Oh the Great Smokey Mountains!

Last weekend we had a mini-vacation.

Molly had a gymnastics meet in Gatlinburg Tenn. The tourist trap of the mid-west. We decided to make it a mini-family vacation and stay there for a couple days in a cabin/chalet in the mountains.

Much fun was had.

We left Thursday night right after Gymnastics, and headed straight for the hills. We made it to Gatlinburg (technically Pigeon Forge) around 1am Friday morning. By the time we unpacked, checked out the place, figured out where everyone was sleeping, and finally hit the sack it was about 2:30 before we got any shut eye.

We had things to do Friday, after all we were in Gatlinburg and there is shopping to do. Outlet malls out the wazzoo.

We woke up rather leisurely and left around 11:30 I think. Our first stop on the agenda was of course the Smokey Mountain Knife Works. Every time we visit we just have to go there. I didn’t buy much, Micheal made a sensible purchase this time, though he really wanted to buy a sword, and Claudine got to complain about the Hinkle’s she bought there last time and got a form to return one of the knives we bought there 5 years ago.

Maria bought a small bag of rocks. I think she had the most fun. I almost bought a dulcimer but didn’t. There was a guy inside the SMKW selling pretty nice dulcimers for reasonable prices.

Just outside the SMKW’s was a newer outlet mall that had a Coleman store and a few other things in it. We headed over there and I scored a really nice backpacking tent that normally retails in the $180 range which was on sale for $119, but since is was the only one left in it’s color I got it for $58 bucks. Coleman doesn’t really make high-end tents. This is either a Kelty or a Eureka with their name on it. I’m happy. 🙂 It’s a really nice 2 person, 3 season, packable 5lb tent. It will go great on the motorcycle this summer. 🙂

The rest of the day we spent just kinda hanging around Pigeon forge shopping and waiting for my parents to get there. Maria was anxious because we told her about the Alpine slide at Ober Gatlinburg and she wanted to do that “TODAY”.
A word about the so called “Outlet Malls and Outlet Stores” in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Don’t you believe it. I think 5, 7 or so years ago the outlet stores were really outlet stores, selling seconds, or outdated, last years models of things or styles. Can you find deals? Sure but you have to look.

Most of those stores are just plain retail stores. There is nothing Outlet about them. They have current models, nothing about them is seconds and the prices are not special. We looked at a lot of things that cost way more there than at home in normal retail stores. I paid less for my Merrel shoes at Dicks Sporting Goods than they were priced at the Outlet Store. You can also order tents from Coleman direct on their website for less than they were selling them at their “outlet store”, unless you wanted the last one of the color that I bought. So shop wisely.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and enjoy stores like SMKW’s and the Cast Iron Outlet, and things you just don’t have access to near you. Not everyone has a Russel Stover outlet near them either, but we should. Oh yeah 🙂

Claudine and I did manage to score a great deal on a pair of Nike Free 5.0 running shoes from the Nike outlet store. Mine because they are butt ugly, and border-line gay in color, hers because they have a stain on the toe.

We continued to shop until my parents made it into town. We hooked up with them for dinner at Mr Gatti’s Pizza. If you haven’t been there it’s a treat. Kinda like a Chuck-E-Cheese buffet, without the rat. Lots of room, it’s loud, decent food though if you like a pizza buffet. There was live music, though it was a guy that was semi-singing Karaoke, which was too loud in the private dining so we had to move to the TV room which put a damper on the kids eating a good meal.

The ride back to the chalet was real interesting. I had marked our location on the GPS and knew we could avoid the Pigeon forge traffic by taking middle creek road back. We attempted to do just that. Some where along the way we missed a turn. There are two many little roads and my GPS data was simply not up to date. Before long we found ourselves in the middle of the mountain, in the dark on a gravel, no, dirt road, across a creek, staring up a one lane mud road. Sweet red-neck fun. We decided to march onward, what red-neck wouldn’t? We ended up peaking at the top of the mountain and coming back down and around to our chalet. It was fun and exciting. Good thing we had four wheel drive that’s all I know.

Back at the chalet we, picked new sleeping spots and just hung out for the rest of the evening.

This was family day. Our plans for today included some more shopping and of course a trip into Gatlinburg for the Alpine Slide. Our only commitment being (a) the slide or Maria will have a melt down, and (b) the Dixie Stampede at 5:30pm with all the other gymnasts.

We left the chalet around noon and headed for Gatlinburg first to get that out of the way.

Our original goal was to park a car outside of Gatlinburg and take only one in. Thinking it would be easier to park only one car. But that didn’t work out. We took the bypass around and eventually paid to park in public parking and walked to Ober Gatlinburg. Paid the Tram Fee, and hopped on the Sky Tram to the top of the mountain. From there you’re captive. It’s kind of like going to Kings Island. You pay to get in so you can pay to do more stuff.

At the top of the mountain, you can ice skate (which all the girls wanted to do but of course we can do at home). You can also do other winterly things like Ski and Snowboard. After all that’s what it’s there for. They have other touristy things too, about half of it closed because they are summer time activities. The Alpine slide was open. We bought the appropriate number of tickets according to the person selling them. Molly didn’t need a ticket because she was small enough to fit in a lap, neither did Maria. But upon boarding the lift, or attempting to, the lift operator wouldn’t let us board. She needed a ticket.

Back to the end of the line.

After the slide Maria was excited and wanted to do it again. The started, an immigrant from Sweden or some other mountainous region to a liking to Maria and gave her two tickets and said he wanted to see her again. Which meant (and he knew it) that we’d have to buy another pair to send another kid up with her to let her do it again.

So we did. We sent Michael and Maggie up the hill with Maria to let them all ride it again.

Perfect timing, one touristy thing done. Time to get back back down the mountain, head back to Pigeon Forge to let my parents do a little shopping and be at the Dixie Stampede on time.

It all worked out just about as planned.

We headed to a different outlet mall and Michael scored a pair of Echo shoes for $15 bucks. Grandpa found something at a different Coleman store and life was good.

Off to the Dixie Stampede.

If you’ve never been it’s worth it. We’ve been before and I must say it was better 5 years ago than it was this time. It’s more family variety now than it was back then. The last time we went it seems there was more horse/rider specific stuff. I also don’t know if Dolly had 5 locations? Maybe she needs to move some of the acts around, I don’t know. 🙂 The entertainment is still outstanding, the food is great. It’s a quality production.

This rounded out a full day.


Sunday was meet day and checkout day. We woke up, got our stuff together. Molly got her hair done, and we headed towards Gatlinburg again. This time we needed to find the convention center.

We took the bypass again to avoid the construction. The convention center in Gatlinburg is pretty nice as far as convention centers go.

The meet was setup in the lower level and they were actually doing boys gymnastics there too. Molly’s rotation started around noon. They started out on the Vault where she notched a 9.200 I think. Her first 9 in the vault thus far. After that they moved over to bars. Molly was exhausted you could see it already. I think our vacation was a little too much for her. We probably should have done the family thing after the meet. She struggled a little bit in warm ups. Mrs. Cindy put a little Pixie dust on her and it helped a little bit. She did fairly well and scored a high 8. She made a few mistakes but you could tell she was struggling with something.

Moving from bars to beam was about the same. Molly was struggling a bit in warm ups. During her routing she dropped off the beam in the very beginning, bounced right back up and turned in one of her best performances yet, but the fall cost her. Still though a very high 8. (8.875, or 8.825 I think).

Lastly was the floor routine. During warm ups she had to do a couple round-off back hand springs. During the last couple weeks her wrists had really been bothering her. So much so that the coaches had not been allowing her to do any back hand springs. But now she had to do them or she wasn’t going to be able to compete. We told her not to worry but it was clear she had been worrying about them. She did a back hand spring and grinned. She did another and ended up over near us and said “it doesn’t hurt at all!”. She did a couple more, then a couple more. Her whole outlook changed. You could tell she was relieved.

Her floor routine was exceptional. She made one mistake that cost her in her routine but outside of that it was very sharp, very very clean.

We’re proud of her.

After the meet we were all exhausted and ready to head for home. But of course we had to stop one more time on the way out of town at the Smokey Mountain Knife Works. Grandpa hadn’t been there yet and Micheal didn’t feel he had enough time there the first time. You have to understand. That is like the ultimate store for teenage boys and teenage dads too.

On the way there we stopped and had dinner at Cracker Barrel just to let things settle down and not have to pay $5 for a hot dog.

After our last round of shopping it was time to head back home. We hit the door at 10:15pm

A long weekend, but it was good.

Photos are in the gallery. We didn’t take many meet photos.

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