September 23 (Thursday)
Getting up, we turned on the TV, engaging in what became a daily ritual for the trip. “Local on the 8’s”. Things looked OK. I can’t remember if we had breakfast, but we probably had a little something.
One of my goals during this trip was to drive in the mountains. Be careful what you wish for. It started innocently enough. Headed west out of Franklin on US 64, since I read it was scenic. That it was, and very twisty. What do you expect, in the foothills of the Smokies? Fortunately there wasn’t much traffic, being a weekday morning. We made one stop, at Bridal Veil Falls. It’s a waterfall that’s right by the side of the road, which projects out enough that you can walk behind it. Eased through Highlands and went to Cashiers. Then it was time to head north, catch US 441 again and drove over the Smokies.
Or so I thought. This was where my carefully planned itinerary started to unravel. We caught Highway 107 and headed north to Sylva. We stopped at a gas station for a pit stop, and found that we couldn’t proceed much further. The road ahead had been washed out by Hurricane Ivan, and was still impassable. We had to take a detour. I’ve been looking at maps, and think it started at Pine Creek Road.
Oh. My. God. I was so unprepared for it. There were hairpin turns and steep inclines most of the way, unlike anywhere I’d ever driven. After what seemed forever, we finally got to relatively straight and flat road. I was as close to a nervous wreck as I’ve ever been. We stopped at a little town called Speedwell, and I may have actually kissed the ground. There was a nice little convenience store, which Mom and I availed ourselves of. Then we continued northward.
But not over the Smokies. After that, I didn’t think I’d enjoy going over the mountains. We went up to US 23, then west until we caught US 441 again. Where it turned north, I continued west on US 74. I still wanted to see more of the Smokies, and one of my travel books talked about the Cherohala Skyway, which sounded manageable. We continued on to US 129, through Robbinsville, and got on the Skyway.
Which I began to regret, as it was a very steep ascent. I kept thinking the engine was going to give out and we were going to roll backward over a cliff. Finally, we got to the high point, Santeetlah Gap. I stopped and had a walk, to de-stress and just enjoy the view. Then we continued.
If anything, downhill was worse. I was riding the brakes, and was afraid they’d give out. And we’d roll down hill over a cliff. You’re sensing a theme, aren’t you? Well, we made it to level ground eventually, much to our relief. Oddly, there was no sign marking us entering Tennessee. Maybe Ivan knocked it down.
There were some hills and turns on the roads, but nothing as severe as before. I could actually enjoy the trip again. We headed north until we got to Knoxville. We stopped and I remember calling someone, but not who. I’d gotten a cell phone with bought minutes, because at the time I wasn’t interested in one with a plan.
We were by I-40, which was my intention. It was getting late, so I got on the interstate and headed west. I’d only made hotel reservations for one part of the trip, and that was Nashville. We got there and checked in. If memory serves, we had dinner, and we got so much that we had leftovers. They served as munchies for the next couple of days.