Well our first family get-away on our own turned out nothing like we expected. It was full of changed plans, the sickies, lots of traffic and crowds, and some big time disappointment. Boo! However, even though absolutely nothing turned out like we hoped or planned, we still enjoyed a few highlights on this trip and made some fun memories. We loved the beautiful scenery, we shared some fun firsts, we were comfortable and cozy in the condo, and we were eventually able to laugh at how quickly our plans changed on this trip. We also learned some valuable lessons that we will most certainly be remembering for future get-aways. Oh, it was a wild one. =)
***Long recap below***
Saturday morning after Austin's soccer game we came right home and started loading up. It officially took forever but we finally got on the road before lunchtime. We were pumped and super excited!
After making a stop at CFA (our most favorite place to stop and eat when we're going somewhere big), we set out for the road again. Unfortunately this is when we ran into our first little obstacle in the form of really heavy traffic. Sigh. Due to the heavy traffic and the sporadic down pours we encountered, we had to make a pit stop we weren't planning on for a bathroom break. Chick Fil A to the rescue again. Eventually we made our way into Cherokee, North Carolina and stopped at Dairy Queen for supper. Let's just say this is an experience we'd like to forget. Nothing terrible just nothing good either. Haha.
Anyway, we finally managed to get back on the road and the weather conditions were not our friend. It was rainy and foggy and getting darker and more difficult to see by the minute. And what happened next should have been a sign of what was to come the remainder of the trip... Garrison Cade got car sick. Bless his heart. It was terrible. He was miserable and there was nothing we could do to make it better. We made a couple of stops at those mountain pull over spots to let him get out and walk around and get fresh air. In the dark, rain, and cold I might add. And we were honestly hoping he would go ahead and throw up. Finally he did throw up... in a grocery bag in the car. It was the longest trip ever. I finally started praying out loud that we would get there soon! A trip that should've only taken us 5 and 1/2 to 6 hours ended up taking us 8. Ahhhhh. Somehow Terrell was able to unload half our house which was packed in the suburban almost totally on his own in the rain. Bless him.
Thankfully everyone had a pretty good night and for the most part we all slept well. Other than me waking up to bad allergies (I'm seriously starting to think I'm allergic to Gatlinburg), we were all refreshed and excited about our 1st day in the mountains! We made cinnamon rolls for breakfast and had a pretty great morning watching Disney Jr and taking our time getting ready. =) The condo really was super comfy and cozy and we were extra thankful!!
This one of course begged for breakfast just like he does at home. Haha!
Our agenda for Sunday was a trip to Cade's Cove, a picnic lunch, and then a visit to the pumpkin patch. The whole fam was pretty excited and everyone had great attitudes and was so looking forward to seeing animals and making several stops around the Cove and exploring some new places.
Unfortunately what should have been a 35 to 40 minute trip to Cade's Cove turned out to be an hour and a half trip. UGH. Layton was not happy and let us know about it sometime around the hour mark. Traffic was terrible and by the time we finally got to the 11 mile loop of Cade's Cove it was bumper to bumper. Thankfully everybody could unstrap and get out of their seats and we saw some animals right away. Horses and turkeys! I didn't get any pictures of them but my big boys were smitten and soo into our new experience. YAY. And Layton loved getting to ride in my lap. =)
One of the first fields we came to... Still super cloudy and foggy but very peaceful and pretty too.
One of the historic churches we saw and decided to stop and visit.
We were still moving slow and bumper to bumper but the boys loved getting to look out the sun roof for a stretch!
We made another stop for pictures and to have a break from the long line of cars...
Shortly after our stop, we noticed the traffic had slowed to a crawl and we finally realized why... a bear was spotted! This was the best shot we got of the bear since it was on Terrell's side and he was driving. We also saw another bear later on too! I think the bear sightings made our trip! The boys were thrilled.
Once we finally completed the 11 mile loop we were all hungry and ready for our picnic! (Picnics were one of the things we were most looking forward to about our trip. What could be better than picnicking in the mountains in the Fall?!) But again, our plans fell through. The picnic area was jam-packed and there was no where to park. We rode through slowly searching and hoping we'd get a spot but we were once again in a line of cars and knew the chances were slim. We were right. And we were a loong way from any other safe picnic spot. We instead parked down the road a ways and had a picnic in the car. We turned on a movie for the big boys and they ate in their seats while Terrell and I stood and ate at the back of the suburban and Layton sat in the back where we were. Everybody got full and after an entire movie had ended and we still weren't back to the condo, Garrison started complaining with a bad headache. He was in tears and just pitiful. Meanwhile my allergies were getting worse and worse. I'm talking constantly blowing my nose, sneezing my head off, miserable. Plus there was no time to make it to the pumpkin patch. So sad. Even though nobody really felt like it, it was still a bummer.
At least we had some gorgeous views once we finally made it back. AND, we watched the amazing 4th quarter of the Falcons game and saw our team come back to WIN! This was another favorite highlight of our trip! We cheered and sat on the edge of our seats and loved watching our Falcons pull off the win in overtime! It's one of my favorite memories ever with my boys. All 4 of them were cheering and clapping and hollering just about the whole 4th quarter. Even Layton. =)
As soon as the Falcons game ended we decided we would head into town and go out to eat. We were looking forward to a good meal and wrapping up our day on a high note. Texas Roadhouse sure did sound delish.
But, alas, it wasn't meant to be. Just writing this I am cracking up at how NOTHING went according to plan on this trip. Hahaha!
We got down the mountain to the very first red light in downtown Gatlinburg and we sat and watched it turn green 3 different times before getting under it ourselves. The crowds and traffic were awful. Even though it was only around 5:00 we quickly realized our plans would need to be changed yet again. There was no parking, no getting anywhere fast, and no chance we were waiting an hour plus with 3 kiddos for a seat at a restaurant. Plus our gas light had just come on so we needed gas... and meds for me. Mama was desperate and miserable.
We finally decided to head for Pigeon Forge and eventually made it there, but wouldn't you know, Garrison's terrible headache came back and this time he was freezing cold. Little man clearly had a fever. =( We scarfed down our supper at Arby's, waited in line at Krispy Kreme for what we hoped would cheer everybody up, took the bypass back to the condo to avoid the nightmare of traffic, confirmed that our firstborn had a fever of 101.5, gave him Motrin, got everybody in bed, and then Terrell and I decided to cut our losses. Ha!
Overall, the trip had been a bust and it was time to call it quits. We weren't sure if Garrison had strep or what was going on with him. We weren't sure we'd be able to visit the train and railroad museum and local parks the next day as planned. We honestly weren't even sure we were up for trying. We were spent and we were over it. And then we sort of laughed about it. Haha. How crazy could one short get-away turn out?! Super crazy apparently.
Thankfully the boys were ready to head out and get home just like we were. Garrison woke up with another fever but we loaded up and got on the road in record time. The best part was the drive from Gatlinburg to Cherokee. It was gorgeous. It made the trip worth it just to be able to enjoy the beauty of the mountains as we drove. God's creation is just stunning.
And you know we had to stop just once for a few pictures. =)
Before we got back in the car, Garrison wanted us to read the historical facts to him and hear about who the mountain is named after. I snapped a picture of the moment... Garrison is engrossed in the history of it all while Austin and Layton just decided to stand and pose. =)
Thankfully we had a MUCH better trip home than our trip up and as soon as we got unpacked and settled we knew we'd made the right decision. It just felt so good to be home after all the craziness we'd experienced over the past 48-60 hours. Plus we got a bonus day at home with daddy since we'd cut our trip short. =) It was a wild, unpredictable, full of interrupted plans and lots of the unexpected get-away, but I guarantee it's one Terrell and I won't ever forget. Ha!
Here are a few lessons learned from our get-away:
*Don't visit Gatlinburg (or any other popular mountain destination) in the Fall. For real. It was waaaay more crowded than we ever expected and the traffic interrupted every. single. plan. we made. IF you must visit in the Fall, stay in downtown Gburg and walk everywhere you go... preferably without your bundles of joy. We saw very few people walking the streets with young kids. It was just so crowded and busy it wasn't kid-friendly at all.
*If possible, go to the beach. Haha! For us and our kiddos, the beach is easier. The beach is our sole entertainment and occupies everyone for hours and doesn't cost a thing. No "plans" needed. =)
*Never eat a meal and then get on winding, curving roads immediately following. Someone will more than likely get car sick. It never crossed our minds that eating at DQ in Cherokee would be a big mistake. Ha.
*Always pack plenty of medicine when traveling. When in doubt, pack it. Take medicine even before you start the trip. Especially if you're prone to seasonal allergies and have a proven track record of having allergy attacks year after year in Gburg.
*If possible try to make 1 stop and 1 stop only on the way up. We had to make 3 stops on Saturday, 5 if you count our two 5 minute stops to help Garrison feel better when he was car sick. The more stops you make the longer the trip and the more antsy your passengers become. Especially if you're traveling with little ones. Especially then.
*Day trips to the mountains in the Fall are the way to go! Even though Terrell and I have never attempted this with our family before, next year may be the year! Growing up my family did this quite a bit. We rode 2 or 3 hours up to the mountains and enjoyed the scenery and the leaves and made several stops at small, country grocery stores or roadside places and I have some great memories from those little day trips.
*Traveling with your kiddos and no extra family or grandparents will probably always be an adventure. It's an adventure even with the grandparents! Ha! It will be even crazier when you're out-numbered. And even crazier still when one of your babies is 20 months old and still very high maintenance. Hahaha. Craziness and all, I still thought our get-away was pretty special since it was just us. That made us totally relaxed and extremely comfortable with doing whatever we felt was best. I'm hoping for another get-away for our party of 5 in the future... but maybe to the beach. =)
Such a wild and very memorable trip and kick off to our Fall Break! God definitely has a sense of humor. =)