After the last bits of packing, we had coffee with Rick and Roxanne, gave Sprocket a bath, and hit the road. We headed up the Foothills Parkway towards Great Smoky Mountain National Park. When we stopped for gas in Townsend we were pleasantly surprised to find out that the park roads through Cades Cove were not closed for repaving as we had thought.
Having plenty of time to kill before arriving at Chris’s house in North Carolina, I convinced Forrest to drive the 11 mile loop road. I really enjoyed seeing the old cabins and fields. The Cable Mill grist mill was really cool–they still actually make corn meal there and sell it in the gift shop. After we (finally?) got out of Cades Cove we took the winding road up the river to the main entrance at Gatlinburg. We decided to check out Gatlinburg before heading up the mountain. Gatlinburg is a tourist trap to end all tourist traps–but it’s kind of a sight to see. We grabbed a loaf of bread and some chocolate milk and headed for the hills.
The road to Newfound Gap (5,084′) was pretty unremarkable. The view from the top was pretty but my visit to that parking lot was made by the older couple who walked up to congratulate us on keeping our Cherokee in such nice shape. We did cross into North Carolina though, another new state for me! Cruising down the other side of the mountain, we found the entrance to the 469 mile Blue Ridge Parkway. We cruised along the parkway and stopped to hike Waterrock Knob and pick up a map at it’s visitors center. After that, we kept on rolling up towards Mt. Pisgah.
The parkway was closed due to a rock slide just north of Mt. Pisgah, so we took North Carolina 151 out towards Asheville. In Asheville, we found some internet and decided to hit up the Wedge Brewing Co. It was this fantastically funky brewery with some pretty darn good beer. We had their Iron Rail IPA and Payne’s Pale Ale. Both were quite good and we enjoyed hanging out on the patio and making friends with the locals!
After our beers we headed back towards the parkway and camped out just north of US 70.
Forrest left me to douse the fire and read Ghost Rider while he went for a real ride. Sprocket and I pretty much took the day easy as I couldn’t drag him out of the cool cabin and I couldn’t put down the book.
Forrest went riding with Rick and friends. “It was fun. It was 160 miles of dirt all mixed up.” In the evening, Roxanne made a fabulous BBQ dinner with pasta salad, chicken, and corn on the cob. Everything was fantastic! Forrest and I headed back up to the cabin later and packed the jeep to move on to the Blue Ridge Parkway!
We spend cinco de mayo hanging out around the cabin. We had hoped to go kayaking on the lake in the morning but the wind was blowing pretty hard. We settled for a hike through the property. It was fun until we found ourselves turned back by an onslaught of bugs. Sprocket ran along with us gamely even though he had already gone on a long walk with Roxanne, Black Dog, and Girl Dog earlier!
Back at the cabin, Forrest cut down some more trees which meant piling up branches to be burned and moving around the trees that he’d felled into ditches. Wielding a chainsaw on property where he was allowed to build trails was entirely too much for Forrest so “we” built a trail to the top of the hill behind the cabin (I moved sticks and supervised Sprocket). There wasn’t much up there but Forrest’s trail building appetite was temporarily sated so it was a success.
We hung out with Rick a bit more and then took a drive. We drove up along Chilowee Lake to Happy Valley Road with a brief detour through the tiny town of Tallassee. At the “Top of the World,” we turned south on the Foothills Parkway and headed for Rick’s. We made a brief stop at Alex’s house but found he wasn’t home. Nevertheless Forrest fixed his riding lawnmower for him before going up to Rick’s.
After dinner and another selection from the fun 6-pack we assembled at the store a few days back (see next post), we took the golf cart back over to Alex’s and hung out with him and his son Eric for a while.
In the morning, F did some work on the jeep, just checking things out at the halfway point in our trip to prevent problems down the road. I took that opportunity to do some more job searching. After he’d finished with the jeep, we headed back up to the cabin. We put in the AC unit, changed out the shower head, washed the windows, and just did some maintenance that needed to be done. We also did some rearranging to make it feel a bit more spacious. Forrest also fired up the chainsaw and cut down some dead trees on the property.
After all that work, we loaded up Sprocket in the golf cart and headed over to the lake for some swimming. Sprocket walked right down the dock, got to the end, saw the water and walked right in. He panicked a bit when he realized he couldn’t haul himself out but once he realized that’s what we were there for he gladly jumped off the end to fetch sticks! I jumped in and had kind of forgotten how cold lakes can be–took my breath away for a second!
In the evening F helped Rick with some of his bikes and then we headed into town to pick up some groceries for the next couple of days we’re here and some more snack/camp food for when we hit the road Friday morning. Back at the cabin, I made some pasta on the campstove before we crashed.
We finally drug ourselves out of bed at 8:30 and headed into Maryville so I could go to the library to use internet and a printer to get some job applications out. We also hit up Home Depot for a few odds and ends to help Rick spruce up the little cabin on the hill.
Back at the house, F helped Rick and Alex with valve adjusts on their bikes. It wasn’t long before the guys took off on a ride (Forrest says, “Zoom, zoom, zoom.” He got to ride the new GasGas 450). I stayed at the house to look for more job openings–and I baked an apple pie. By the time the guys got back, it was getting late. We relaxed on the front porch with leftovers for dinner, followed by coffee, and finally pie.