My Family Vacation: Day 4

When my husband and I split, I still had the better part of the lease year on my hands. Rich–who was, at the time, my imaginary lust bunny–suggested that I find a roommate. It wasn’t my favorite idea, because, you know, I was thirty and had two kids, and whenever you meet someone in their thirties who has a roommate, one of them is insane.

As luck would have it, Rich’s best friend’s girlfriend was looking for a place to live. As greater luck would have it (I discovered after our first slightly awkward meeting) she was not only not insane, but she was smart, funny, not addicted to anything, and loved the idea of living with kids. Plus, her boyfriend is, like, twelve feet tall, and it’s always good to have a big man around to scare off suburban house bandits.

So we lived a wonderful few months together. We stayed up late, swapped histories, changed diapers together. We imprinted lifescars upon one another. The good kind–the kind that make you cry like a baby when the roommate and giant boyfriend marry under an intricate chuppah in the foothills of the most opulent mountain resort in the history of recreational opulence.

A few months after our room-mating, that couple moved to Nashville, Tennessee. We are currently in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. So guess who drove the four hours to join our family on a hike and creek romp on Day Four? Yay!

So in the Tahoe we went again, dogs and all. The roommates followed us into Greenbriar–the place from Day 2 with all the hiking trails. We found a good one, parked, gave a lot of hugs, and then walked uphill for about fifteen minutes, or until the kids approached the crescendo of their complaint symphony.


Back we piled into the Tahoe and to the beach I mentioned a few posts ago. This is a creek area much frequented by locals and much safer for the kids–a gravelly beach with soft currents, less boulders and slightly deeper water. I didn’t pack my bathing suit this time, so I just sat with Jack and shot the sh*t with my bestie while the girls played and the boys caught up somewhere past the boulder ridge.

It was much easier for Frodo there, so I was able to relax a little about his general discomfort. He was in great spirits that day, much more frolicky.

Sufficiently frozen, we dried off, parted ways and agreed to meet for dinner at Johnny Rockets. Ugh, I was so mad when Rich decided on Johnny Rockets. Here we are in a new land with new food and customer service tradition (for the record, I’m with ma and pa on this. Boca can have its curmudgeon-centric hospitality), and he chooses the least authentic venue.

***So listen, I won’t go into the horror thing again. I know you know how much I love haunted houses. Just know how hard it is for me to not go into a squealing, exclamation-pointed fit when I tell you what we did next.***

On the way to Johnny Rockets, Rich had a memory flash from one of his family mountain vacations, from when they spent some time around here. It was of a haunted house on one of the Gatlinburg side streets. So he did some Googling and Voila! Into my life walks MYSTERIOUS MANSION.

IMG_4347Do you remember the scariest Haunted House you’ve ever visited? Well, you can forget about it because this one blows that one out of the water.

Across a gothic-ironworked bridge lies this crumbling manse, complete with headless horseman carriage and blackbird weathervane. It is what every haunted house should be. I mean WILL YOU LOOK AT THIS PLACE?!

We purchased our tickets and were herded into the waiting room, where each of my children lunged into a grownup’s arms. Thank goodness for the roommates, because we would have lost at least one child in this house.

There is clearly NO regulation here, because not only was my ankle grabbed from somewhere by someone, but you would NOT believe the acrobatic capabilities of some of these haunters. We traveled–with another small group (a father and two screaming and crying sons)–from room to glorious room followed by a troupe of circus rejects who could scale walls, bridge hallways, fall from ceilings and creepy stare like the dickens.

IMG_4334And the ROOMS! We got lost in closets, dank halls and secret passageways, tripped up winding staircases and creaky landings. We got stuck for a bit in a pitch-black, circular room full of doors, where we were left to open one wrong door at a time, bumping into one another like beheaded hens in a chicken coup. And the scary people didn’t help AT ALL! They just watched us f*ck up and fall all over ourselves until we stumbled into the correct passthrough, room after room.

Holy sh*t, I’m not even kidding when I tell you how scary it was. Jack pulled his hair so hard I thought his head would pop off. Mila’s eyes stayed closed and Lucy tore the skin off of my shoulders and bursted both of my eardrums.

I had the luxury of following giant roommate for the last leg of the tour, and right at the end–just as we digested that we were near the exit and that maybe we needed to take the kids to the nearest hospital–this guy JUMPS DOWN FROM THE CEILING AND LANDS ON THE WALL in front of us. Like one of those parkour guys, only he’s wearing a really scary mask and we’re in the scariest house on earth and we’re holding screaming infants.

So I got to see giant roommate scared, which made my entire trip, I think.

IMG_4336The kids were mortified. Completely terrified and furious. So, all hopped up on that, and on energy that we haven’t been able to access for at least a decade each, we decided to go do something light and happy.

Back on the main strip we found a cute little put put course that turned out to be a horrible idea because you can’t have fun doing anything when you’re carrying an ill-tempered seventeen-month old and you can’t put him down because the put put course is built into a cliff and the baby is on suicide watch.

The girls were great, though, so we couldn’t just go home. Instead, we went to the blacklight course, which was totally rad. And totally my idea in the first place, I’d like to point out to giant roommate, who thought that cliffside put put would be a relaxing option.

IMG_4339It was much easier, because we could put Jack down and let him trip his balls off on all the blacklit madness. You can see him on the right, there, falling on his face.

It worked for some time, until Jack found other groups of players and started stealing their balls.

So we went home to the cabin, put Jack to bed and played Hearts until 4am. The girls were insane about having people over, and– having tapped into some kind of backlogged affection–fell desperately in love with girl roommate. So they stayed up until almost 3am, just trying to be near her. It was sweet.

And that’s how Family Vacation: Day 4 ended. I’ll leave you with Rich throwing Jack in the air, a picture that would have been hilarious had I any iPhoto dexterity: