Monday, May 4, 2015

Day 20: The Gatlinburg Zero!

March 27: By morning, rain had settled over the town of Gatlinburg. I didn’t let that hinder me from checking out of the Days Inn and move over to the Grand Prix which had several advantages over the Days Inn including wifi that actually worked (most of the time), laundry facilities and was even cheaper. However, no continental breakfast was included, but I was willing to forego that. The Days Inn hadn’t even bothered to include a waffle maker with their breakfast, so who cared about the Grand Prix not even having a breakfast? I wasn’t going to miss it! It’s not really a breakfast if it doesn’t include a waffle maker.

I locked myself in my room and immediately started using the Internet to catch up on everything I should have done the day before. By afternoon, the rain had stopped and I was anxious to get outside and experience Gatlinburg rather than merely just seeing it.

Looking at maps of the area, I noticed that I could make a large loop to the grocery store a few miles outside of town (across the street from the post office) which rather appealed to me. It also meant I’d pass by the Hillbilly Mini Golf, which I was anxious to try. With all of the putt putt courses in Gatlinburg, I figured I had to try at least one of them, and this one apparently started with an inclined railroad taking you a few hundred feet up a mountain then you play your way down back to street level. Sounded cool to me! And to putt through outhouses and moonshine contraptions. Yep, I could do that. *nodding*
The Hillbilly putt putt course took you up this inclined railway, then you played your way down the slope. (See the moonshine apparatus near the top of the photo? That’s part of the course!)

Except I couldn’t. Because when I arrived, it was closed. There was no sign explaining why it was closed. Was it closed for the day? Or had it closed for winter and hadn’t re-opened for the new tourist season yet? I didn’t know, but it looked like it hadn’t been open in a while. In any case, that shot my original plan to shreds.

My plans further became derailed when the roads I intended to follow to the grocery store ran out of sidewalks and I wasn’t inclined to walk on the street with busy cars to get there. So I turned back, dejected.

To appease some of my misfortune, I did stop at the Mountain Coaster place and bought myself a ticket. It’s like a mini roller coaster for people to shoot down one at a time. A waterslide without the water, as it were. The contraption they put you on has a lever you can pull up to brake, but why would I want to do that? I figured these things were built so nobody could fly off the tracks no matter how fast they were travelling so I let gravity run me as fast as it could. I carefully stowed my hat, sunglasses and other paraphernalia so I wouldn’t lose it on the ride down, and the cart was slowly pulled to the top of the course before gravity had its way with me and I shot down the track like a bullet.
An exhilarating thrill! But sadly, it didn’t last very long…

It was exhilarating! I grabbed hard onto the brakes… not to actually brake, but you have to keep them pushed down so as not to break. And it helped keep me connected to the kart as it pulled high G-forces around the curves. Oh, sure, I had a seatbelt on that should have kept me in place, but I didn’t intend to flop around everywhere either!

My only complaint was that the ride was over much too quickly. Seemed like it was done in a minute. Maybe going a little slower would have lengthened the ride, but then it wouldn’t have been as fun either. It’s a dilemma, really!

I walked back into the main part of town and decided to try another putt putt course that I knew was open because I had passed it earlier and it had Indiana Jones theme music blaring out the entrance: Treasure Golf!

It was okay, I suppose, but it didn’t have an inclined railroad for me to ride. I was still a little disappointed about that. This was also an indoor course (the Hillbilly one was outdoors) so it was warmer as well. I scored poorly, but I always do on putt putt courses. I haven’t had a lot of practice. But I was also playing by myself so technically, I did come in first place. =)

But I left feeling a little cheated. I really wanted that inclined railroad.
Indy! You’ve got it backwards! The ball is supposed to be chasing YOU!

Part of the Treasure Golf was decked out with black lights.

My next stop was a haunted house. The best one, I had read, was just off the main drag on River Street, and since I hadn’t walked down that street yet, I did so now. It was pretty obvious which building was the haunted house, and I paid the entrance fee to get in.

They initially invited me into a lounge-like room and asked me to wait. I took a seat and waited for about 30 seconds before a zombie (or something weird) opened the door and told me to push the mantel of the fireplace in the room. I wasn’t sure what was going on yet… really? Push it? I put my hands on it and pushed lightly, but nothing happened. “Push harder,” he told me. So I put some more muscle into it and the fireplace fell back with a secret compartment behind it. COOL!

Immediately, three other people started pushing their way in the opposite direction. These people weren’t dressed in scary costumes or anything. They looked like me, except that they were lost. “Is this the right direction?” they asked, pointing back to the lobby from which I had come. “Uh, I’m pretty sure not.” And I started thinking, “How could these people be so lost that they’re thinking the entrance is the way forward?”

It didn’t take long before I realized how that had happened, because next thing I knew, I was in a small room with half a dozen identical-looking doors in pretty much every direction. Some of the doors didn’t open. We pushed on others. It was definitely easy to lose one’s sense of direction in this kind of place! Eventually we found an exit that wasn’t to the entrance from which we had come and continued the journey.

All-in-all, I absolutely loved the haunted mansion. Characters would try to jump out and scare us, and really, I don’t scare very easily in these places because I know nothing is going to hurt me. The actors aren’t even supposed to touch you! But the maze-like quality of the house thrilled me to no end, trying to find the hidden exits. At one point, we went down a hall with nothing but a closed door at the end. It looked ominous, but obviously, we were meant to open that door. What lay on the other side? I joked with the others in the maze with me, “Do you wan to open it, or shall I?” Because we just knew something would jump out at whoever opened that door. “I’ll open it,” I said. “I’m not scared of no door.”

I opened the door and… there was a brick wall. Huh. Not what I expected.

I pushed the brick wall. Maybe it was a false wall, but it held firm. “Nope,” I told the others, “that’s not the exit. We missed something somewhere! Start pushing the other walls!”

Which we proceeded to do and eventually found the secret panel that would open the next section of the maze. I loved it!

At one point, the journey took us to a balcony that overlooked the river outside, and just for kicks, I put my head out the window and yelled down to the people walking by on the sidewalk, “Help! Help!” while reaching out like I was in mortal danger. Then tucked my head back inside to leave everyone on the outside wondering exactly what was happening inside this house! =)
If this house isn’t haunted, then there is no such thing! See that open window near the upper-right corner of the mansion? Imagine me sticking my head out, waving frantically and crying out, “Help! Help!” Yeah, I did that. *nodding* =) I so wish I could have seen someone else doing that!

Another prop I absolutely loved was a balcony on the inside of the house that was rigged to drop a bit when someone stepped onto it like it was collapsing. I think that might have startled me pretty good if I were the first to go on it, but one of the other people had stepped out on it first and screamed when they thought it had collapsed. Kind of ruined the surprise for the rest of us, but it didn’t stop me from walking out on and off of it several times to check out how it worked.

All-in-all, I had a blast going through the Mysterious Mansion. That was a heck of a lot of fun! =)

I wandered around a bit more, finally passing a shop promoting henna tattoos and I thought, “YEAH! That’s what I need! A tat! I’d be a real badass if I had a tattoo!”

So I walked into the place where someone else had just had a tattoo completed. It was a gorgeous flowery thing on her hand. They had posters of possible tat options, and books which I flipped through. I wasn’t sure what I wanted—just something trail related. Hiking, backpacking, AT, whatever, but I wasn’t really finding anything I liked.

The girl who was doing the tattoos said she could do custom ones as well, but I was still scratching my head until it finally hit me—my signature stamp! Heck, it’s already a stamp! I could practically stamp myself and call it a tattoo! But… oh, drats, I left my stamp back at the hotel.

Then I remembered I had a business card which I had pre-stamped, so I pulled that out and asked if she could do that. Yes, she said, she thought she could. Sweet!

I said something about looking like a real “badass” on the trail with my new tat, which I guess she interpreted to mean that I thought the tattoo was permanent because she then told me, “You know, these aren’t permanent, right?”

“Lord, I should hope not! I’d be really upset if they were!”

She trace my image onto another piece of paper, then tried to transfer the outline to the back of my hand. She had to do this a few times before it turned out to her satisfaction. I guess my stamp had too much detail that was messing up the image since she had such a thick marker she traced with, but I said it was okay to simplify it and eventually it worked out.

As she painted the ink or whatever it is they use for henna tattoos, I asked for the gossip about Gatlinburg. What should I see or do while I was in town? She said she wasn’t much impressed with Gatlinburg the city, but she grew up there. She told me she’d normally suggest going out to the river or other nature stuff, but seeing as I was getting away from that by going to Gatlinburg, that advice probably wasn’t as useful for me. Yeah, not really…

A short while later, the tat was done and I was free to go. I immediately ran into my first problem. You’re not supposed to touch or rub the henna tattoo for the first half hour so it won’t smear, and I had taken off my jacket when I went inside because it was a lot warmer inside than outside. But now, I realized, I couldn’t put my jacket back on without it rubbing the back of my hand. Hmm…. Well, at least the hotel wasn’t far away! I should be able to get there before I froze to death outside. =) In any case, I slide my jacket up my right arm so half my body could be warm outside. I probably looked quite strange walking around in the cold with only half my jacket on.
My new henna tattoo is drying. Yeah, I’m a total badass with a tat like this! =)

And finally, I headed back to my hotel room. I still had some of these blog entries that needed to be typed up, but I felt like I had got to experience a pretty good chunk of Gatlinburg in my few hours of wandering around. =)


Anonymous said...

If you liked the "one man roller coaster" in Gatlinburg, check out the Alpine Slide on Mt Bromley in Vermont. The AT goes over the top of the mountain but does not pass by the base lodge where one would normally buy a ticket. Maybe you could ride the slide down and then take the chairlift back up to the top. There is also one on Pico Peak right before Sherburne Pass further north in Vermont.

PI Joe

Honey Bear Clan said...

I was going to say exactly the same thing about the Bromley Mountain slide. I went to camp in VT and visiting the slide was one of the prizes you got for accumulating points for things like getting a bunch of bullseyes in archery. Then much later, I went again as an adult, and it was just as awesome!