Friday, April 2, 2010

The First Leg- Part 1 of 4

Well I am finally going to get our big Tennessee vacation photos on here. Lots to share, so I'll do it in several posts. We spent a whole week in Tennessee, and it was one big treasure hunt for elongated pennies. So read and see all the fun places our penny hunt took us!

We left after work on Friday March 19th, and headed over to Cherokee, NC for the first evening, enjoying a stay at our favorite plush casino, Harrah's. No, I don't care to visit the actual gaming floor, but I sure do love their luxurious (free!!) suites. As much as we travel, I still have never stayed in a hotel room that I like more than the ones at Harrah's. I spent the evening relaxing in the massive spa tub, while James had fun at the tables- okay, so the room isn't really "free". The next morning we started off at Peter's Pancakes and Waffles, a wonderful diner that we never miss out on while in Cherokee. We have most of the pennies in Cherokee already. There is one location we haven't been, but we didn't have time this trip.

We drove across the mountains on a stunning Saturday, headed to Gatlinburg. Beautiful skies and the views are magnificent on US 441 through the Smoky Mountains National Park. And a fun treat to find snow on the ground everywhere. It was actually quite warm and sunny out, so it was a surprise. Some areas had giant icicles still hanging from rocks, and small waterfalls frozen solid.

We got to our hotel in Gatlinburg, a very nice Fairfield Inn on the outskirts of town. Because we got there early, we left the truck and hopped onto the Gatlinburg Trolley. We were incredibly lucky because there was a trolley stop right there at the door of the hotel. The 50 cent ride took us right to downtown Gatlinburg. For those of you who have never been (and why haven't you!!!), Gatlinburg is only a few blocks long, but on a gorgeous Saturday like that day was, it was bumper to bumper to bumper cars, with hundreds of people walking along the sidewalks. The trolley was THE way to ride.

And since this vacation was all about the pennies for us, we had lists of all the machines in each of the towns, thanks to our favorite penny website and especially the hard work of James, who planned everything well in advance and had everything organized perfectly. Gatlinburg has several machine locations, and while many were just in shops, there were several at area attractions. So we charted out all the machines and started on our scavenger hunt. One machine took us to the Space Needle, and we were able to get a great photo of downtown from above. Busy little main street!

We also got a great view of Mount LeCounte (in the background), where many hikers- including my sister and her husband (and, I believe, James' sister Stephanie)- have taken the grueling trek up to the top and to the lodge. I would love to complete such a feat one day, but well, if you read my other blog you know I am in no physical shape to do it.

We spent a fun few hours walking through the Ripley's museum. Sadly their penny machine was out of order. I don't know why, but Ripley's has a number of attractions in this area. We only had time to take in one on this trip, and although we've been to Gatlinburg before, somehow we've not made it to their aquarium yet. Next time.

Although there was a bit of troublesome weather on Sunday, we took the chance and headed up the Sky Lift. Because, of course, there is a penny machine up at the top. James and I rode this back in 2004, and as you go up, they take your photo in the chair (the one below was self-inflicted). We have the photos from both trips, and it was fun to compare them. We haven't changed too much over the years...

We also spent time in neighboring Pigeon Forge, where we took in a show at the Comedy Barn. And yes, they had a penny machine in the lobby, so we naturally were drawn there. I'm glad we went, it was two hours of cute fun- from acrobatic dogs, to singing and good music, to puppets and comedic magic, even a ventriloquist. I told someone the other day it was "Hillybilly hokey", but it sure was a good evening. We did a lot of laughing.

We also ate dinner both Saturday and Sunday nights in Pigeon Forge, at The Old Mill. The first night we ate at the smaller Pottery House Cafe across the street. Then the main restaurant (below) the next night. Country cooking at its finest, and I sure did enjoy the enormous pottery shop, although the pieces I really loved were way out of our price range. We found this restaurant because it has a penny machine in the general store attached to it. Of course!

There were plenty of pennies to collect in Pigeon Forge. One was at WonderWorks (above). We only had time to run in and get the pennies, but it is on our list for next time. They told us it would take about two hours to go through the place, and we just didn't have the time that weekend, but we were so intrigued we know we will go there again. And we didn't have time, because "someone" had to go to her all-time favorite Christmas store to do some shopping (below). Yes we collect the smashed pennies, but my souvenir of our travels always includes an ornament for our tree. Of course, the store had a penny machine, so it was on our list already. I would have stopped anyhow, because I don't go to Pigeon Forge without going here!

We had a little extra time in the late evening to find an arcade (and penny machine), and if you read me regularly, you know we are both addicted to the games there. Skee ball in particular. But James gave his hand at basketball and football, and I might add, won enough tickets to get me a stuffed animal. (A gator, of course!) And as we were out driving, my husband's eagle eye spotted a penny machine outside this store, one that wasn't on the website! What an extra bonus! (We only got the penny, sadly no funnel cake as we had just eaten dinner.)

That Monday morning it was time to leave, and we woke up to snow falling. So of course, like any normal people, we went and played miniature golf! Another one of our addictions, like skee ball. The snow had just started when we got on the course. But by the time we finished it was coming down quite hard and starting to pile up. Odd, we were the only ones out there playing... We got all the pennies in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge- all except for the million they have at Dollywood, which was not open yet for the season.

Time to get on up the road and head to our next penny stops. We hit several machines in Sevierville, but just at quick in-and-out stores. No time to take in any attractions that day. On to K-Town!

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