After we set out on the road for the first page of Our Next Chapter in 2017 we spent a week in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. In the last week of November 2017, when we were here we last, we fell in love with the area. Geographically Pigeon Forge is a very diverse area on the edge of the Smokey Mountain National Park. Get out of the glowing lights of the Dollywood tourism influence and there are some very scenic areas to visit. The Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area is very tourism driven and until the last week of November they are very busy with leaf peeping season. Rightfully so, the leaves in the area are very brilliant and worth the visit. Our campground was full until the Sunday evening of the Thanksgiving weekend. We thought the holiday would mean a quiet week, but in all reality Pigeon Forge is the holiday destination for families to rent cabins and have a good ol country Thanksgiving together in the mountains.
We left the company of friends in Natchez, Mississippi, on the morning of Saturday, November 3, and took two days driving from Louisiana up to the opposite end of Tennessee. We broke up that time by making a stop overnight at the Little River RV Park, above Fort Payne, Alabama. Most RVers will joke about the Google time and then the real-time of traveling. If Google Maps say six hours, we can plan for about eight hours with the number of diesel fuel and bio-stops we have to make along the way. We traveled about six hours and made the stop before it got dark and that gave Jason an opportunity to try the new DJI Spark drone. This drone and all the parts associated collapse to a case the size of just the top piece of his previous Phantom 3 drone. It is nice to have such a small case in the truck when we just want to pull over and fly it to capture some photos of the area.
We got a good deal for a monthly rate at the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg KOA (actually it is in the city of Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg is another 8 miles south of the city) for November 2018. Our site was full hookups for about $21/night, plus we got the KOA VIP points against future nights elsewhere in the KOA system.
We knew that our time in Pigeon Forge would be actually feel short, because Jason would be spending a week back in St. Paul, Minnesota, for the project that he has been consulting on. At the same time Barb’s sister came to Pigeon Forge to spend time with Barb. When we got into Pigeon Forge early in November the leaves were still on the trees and they were very brilliant. Jason and Barb had some great views of those leaves before he left, but when Barb’s sister came the whole week was dreary and “smoke” covered the mountains. Oh well, this just meant having some time inside at the Dollywood Spa. Barb’s first “spa adventure” with all the treatments. Later in the month the leaves were all gone from the heavy winds that blew in with that dreary weather.
We did fine one access road into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that was a little narrow with our wide 2015 RAM 3500 (single rear wheels) on the roads. We watched otters playing in the water at a turn out along the river. While the mountains here are no comparison to the adventure of the Ten Sleep Wyoming area, it was still enjoyable in its own right.
After visiting the Bush Bean Museum we purposefully ignored the GPS route and crossed over a small “mountain” pass that had our truck struggling to make the inclines. Many of the mountain roads are narrow but most are well-marked with lines along the ditches that drop off sometimes a foot or a hundred feet without guard rails. Driving is actually pretty taxing when you have a big truck.
Thanksgiving day we attempted to spend time at event at the KOA but that fell through, so we made our own lunch and went out for a drive North of Louisville. We stopped by the local Escapees Rainbow Park at Raccoon Valley to do some speed tests, determining AT&T and Verizon are both good there. We then continued further north to the Norris Dam and did some walking around that site that includes one of the largest reserves of water in the Tennessee valley system. We seem to be starting to “collect” visits to dams around the country, we both enjoy the engineering and the natural re-developments around them.
In 2017 we did several visits to Dollywood, but this time we just did one evening and it was not as cold as last year but much of the park was closed. We were pretty disappointed with the Dollywood experience this year at the theme park, but they redeemed themselves when we had a date night at the Dollywood DreamMore resort hotel for dinner and that was enjoyable. We met up with some ham radio friends from back home that are now living in this area! As well as attended two shows, one that was so bad we left before it was over and the other we wished we could go back to a number of times. The Smoky Mountain Opry was amazing, the Christmas show had over 50 performers in it. The Hatfield’s and McCoy’s Feud Dinner Show was pretty bad, we even left before the show was over. The food and service good but the show not so good. Let’s just leave it with they got purchased by the company that runs the Dolly Parton properties for a reason, a breaking news story as we left the area.
Another month is behind us, it is hard to believe it has already been two and half months since we left River Falls for warmer climates. Jason’s new office arrangement is working out very well for us. Barb is not “trapped” on one end or the other while Jason is in meetings. With his webcam turned now to the corner of the slide out, the remote sites are not seeing “into” the RV anymore.
|Nights Stayed||7: November 25 - December 2, 2017
28: November 4 - December 1, 2018
|Parking Site||KOA Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg
2017 in site 27. (There is a happy squirrel that loves to torment Wheezy)
2018 in site 114. (Same squirrel a year later tormenting Wheezy?)
|Restaurants||2017: The funnel cakes and the Cinnamon Bread at Dollywood are to die for!
2017: Big Daddy's Pizza in Pigeon Forge, TN
2018: Funnel cakes were changed and we did not have one and the Cinnamon Bread wasn't that great either this year.
2018: Wood Fired Grill Buffet, pretty decent setup and it was open on Thanksgiving day.
Everyone says to go to the Old Mill restaurant, we did not try it.
|Attractions||2017: Smoky Mountain National Park including Clingman Dome Tower and numerous hiking trails, water falls, etc.
2017 & 2018: Dollywood Theme Park
2017: Ober Gatlinburg and the Gatlinburg village shopping
2018: Hatfield's and McCoy's Feud Dinner show - Never again!
2018: Smoky Mountain Opry - Yes again!
|Remember for Next Time||2017 & 2018: Krispy Kremes are not so good here, very bad hygiene practices were observed while we tried to eat here. We tossed out the remainder of the half dozen donuts because of their quality.
2018: Dollywood Theme Park: open in the evenings, but when it gets cold they close a lot of the attractions or scale back the hours. Of course they don't reduce the cost for the day even though there is less to see and do. We contemplated a season pass but are glad we did not. The first year was more fun and special, the second year was just repeating things we had saw before. ** Be sure to check the schedule of events, the night we went the theater and group we really wanted to see what not performing. Plus since they are outdoor they likely would have been canceled for the night anyway.
|Mail Service||KOA accepts packages from USPS and UPS for guests. 2018: We had a problem with the USPS service here though, they marked a package as delivered and it was not. Amazon refunded the money very quickly.|
|AT&T Coverage||4G LTE Good|
|Verizon Coverage||4G LTE Good|
|WiFi Coverage||2017: Park WiFi works well during the workweek.
2018: WiFi was not useful at the site at all, especially when the hoards of people were in the park before Thanksgiving.
|Anytime Fitness||2017: 15 minutes to the Northwest, really busy at 5AM, cardio equipment is really tired (as in old and worn, not because it is 5AM!)
2018: The equipment was even older and the shower facility was never clean. The entire facility is in need of a sprucing up.
What next? We are headed to our permanent spot now at Winter Garden RV Resort until the first week of March 2019. We are returning to the same park that we were at twice in the winter of 2017/2018. The park has two nice pools, a fitness center, reliable internet and we can receive mail/packages there. Plus, it is only 20 minutes from Walt Disney World!