Tuesday, August 11, 2009

We Were The Griswalds

If you are reading this and have no idea who the Griswards are, then you have probably never seen the movie "National Lampoons Vacation" starring Chevy Chase as Clark Griswald. If this is the case, then you may not quite be able to picture the scenarios which were to unfold for me recently during my families own vacation. My husband and I have always been a "fly by the seat of your pants" type of couple. Impulsiveness is one of the many things we have in common. Through the years we have taken many a trip without any advanced planning...no reservations, no mapped agenda...we just go. It has made for some very interesting vacations. So when my hubby recently asked if I was up for a road trip to Cades Cove, an area we had both heard holds some of the most beautiful, unspoiled natural wilderness in the country...of course, I thought it sounded like a great idea! In a perfect world we would have dropped all 3 of the kids at Granny's house for a nice weekend away. But as this is not possible( all grandparents deceased) we loaded up the car and were on our way. O.K. actually we took my husbands truck, which we thought would be better for carrying the million or so items that are necessary ...really...with a baby on board. The smaller bags were packed here and there around the kids inside the cab, bigger stuff in the back(outside). We were loaded to the hilt!! All for what would only be a two or three night trip.
The plan as my husband laid it out was to take a nice relaxing drive(about 3 hours) through the mountains of North Carolina toward Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We would spend a night or two there, taking in the sights, before moving on to Cades Cove.
Things got off key right from the start when I realized that in the rush to pack I had forgotten several actual necessities... like toothbrushes and toothpaste. No big deal we could always stop at a grocery store along the way. We found the perfect place to stop after an hour on the road. And since the kids were already driving us both crazy ...bickering over toys, fussing, whining and complaining...we all unloaded and went in. I figured the two older kids could stretch their legs, release some energy and maybe get a snack. We put the baby in the cart and proceeded to load it with way more stuff ...of course...than we needed. When we got to the checkout line, my hubby realized he didn't have enough cash in his pocket to pay for it all. I volunteered to walk out to the truck and get some more money from his wallet. When I returned, the cashier had just finished ringing up our items, my husband gave her the money and he pushed the cart toward the exit. ( I know by now you are yawning...wondering where I'm going with this...you see this is where we had our best "Griswald" moment!) We were about half way to the truck when a man came running after us yelling "Maam, Sir.... Wait! Wait! You forgot something!" We both turned around to find that the item we had forgotten was.......THE BABY !! Yes, that's right. We each had thought that the other one... HAD the baby. It was an innocent mistake and the people in the store were laughing their heads off but of course it made me think. "What if " they hadn't noticed the baby there before we got in the car and left? I'm sure that we probably would have realized something was missing. But in the meantime maybe they would have thought we had purposely abandoned the baby. They could have called social services. I was just sick to my stomach at the thought! My husband of course tried to lighten things up by joking..."It's o.k. ....We've got 2 spare heirs". "Funny ha-ha" , I retorted.
So " The Griswalds" were once again back on the road. Headed toward Gatlinberg....only two hours to go. We were following a road map for North Carolina that my husband said should be able to get us there...even though our destination was in Tennessee. My husband took a scenic highway which was actually dotted with some incredibly beautiful overlooks. But somewhere along the way we decided that we had missed an important exit to get to Gatlinberg. We had driven for 3 hours and weren't there yet! As we continued driving along we noticed the "scenic" road didn't seem to have any exits... no gas stations, no restrooms etc. And yes, you guessed it.... the truck was now dangerously low on fuel...on narrow, sharply winding roads and the best part....it was almost dark!!! My husband had to literally "coast" whenever we were on any downhill curves in hopes of makin' it to a gas station. Finally we made it, by the skin of our teeth, to an exit. "Clark Griswald" had saved the day!! But we were now way off course and were actually closer to Cades Cove than Gatlinburg. So hubby decided we would drive through Cades Cove first. Now it was almost dark by the time we got there. Which is optimal time for viewing the wildlife, which consisted of turkeys, lots of deer, geese and black bears all roaming free . But it is an 11 mile drive through the Preserve and since it was a weekend, at the end of summer....the drive was bumper to bumper. Cars barely moving. People stopping to take pictures. Don't get me wrong....we truly loved seeing Cades Cove. But we weren't half way through it before darkness came upon us. And now, we were stuck... in a long line of cars... in the dark.. with nothing to see and no way out! Also... there was the fact that we had no reservations for a room and the nearest hotel.....miles away! By the time we exited the Preserve we had been in the car for about 8 hours...with a baby. And yes...baby finally decided --enough is enough!!!
So we spent the next hour or so listening to a screaming baby, praying that there would be a hotel around each turn in the road. Nope...no such luck!! And of course we had long since scarfed down all the snacks and the older kids were (understandably)whining once again about being hungry. After what seemed like forever and a day later, we finally found our way to Gatlinburg. It was about 10 o'clock at night by the time we found a place to stay that was decent and had availability. But we were O-U-T of that truck!!! And I refused to drive anywhere the next day. Luckily Gatlinburg is the perfect town for.....not driving. Plenty to see and do all within walking distance to any hotel in town. And the kids LOVED it!!! There were about 5 or 6 different Ripley's kids attractions, a bunch of toy stores, an aquarium, putt-putt(indoors and out) , a gondola ride up the mountain, and of course our hotel had a great pool!!
Two days later we were ready to attempt the driving thing again...back home. We made it in about half the time, of course.... with the proper directions.
Would I do it again? Probably....but next time hopefully with a little planning, at least, and a proper map!!!

My people are lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray,
guiding them the wrong way in the mountains. They have
wandered from mountain to hill; they have forgotten their resting place.


  1. Sounds like fun, you are very lucky to have so many spots and sights to see and enjoy all just by driving as long and as far as you can.
    For us it's time constraint and limited places to go to. Lovely reading..

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    Hope that helps!

  3. I love your story. Someday I could tell you about the time we took two tiny kids camping and the temp dropped unexpectedly and... Well, someday. I suggest you definitely go back to Cades Cove when you can spend some time, and enjoy driving through the Smokies. The little ones would love running around. The goo thing about the Griswalds is that at the end of the trip they always remembered they loved each other. Also -- those vacations make the BEST stories to pass down for years! Make those memories, laugh instead of cry, and you've created a family bond that won't easily fail.
    Be Blessed