Tuesday morning came quickly, and Cindy and I were on the road by eight. We had Tom Tom programmed to take us to the cabin rentals and had about nine hours to enjoy a kid-free ride. It was erie: no fights, no messes, just quiet. If you do not already own a GPS device, these gadgets are worth the entry price.
Our cabin was called "A Garden Blessing," and it was just that. We booked the rental back in March, and got a really good deal. It was the first time that we rented anything that was not a motel. Combine being kid-free with all the amenities of home and that led to more sleep than I have had in a long time. In the spirit of Galinburg, we took a trip down the Parkway.
In case you have never been to Gatlinburg, let me tell you that there is no store front parking. Your best bet is to park at the city garage across from Hard Rock Cafe. They have an hourly rate and a six dollar maximum. There is a private lot next door that charges a flat $5.00 per day. Once you get into the Parkway, you will get charged $8 - $10. How to best describe the Parkway? It's the Myrtle Beach of the mountains: lots of t-shirts shops, candy shops and indoor minature golf.
The highlight of the trip was white water rafting down the Pigeon river. We used the Smokey Mountain Outdoors. After meeting our guide, we went through the safety lesson. Afterwards, I was starting to doubt the sanity of this venture, but, our guide told us that most river guides were full of crap. Seeing that she was a river guide, I was not sure how much stock to put into her statement. We took the "upper tour" and had a lot of fun. One member of our party fell overboard, popped up next to the raft and we got to pull her back in. I was proud that I was able to grab her paddle before it went down stream. If you ever go to the area, I highly recommend this activity. It takes a couple of hours, and there is more flat water than rapids, but it is very fun.
The second highlight was horseback riding. Again, there are several to choose from, but we used the Smokey Mountain Riding Stables. We saddled up on Porter Cole and Christy for an hour long trail ride through the Smokey Mountains. Although this was fun, about fifteen minutes into the ride, I had serious doubts that I could make this. First off, the saddle. I am not sure how it is with the ladies, but fellas, I got to say, it was rough. Next, my horse, Christy, was a lazy horse. The stable hand told me that I can use the reins to "whip her like you want to whip your wife." I told him politely that it was my wife who usually used the whip (just kidding, or course). But, Christy just kept getting behind and every now and then I could get her to trot to catch up. Attending Katie's riding lessons must have helped a little. If you think walking was hard, fellas, trotting takes up the pain a notch. I am sure that there was plenty that I could have done to make this easier, but, I am a dude (a person who does not know how to ride a horse). I have a new found respect for what Katie can do on her horse.
Horseback riding took more out of us than we thought, so we cancelled our hike and instead went minature golfing. You have many choices, but we went to Hillbilly Golf. You take a ride up the side of a mountain, and the course takes you down the mountain. I had a respectable lead on Cindy until she dropped two strokes on a par 3 and sunk the final put to win. It did not help that I completely flubbed one of the holes. Oh well, all is fair in love, war and Hillbilly Golf.
As far as eating out goes, we pretty much went on the cheap. We did eat at a local TGI Fridays on the Parkway the first night we were there. The experience was not good, and I would not recommend going there. We also ate at the Alamo Steak House after Hillbilly Golf. We were put in a back room that felt very tight. We split a surf and turf special, and the steak was exceptional. Cooked over oakwood, it gave the meat a distinctive smokey taste. However, most of the prices start around fifteen dollars. Before rafting, we did have a spot of lunch at a nearby Food City grocery store, and this would be a great location if you were looking for eats to take on to a picnic. Our favorite dining out experience was at the Gondolier Italian Restaurant and Pizza. We stopped here after rafting and had a large "Gondolier Special" Pizza. The feta cheese added something new, but the crust was fantastic: flakey like Unos, but not as doughy. We had enough left over to have a nice lunch the next day.
Coming home we went a different route to get to Williamsburg to ride the Griffon at Bush Gardens. The lines were short and we were in and out of the park in under two hours. After stopping off at Firehouse subs, we came home to a grand reception by our kids waiting for us on the corner. All though I enjoyed our peace and quiet, I was glad to see them again.