When we first decided* we were going to Tennessee for Thanksgiving weekend, I figured we’d get in sometime Saturday evening, have dinner or something, and then go to DOLLYWOOD on Sunday, because that was legitimately the sole impetus of this trip.
*(See also: when I decided and told Henry and Chooch we were going to Tennessee for Thanksgiving weekend.)
But then Henry was like, “Let’s just leave sometime Friday evening, drive halfway, and then have most of Saturday to do the Tennessee things.” Who is this Captain Funtime Spirit using Henry as a host body!? I was stoked on this idea and we even got along the whole night in the car and only fought once on Saturday while still in West Virginia, when I was angry and had my typical knee-jerk temper explosion all over not being able to find my conditioner when I woke up Saturday morning. And then Henry told me to “end it” which is basically just the same as telling me to CALM DOWN which he doesn’t do anymore, but I can see we’re going to have a battle over semantics here soon.
We arrived in Pigeon Forge sometime around 1:00pm, I think. It would have been later than that if Henry had given in to my desire to tour the BUSH’S BAKED BEANS FACTORY. I was heart-broken when we drove past the visitor center and I saw tourists out there posing with all the baked beans signs, living their best gassy lives.
Once we hit that main drag in Pigeon Forge, the one that’s like the Las Vegas strip of tourist traps, Chooch’s eyes lit up like an orphan about to dive into a hot bowl of porridge.
Here are the highlights from Saturday, aka Every Single Thing We Did because it was such a great FAMILY FUNTIME day, as Chooch would call it. We love us some funtime.
POORLY PLANNED LUNCH!
Apparently, Pigeon Forge loves pancakes. There are pancake house everywhere! But you know what pancake houses are notorious for? Closing at 2-fucking-PM. So, no pancake houses for us. Then we were going to eat at some Cuban place I found on shitty Yelp but I got irrationally mad when we pulled up and found that it was in a strip mall-ish area. I didn’t want to eat in a strip mall! By then, we were halfway to Gatlinburg and I didn’t want to go too far away because we still needed to go back to our hotel so Chooch could change clothes for his Cool Boy Smoky Mountain Photoshoot since they let us check in but then the maid had literally JUST started cleaning our room so we just dumped our bags, hung out in the fitness room for a bit so I could walk like a freak on the treadmill after being in the car all morning, and then left for lunch.
So when we saw the Wild Bear Tavern, I screamed, “FUCK IT, JUST STOP HERE, I DON’T CARE.” Hilariously, it ended up being a German restaurant. First of all, German food and vegetarians rarely mesh well. Second of all, the last time we ate a German restaurant was in 2011 (OMG the same year we were last in Tennessee too!) and Henry and I both got major food poisoning. We were with two other people that night who didn’t get sick at all and the only common denominator was the apple strudel that Henry and I had for dessert so I guess we were poisoned by the Evil Queen? Henry has been terrified of German food ever since so he opted for a burger and Chooch and I both ordered grilled cheese from the kids menu and the waitress was just like, “Why did you come here, tho?”
I did get a side of spaetzel though which was drowning in a pool of melted, watery cheese so it was kind of like German mac n’ cheese I guess and not even close to being as glorious as the spaetzel my Pappap used to make for Christmas. He was the spaetzel king.
Chooch got like 3 new stains on his hoodie just from lunch because he eats like a three-year-old, so going back to the hotel afterward was imperative! Luckily, our room was done for real that time.
TRAIL MIX CHOKING!
Next up was the aforementioned Cool Boy Smoky Mountain Photoshoot! The highlight of this for us, don’t hate, was when we were driving back down the mountains to go to Gatlinburg and Henry started choking on trail mix to the point where one lone tour dripped down his cheek and Chooch and I were going WILD over this. Then we were just like, “OMG please stop choking!” and it reminded me of how Glenn always chokes on peanuts at work. Good job being like Glenn, Henry. Anyway, Tuesday night, I was like, “Hey Chooch remember when Dad was choking on trail mix?” and then we were crying because we were laughing so hard at the three-day-old memory and Henry called us a bunch of fuckers.
I wanted to do this the last time we were in Tennessee but it was before Chooch was wild about going to haunted houses and no one else thought it was a Super Great Idea like I did, so I did not go. But this time I was determined, and Chooch was pretty hyped up about it too. It took us a while to get through the Gatlinburg tourist traffic, but once we found somewhere to park, it was just a short walk from there. Henry was like, “I am not going in this thing, have fun” but had to come in anyway to pay for us, haha.
It was relatively “cheap” by haunted house standards ($13 for me, $8 for Chooch; something like that) and the ticket booth guy gave us the run-down in a melodramatic tone without making eye contact with us once. It was weird. But also, thank you for not looking at me, ticket guy.
Anyway, he sent us into a waiting room which was very dim and themed like an old-fashioned sitting room with a fireplace. There was a family of 5 waiting for us to join them, and then the ticket guy came over the intercom and told us it was time to find our way out of the room.
We were allowed to touch everything and push things, so that was really cool, and eventually we figured out that the fireplace had to be pushed in order for an entrance to be found. Every single person in that family (a mom, a SUPER TALL dad, a young son and daughter, and a SUPER TALL teenaged daughter) were absolutely paralyzed with fear and holding on to each other, so finally I offered to go first and they were basically treating me like a fucking hero, like I was some chick Van Helsing or something. It was HILAR. These people totally made the haunted house that much better for us, Chooch and I both agreed, which is no small feat because we barely agree on the color of the sky these days.
They were absolutely latched on to us and at first, I thought to myself, “Wow, this haunted house isn’t even that—-” but then SHIT STARTED TO GO DOWN. Basically, without writing a goddamn screenplay, we were being stalked and terrorized by the same two or three guys and they were effective as fuck. One of them kept making a raptor-like sound in our faces, and at one point, we had walked up a staircase and were crossing a balcony-like hallway that overlooked the downstairs when one of them JUMPED FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HOUSE INTO THE HALLWAY WE WERE IN and I’ll tell you what, that family started a veritable stampede and I thought we were going to get turned into one a Pigeon Forge pancake for real. My throat hurt from screaming and laughing and scream-laughing! Oh shit, Chooch and I were cracking up so bad, this family was the limit.
At one point, the SUPER TALL daughter had my arm in a death grip, but she was pulling it behind my back at an uncomfortable angle, and then one of those guys came back to terrorize us some more and I was bracing myself for the crunch of cartilage as she snapped my arm back, but luckily I was able to break free. Her mom was holding on to my back and eventually realized what she was doing and said, “I AM SO SORRY. WE ARE REALLY DOING THE MOST RIGHT NOW” and I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to tell her it was fine. But real talk – if Chooch and I had gone through on our own, I might have had to utilize an emergency exit because it really like some real life terror situation at times. And the theming inside the house was great too, from what I was able to see in the flurry of hysteria going on around me. So damn good, would recommend. Exceeded expectations!
KILLING TIME IN G-BURG
We weren’t hungry yet so we decided to just walk around Gatlinburg and count how many times we got to say NOPE every time Chooch would excitedly point out some arcade or shooting gallery. Ripley’s pretty much owns eastern Tennessee, I’ve learned, so every other tourist attraction we passed had their name on it. We did some of that stuff last time, but ever since that duck boat tragedy last summer, I have been determined to boycott those motherfuckers so all I had to say was, “No, Ripley’s killed people” and then Chooch said, “Oh, I didn’t know” and NEVER ASKED AGAIN.
It was wonderful.
We walked by Christ in the Smokeys and I got a picture of Christ all dressed up in twinkle lights for Christmas to send to our friend Bill, who I dragged there along with us last time, but he admitted it was a real diamond in the rough. Of course it was!
Just in case I ever started to forget that we were in the south, we’d walk past a souvenir shop that had several pro-Trump novelty shirt hanging in the window. Yup. Cool fucking story.
We ate at the Pigeon Forge location twice last time we were there and all I could remember was that I had something with tempeh, so I wanted to go back because tempeh is one of my favorite vegetarian foods and also, we were in the South and my veg options were slim.
Admittedly, it wasn’t as great as I remembered, but it was still a nice dinner. Henry got the Holy Shiitake mushroom pizza so I could have a slice, Chooch got something with two different kinds of tomatoes and then remembered he doesn’t like tomatoes so he had to pick them off but supposedly liked whatever remained, and I got that tempeh sandwich thing which was great but not like, “OH SHIT I HAVE TO WRITE SEVERAL PARAGRAPHS IN MY BLOG ABOUT THIS” great.
I had a beer and I normally don’t drink very often anymore so I was pretty much plastered. Henry asked me what I ordered and I honestly have no idea, it was whatever the waiter recommended when I told him I only really like wheat beers. It was OK! I drank the whole glass! But it wasn’t very big, so….
We found the fountain where Bill almost actually drowned Chooch when he was pretending to drown him, lol.
(I know I’m referencing our last trip here so much but you have to understand that it was an epic time, and Chooch and Bill even have a commemorative book for it.)
Right after this, we walked past a bunch of small kids who were singing some song, that went like, “I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N” and passers-by were straight charmed by this Flanders-esque display of religion, but not us. We were gagging and trying to push our horns back into our scalps. There’s only one thing worse than kids and it’s RELIGIOUS kids.
We watched this guy poop out taffy logs from a machine. I also bought Ole Smoky moonshine taffy at some other candy store for work and Henry was pissed because my work always gets all the candy.
JURASSIC JUNGLE OAT RIDE!
After walking off our dinner, we went back to Pigeon Forge so that Chooch and I go on the Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride!
Or, Oat Ride, I guess.
Now look, you don’t need to read the reviews to know that this is going to be a hokey trip through a glorified warehouse, but I NEEDED TO DO THIS. Henry kept saying it was going to be a rip-off, but he still handed over the credit card to the bored teenager working the ticket booth, and then he promptly went back and sat in the car while Chooch and I boarded a boat, or oat, with another family of
That one dummy looks like a psycho Nick Jonas.
Sooooo…..it was actually pretty horrific in that I felt like we could have potentially been murdered in there. It was so dark (except for the jackass dad’s phone flashlight that he had turned on for THE ENTIRE RIDE because he was recording THE ENTIRE RIDE. Bro, that shit’s already on YouTube, don’t re-do it.) Chooch and I were especially terrified of the larger-than-life, extremely and inexplicably buff pterodactyl that was perched in anger above us.
We had so many questions.
I mean, I’m no dinosaur expert, but many things in there did not add up.
Overall, IT WAS FUCKING GREAT! Chooch started applauding sarcastically at the end, so then the mom of the family in front of us turned around and also started clapping but I think she actually meant it.
But yeah, if you’re into supremely tacky tourist shit from the 1970s, then this will be the jam to your peanut buttered travel itinerary.
I might still be drunk from that beer.
WHEN CHOOCH DIVORCED HIMSELF FROM THE FAMILY
We went back to the hotel after the Jurassic thing so we could drop the car off and just walk to play mini golf — HENRY’S IDEA! He must have been having so much fun hemorrhaging money on family time.
But it was hard to cross the big bad Pigeon Forge tourist highway so we couldn’t go to the mini golf place that Chooch originally chose and had to pick one of the dozens of places on the side we were already on.
So we chose Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure, where Chooch finally realized after all this time that he sucks at mini golf.
I was so giddy by this point of the night, and spent most of the time doubled over in laughter while Chooch was practically roid-raging over his inability to get the ball in the hole in less than 9 strokes while Henry was looking up flights for one from Knoxville to Pittsburgh.
I sincerely don’t know how we didn’t get kicked out.
But most importantly, I won! Taemin’s wife always wins!
Somehow we missed an entire hole, Chooch lost his ball right at the end which resulted in him having a major psychiatric break and so he stormed off back to the hotel ahead of us, I nearly laughed myself to death because I’m a great mom, and Henry kept mumbling about wanting ice cream but then he never got ice cream.
We made it back to the hotel and almost immediately crashed. It’s amazing that we managed to mostly get along so well!
(Although, there was one time earlier that day when Chooch was trying to make a video for Instagram and got mad later when he realized you could hear Henry and me arguing in the background. I asked him what we were saying and he said we were arguing about where something was and then he imitated me saying, “That’s literally what I just said” and I said that he made me sound like a sassy teenage girl. “Yeah. That’s because that’s what you sound like,” he said in a way that implied it was NOT a compliment. Rude.)