WEDNESDAY/THURSDAY - June 20th-21st
Our trip actually began late Wednesday night, as it was cheaper than flying out on Thursday. Nothing all that significant happened, other than me being absolutely terrified of the plane, but once I was on it an in the air, everything was fine.
We arrived in Chicago, IL at about 5:37 Thursday morning in concourse C. Our next flight was in concourse F. Oh my god, I cannot tell you how far we walked--concourse F was, literally, on the other side of the airport. They had a shuttle that would take you there, so we walked all the way down to the shuttle station (which was in the opposite direction of concourse F) only to find that it was closed for the day, so we trekked to our destination on foot. The airport was beautiful, but I was too frustrated and exhausted to enjoy it. They had an old army plane on display (I don't recall what war it was from, unfortunately) and a huge, life-size model of a brachiosaurus skeleton.
After we finally got to the gate and had a few moments to recoup, we then boarded the tiniest plane we had ever been on thus far. It was a little Embraer RJ145. The seating layout went accordingly: one seat by the window on the left, then the aisle, and then two more seats on the right. That was it. I'm not sure what the maximum capacity of the plane was, but it couldn't have been much. It wasn't even a full flight, so I was seated by myself on the left while Tif got the two seats on the right all to herself. The flight was smooth and about an hour and a half later, we arrived at McGhee Tyson airport in Knoxville, TN.
We went to collect our luggage. Tif's came out fairly soon, but I had to wait.
And wait, until I finally accepted the fact that my luggage would not be coming down. Apparently, it was still in Chicago, so I gave the United Express clerk the address to the Grand Resort hotel and he said the next flight from Chicago would be at 1:30 and my luggage SHOULD be on that one. Thank you, United. This was the first of a few stupid things you did and I will never fly your airline again, but more on that later.
Tif got our rental car that she was legally supposed to be driving since I'm not 25 yet, so shhh... It was a little, red Chevy Cobalt that had a broken seat, which was really annoying. I wanted to bring the back forward, but the lever on the side did nothing. I spent most of my driving time leaning forward slightly. It wasn't good for my neck.
There was a little mishap on the way to the hotel since the directions we had told us to make a left when we actually should have made a right, but my awesome sense of direction got us going the right way!
By the way, that awesome sense of direction? It must have randomly developed without me noticing, because I used to describe myself as directionally challenged. Seriously. North, south, east, and west meant nothing to me, but somehow, I always know which way I'm going lately. It's neat!
Okay, sorry. Boring little tanget over.
I don't know what time we got to the hotel, because by that time, I was practically sleeping with my eyes open. A very unpleasant woman who didn't know how to smile checked us in, over-charged us a couple of nights, and even charged us for an EXTRA night. More on that later, though. We didn't realize she had booked us an extra day until Friday and we weren't going to do anything about the over-charging until we talked to a few more con-goers. The room rate was supposed to be $59.77 per night, but we were charged $69.77 for Saturday and Sunday. We had asked the lady why we were charged more and she told us weekend nights were always extra, even with the discounted group rate. Whatever.
So we got to the room and were ready to pass out, but we knew we had to eat first. There was a restaurant next to the hotel called Red Rooster's Pancake House, one pancake house out of about 30 on the same street. I kid you not. Pigeon Forge loves their pancakes, mini golf, and tattoo parlors.
I had a (VERY YUMMY) breakfast burrito, Tif had a veggie omelet, and with full bellies, we meandered back to the hotel room and died.
I was awoken by my cell phone ringing. A man named Pete wanted to know what type of location I was at so he could drop off my luggage and said he'd be there in about an hour. Passed out, woke up again because Tif's mom had arrived at the hotel and Tif needed to help her check in (her mom and Allen stayed one night in Pigeon Forge before moving on to Gatlinburg the next day), fell back to sleep and was woken up a final time by the hotel staff letting me know my luggage had arrived. I waited around for Tif, but she hadn't yet returned, so I putted around the hotel room a bit. The bathroom was hideous. Light orange walls and a blue shower, what the hell.
After Tif got back, we retrieved my luggage and were awake enough to appreciate the beautiful view we had from the hotel balcony. We were right over a gorgeous, little creek that had all sorts of wild life, like Muscovy ducks, mallards, geese, cardinals, and squirrels. Some Canadian Geese even dropped by!
We visited with Tif's mom for a bit then got ready for... *dun dun dun* THE GHOST WALK OF GATLINBURG.
It didn't take long to drive into Gatlinburg. We got there at about 8pm. We had initially planned on eating first, but my feet were killing me, so my first Large Purchase of the trip was a new pair of shoes. They're cute, I think. Brown... they sort of look business-like, but the soles have a good grip, which is what I felt I needed since we were going to be walking so much. The man who ran the store even gave me a pair of socks, since the ones I had were too thin and causing the shoes to slip off my ankle. After that, we decided we wouldn't have enough time for dinner and would eat after the tour, so we wandered around the Village Shops for a while. I bought a magnet that has the Berry coat of arms on it from a shop that specializes in Celtic merchandise. We grabbed a couple smoothies from a coffee shop and then headed up to the cemetery for our tour at 9pm.
It was a LOT of fun. Our tour guide was an excellent storyteller. It's hard to describe the way he was dressed, so instead of trying, here's a pic: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v177/idgiebay/Misc/DSC00533.jpg
To start off, he had us go into the cemetery and take pictures. Hopefully, Tif will be posting some of those soon and I'll actually be posting some footage I took, but that probably won't be for a few days. I have work tomorrow, after all, and I first need to finalize all of my discs.
The tour consisted of our guide telling us real stories of murders and accidental deaths and then following up with tales of hauntings in the locations they took place. Everywhere we stopped, he gave us a chance to take photos and, hopefully, catch some "paranormal activity" on film. It would take a while to type up all of the stories he told us... Maybe I'll type them up later or maybe Tif will, but the footage I'll be uploading should contain the majority of them. Though, they may be choppy. I wasn't continuously filming the whole time he was talking.
Let's see, what else... The tour ended at about 10:15 or 10:20 and, by that time, Tif and I were starving. Oh lord, that was an adventure on it's own.
Gatlinburg, despite being a tourist town, apparently SHUTS DOWN between 10 and 10:30. We literally walked the streets for half an hour, trying to find some place to eat, but everything, even the HARD ROCK CAFE, for goodness sake, was CLOSED. By this point, I was getting very frustrated. My knees were hurting (I still have no idea why--I could hardly walk for a couple days, and then the pain suddenly went away), my feet were becoming blistered from the new shoes, I was still tired, and my stomach was trying to eat itself. Eventually, we got that hint that we weren't going to find anything, so we drove back to Pigeon Forge and stopped at the first restaurant we found, which--surprisingly--WASN'T a pancake house. It was Shoney's, of which there are three on the main Pigeon Forge road.
The service there was all right... We ended up with a trainee waitress who didn't understand English very well. I think she may have been German or French, I'm not sure. She was a sweetie, but it was difficult to communicate what I wanted. I had ordered chicken tenders with onion rings and had ended up with questionable-looking charbroiled chicken. Even though I didn't like it, I didn't send it back, though I probably should have. I didn't want her to get in trouble or anything.
So finally, we went back to the hotel. I can't remember now if we stopped by Tif's mom's room again or not. I was so tired. I do know that we looked at the pictures Tif took and watched my footage. I think we passed out shortly after that.
TO BE CONTINUED IN:
Friday: The Real Fun Begins