So my parents left this morning for Gatlinburg, you know “The honeymoon capital of the world,” and that left me feeling the need to write about my own experiences with what I consider to be the scariest place on earth.
That, and the fact that I’ve been promising my friend Gretchen for weeks that I would write a post about Gatlinburg, ever since I let her in on the fact that I still have frequent nightmares about being stranded there without a pair of skis to get down off the mountain.
Can’t you just hear the banjos playing?
I know, I know, many of you are reading this in disbelief. You probably LOVE Gatlinburg and can’t understand why I’m such a hater. I don’t know how to explain it–just being in that place makes my skin crawl. I’ve tried to shake the bad memories and smile when people tell me they are planning a trip to that place, but to me, Gatlinburg will always be the romantic get-a-way gone wrong.
Perhaps a little story to illustrate…
Once upon a time two young, normal college kids in love decided to take a little weekend trip together. They didn’t have a ton of money, so a real trip was out of the question. It’s no wonder that they were easily lured in by the glossy photos of chalets in the Smokey Mountains, where they could dine at world-famous restaurants like Bob Evans, shop at classy “antique” stores, and then retire to their private cabin to drink Natural Light in the hot tub overlooking a 200 foot drop off the side of a mountain.
After dropping a considerable amount of money on this chalet, (tickets to NYC would have been cheaper), the adorable young couple drove to this magical place called Gatlinburg, only to discover that their little Toyota Tercel could barely make it up the side of the mountain to their chalet. The fact that their car might at any moment go plunging down the side of a mountain was only made more enjoyable by the fact that as they climbed the mountain they passed shot-gun toting hillbillies who looked like they might eat the young couple for dinner.
The cabin was nice enough, although the “watch for bears” sign did make them slightly nervous and not much inclined to using the outdoor hot tub. A trip into town revealed that there was really nothing to do for entertainment except people watch. Sadly, all the people they watched were fairly scary, especially the ones who tried to chase them down and force them to tour a supposed haunted house. (I mean, WTF?)
That’s when they discovered what appeared to be the saving grace of Gatlinburg: the sky lift. It might have seemed like a bad idea to take someone who is desperately afraid of heights on a glass box precariously suspended 300 feet off the side of a mountain, but that’s what we did. When we reached the top (that’s right, in case you haven’t figured it out, the adorable couple is me and John, and I’m sick of writing in 3rd person), we felt elated to have survived the trip.
It was like The Shining meets Deliverance. In pure panic we searched desperately for another way down off that mountain, rather than take the of death back down. But there was none. The only other six people at Ober Gatlinburg that day sharpened their toothpicks while they stared at us with seedy eyes (not sure what that means, but I can picture it). We ran back to the sky cab and climbed on, deciding unanimously that death by falling from the sky cab was certainly better than a life trapped at Ober Gatlinburg.
When we finally made it back to our chalet, we packed up all our things and got the hell out of there. I don’t think we even spoke until we hit the Tennessee/Kentucky state line.
Years have gone by. Like 17 years. And still, all I have to do if I really want to scare John, or if I’m trying to describe something and need to use the scariest thing I can think of as a reference, is to say “Ober Gatlinburg.”
Yep, other people go there to shop and have a good time. We just DON’T go there.