To Gatlinburg We Go…

I could also call this post, “How to Jack Knife Your RV and Live to Tell About It”, but more on that to come.

Camper Joe

With our 2013 Vacation decided on, and our planned destination to The Smokey Mountain National Park in place, we set out early Saturday morning on our 3 day, 16+ hour drive to Gatlinburg, TN.  In tow we have my 16 year old brother Cody from Montana with us, since he is staying with us for summer.  We pack up the kids and our new puppy for the ride as well.  All goes well as we start out.  I’ve cleaned the local library out, renting about every kid movie they have for the two weeks we’ll be on the road.  In order to be able to do this, my 5 and 2 year old now have their own library cards, along with Joe and I.  Just 4 hours on the road and we pull into a (dreaded) McDonald’s in Dallas to meet my sisters and nephew for “lunch” and to let the kids play together.  Besides it taking me over 30 minutes to get the 3 ice cream cones I ordered at the SLOWEST McDonalds EVER, the stop went pretty well.  We head back out on the road after our visit with our destination being another 3.5 hours away at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas.  Looks like a great little park where the kids can search for gems and there’s a small and affordable water park!  However, the closer we get to the park, the more obvious it is to me how far off route it is from the Interstate and how we’ll be arriving too late to enjoy the water park that closes at 6pm.  So we decide to go another 20 mins down the Hwy to Lake Catherine State Park instead near Hot Springs, AK.  We arrive without problems and head to the lake for a quick swim.  Loralai is just learning to swim this summer and likes nothing more than to practice her dogie paddle and back float, so it was a hit!  Then it’s back to the RV for a dinner of made-the-night-before-cause-mom-is-a-genius-soup, which is done as soon as it’s heated and we all head to bed.  Right before going to bed, I tell Joe about my plan to visit Hot Springs National Park that’s just 20 mins from where we’re staying the next morning.  He likes the park we’re at and is in good spirits, so he goes for it!  Yay!

Lake Catherine State Park Beach

We wake up early (but not as early as we’d planned) and take just the truck to Hot Springs.  Pretty drive and into the town, our first stop is a look out tower on Hot Springs Mountain on a friends suggestion.  $7 per adult to go up the tower, and since there are 3 of us adults, I lie and say Loralai is 4 so I don’t have to pay another $4 for her.  Don’t judge.  The views are amazing and the girls really like the elevator ride to the top which had a glass window you can see out of while you go up.  Just below the open observation deck, there’s a floor with a mini-museum with lots of info on the town, their famous hot springs/bath houses and President Bill Clinton, who was born and raised there.  We learn as much as the kids will allow us to before demanding to leave.  I had promised Loralai that we could get a Jr. Ranger booklet and badge here, and that girl is as hooked as I am and wanted to go get her book!  I love that girl!

Great Views!

So we head back down the mountain to the heart of the town, Bath Row, to the National Park headquarters.  Now this National Park is not anything like what we were used to.  It’s in the middle of a town and the “park” mainly consists of a street called Bath Row, that has about 8 public bath houses where people can still take baths in the hot springs mineral waters. 

Hot Springs National Park

We head into Lamar Bath house to get Lu’s book.  The ranger at the counter sees us coming from outside the building with Loralai’s Jr Ranger hat on covered in all of her park badges.  She gets her usual amazed comments from the ranger and store workers which really makes her puff out her chest and we set out to complete her book.  We tour the museum, watch as much of the park film that Bean will allow (hardly any), and walk Bath Row.  Some of the historic bath houses are still operating as bath houses, some are now restaurants, and some were closed for renovations (including the most popular one that the national park offices are usually housed in, and most of the Jr Ranger booklet questions are on, and starts with an F, but I’m too lazy to look up the full name for this blog writing purpose).  I tell you this, only because this made it a little difficult to complete 7 activities in the booklet.  We were also short on time, being that we still needed to drive another 5 hours to get to our next destination that day.  So we got some ice cream at one of the bath houses that is now a pub and decided to fill out the rest of the booklet at the RV and mail it back for our badge…..I mean L’s badge. 

Ranger Juliet

Ranger Loralai

We hook up the RV back at Lake Catherine and are back on the road with the swiftness of two professional RVer’s with the added bonus of a teenage slave.  It’s a long day, blissfully uneventful driving to get to Yuma, TN which is a no-name town halfway between Memphis and Nashville.  It was a good half way point for us and at an RV park with good ratings and cheap prices.  We make one stop in Forest City, TN on our way to get the most painfully slow gas ever and let the kids play at this terribly run down playground I found on Google Maps.  Joe and I scower the trash riddled floor of the playground for hypodermic needles amongst the bags of Cheetos and sweet wrappers, and old towels, while the kids play for 15 mins.  When I see a beat up car pull up, I’ve had it and yell at the kids to get back into the truck NOW and we finish our drive to Yuma, TN.  We check in around 7pm, meet some full timers, let our puppy play with their puppy for a few minutes, and I make dinner and it’s off to bed with visions of sleeping in a little.  Ha!

The kids liked the park, but it was so run down!!!
Have fun!  Just don’t touch anything Baby!

It pours all night!  I stay up late doing annoying work things and finally go to bed around 1am.  I’m awoken at 6am to Bean crying (not abnormal).  I go to comfort her (stick her paci back in her mouth and head back to bed) and discover that she’s peed all over herself and the bed.  I take Bean out of bed, strip her down, grab a wash cloth to wipe her off, and pray that all the commotion doesn’t wake Loralai sleeping in the bunk above.  All the commotion DOES wake Darby (the puppy) who was sleeping with Cody on the couch.  Oh shit, it’s only a matter of seconds before Darby pees on the floor somewhere too!  All of this pee action is making me unavoidably aware that I have to pee with the force of a 6 month pregnant woman who downed a big glup sized cup of water before bed a few hours ago in an effort to change her pee color from red to light yellow.  Of course that will have to wait, as I’m dealing with the issues at hand.  I manage to get a new shirt on Bean, but can’t find a pair of freaking underwear in the dark.  It doesn’t appear that Darby has peed yet, but I know the seconds are ticking down.  I find Bean’s paci, shove it in her crying mouth, walk her to Joe and hit him awake with an angry whisper of, “Help ME!” and throw her on the bed for him to deal with.  She’s screaming, “I want panties” when I walk out the door with Darby in tow.  No time to grab her leash or my shoes and it’s sprinkling.  She’s a good dog though, so I put her down, trusting she will stay right by me and do her business with a quickness so I can go back inside and relieve myself.  No.  Instead she chooses to run out into the street just as a truck drives up.  I bounce out on the rocky, wet road with no shoes or bra to scoop her up.  At this point I can’t stand it anymore and race into the RV to GO!  I put Darby in the bath tub as I go as a precaution.  Ah, sweet relief!  Bean’s still yelling, “I want panties”, so I take a minute to grab her a pair before putting shoes on, leashing Darby and trying this whole, get the dog to go thing again.  Darby takes me on a walk and I try to look on the bright side when I see a bunny in a field.  THERE was the reason for all this…..I got to see that bunny.  Even more rewarding than the bunny, Darby does both her businesses and we go back to the RV.  I crawl into bed with Joe and Juliet who immediately stuffs her hand down my wet shirt for comfort.  I take just one more waking moment to also pull the wet dog up,  who will not stop whining at the foot of the bed.  Good Freaking Night/Morning!!! 

I reawaken at 9am.  We find the high water pressure at the RV park we are staying has caused a leak under our kitchen sink.  All the rain all night has also made it apparent that we have a small roof leak.  Joe assures me it’s all fixable and we head to a diner for breakfast.  It’s about as good as Waffle House and it’s here that Joe also discovers that our RV battery has burned out.  We drive. It’s raining. The dog pees in the truck while we drive.  Twice.  At least the kids are being good (the movies are working).  We get through Nashville (which is Huge, but easier to navigate through then Memphis was) and head through Knoxville. ALMOST THERE!!! 

Kids play homemade road bingo while we drive.

Thanks for helping Uncle Cody!

I start looking for a Walmart which we need desperately before we get to Gatlinburg, only 45 more mins away.  I find one and we head south from Knoxville on some smaller Hwy’s.  It’s on one of these jug handle Hwy exits, in the rain, that the trailer wheels start skidding and the trailer pushes the truck.  It’s all happening in slow motion as the trailer and truck skid off the road.  I prepare myself for the truck to roll.  It doesn’t.  We come to a stop when the trailer slides into the side of the bed of the truck on my side.  We are half on the road and half in the grass.  Thank God there wasn’t a cliff on the other side of the pavement like there has been on past portions of trips and thank God we were going so slow!  Joe and I both just sit there for a moment.  Then look back at the kids.  The excitement has woken Bean from her nap, but now she’s watching Nemo with Loralai on the DVD player and both are unaware anything has happened.  Cody is just holding Darby and silent.  At that point, Joe and I are just like, “What do we do, call 911?”.  I call insurance while he gets out and looks at the truck and trailer in the rain.  The truck is pretty dented, but he thinks he can unjackknife it.   He backs up the truck and is able to get us unstuck and off the exit ramp.  My hero!  We pull into a Kroger parking lot further down the Hwy, both of us shaking.  We walk the truck and trailer, walk the dog, and get the girls out for bathroom breaks.  It’s while walking back to the truck that Loralai even notices the dented truck and asked what happened.  Oh Baby…

After much deliberation and google map searching, we determine we need to drive to the closest RV park, which is 15 miles down the road in Sevierville.  We were concerned the hitch had been compromised in the accident, so we drive 35 miles per hour down a two lane hwy to River Park RV without incident.  Thank Goodness!

Get our spot,  get a healthy dinner of tuna helper and fried okra cook’in cause it’s EASY, kids play, and Joe looks things over more and googles RV “Jack Kifing”.  After dismantling the hitch and looking at every bolt, Joe determines we are “Okay” and everything is still drivable. There was hardly any damage to the RV (respect), but our truck now looks like this…

The only damage to the RV was it bent the awning bar a little, but still works fine.

Ouch!  Can you say, “Insurance Deductable”?

The next morning we hook back up without issues, visit Walmart and finally pull into our reserved spot for the next nine days at Twin Creek RV.  We take the day to pretty much just chill.  After one major set back and a nonrefundable day late, we are HERE!

As you can see, we are all doing just fine.
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