parts were seeing all the lights, the horses, and the choo-choo float.

I enjoyed everything about our first night except for traveling up the mountain in the dark. I had to take a few deep breaths and I think my fists were clinched the whole time but thankfully the Lord kept us safe. I can't really pinpoint when I started not enjoying traveling mountain roads. Growing up our family took trips to the mountains a lot, and I don't ever remember being scared or worrying our car would go over the side. If I really think hard about it, it may all go back to when my aunt and uncle moved to Suches, GA. They have the steepest, longest driveway ever and our first couple of times visiting them we worried my old 96 Honda wouldn't make it up. And then there was another time we got lost going to their house because Map Quest sent us on a dirt road going around and around the side of a mountain with no place to turn around and no cell phone signal. I really did just about have a panic attack that time. So I'll just blame it on them. That has to be it. Anyway, here are a few pics from the parade.

This is the choo choo float that Garrison talked about as it rode out of sight.

An idea of the tons of people there. The balcony across the street was almost overflowing.

One of my favorite floats. Everything was made out of balloons.

Sound asleep on the way back to the condo about 9:00. The latest we've ever let him stay up I think. =)

Once we got Garrison settled in and down for the night we were able to relax a little. Making the drive on a Friday afternoon and trying to cram in stuff to do on Friday night is exhausting. Garrison didn't sleep soundly Friday night (I heard him making noises and stirring about off and on all night) but it could have been much worse. He just isn't the best sleeper away from home.
Saturday morning we woke up bright and early to head over to the huge Tanger Outlet in Sevierville/Pigeon Forge. We decided when we planned the trip that if we wanted to visit Gatlinburg at Christmas time and use up an entire weekend in December, we had to make time for shopping or we would regret it later in the month. So, after stopping by the Krispy Kreme and enjoying our healthy breakfast in the car we made our way to the Outlet. (Garrison only had a few bites of doughnuts because he actually did have a healthy breakfast before we left).

The good thing about Saturday morning was that we sort of beat the crowds and got a good parking space and there was nobody in the first couple of stores we hit. The bad thing was that it was FREEZING cold, raining a drizzly miserable rain, and the crowds came later and eventually we couldn't hardly maneuver the stroller around in the stores. Thankfully we actually did get some shopping accomplished and Garrison did great. We had lunch at Mellow Mushroom in Pigeon Forge and made a couple of stops there before heading back to Gatlinburg that afternoon.

On our way back, we started hearing weather reports on the radio of snow showers predicted for Saturday night and Sunday morning. Normally, I would have been thrilled at the thought of snow. If we were staying in town somewhere in Gatlinburg I would have been thrilled. If it snowed Saturday while we shopped I think I would have been thrilled. Staying near the top of a mountain and knowing we cannnot get stranded in our condo because we have no food or anything to last us for a full day or longer.... NOT THRILLED about the possibility of snow. We were in a predicament about what to do at first, but after talking to a lady at the front desk at the condo it seemed like the locals weren't concerned at all and there was no way possible we could get stuck or stranded. So we decided we would stay the night. I still wasn't completely convinced though. Our tires started spinning a couple of times going up the mountain just because it was a steep drive and the roads were wet. Great.

On a more pleasant note, the pic below of the little man was our lone picture taken on Saturday and he actually posed for this picture like we asked him too. =)
Saturday night we decided that since we had to eat, and there was no point in staying indoors and worrying about the weather that we would venture back down the mountain and have supper at one of our all time favorite places, Texas Roadhouse. It was delicious and all 3 of us enjoyed it. =) We did fine getting back up the mountain I was just really nervous again because it was dark and wet. I'm fine when the sun is shining and everything is bright and dry.

We all slept good Saturday night and woke up to a thin layer of snow on the parking lot outside. After deciding to try to stick to our original plan and leave Sunday morning, we got ready and went about things just like normal except for looking out our window periodically only to see bigger snowflakes and more and more snow on the ground. Finally we made the decision to pack up the car and drive around to the front desk to get their opinion on the road conditions and whether or not it was safe to drive. I made the picture below sitting in the car waiting on Terrell to get back from the front desk. We really didn't get to enjoy the snow at all or make any pictures of Garrison because we were so stressed and consumed with determining whether or not we could leave and make it down safely, plus it was SO cold we just wanted to be inside anyway.
So, after talking with a couple of people who were familar with the "conditions" and traveling in the snow, it was determined that it was safe for us to proceed with our plans of leaving that morning. The lady at the front desk had actually driven up the mountain earlier that morning. I couldn't believe anyone would attempt that but I guess they're just used to it up there. Her piece of advice for us was not to put on the brakes. What!? Another lady told us not to drive in the tracks that were already there from other cars but to drive in the snow instead. Again, it sounded crazy to us but we had seen a handful of people leave and felt like it was only going to get worse so we didn't have much choice. We said a prayer in the car before pulling out of the parking lot and our prayer for safety was definitely answered.

We started off nice and slow and everything was going fine until we went around a curve and made our way downhill for the first time... only to see a truck stopped in the middle of the road. (He was stopped because the two cars in front of him were stopped.)We both sort of panicked at first. Terrell tried to brake and when we didn't stop, he pulled the emergency break and we still didn't stop, we actually started to slide. When he released the emergency break we finally came to a complete stop about fifty feet from the truck and started to breathe again. Then Terrell got mad. Why would anyone be stopped in the middle of the road going down a mountain when there's snow and ice on the ground?! Thankfully our family was safe and we knew the Lord protected us and literally stopped the Jeep for us. Praise God! My heart was beating SO fast that I had to start taking deep breaths. We were so shaky after that because we knew we could have hit the truck in front of us and if a car coming down behind us didn't see us in time they would hit us. Terrell noticed the mini van behind us first and thankfully they stopped right at the top of the hill. Once everyone started moving again, we all gave each other plenty of space. No one wanted a repeat of what just happened. We still don't know why the first two cars were stopped. It almost looked like they were playing in the snow. Crazy! Anyway, from that point foward we took every turn and curve as slowly as possible and I was still scared out of my mind. We were driving on snow down steep, winding roads!! Even Garrison knew something was up. He was almost completely silent until we reached the bottom. I think I prayed silently the whole way down. Once we made it to a main road everything was fine. The roads were just a little wet, but there wasn't any snow or ice to deal with. The Lord answered our prayers and kept us and those around us safe. We were SO thankful. Thinking back on it I'm even more thankful!

So after that great adventure, we continued on our way. We had to go home through Knoxville because the road between Gatlinburg and Cherokee, North Carolina was closed. So we traveled north to go south and got stuck in lots of traffic. Oh well, at least we were safe. The little man handled everything great and we made a couple of stops on the way home to shop a little more. We finally walked in our door at home between 6:30 and 7:00 on Sunday night and were worn out!

Our first trip for just the 3 of us was an adventure to say the least. We made lots of memories that I'm sure we'll share with Garrison as he gets older. I think my favorite part of our trip was being in Gatlinburg at Christmas time and enjoying the sights and sounds of the season with my two favorite guys. I also loved Christmas shopping on Sunday in Knoxville while it snowed (although it wasn't sticking so we had no traveling worries). It felt very movie-like. We were rushing inside stores to Christmas shop while it snowed! =) My least favorite part would have to be the weather. I did not enjoy traveling on snow covered mountain roads! Overall, it was a great trip filled with new memories and we're very thankful we had the opportunity to go.

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