Oct 22, 2020

A night at the wax museum, Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

In a town like Pigeon Forge, Tenn., which seems primarily to exists to cater to family vacations, you’re destined to find plenty of artificially created attractions to take your money, come rain or shine.  So, when it did rain on our evening plans, my wife Punky hunkered down in our hotel room, while the Kiddo and I ventured out on the main highway through town to see what we could find. 

We ended up drawn to a site with one of the most prominent building facades on the Pigeon Forge Parkway – a replica of King Kong climbing a skyscraper while holding a biplane.  Perfectly out of place in Pigeon Forge, but what the heck? 

We had arrived at the Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center.

Oct 7, 2020

A commoner dines at the Smoky Mountain Trout House, Gatlinburg, Tenn.

Before Pigeon Forge and Dollywood became tourist phenomena, there was Gatlinburg,Tenn.  As the closest town nestled in a valley just before you reach Smoky Mountain National Park on the Tennessee side, perhaps Gatlinburg was long ago destined to be – and remains – a huge family tourist destination, even if it seems overloaded today with cheesy artificial attractions designed mainly to take your money (e.g., Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, a space needle, and a museum devoted to salt and pepper shakers).  

The scenery in and around Gatlinburg, however, remains undeniably beautiful and, at times, breathtaking.  And fortunately, there are still enough places to go in town that pre-date most of today’s tourist traps, where you get a genuine sense of downhome hospitality. 

We were very fortunate to find such a place for dinner on our first night in town – the Smoky Mountain Trout House.

A commoner dines at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern, Monroe, Wis.

I wasn’t sure a place existed that could be the perfect representation of Wisconsin life, but then I traveled through Monroe, Wis., one week...