Custer State Park in South Dakota

Custer State Park in South Dakota
We saw a LOT of these guys at Custer State Park in South Dakota!

Friday, August 30, 2019

Ole Smoky Moonshine in Gatlinburg Tennessee

We did a moonshine tasting while in Gatlinburg at Ole Smoky Moonshine!  For $5, they serve you a sample of 13 (THIRTEEN) different items, including a moonshine pickle!

After your tasting, you are given a $5 coupon to use towards your purchase!  If you plan on buying a shirt or something, you might as well do a sampling anyway!

I think I have mentioned here that I don't drink at all.  We asked our tasting guide (the hilarious and entertaining Marie) to literally put a small drop in my glass for each tasting.  She understood and accommodated.  I don't know how the others doing the tasting handled it.

Marie told jokes as she provided samples around the bar.  She put on a great show as she joked about ex-boyfriends, bad nights of drinking, etc. etc.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Stories of the Fire AND A Bear!!!! AT The Buckhorn Inn in Gatlinburg Tennessee

So, we definitely wanted to take our niece to the Buckhorn Inn for what will be a meal she will remember forever......  and we ended up having a VERY exciting evening!

We arrived early and ended up having an unreal conversation with a very sweet couple from Augusta Georgia!  They have a cabin in the area, and they have family that live in Gatlinburg too.  AND they were in town at the time of the 2016 fires!

They were literally in their cabin when they got a call that the fires were getting out of control.  They looked out their window and saw fire everywhere!  As they drove out of town they saw walls of fire on both sides of the road!  They left their cabin not bothering to lock doors or turn out lights.  As they drove away, they assumed that they would never see their cabin again.

Thankfully, their cabin was spared.  They said it was as if the fire went around it.  There was damage, and it did take a couple of years to get the repairs made (repairmen have obviously been busy in the area since the fires).  Unfortunately, their son's home was destroyed.

We also talked about some of the great trips we have made to Georgia.  We ended up talking at length about the Georgia Peach, Ty Cobb!

Dinner starts at 7 at the Buckhorn, so we made our ways to our tables after a very nice chat with this lovely couple.

The main event tonight was the prime rib, after a dutch farmers soup, and a Mediterranean blue salad with blue cheese and curry Dijon vinaigrette.  For dessert they served a toffee crunch cheesecake.  This is a meal that could never be duplicated.

As our meal was winding down, one of the waitstaff, a great fellow named Justin, came around to see if any of us were parked in their lower back lot.  We were not.  We asked if everything was OK.  Justin let us know that a BEAR had managed to get the top off of a dumpster and was going through it!

I'm pretty sure I have mentioned here before that I have never seen a bear in the wild.  This has bothered me for some time... I've seen a bobcat, gators, rattlesnakes, foxes, coyotes, but NEVER a bear!

We asked Justin if we could go out and get a look at the bear, and he told us of a safe area where we should be able to get a look from a distance.

Though it was dark and at night at this point, we got a good look at him!  He was fishing through their dumpster!  FINALLY, I can add "seeing a bear in the wild" to my bragging rights list!  AND, my niece can always claim that she saw a bear on her first night ever in Gatlinburg!

As a side note, when we stayed at the Buckhorn Inn a few years ago, a bear had been outside through the night but we missed him!

Obviously, this is a great area for a bear sighting!

Check out the bottom photo....  Again, it was taken at night, but you can see some white garbage bags by the dumpster on the right.  The black blob (bear) is poking around in the bags to the right.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Space Needle in Gatlinburg Tennessee

We took the elevator to the top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle while we had our niece in town.  There was a very nice young lady running the place while we were there who showed us some great photos OF LOCAL BEARS she took recently!  She also had encounters with elk!

The Space Needle does offer some great views of the town!  It is very open and just a great place to hang out and see the area!

Like I said, it is very open, and there aren't any protective glass barriers or anything like that!  You can truly feel the wind blowing around as you look out!  I get a little shaky when I look over the edge!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Gatlinburg Trolley in Gatlinburg Tennessee

We ended up utilizing the Gatlinburg Trolley a bit on this trip to town.  It was 50 cents a person each time you get on.  It was a busy weekend, so the trolley was often full.

Still, it was a great way to get around, and to get back and forth from the main shops in Gatlinburg, and the Park Vista hotel.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Pet Friendly Park Vista in Gatlinburg Tennessee

We saw a LOT of dogs in and around the Park Vista in Gatlinburg during our stay!  It is a pet friendly hotel.  After a nice evening walk, we saw a dad and his two daughters out walking their Chihuahuas!  We are Chihuahua people ourselves (I have always had one in my life).  We went over to tell these Chis hello!

We met some great people and great little doggies.  We met the beautiful little Olive Martini and the cuddle Peter Pickles.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Ole Red in Gatlinburg Tennessee

We peeked into the new Ole Red location in Gatlinburg while we were there!

I think it is located where the Hard Rock Cafe used to be (its in the same location or right next to it).

We saw a lot of people enjoying their lunches in a seating area near a stage.  There was a great singer on the stage named Sam Hattmaker who was doing some fun versions of old standards.  I think many in the crowd were there for lunch though...  and they didn't seem very interested in the music, which was a shame because she was playing a great set.

I would definitely try to make it here for a meal next time I am in town, especially if they have quality live music.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Apple Barn in Pigeon Forge Tennessee

We stopped by the Apple Barn in Pigeon Forge again for another great meal, and some apple fritters.

They have a cute store right next to the restaurant where they sell breads, cider, souvenirs, etc.  It is actually a few stories high, and you feel like you are shopping in an old barn structure.  Its fun just exploring the place.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Wishbone the Bear in Gatlinburg Tennessee

There is a taxidermied bear in one of the Great Smoky Mountain visitor centers.

He looks sweet.  There is a note on the case displaying him noting that he was killed by a car in the park.

He was called Wishbone because of his wishbone shaped white marking on his chest.

AND they actually sell cute plush versions of Wishbone at the National Parks visitor centers.  Yes, I bought one (he is very soft and cuddly).

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Three Bears General Store in Pigeon Forge Tennessee

We took our niece to Three Bears General Store to see the bears, and to get some reasonably priced souvenirs.

She enjoyed her visit, and we had a good time.  I do think they have a great selection of items (the store is HUGE).  I like their prices too.  AND it is fun seeing the bears.

They do have signs up about how they rescued their bears...  and they are pushing a local charity.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Pottery Mill Cafe in Pegeon Forge TN...... again

I know... it seems like I mentioned the Pottery Mill Cafe not too long ago....  but I am mentioning it again.  We love the food here.

We arrived a little before 11, and they were not crowded at all.  Our niece got breakfast, and my wife and I had lunch.

I personally love the French onion soup here.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Park Vista DoubleTree Hilton Hotel in Gatlinburg Tennessee

So, just a month after going to Gatlinburg for a sweet, relaxing couples trip, we were able to go back to the area for another great, extended weekend trip!

AND, we took our niece with us!  This was her first trip to the area, and we wanted to cram in as much as possible with her!

For our last several visits, we have stayed at the super cozy B&B, the Berry Springs Lodge.  This is a great place, and we will be back there in the future...  but for this trip we wanted to stay somewhere closer to the main strip in Gatlinburg.  A more economical hotel closer to town was the way to go for this adventure.

Also, I've always wanted to stay at the Park Vista- it's a real landmark in Gatlinburg.  Its part of the skyline and you definitely notice it.  We were excited to get to stay here for this trip, and it ended up being a nice location for us.

Being a DoubleTree property, we were given cookies when we got there!  BONUS!

They had a small gift shop too...  and in it I found SIGNED copies of "Bear in the Back Seat" I & II for $13 each!  I LOVE these books, and I have loaned/given my copies away so I was thrilled to score signed copies here!  By the way, these would be great books to give a young person before their first trip to the area!

I had read that the Park Vista had done some renovations after the major 2016 fires.  I watched some of the horrifying youtube videos shot from the lobby at that time!  WOW!  It was obviously scary at that time....  and it was a bit eye opening to think about those videos while in the hotel.  I will have more to say about that fire later...  as we would have a long conversation with a couple who were there in town that day.

So, I didn't notice any major renovations, and the hotel is a bit dated, but it is kept up nicely.  It had a "built in the 70s but well maintained" feel.  Of course the fact that it is round and tall made me think of the legendary hotel in Owensboro- Gabe's Tower.

Let me clarify my use of the word "dated."  This hotel still has a REAL classic feel from decades earlier.  Get there soon and soak in some of that before someone "updates" it, and removes some of its charm.

We were on the top, 15th floor and we had great views from our window!  AND, there was a sliding glass balcony window so we could watch as the sun came up and went down each day.  I did love that.

My niece would note that she thought the Space Needle in town wasn't very tall.  She would make her point by pointing out, from our balcony, that we were looking down on the space needle.

Oh, there was a great bar and bartender we loved here too!  A large tea and coffee cost me $3.50!  Maybe they charge 1970s prices here!

The hotel is a bit of a walk from the strip (probably just under a mile) but it is uphill on the way back.  They do have the trolleys picking up and dropping off every half hour right in front though, so it is very convenient.