There has been a debate in my household on whether a planned trip or a “spur of the moment” trip is better. Myself, I’ve always been a fan of the latter; however, after our last trip I have to grit my teeth and admit that planning a trip is better.
After doing some genealogy research, I found out that I am 1/16 Cherokee. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but to know where you are going you must know where you have been. So with short notice, we packed our bags and headed to Cherokee, North Carolina on a sort of cultural pilgrimage for me.
The drive through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is by far one of the best drives I have been on. The only way to describe it is being similar to driving through an enchanted forest in a Disney film. I half expected to look out the window to see woodland creatures breaking into song.
Once we arrived in Cherokee, it was not as I remembered it to be when I visited when I was little. It is much more commercialized around the Harrah’s Casino. The pilgrimage was starting to look very bleak. We did however find the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, which is a must if you find yourself in Cherokee. It was very eye opening, but again, I didn’t plan this trip so we had to wait around for it to open and while we waited we found the best coffee shop called Qualla Java Café. All I can say is if they ever opened a chain, Starbucks better watch out.
After we finished at the museum, we hit a few shops, but after only a few hours, we decided to cancel our hotel and go to Gatlinburg, which at the time I thought would be a good idea. However, I did not realize it was a week before Rod Run.
Once we arrived, the streets and sidewalks were packed with people and it was hard for my wife to find a hotel while I was trying to navigate through the pre Rod Run madness. Luckily, we found one right next to a shopping area called The Village Shoppes.
Once we got settled in the hotel, we ventured out into the over crowded streets and hit a few of our favorite shops. Every time we go to Gatlinburg, we hunt for the shop that sells the best pizza-by-the-slice, and we found it on this trip. It is tucked away in the Mountain Mall. The slices were the size of my head and tasted fantastic.
Traffic the next day was not any better. I am a huge car nut, but Rod Run is for the birds. Yes, it is jam packed with antique, vintage muscle cars that most of us only see in movies or magazines, but it is also the saddest sight to see these muscle cards having to sit still in the worse 5 mile per hour rush-hour traffic.
After eating breakfast, it took us an hour and 30 minutes just to make it back to the interstate, where we made a mad dash back home. Needless to say, my wife was right about needing to make plans when we decide to take a trip.