Spring Break 2010! We took the kids to Gatlinburg, TN last year for Spring Break 2009 and they LOVED it so much they wanted to go back. It is a perfect place for kids – tons of Kountry Krap stores, putt-putt courses, Ripley’s Believe it or Not! attractions (Ripley’s owns that town – Aquarium, Odditorium, Haunted Adventure, Mirror Maze, Moving Theater, Guinness World of Records, Mini-Golf), Candy Stores, T-shirt Stores, etc.
Mike & I have been to the Gatlinburg area 4 times (including this time) for various excursions. The last two times we have been to Gatlinburg, we have rented a “cabin” (it is really a house) from the same company, Smoky Mountain Chalet Rentals, because we have had really good luck with them and the cabins are really nice and consistent in quality.
Tuesday, April 6th:
We were to arrive on Tuesday, April 6th and depart on Saturday, April 10th. So, we arrive around 4pm on Tuesday to the craziness that is Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg (and, it is not even close to peak season!). We do our usual grocery stop at the Kroger Store in Pigeon Forge at Stop Light #3 which is always interesting (maybe a topic for another post). You have to drive through Pigeon Forge to get to Gatlinburg – our cabin is situated in a really pretty stretch of road between PF and G. There is really only one road through this area (which is CRAZY) so it takes about 45 minutes to go about 7 miles (I’m as serious as a heart attack).
Our lovely cabin, the Wild Rose, is located at the top of a mountain and Mike has to drive the poor, loaded down mini-van in low gear the entire way in order to coax it to the top (it was a little unnerving at times – the van is not made for off-roading). We get the groceries and luggage unloaded, the kids pick their beds, we try out the pool table, the kids check out the deck & hot tub, etc. Ahhhhh, we are finally on vacation. While everyone was checking out the cabin and beginning to relax, I fixed dinner. We bought something easy to cook at the Kroger (where I got carded BTW!) so we could watch American Idol (it is a family must).
Okay, so now it is bedtime! By the time we got the kids settled and in bed, it was around 11pm. Mike and I retired to our nice, spacious bedroom – check out the Wild Rose link above and you can see the pictures of the rooms in our cabin. We turned out the lights – Mike was reading a book with a booklight and I began to drift off to sleep. It had been a long day!
As I was drifting off to sleep, I thought I felt something on my arm, but I told myself that it was my hair. Then, I thought I felt something again, but I was SO tired – I must be imagining things. During this battle in my sleepy brain, Mike was over on his side of the bed moving around and being all fidgety. Finally, I rolled over to tell him to “Settle Down” and then I see him swatting something off of him and slapping his arm. Okay, the sleepy brain is now wide awake and I hopped out of that bed faster than you can blink. We stared at each other for a moment and then the conversation:
Mike: “We have a bug problem.”
Jenni: “What are they?”
Mike: “I think they are ticks.”
Jenni: “What?!! Ticks?”
Okay, now we are F R E A K I N G OUT!!! We start running our hands through our hair – I think I did that about 20 times. Then I got my comb and combed my hair over and over and over and over again. Mike was doing the same thing. Then I found one on the inside of the sleeve of my pajamas!!!! YUCK! Now, I’m running into the bathroom to do a complete body check (sorry for the image). We don’t want Lyme Disease!!
I’m completely shaking at this point and Mike has killed about 2 dozen of the damn things in the meantime. They just keep coming out of the headboard – it was like a really, really bad campy horror movie. So, now we are as far away from the bed as possible staring at each other again not knowing what we should do (it is about midnight at this point).
What do we do now?
Do we wake up the kids and check their beds (they were sleeping soundly)? Our girls have amazing bug radars and we felt that they would have been up already if there was an issue.
Do we call the owners? What could they possibly do for us at midnight?
It took us a long time to decide not to wake the kids, not to call the owners and to sleep on the couches. We found some sheets in a closet, inspected them closely and went out and “slept” in the living room. I ran my fingers through my hair until I dozed off and Mike never really went to sleep.
Wednesday, April 7th
Well, it is morning and, of course, the kids are wondering why we are sleeping on the couch. We confessed the horror of the night before and told them that we would be moving this day to a new place – but where? Mike called the owners and told him that the cabin had an infestation of some sort and the owner agreed to send over an exterminator, would see about another cabin, and call us back. Well, guess what? He had no other cabins!! What the heck are we going to do now???
The exterminator shows up and both Mike and I follow him to the bedroom – what’s the diagnosis? Now, the really yucky thing is that the “bugs” were on the headboard still, but you could barely see them in the daylight. You had to know what to look for. Okay, the bug guy thinks they look like ticks as well. I had him check the kids’ beds – NO bugs. Whew! Did he know any numbers for other cabin rentals that we could call? He did! Thank goodness. He gave us 2 leads – what a great, helpful guy! He leaves to get some bug spray to de-tick the headboard as a short-term measure. They need to de-bug the entire place, but can’t until we leave. We can’t leave until we have a new plan. “BTW, do we need to worry about our suitcases and clothing that were in the room?” (Mike had put his clothes in the dresser – my suitcase was still packed, but zipped up on the floor.) Bug Man recommended putting all of our clothes through a full dryer cycle as that would kill any bugs and any eggs (EWWWWWWWWW!).
We call the first number he gave us, they have a place for us AND it is cheaper than the buggy cabin – Jackson Mountain Homes! Yeah! She (I think it is Christine) needs to see when she can have it ready – we need to call her back in about 15 minutes. Sweet! Not 2 minutes later, we get a call from the buggy cabin owners and guess what?!! The bugs are NOT ticks – they are BEDBUGS!!! Bedbugs? Really? Bedbugs? Those things are REAL??!?!? So, he tells my husband that their bites are harmless like a mosquito’s, but we need to take serious precautions to prevent bringing them home with us (all you need is one female with eggs and you’re screwed!). We should wash and dry all of our clothes and spray our bags with bug spray. So, he will refund all of our money and throw in an extra $25 for laundry and bug spray (wow, how generous). This is not what we had planned for our vacation – this was really beginning to suck. But, wait, it gets better….
It has been more than 15 minutes and now it is time to call Jackson Mountain Homes! (Ever since the Bug Man told me to run our clothes through a dryer that’s what I had been doing). I was in the laundry area and I hear Mike’s voice getting louder and louder and some expletives flowing and then, BAM!, the phone has been slammed. I run out of the laundry room to inquire about the tantrum and he says that Jackson Mountain Homes won’t rent to us now because of the bedbug infestation. What?? How did she know? We only just found out ourselves about 2 minutes ago. It had to be the exterminator!!! Why did he do that to us (did he know “Christine”)? Were we now pariahs in Gatlinburg? Had we been blacklisted for all rentals?
ARMED & DANGEROUS!!!
DO NOT RENT TO!! If you see them approaching lock your doors and hide under your desks!
This was the craziest damn vacation I had ever experienced. We sat the kids on the couch and warned them that we may not be able to stay in Gatlinburg (there were probably wanted posters going up all over Gatlinburg as soon as Mike hung up on “Christine” – we had bugs AND we weren’t afraid to use them!) and that we may have to improvise and possibly go to Memphis or Nashville. They were all in and troopers about the whole thing!
Mike called the second number that the jerky Bug Man gave us – Gatlinburg Real Estate Rentals. We all held our breath while he called . . . . . . . . . we were in luck! The Engledow family did not seem to be blacklisted (or maybe they hadn’t seen the posters yet) AND they had a cabin for us! We were going to be staying in the Dream Catcher . Well, needless to say, the cabin was free of bedbugs, we extended our stay one more day (due to our lost day) and had a great time! However, I did make Mike check all of the beds a couple of times before we went to bed that first night.
What I didn’t tell you is that while we were moving from one cabin to another, I did research on my smartphone about bedbugs. I wish I hadn’t done that, but I needed to know what we might be in for. Now I know A LOT about bedbugs so if you have a question, just ask me. I have now added another item to my worry list (I need that like I need a hole in the head).
The final part of our story is that when we got back home on Sunday, April 11th, we pulled in the driveway, unloaded the entire car, and transferred all of our clothes, stuffed animals and coats to trash bags. Rachel and I took the trash bags full of clothes to a laundromat for a thorough cleaning and drying – we did not want to bring anything into the house until it had been properly decontaminated. Mike sprayed down every suitcase, toiletry bag and backpack with bug spray. He also sprayed down the van after we got home. Not really how I wanted to spend my afternoon after riding in a car for 6.5 hours, but we needed to feel that we had done all we could to keep the bedbugs from biting!
As the saying goes:
Thanks for your humorous take on an otherwise infuriating event. I am presently planning my first trip to PF/G for the 1st of May ’11. I have been trying to educate myself about BB’s and everything I read only fuels my paranoia. I even called an exterminator in Knoxville yesterday (I live in Michigan) to inquire as to the severity of the problem down there. He told me because of the expense of riding a cabin ($3K to $4K) many proprietors are turning a “blind eye” to the problem. You were at least lucky to get your refund back as he also told me some of them are telling patrons the problem is fleas and not bedbugs. I guess they feel fleas are less panic inducing. Have you noticed any bugs in your home since returning?
We have not see a bed bug since that trip. I feel it was because we were there one night and hadn’t really unpacked. I will tell you that any time we stay anywhere (hotel, cabin, etc), we check the beds first thing (I always pack a flashlight). Make sure you do this. Now that I know what they look like and where they hide on the bed, it’s easier.
Bed bugs are WAY bigger than fleas! Anyone that buys that story must have never owned an animal!
There are some good websites out there about bed bugs that will give you good tips on detection.
Don’t let bed bugs scare you away from vacationing – just take precautions.
Bed bugs are so annoying. They all should be killed! – Jim
FYI- there are plenty of roads through the area. You are wrong to say there is “really” just one. The locals just aren’t eager to share this info with tourists.