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Thursday, September 26, 2013

24 States in 27 Days - Day 20:

Oct. 29th, 2012, Monday: Awakening before dark we took off, back to I- 26 through Asheville then onto I-40 towards Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It was still icy cold outside, and while we were at a rest area close to the National park it snowed! It was a good day for fuzz boots and wool sweaters. We drove 23/74/441 through the town of Cherokee, stopping at a little park shelter out of the cold drizzle to make coffee with cocoa along the riverfront. 

Continuing to the Park entrance we discovered it was closed because of snow! Six inches had fallen and another five were predicted that night. So disappointing! While there we wandered the grounds and saw the cool historic farm buildings while chickens roamed around.

Then back through Cherokee, where we took the road through Maggie Valley and Dalewood - up to the top of the pass and into the snow! 

So pretty to see the deciduous hills dusted with snow! 

Onward to 276, then I-40 into Tennessee, where we took exit 440 to a gorgeous parkway lined with brilliant colored trees! We stopped several times, relishing the beauty. 

Once we dropped back down onto the main road to the Great Smokies from the Tennessee side the colorful leaves diminished and became fleeting from then on. Reaching Gatlinburg, we were blown away with how commercial it was. What a crazy over-the-top tourist trap! Heading to hwy. 321/441 north aiming for I-40 we hit Pigeon Forge and the turn off to Dollywood. We thought Gatlnburg was bad, but Pigeon Forge was way worse! Plastic town to the max! Giant tourist attractions everywhere! It was a relief when we turned onto 411/441 in Sevierville where the rest of of our trek to I-40 was much less bizarre! We wiggled our way thru Knoxville, following detours then hopped onto I-40 to Nashville. Brad really wanted to see Nashville, so we exited to the downtown.

Of course, like NYC it was straight up 5:00 - rush hour! Luckily most of the traffic was leaving town, but we still got caught in a bit of a rush hour tangle. We pulled into a parking lot, thinking we’d just quit driving around trying to find a street metered spot, then figured out the parking fee opting to  pay $8 for 12 hrs = 5:50 pm to 6:00 am. I joked with Brad we could sleep there and set our alarm for 5:30 - little did I know we actually would do just that! We were a couple blocks away from the heart of downtown, and since it was cold, and very windy I pulled on my warm coat, and we hiked downhill past the convention center.

Brad popped into a souvenir shop to look at tee shirt designs, then started talking to the shop guy about vintage clothes shops in town. He was very helpful, and gave Brad directions to several. I asked where the best barbecue was and he said just up the block at Jack’s. We left and immediately turned back towards where we’d just walked from to find a shop he’d mentioned. He’d suggested taking a taxi, but we knew we could walk it after wandering all over NYC. It was a bit of a hike, across a long bridge over a railroad area but finally we found the shop called Two Old Hippies. While Brad looked for cool western shirts, I received permission to shoot any photos I wanted of the place. 

With our purchases in a bag, we headed back downtown, ready for a good meal. Hello Jack’s BBQ! 

After dinner we wandered in and out of several bars, each with a band playing live music and no cover charge. 

We finally settled at Bootleggers Inn where a fun bluegrass band played. 

When they finished for the night, we bought a cd then walked slowly back to our truck. 

Not having a chance to explore the city in the daylight, we decided the parking lot was the best sleeping choice, so we quickly put our cooler and bags in front then climbed into bed, fully clothed and tried to sleep. Not too long after we settled garbage trucks arrived - I think they emptied 50 dumpsters nearby! Then wind gusts shook the truck making me think we might blow away as a soda can rattled and rolled across the parking lot… Was Hurricane Sandy causing a ruckus in Nashville too? 

Monday, September 09, 2013

24 States in 27 Days - Day 19:

Oct. 28th, 2012, Sunday:  Brad and I crawled out of the truck at the rest area the next morning and as we walked back from the restroom we noticed people sleeping in cars on either side of us. Wonder if they slept any better than we did? 

We took off after sips of apple juice, pulling out a banana and mandarin to eat on way. We exited at Roanoke Virginia and drove the strip, not seeing any good coffee shops. Looking for gas also, we drove into Salem, a suburb of Roanoke. Gas was only 3.16/gal, the least expensive we’d seen so far! While Brad was pumping gas I noticed a nearby Starbucks. Soon we were sitting in our truck, sipping our beverages and logging onto their wifi to check up on a few things - one of which was to see if I could find a replacement for my work shift at the gallery the coming week. 


Back on I-81, we spotted towering Kudzu covered trees that looked like giant monsters!  

We stopped at the Tennessee border info center for a little break then kept going, watching 100’s of power bucket trucks and semi’s hauling what looked like huge generators, heading north towards where Hurricane Sandy was expected to hit.   

We veered south onto I-26 across the Tennessee Appalachians then dropped into Asheville North Carolina around 2:00. 

Brad was excited to see so many cool signs in town as we drove around looking for a spot to park. For the first time on our trip we encountered poor weather. It was raining and icy cold out. My thin rain jacket did not keep me warm while we tromped around town pausing while Brad stopped often to shoot pics of signs. I kept thinking we’d warm up, but it was just way too cold and windy compared to the tee shirt weather we’d enjoyed. 

Finally we went inside an old Woolworth store which had been converted into artist booth spaces. It was great to be out of the rain.  

When we left there the rain had diminished so we continued our trek around the downtown area, me a bit less cold and grumpy, content to read menus outside restaurants while Brad collected sign photos. 

Eventually we worked our way back to where we’d parked and I happily traded my thin rain jacket for my down coat. We had dinner at Scully’s pub and hung out there for a couple of hours, once we discovered they had wifi. We sat at a table beyond the bar where excited patrons were watching football. 

A hot bowl of jerk chicken chili diminished our inner frost, while sipping a martini (me) and beer (Brad) chased away any lingering ice! Our waitress was darling, very friendly and real, and her favorite reply was “okey-dokey” as she brought our sandwiches and sweet potato fries. After leaving Scully’s we drove across town, looking for gas and trying to figure where to sleep that night. The rain had stopped and we could see the moon through light cloud cover. We took off south towards a campground we spotted on our map on North Mills River road where we pulled into a campsite in the dark. Since it was still so icy cold I ended up going to sleep wearing my down jacket beneath our two quilts.