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Preparing To Vacate - Nations of the Mind

Jun. 15th, 2008 12:49 pm Preparing To Vacate

I have unilaterally decided that we are desperately in need of a break so we're planning a small family vacation in a few weeks. Typically I'm drawn straight towards the highest concentration of Roadside America giant fiberglass crap I can possibly locate. We're taking D. to Gatlinburg, which besides being adjacent to Smokey Mountains National Forest, where we can rent touring bikes and be eaten by bears, contains the highest concentration of tourist crap per square foot in the known universe, and I am including south Florida in that estimation.

Trust me, it's kid heaven. Seriously, just look at this crap. (I love the way the website pops up random bible verses on each page too. I keep hitting refresh and laughing my ass off at the surreality.**) So far he knows he wants to do the monster truck ride, the indoor skydiving place and the giant Mirror Maze. Also lazer tag.* Personally, I'm kind of drawn to doing a short section of the Appalachian trail on a rented camel, but it's kind of pricey, as is the place where they roll you down a mountain in a giant inflatable hamster ball. And he's too young for the segue tour of the national park. However there will no doubt be mini-golf, probably at the place where you ride a ski-lift to the top and putt-putt all down the mountain while being heckled by animatronic animals.

Unfortunately, the Jesus park with the giant floating christ head that follows you with its eyes appears to be closed down, but the one where you climb up a hill and go up a tower shaped like a bible to view the giant Nazca Plain ten commandments on the ground below is still there.

Oh, we're going to hit a couple of real museums on the way and do some nature stuff before we immerse ourselves in saltwater taffy, dippin' dots and bears carved out of soap by local artisans.

Part of the fun of this place to me is seeing how many insane ways imaginative people can come up with to separate passersby from a few bucks. Jesus parks and feed the bears and rent a llama and have your picture taken with a genuine Indian. The time and effort that goes into some of these places is just mind-boggling, like the rare-bird breeding center and rainforest conservation garden run by creationists and filled with concrete crosses and little stone monuments explaining how the world is only 6000 years old and these animals did not EITHER evolve, but save them anyway.

If anyone needs me I'll be in the jacuzzi.

*It looks like the place has gone a lot more corporate than I remember, but we'll see. When I was a kid the whole strip was lined with odd little mom-and-pop places and theme motels but it looks to be suffering a bit from corporate creep and apparently someone dropped a load of condominium spores a few years ago.

**I keep getting total fragment stuff that reads like "So Abimelech was sorely grieved and smote his goats saying lo, they have eaten my tent." The assumption seems to be that bible verses, any bible verses, will magically save people whether they make a damn bit of sense out of context or not. The Appalachians are full of this kind of hedge-witch jesus-freakery. I know. My family tree is full of this stuff. Growing up I had plenty of elderly, toothless mountain relatives who would endlessly talk about jesus while showing you how to use certain bible verses to get rid of a toothache or stop bleeding.

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Date:June 17th, 2008 12:18 am (UTC)
My dad took me though Gatlinburg the summer Star Wars came out. We didn't do or visit any of the neat things you mentioned; that would have involved spending money or thinking hard.

It was my grandparents who took me home, though, and they also passed though Gatlinburg, so I did get to see the Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum. I understand it burned down since.
Date:June 17th, 2008 05:04 am (UTC)
I'm not sure, but if it did they either they fixed it or built a new one. See? The whole place seems to have been taken over by RipleyCoInc. If you punch up that website I posted originally you'll see about twelve different Ripley's places. The Gatlinburg I remember was full of tiny little Mom-N-Pop pay-a-quarter-to-touch-my-monkey joints and boiled antique pecan log stands. It'll be interesting to see how much of the original flavor of the place has survived.