Monday, June 30, 2008

Day 2: Smoky Mountains!

Miles driven today: 115
Total miles driven: about 350
Miles per gallon on the first tank: 28.08
Number of times Courtney has gone to sleep in the car: 0

We got up early (6:30) for a run about Asheville. It's a beautiful city. I think what's most remarkable is the gorgeous architecture. It just seems like cities aren't as adventurous today with their buildings. Or, if they are, they end up looking like that ugly 1970s cement stuff. Anyway, the weather was wonderful - a little north of 70 degrees.

After our run we hit the hotel gym for a few minutes, then got ready to go. At around 9 we got to the Dripolator, a cozy coffee shop just south of downtown. We did a couple hours of work for our new jobs before they kicked us out (not literally, but we got kicked off of their free wifi after two hours). We got some solid work done.

For lunch we went back to the Grove Park Inn. Courtney begged me to go to the Sunset Terrace restaurant, and I'm glad we did. We shared a salmon BLT and a mixed greens salad. Both were delicious, and the view couldn't be beat.

The driving today wasn't all that far, but it was on windy mountain roads, so we took our time. Passing through the small towns on the way to Smoky Mountains National Park was exciting. They were littered with kitschy campgrounds and small-time theme parks. It was America at it's best, and a primer for our eventual destination, Gatlinburg. Some people are turned off by the tourist traps, but it kind of refreshes me. I think it's testament to the freedom and diversity we have in America. Sure, it's kind of ugly, but beautiful on a non-aesthetic level. You sure don't come across this kind of stuff in France. It's remarkable that there's a market for it all.

We gave some serious thought to visiting the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, NC, but we decided to get on into the National Park instead. At the entrance of the park was a well-done replication of a mountain farm village. All of the buildings were original and were relocated to that spot. It was neat seeing how many different crops can be grown in this temperate climate.

Driving through the park was relaxing. The nature of the mountain highway only allows you to go about 40 mph, so we cruised along leisurely. The temperature varied from 64 degrees to about 75, depending on our elevation. The views were really unique. There's a haze that hangs over the mountains (hence the "Smokies" moniker) that Wikipedia tells me is from the hydrocarbons released by the vegetation. The deep green of the trees next to the blue skies also give the mountains a blue aura - which is why the neighboring range is called the Blue Ridge.

Popping out of the park to the north ran us right through Gatlinburg. Wow, what a site! It was like a one-mile stretch straight out of Pinocchio's Pleasure Island (minus the drunk kids). There's a fun park on every corner, with everything imaginable in between - wax museums, Ripley's Believe-it-or-not, an aquarium, you name it. It was once again a celebration of America - a paradoxical example both of all that is wonderful and all that is wrong with this country. A veritable feast for the senses!

We hurried through town (well, as fast as traffic would allow), to get to the Buckhorn Inn, our first bed and breakfast of the trip. What a contrast it was to the glitz of town. The inn is situated in the foothills of the Smokies, surrounded by pine and hemlock. It has an incredible view from the back porch and is as tranquil as can be. I give it a five stars.

Dinner, on the other hand, wasn't as inspiring, but you can't win em' all. It being Monday night, we retired to our room to watch the second-to-last episode of The Bachelorette.


Marvin Owen said...

I love the pictures. What a great way to journal your trip. Reminds me that it's often not the destination but the journey getting there that creates the memories. I would say you have been successful so far in your journey. Oops now where did I borrow that from???

Love, Mom O.

Mom said...

What great pictures! And what a great way to journal your trip. Reminds me that often it is not the destination but the journey that is so memorable. Sounds like you have been successful so far with your journey. Oops, now where did I borrow that from???

Love, Mom O
And it only took 6 tries to do this.