Traveling to the mountains for a couple of days over Thanksgiving break was a small treat we were all anticipating with smiles and giggles. By “all” I mean myself, my husband and three children aged 13, 11 & 7 yrs. We also were bringing our three Golden Retrievers, but they didn’t know what was coming.
Growing up in East Tennessee, I knew Gatlinburg would be crowded over the holiday but I hadn’t visited Pigeon Forge and the surrounding areas in so long, I couldn’t wait or perhaps I had forgotten the madhouse it became at holidays. Weeks in advance, my husband made reservations at a dog-friendly indoor-waterpark resort for a two bedroom cabin.
Now it was just logistics, right? How do you fit three goldens, three children, two adults and luggage in a mid-size SUV.
Let’s just say we’re creative. And Thule rules.
It’s the morning before Thanksgiving, and I’ve anchored and loaded all the luggage onto the roof. Everyone including the dogs pile into the Stinkin’ Lincoln, and we are on the road to Gatlinburg only half an hour behind my desired departure time.
Did I mention one of the dogs gets car sick?
This dog always has. Motion sickness pills never helped our Toga, but the kids knew the drill. Don’t feed her breakfast, ration her water until we leave and keep a window cracked and she’ll be okay for the trip. The travel time was only four hours from our door to the resort according to google maps.
As we were sitting in traffic on I-40 in Knoxville the “he touched me’s” started from the three children. “He touched me again!” “She touched me!” “She stuck her tounge out at me!” What were we thinking traveling on the day before Thanksgiving? Fortunately we were rolling again soon on the most heavily traveled day of the year.
Just as we ticked past hour four and a half of the supposedly four hour trip, we reached Pigeon Forge.
STOP*GO*STOP*GO*STOP*GO*STOP*GO*STOP*GO*STOP*GO and <<<<BARF>>>>
“Eeeeeeeewwwwwwwww,” three fueding children sang in chorus as Toga, the car-sick golden, heaved again <<<<BARF>>>> into the rear cupholder.
My husband and I looked at each other both hoping the other had a magical solution. We only wanted to reach the resort and get out of the car, but in the traffic, arrival time was unknown.
Into the next gas station we pulled, everyone folded out of the Stinkin’ Lincoln except the ole’ lady golden and cleaning commenced. Those gas station vacuums have amazing suction.
Everyone filed back in the Stinkin’ Lincoln. We unintentionally cruised the strip in Pigeon Forge to our destination windows down (car smelled of dog vomit), music loud (to drown out the kids’ reinactments of the dog barfing), woman passenger snuggled to male driver in baseball cap (because it was freezing outside and the windows were down). Proud moment, oh my. I wanted out of the car and into the hot tub.
Pulling into the resort, the children cheer. It’s beautifully decorated with Christmas lights which was a welcoming entrance in the dark. The indoor waterpark was already closed for the night, but the outdoor heated pool and hot tubs were clearly open so we couldn’t wait to check in and get busy.
When my husband met us with the keys he had an odd look on his face but didn’t comment other than, “let’s just see.”
We drove to where the cabin was located. Except it wasn’t a cabin. It wasn’t a suite. It wasn’t even a double room. We opened the door to an efficiency with a double bed and sofa-sleeper which pretty much consumed all the space in the room.
“What happened?!” was all I could say.
“Our rooms were given away when we didn’t arrive on time.”
I didn’t endure six and a half hours in a stuffy rectangle, clean up dog vomit and mediate sibling personal space issues to pay a hotel to shove us back in a square. Eventually, after I spent an hour at the front desk and booked a reservation online to prove they had a room that their system said they didn’t have, we miraculously got the rooms we thought we were getting. They were really very nice. We had a lovely time.
But don’t ask about the ride home.