Wednesday, October 07, 2009
My Vacation Let Me Tell You It Part Two
Let's see, we left our adventurers, which is to say, me, Audrey, Joey and Annie, at the aquarium. We headed down the many ramps to the trolley stop, thinking we would leave the car parked where it was and trolley it around town. The main trolley stop is conveniently located right there at the aquarium; you can tell because they have a nifty sign that shows you when the next one is coming, which in our case was momentarily. What they do not have is a sign with a map on it or directions of any kind.
"Look," said Audrey, "They have different colors. Does that mean they have different routes?"
"Oh no," I said blithely, "They all just go around town. Otherwise there'd be a map or something here. And it's probably free. I'm sure it's free."
We got on and the driver told us that no, it was not free. So we paid our 50 cents each and went to the back of the bus with the map and schedule - the driver had a stack up front. We were just beginning to figure it out when the trolley pulled away from the curb - and headed towards nowhere, or the visitor center, whichever came first, because, of course, the trolleys have different routes. We got to know ours well, since what the trolleys do not really have are transfer points, so we just sat tight. For 40 minutes. During which Joey got in trouble for opening a window and we listened to five teenage girls discuss their own Gatlinburg adventure.
Thus we were ready for a restorative beverage. Susan and Laura, who had opted out of the aquarium, said they were in a bar downtown and to meet them there. So we piled back into the car and headed to Hoggs and Honeys, which, due to a typo in Susan's text and/or a font issue on the sign, I thought was called Haggs and Honeys, which made me think happily that perhaps it was a Macbeth themed place - you know, with haggis and mead. Yet again I was proved wrong!
After a beer at Haggy Honey, Annie decided that she could do with a little lie down. So Joey and I took her up the winding mountain to the chalet (the real estate company called on Saturday morning to see how we were doing and the lady on the phone said, "Is everything okay with the Chalet?" and for a moment, I swear, I thought I was in Versailles. Then that old Squeeze song got into my head and it only just left. Behind the chalet, indeed. There were bears behind our chalet, not just mussels. Take that, Squeeze!) and then we decided that, rather than drive down the road, we'd take the cable car.
Uber Gatlinburg! Heil! The entrance was just a few feet from our road, so we drove on up to the gatepost.
"It vill be four dollars." said a man in a golf shirt with a thick, thick Transylvanian accent.
"Okay," I said, forking it over, "Um, how do we find it."
"Follow," he said portentously, "Ze double yellow lines." and disappeared back into his hut.
"Damn," I said to Joey, "Dracula must be hard up for work these days."
Uber (Okay, it's Ober, but I like the sound of Uber better) Gatlinburg is a strange, strange place. It's like. . . a mall. Specifically, Innsbruck Mall - deserted and smelling of bleach and despair. Perhaps it is more lively when it's full of artificial snow; I have no idea. There were wide expanses of linoleum and an Asian woman in a kiosk selling unnecessary stuffed animals who, for $20, gave us each an ultraviolet hand stamp. I asked for a paper ticket, planning to give it to Audrey or Susan so they could ride back up, but we had no common language, so that was a bust. Oh well. We got in line for the cable car.
The giant wheels that run the cable car are right there in the cheerless green atrium where you wait for the tram, contemplating the weight and people limits. Simple math will tell you that the people who designed the tram did so with under 200 pound humans in mind. They need to revise that for contemporary America: about half the people in the line were 300 pounders, easy. That was unnerving, but I comforted myself with the knowledge that at least they would be soft to land on. Anyway, that fear pales before the fear inspired by the grinding, shrieking, moaning noises the wheels and cable make. That's the sound that makes you commend your soul to God. I probably would have split if I'd been alone, but I was with my daughter's boyfriend and I would rather be eaten by giant weasels than show fear in that circumstance. I feel it's important that my children's significant others know that I can crush them like dust if it becomes necessary.
The tram was actually really fun, even if it was completely terrifying. It was made better by the fact that Joey and I were both paralyzed with fear, yet each attempting to not divulge that to the other. "Great, isn't it?" we shouted at each other with clenched teeth, clinging for all life to the bars on the windows. "The tram will sway when it goes over the towers," said the mean guide. "OKAY!" said Joey and I, grinning madly like skulls.
After another much needed restorative beverage, we headed down the street to the Mirror Maze. This was a most excellent place. You put on plastic gloves and rainbow glasses and walk into a space lined with mirrors and loud with a really fucking annoying repetitive techno soundtrack. The only lights are the little red LEDs on the carpet and it takes about ten or fifteen minutes of lurching around into mirrors, laughing hysterically, before you find your way out. It was spectacular. I want to build one in my basement as soon as I get seriously back into drugs.
Then it was time to return to the chalet, where, alas, there were no bears, but my brother had shown up. The next morning there was a quick frenzy of packing and cleaning and then everyone except Audrey, Joey and I headed back to Asheville. We felt we had not yet maximized our Gatlinburg journey and wanted more. Also, Audrey and I hadn't gone shopping yet. It was vital that we go shopping.
We went shopping and bought cool stuff like a Smoky the Bear sign and James Dean lighters and we contemplated but did not buy T-shirts that said What Happens in Gatlinburg Stays in Gatlinburg and eventually we ended up at the Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum, another place that I uncritically adore. I mean, a two headed calf, part of the Berlin Wall, a chastity belt, a mummy, Mr. Ito, the Giant Chair and a Degas made of toast - all in one museum. It's like a dream come true. Hell, I want to work there. I like to imagine their scholarly library, full of the Weekly World News and the Fortean Times and the eager, intellectual curatorial staff, madly researching flying saucers and stuff. Yeah, it's my dream job.
Then we left Gatlinburg - goodbye, goodbye! Would never in a thousand years want to live there! No, never! - and headed to Pigeon Forge. Pigeon Forge is depressing. I haven't got much to say about Pigeon Forge except that years ago there were outlets there with great shopping but now they are gone, taken over by inexplicable Russians hawking ugly handbags or empty, haunted only by the ghosts of bargain hunters. We went to an underwear outlet and tried on bras of every size, none of which fit, and bought underwear which has already fallen apart. It began to rain and we spent a small fortune on lunch at a TGIFridays (this is still rankling. If I'm going to spend SEVENTY FUCKING DOLLARS on lunch for three people, in a place where they don't even have real liquor, I want it to be HAUTE GODDAMN CUISINE. Not TGIFridays. Grrrrrrrrr.) and headed back to Asheville. It is good to be back.