A few years ago, Jeremy and I went to one of those timeshares meetings for Holiday Inn Resorts. They offered us 100 bucks to listen to their spill and we took it. As we were talking to the salesperson, we realized we are kind of vacation-piranas. For years we have hooked on to other people’s party/travel plans but never planned and completely funded our own vacay. When the offer came to pay 70 bucks a month for a single stay at one of a few choice resorts, we thought that would be pretty great.

I should probably mention here, I am not much for researching or even looking at reality. I am impulsive and I thought Gatlinburg would be mountains, bears, and rustic goodness. I immediately envisioned every morning on a balcony, staring at the mountains, coffee in hand and somehow completely alone. Can I tell you that the completely open and alone was what I was really holding onto? You can imagine my utter shock when we were driving through Pigeon Forge and I was bombarded with every tourist trap known to man. I was cringing at the amount of money people were spending on Ripley’s, go-carts, and pancakes (lots of pancake houses). There was a small break between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg that was just amazing. We rolled down the windows, felt the breeze, and basked in the shade of ancient trees. It was what I had hoped for.

Gatlinburg was not terrible, not a good start, I know. The stores are adorable and although still tourist traps, they have an outer cabin visage that makes it all seem okay. We found our hotel and I immediately regretted my choice for Gatlinburg. See the area is strapped for land; therefore, everything is stacked on top of itself. It was more like a motel than a resort. The rooms were great and accommodations consisted of an outdoor pool and kids indoor pool/play area. However, you had to go off property for food (unless you cooked in your kitchen, which we did) and they didn’t have space for anything else. Don’t get me wrong Holiday Inn employees were the nicest and my disappointment only had to do with the choice I made. To make matters worse, it was a holiday weekend. The streets were crammed with people moving from t-shirt shops to Ripley’s complexes, and finally to pancake houses. This reality was so decidedly different than my original plan that I stuck my feet in the mud for a few days and didn’t leave the apartment, except for a swim with the kids. All of the excitement was gone.

I finally came to terms with it all and just got over it. We took a trip to the Aquarium, had a steak (not at the Aquarium), and went for a swim. I took some time to draw and watched some shows with some of my favorite people. The last day we were there was my favorite. We took the kids on a hike to Cataract Falls. With my camera in hand, I realized I should have started here but I’m lazy and determined to make the worst of my disappointment.

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The moral to this story is research and choose accordingly. Also, when disappointed make the most, not the worst of the situation. My sister-in-law handled it the best – She woke up every morning for a hike, spent time with us, and focused on what she liked about Gatlinburg. I hope my kids notice the differences between the attitudes of disappointment and choose Mel’s way.

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