Zoder: Family's in town, and it's time to hit the attractions

Aug. 24, 2013 @ 11:15 PM

As you may remember, my sister and her family are visiting with us for the summer from Romania. Only two more weeks until their departure, so we started hitting the attractions hard, to get them all knocked out.

Methodically, we worked our way up the Parkway in Gatlinburg, starting with the Mirror Maze. I stayed outside with my daughter. She is too young for it and I have claustrophobia, so tight spaces with seemingly no way out are not exactly my thing. But my family loved it and went through it five times.

While they were getting amazed at the maze, my daughter and I were getting soaked returning from the Donut Friar. Rain poured hard and fast. The streets of Gatlinburg could not handle it. We had rain jackets on, but there was a one foot deep river as we tried to cross the street. My daughter was fine in the stroller, but I had to step into the water. Of course, the rain let up as soon as we got back to the Mirror Maze. The river of water disappeared from the street.

Our next stop was at the Guinness Book of World Records. Everybody was in discovery mode. I did not want to mention my wet shoes and socks and dampen their enthusiasm, no pun intended.

Ten feet into the museum, we started going down, down, down. Into a basement. No windows. Right then and there, I had to face my claustrophobia, choose to ignore it, and think of everybody else. I distracted myself by translating for them and lifting my daughter up in my arms so she could see the exhibits. It worked. Proof positive that focusing on helping others saves one from all sorts of personal fears and anxieties.

I liked the fact that the museum is interactive and they let you attempt to break some world records. I tried my hand at beating the world record in typing. No, I did not manage to break the actual record, but I got into world record mode – whatever that means.

Right across from the typing area is a large display of sports records. The youngest gymnastics world champion is Aurelia Dobre, a Romanian, and she set the record in 1987. I vaguely remember watching it on TV, in my parents’ living room. Back then, we were still under Communism. Who would have thought I would end up in the USA, years later, looking at that world record on a display in Gatlinburg.

Though this may no longer be the record. Right under it they featured Pete Sampras with the most Grand Slam titles and we all know Roger Federer has gotten the most. So they have not updated everything in several years, but we still learned a lot.

The following day, we hit Ober Gatlinburg. We were so busy on the rides, we skipped lunch. I was really impressed with the friendliness and professionalism of their staff, whether they were American thoroughbreds or foreign students. We even found a Romanian young man working there.

Next up, Dollywood and the Titanic. I’ll be back with glowing reports. Hopefully.