This Little Miggy Stayed Home: Gatlinburg + Dollywood + no Bears... Oh my!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Gatlinburg + Dollywood + no Bears... Oh my!

I don't feel like I hold grudges on people, but I do feel like I hold grudges on life. One of these current grudges I'm trying to get over is living in the midwest.

First, there is nothing wrong with the midwest. In fact,  it's beautiful! I think the midwest has a romance all it's own that is really lovely. But I've lived in some really geographically exciting places and I guess I got used to being in the middle of exciting. I mean, we didn't just live in any city, we lived in New York City. In my early 20's I didn't just move to the beach, I moved to Hawaii. I didn't just live near the base of some hills, I lived in the valley of the Rocky Mountains. I swear, everytime I go back to Utah these days I practically apologize to those gorgeous Rockies for not appreciating them when I was there. Again, the midwest is beautiful, Cincinnati is a gem of a city but by comparison, sometimes it's hard not to feel like midwest living is somewhat settling. And that's the rub, comparison. I know better, but I still do it. If you were to give myself advice, I would tell myself to live in the present not in the past and to practice gratitude daily. But apparently, I have a hard time taking my own advice.

Whenever I'm out of town and meeting new people or connecting with old friends and I tell them I live in Cincinnati, they always say, "Oh, I've never been to Cincinnati." And jokingly retort, "Interestingly enough that's the number one thing people say about Cincinnati."

But with all that said, I'm starting to embrace living in a place that flies under the radar. I'm thinking of it like a new up and coming band that only the coolest kids know about. Right now Cincinnati is amazing little band that only plays small shows, so you can always be up close and personal. And while you want your friends to hear this new sound, you hope word doesn't spread too quickly because then you'll be forced to pay twice as much for a seat in the nosebleed section of a huge arena. Right now Cincinnati is my No Doubt circa 1995. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

One of my favorite ways to embrace this new part of the country is traveling. Of course. A couple of weekends ago we went to Gatlinburg, Tennessee in the Great Smokey Mountains. For some reason seeing this bug at a local ice cream place our first night in Gatlinburg made me think twice. I've never seen a bug like this in my life and I saw it here, in Tennessee. And it reminded me that there are beautiful, unique and rare things to see and do no matter where we are. If I only think about what I'm missing, I'll miss what's right in front of me. Live here, be here, enjoy now. Now is now. Yeah, I got all of that from a bug.

Enough waxing poetic, lets see some pictures shall we?
How crazy is this? We stayed in some random cabin in Tennessee and it was also Lamps birthday. (She's 6! You can always check out the spotlight I did on her last year for her 5th birthday.) So imagine my surprise when we walk into our cabin and see this little stool with the word Lamp inscribed on it. Sometimes the Universe makes me smile. (We figured out later that was the last name of the people who owned the cabin.)

The view from the back porch of our cabin was breathtaking. Behold, the Great Smokey Mountains.

And Dollywood. We went on Lamp's birthday and I'm still not sure if she liked that idea-ha! (She had a good time, I just think she didn't like not getting to choose what she wanted to do on her birthday.) On the whole I was pleasantly surprised with Dollywood. I expected it to be a run down and shabby theme park with Dolly's face and likeness sprinkled everywhere. To my delight, the park is NOT rundown and's actually really nice. And it's big! Bigger than Disneyland apparently. To my disappointment Dolly's face and likeness were not plastered everywhere. If I could make one suggestion to the folks at Dollywood, it's that I'd like to see more Dolly please--statues, posters, animatronic Dolly Parton performers a la Chuck E. Cheese.... a bust? (Wink, wink.) Regardless of the shocking lack of Dolly, we still managed to have a good time.

There are a a lot of rides geared towards younger children and overall I was happy to see that Lamp could ride the majority of the rides. For anyone interested, we had to first take her to the disability services office where they measured her and then gave us a card checklist with all the rides she was allowed to ride. This card also became our accessibility pass to bypass the inaccessible (and often longer) lines. I'm not gonna lie, this is one limb difference perk we love. And we'll take it and not feel an ounce of guilt about it. There was one rollercoaster she was allowed on but it was a little bit iffy if you ask her dad and I. But she LOVED it. We definitely had to hold onto her a little bit, but if there's one thing she'll tell you about from Dollywood it would be riding the big rollercoaster that went backwards and had real fire on it! So, worth it.

Vacation is eating at the same ice cream AND donut shop everyday. Ice cream and donuts? I don't know why more Americans aren't demanding these kind of establishments.

The hike. A 3.5 mile hike with 3 kids. We can do this, we thought. It will be fun, we told ourselves. And it was. For the first 2.5 miles, but that last mile was a doozy.

 Lamp and Zuzu were carried on our backs, so really they were fine. But PSP, well perhaps this was just outside her skill set. 3.5 miles is a decent hike for a 9 year old, I get it... but the ensuing weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth was pushing us all to our limits. B finally took turns carrying both her and Lamp for stretches at a time. At one point Zuzu got off my back to walk and I took a turn carrying PSP. And if I was going to carry my 9 year old on my back you better believe I was going to get a life lesson out of it. I talked to her about doing hard things and how they prepare us for life and make us stronger. I don't really think it was sinking in, but then I finally said, with her on my back while I was struggling uphill, "I want you to remember this moment. Your mom and dad will always do our best to carry you when life is hard, but you've got to do your part too kid." Her frustration finally started to subside. After a couple of minutes she offered to walk on her own again. And then, out of no where she said, "Thanks mom." Lately I feel like I've been shooting blanks with that one... not quite hitting the parental targets I've been meaning to hit. But that one? That was a bullseye. And it felt good. We needed that little connection.

Also, another bug I've never seen before. PSP named it the golden snitch of course.

So that was our trip. The only bummer? We didn't see any bears. Gatlinburg is famous for it's bear sightings. Oh well, there's always next time.

Does anyone else relate to living in a place that doesn't exactly resonate with you? Did it grow on you over time, did you have to focus on living in the here and now, did you eventually move, I'd love to hear any thoughts or suggestions. 


  1. First, happy birthday to Lamp! Your trip looks lovely- that's an area of the country I've never visited before and now you've got me interested in a road trip.

    We live in Central NY. The taxes are crazy high, businesses are leaving and the winters are brutal. But the summers and fall? They are picture perfect and one of the reasons we haven't moved. But it is a struggle- especially for my husband. So when the weather is nice, I try to find us outing to go on at least twice a month (any more than that is hard due to the kid's sports schedule). Local waterfalls, swimming holes, hikes, festivals, etc- things that make us all stop and say "Wow- it's freaking gorgeous here."

    For sanity's sake, we also always take a trip to FL in March just to get out of the grey, freezing cold- that helps a lot too.

    As for if we'll stay here? I don't know. I've put that on the Hubs- my job allows me to work remotely so I can go anywhere. His is a bit more complicated- so I've told him if he finds a transfer to a place within 7 hours of here (here is where my parents and one of my siblings still live), I'm game. We'll see where life takes us!

  2. Gatlinburg is so hot right now! I was there at the beginning of May. I didn't get to go to Dollywood, but I saw 7 bears!

    1. Gatlinburg is totally trending! However, it looks like you guys saw a lot more cool/crazy sights than we did. Next time.

  3. Anonymous9:49 AM

    looks like a fun vacation! funny you wrote about this topic. i moved to SLC 20 years ago for a short stop for college with the idea the moment i graduated i would be gone. i hate utah. but here i am 20 years in. all our family is now here which keeps us staying. so who knows, perhaps i will never leave but i dream of life elsewhere and try to get out of the state whenever possible. i enjoy what I can when i can- great outdoors and all its offering, but its harder and harder to recreate. population boom and crowds no matter where you go and when you go. owell. i have grandparents, and siblings, cousins and good friends living close by...sometimes that makes up for the rest ;)

  4. I'm your neighbor here in Indiana... Midwest is best baby!!!! I actually love it. I mean I would love some better scenery besides corn, but I love that there are 4 distinct seasons, I love our low housing costs (seriously... watching house hunters or whatever makes my brain explode when the cost of a tiny apartment is the same as our 4 bedroom house!).... I love the community-ness and ease of getting around our city (room to sprawl!). Anyway. My parents took us to the smoky mountains when I was a kid. My mom said we complained a lot but I don't remember that part. Ha! I want to go back now!!!

  5. Anonymous12:45 AM

    Love your blog! I grew up in the pacific northwest, Washington state. The beauty is amazing up there. Now I am married with 4 kids and we live in San Diego, before that we lived in Las Vegas and we are moving this week to Tucson, AZ. My husband is a project manager for a company that builds hospitals. So we have taken to moving every 2-4 years depending on the project and how big the hospital is. Knowing that our move is never permenant we really try to take advantage of where we live! We have enjoyed our time in whatever city we have lived in but my heart belongs to the PNW! My husband is from the desert and loves it! I think your heart always belongs to wherever you call home!

  6. Not sure where you are in Cincinnati, but my cousin just opened Municipal Brew Works, if that's your sort of thing :)