Penguin painting project

Trip Start Oct 03, 2013
Trip End Oct 17, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Tennessee
Saturday, October 12, 2013

So I see that Colorado and Utah have agreed to use state funds to reopen their parks and the Federal government will reimburse the states when this is over with! So why the hell aren't ALL the states doing this?? In fact I see California has refused to do this.  Jerks.  I am waiting to see what happens with Tennessee.  They are saying its complicated here because the parks are shared by multiple states but to that I say OPEN YOUR SIDE!!!  Who cares what NC does!  Just open the TN side.  There is a border in the park and its definitive so what is the problem?  And MAYBE if TN opens its side then NC will feel the need to open theirs!  I am so mad right now at this continuing bullshit.  And the woman at the hotel said to me that it better be opened by Wednesday or there will be trouble (that is apparently the peak of their season here) but HELLO what about all the people here NOW!?

This morning Jym said "This is going on longer than the war on terror. This IS the war on terror." I think he’s right.  In fact the way I see it is that Congress are the terrorists.  What they are doing now with their petty bickering and complete disregard for the needs of the American public is criminal.

What is the worst for me right now is not knowing.  I just feel like I can’t plan because we are waiting always to see what will happen.  I am just unsure what to do at this point.  I deliberately left open some days at the end for us to do what we felt like…maybe Savannah on the way home.  Now I wonder if I should stay here and possibly hope that the TN government will at least reopen parts of the park??  Or do I just leave and cut my losses??  I am quite sure that whatever I do it will feel like the wrong thing.   

So today, trying to forget my woes we were supposed to have our penguin encounter back at the aquarium.  It was at 1:30 and we are maybe 10 minutes tops from there but I thought we should leave an hour early to be safe.  Apparently I did not account for the fact that it is a holiday weekend and there were more cars that you can imagine.  We literally turned out of our resort and into gridlock.  We hardly moved.  2 lanes going into Gatlinburg and they were dead standstill.  As we got closer to the town itself there was a couple walking beside the road and they were actually walking faster than we were driving.  So when you say “I can walk faster than this…” it was actually TRUE!  It has to be the worst park design ever!  There is one road in and one road through and although there is a bypass we hesitated to take it because the aquarium is on our side of the town and we would have had to back track with no proof at all that the traffic was better.  Bonnie has mentioned as well that the only route they have to get here from Knoxville is through Pigeon Forge which is like a 6 lane I-Drive on crack!  It seems inefficient with all the traffic around here. We decided to just stick with the road and hope we could make it in time.  It took almost an hour to get to the aquarium and then we pulled into the garage and it said FULL but somehow we managed to find a car that was leaving and nabbed a spot!  We ran to the aquarium and just barely made it!  I was not happy.  I was so afraid I was going to miss it.  But we were taken down into a room where there were 4 other people, 2 guides and Peter the penguin in a wagon cart.  He was so cute.  And much bigger than I expected a penguin to be.  The penguins at the aquarium are all African penguins so warm weather penguins.  One at a time they took our canvas and we got to choose our colors and then we would sit on the floor with the canvas and the assistant would lift Peter onto the mat with the colors and dip him into one and then put him on the canvas.  I choose blue and purple and silver for my colors and he painted it so nicely.  That was the extent of the interaction for that and we were not able to touch him.  We then went out into the aquarium and got to wander around as much as we wanted.  I just wanted another shot at seeing the octopus and the penguins.  The octopus was still in his corner but I tried to get some shots of him. Then when we got the penguin enclosure the guides from our painting project were releasing Peter back into the population.  We were trying to get a picture of him and then Steve decided to come over and engage him in some loving.  We were wondering if peter might be a gay penguin (if that’s a thing) and then we saw him tearing up the carpet in the enclosure like “This. Has. Got. To. GO!”  Totally a gay penguin. LOL. I did ask about this behavior later to see if that is indeed what we were seeing and we were told that the penguins don’t take on traditional gender roles and that they often don’t even know which gender the other is.  In fact we as humans do genetic tests on them to tell which is a female and which is a male so pretty much I guess penguins just crave the affection where they can get it.  Although I do know that penguins do mate and stay with their mates and he did say that they do have male pairs of penguins.  I thought that was cool.

After the painting we left and went for a walk to get a sandwich at a little German sandwich shop we had seen the night before in an area called “The Village” right next to where the Pancake Pantry was.  It was above a little cheese shop and the stairs are in the back of the cheese shop.  It’s very small but so cute.  And the food was amazing!!  I cannot say enough about it.  I had the roast beef and Jym had the Brat sandwich.

We then returned to the aquarium for our second round of Penguin experiences.  This one we got a photo with a penguin.  Her name was Tails and she was an older penguin. Her mate was Atrayu…Jym remembered this fact…yet I can’t get him to remember small things.  Like he asked me when we were in Asheville where we were going next and I told him Gatlinburg, TN and he said his friends asked where he was going and he said he was sure it wasn’t TN.  Anyway Trails was exhausted after her photo op so she chose to lay down in the wagon but we got to pet her and ask questions so I learned a lot about penguins and also got to pet her!  That was awesome.  Their feathers are so small.  They go through a molting period and puff up I guess like a turkey but the new feathers push the old ones out so they are never naked/bald.  They are very soft and smooth.  We got our pictures and left.  Li was a bit disgruntled as he was not allowed out of the bag as he might have scared the penguins. 

We ended up driving into the park when we left which was about 5:15 and the traffic there was INSANE.  It was backed up and then we realized people were looking at bears.  I saw a ranger with his lights on but other people were stopped and he didn’t seem to be making them leave so I got out and walked down the hill and got to see a momma and 2 babies.  I am pretty sure I am going to end up with poison of some sort since I stepped in pretty much every kind of leafy overgrowth possible.  All in search of the bears. They were in the crook of a turn so people were coming at them from the other side and we could see them and they were getting so close to the babies which is NOT smart and then they scared the babies and there was all this hustle and a baby tried to run up a tree.  It was not safe.  So I made my way back to the car.  I do have to say thought that this gave me a new opinion of the rangers.  There were 2 of them and they were not stopping anyone from looking but they did sort of steer the bears out to freedom.   I am not certain what the situation is with the rangers.  I don’t know if a few are being paid or what.  There seemed to be quite a few there and they seemed to be monitoring things and not really getting in people’s way.  They were trying to keep the traffic moving which I can see was an issue so I understand that.  In fact we decided to stay in the mountains a bit after dark because as we headed up it was solid gridlock (or extreme congestion as they say) all the way down the mountain.  I didn’t want to ride my break all the way down the mountain and just sit. So we went past the border and started down the other side and actually enjoyed a fabulous sunset from a spot just a bit down from that.  We first stopped at the large parking area at the border and it was such a lovely sky over the mountains.  I can see why they call them the smokies.  The restrooms are open at this stop which was convenient.  Overall it was a nice sky and I can say it was pretty fabulous. 

We then went over the bypass and took a night shot of Gatlinburg from above and then went to the grocery store and got gas.  Jym needed alcohol (rubbing) for his wound which he thinks is getting infected. 

We came back and ordered a meal from the take out at the hotel Smokehouse.  It was not terribly good.  We used the gift certificates and I was glad I didn’t pay for it.  The ribs are supposed to be fresh and award winning but they were cold and old and I couldn’t even get them off the bone.  Huge let down but I have grown to expect that from this place.  But the Hobbit was on TV so that was a nice dinner movie for us.

Things I have noticed:

The crosswalks here are written strangely as 2 words so it looks like “WALK CROSS”  I guess when you say that outloud it sounds like what it is…Walk Cross.  “Go on and walk cross”

I was commenting on how beautiful the mountains looked at the border pull off and I must have said “wow that’s beautiful” and other versions of that sentiment several times and it annoyed some woman who demanded I stop saying it.  WTF?  I should have just gone a round with her.  I am not sure why the hell people would be IN THE MOUNTAINS if they have no desire to admire its beauty.  It’s a good thing she wasn’t there tonight because it was WAY more beautiful tonight than it was even then.  So she would have been EXTRA annoyed with me.

It appears that TN is better than NC when it comes to the parks.  There are less cones per capita I think…or maybe I should say it seems that they are blocking off LESS on this side than on the other as far as pull offs.  Now there is one area that is blocked off so obsessively that its like cones and barricades and they are all even laced together with some sort of metal rope!  I call that the Cone Forest.  That is on the TN side so they are pretty serious about no one going there. 

Gatlinburg is a cash only town.  Which I am fine with but I would have liked the heads up.  Day 1 at breakfast I ended up having to use the ATM to get cash.  It is almost bizarre how most businesses require cash and ALSO have an ATM for your convenience.  I had cash just not with me.  Now I know and am prepared. 

People honk when going through tunnels. I do NOT understand this off phenomenon!  When I was growing up in PA we would honk when we went through a one lane tunnel because you wanted to alert anyone on the other side so they didn’t hit you!  There is no danger of that here since the tunnels are all 2 lanes so I have no idea why people are honking????  Jym said they might just like hearing the sound of their horn but I suspect that is not it.  I am thinking they are idiots. 

The adjoining door in our room has a huge dent it in.  I suspect someone was frustrated with the washer/dryer. LOL

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Kerri on

I love that you got to meet and pet the penguin! That is one good thing that came out of the shutdown. I know you said that this aquarium wasn't as big, but the pictures you took are equally as beautiful. There were things there I've never seen before. Thank you for sharing them!

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