Taking vacations are a rarity for yours truly.  And 99.9% of my vacations are taken with my family, and there's nothing wrong with that.  I don't always jump at the chance to go somewhere for an extended time period with my parents.  However, I wanted to this time because my sister and her husband were going.  This was probably the last time before my sister Hillary gives birth to her first child in August that we would all be able to get away one last time.  So where did we go?

The Smoky Mountains!  Well specifically, Gatlinburg with some time spent in Pigeon Forge.  No, no Dollywood or Dixie Stampede.  I vowed before we went I wanted to go to Dixie Stampede, but when I saw all the food they gave you, I declined.  It's neat that the Smokies aren't too far away, a 6-hour drive, 4 or 5, if you're my brother-in-law Bobby.  Mom and Dad have managed to purchase a villa in Gatlinburg so no worries on a place to stay, and it's really neat and it's very comfortable.  Well, being the fifth wheel on the trip, I had to settle for the fold-out and/or the couch; I made it fine.  I did two things on this trip I would never have done in the past: I worked out (there's a fitness room) and I went swimming (bathing suit phobia!), and not only did I feel great, I got some sun too.

On this trip, I was told I would be able to "do my own thing" which really didn't happen.  I mean I did ride the SkyLift with Mom one day and another day, me and Hillary indulged in the new Titanic museum, (no pictures due to copyright) and I played at two miniature golf courses (lost both times), but I mostly just went along, for food mostly, and they were all new restaurants for me.  First up, Bubba Gump's, which is just a few blocks away from the resort.  Yes, Forrest Gump is alive and well and he has own themed restaurant.  The food was okay, but the atmosphere was kind of neat.  Our waitress would ask us trivia questions from the movie, no prizes, and of course my Dad had to challenge her with the FG questions himself (cue embarrassment!)  One thing you should know about my brother-in-law, he never finishes his meal; he always ends up taking a to-go box; it's a good thing we had a full-size refrigerator.  The next day, I ventured out with just Bobby and Hillary and we took in one of the most unusual places for lunch, Dick's Last Resort.  When we walked past it our first night, we noticed patrons wearing these big paper hats, but we just couldn't figure out why.  Oh we found out!  (refer to the gallery above), just after we sat down, a guy snuck up behind my sister to tie on a bib and then he preceded to tie one on to Bobby--he was scared--and one for me.  Our waitress told us Dick's was a place of service "with sarcasm and attitude" oh boy!  Normally, those words would not go over in a regular restaurant OR with me.  When Hillary ordered water with lemon, she received one of those small buckets; it was hilarious!  Soon the time came for our hats; our waitress asked us where we were from and what we were doing in Gatlinburg, but those facts had nothing to do with what she ended up writing on our hats (see above for the hilarity!).  Now don't worry, there is a location in Nashville; I highly recommend it, especially for your family and friends who are not fans of this kind of service.

For dinner that night, we all went to a place that also be found near Nashville, and it's another winner, Mellow Mushroom.  In fact, the Gatlinburg location has only been open since May(next door to Dick's), but it didn't show at all.  What do they have?  Some of the best pizza I've ever had!  They also have salads, stromboli, the usual Italian fare, and a terrific atmosphere.  And believe it or not, I lost weight on this trip; remember the swimming and working out?  My biggest indulgence on the trip?  Donuts!  The Donut Friar in Gatlinburg is outstanding; it's been awhile since I've had a cream-filled chocolate glazed, but this one was over-flowing; so yummy!  Just down from Dick's and Mellow Mushroom is Tennessee's first legal moonshine makers; I did NOT sample it, but Mom and Dad did.  Dad said it was tasteless, but it burned.  Yuck!

And what trip would be complete without some miniature golf.  I went twice and I won a free round on my second trip, but unfortunately, I couldn't play it since I was leaving town the next day.  Bummer!  Dad and I tried to sell my free round ticket, but no one took us up on our offer.

Now, I'm home and I'm glad.  I had a great time!  Where are you going this summer?  Can I come along?

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