Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for August, 2007

4. The Blue Ridge Parkway

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

After lunch on Friday, we got on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Almost immediately, we saw an overlook and stopped to check it out and take some photos. We were overwhelmed with what we saw, and that was just the beginning.

Blue Ridge Overlook VII

Us, along the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is not an efficient way to get anywhere, with a parkway-wide speed limit of 45 mph, and many sections where it’s not safe to go that fast because it’s a winding mountain road. But our friends in Charlotte had to work that day anyway, so we figured we’d take our time getting there. The section we were on had numerous tunnels, which were pretty cool. We saw a few cyclists, and I have to admit I was tempted to get the bike off the back of the car and start riding.

It was a very hot day, but we didn’t care. I was still in awe that I was in the presence of so much beauty. Then again, that’s a feeling I get every day with Sarah. The mountains were nice, too.

The Blue Ridge Parkway has overlooks very frequently, and we had to resist the temptation to stop at each and every one. Driving on it is almost like being immersed in a gigantic slideshow, passing overlooks on both sides. Looking back at our photos, they all seem to run together now, but when you’re there, the feeling is intoxicating, and each overlook takes on its own personality.

Blue Ridge Overlook V

Sarah along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Overlook VIII

Blue Ridge Overlook II

Blue Ridge Parkway - Sarah and car

At one overlook, I stood on the roof of the car (much to Sarah’s dismay) to get a better angle. You can see a photo of me on the car on Sarah’s blog.

I experimented with some infrared photography at some of the overlooks. Here are a few examples.

Infrared Blue Ridge III

Infrared Blue Ridge

Infrared Blue Ridge II

After a while, we stopped taking photos and mostly drove through. We played some Telefon Tel Aviv in the car, which is one of our favorite groups. They also happen to make incredibly gorgeous music, which was a perfect backdrop for the scenery.

We hadn’t had enough, but we had spent so much time gaping and taking photographs that if we needed to get moving. We ended up driving about 90 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and even that drive itself takes a long time.

Blue Ridge Panorama

2. First glimpse of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; 3. Indian Tacos

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

On Friday morning, we woke up and ate breakfast at the hotel. They had a pretty decent selection of food — we ended up making some waffles using the waffle iron and eating some biscuits and gravy, and probably something else as well. It wasn’t stunning, but it was pretty good, and it was free.

We checked out of the Days Inn and noticed that there is a mountain view in front of the building. It was a decent place to stay, at a reasonable price ($60), at a good location. We’ll probably stay there again on future trips to the Smokies.

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The Days Inn’s mountain view, complete with Wendy’s and Subway signs. Still, not bad …

We weren’t terribly far from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The directions I initially got had us driving along the edge of the park instead of through it, but I thought we might like to get a glimpse of the park before continuing on to Charlotte. Plus, we wanted to drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which starts (or, more accurately, ends) in Cherokee, NC. You have to go through the park to get to Cherokee, so it made sense to do it this way.

To do this, we had to drive through Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which is where a lot of people like to go for their Smokies vacations. It didn’t look at all appealing to me, with endless strip malls, hotels, and a vast array of tourist attractions, most of which had nothing to do with the mountains at all. I understand that what a lot of people want isn’t the same as what we wanted (to be close to nature and away from crap like that), but it still seemed weird to me that people go so close to so much beauty and spend their time in resorts or playing miniature golf and go-carting.

We stopped at the visitor’s center, primarily because Sarah was getting a little carsick. It was getting hot, and the air conditioning in our car doesn’t work, so the heat combined with the mountain roads was making her feel a bit sick. She felt better after a few minutes, and we continued on our way. I didn’t mind picking up a few maps and pamphlets anyway.

The drive through the Park on 441 was just awesome. I was tempted to pull off at each overlook and gape at how awesome the mountains were, but I knew if we did this, we would never reach Charlotte. Besides, we’d be back later in our trip. We decided not to stop at all during this trip through the park. It was also a very fun drive, as it’s a windy mountain road. I was a little concerned about how well the car would handle it, but we had no problems.

We listened to the Woven Hand album “Mosaic” while driving through the park. I thought the mood and atmosphere of it fit the scenery perfectly.

After driving through the park, we stopped in Cherokee, NC for lunch. We ended up eating at the “Riverside Cafe II.” Sarah had the flounder basket (which was not served in a basket), and I had an Indian Taco, which was described to me as a funnel cake (not sweet though) topped with chili, lettuce, tomato, and cheese. It wasn’t bad, but I have to wonder if it was approximating a specific Cherokee dish, and if so, what that dish really would’ve tasted like, because I’m sure this wasn’t it.

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Riverside Cafe II / Indian Tacos

We also got some coffee at a local coffee shop (my photo didn’t turn out) and headed out toward the Blue Ridge Parkway.

1. Road to Jellico

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Well, since I made a “track listing” intended to be for an album, I thought I’d use it to organize my blog posts about our vacation as well. So here we are, starting out with the first night.

We set out on Thursday night, August 16. I had taken time off work on Friday and the whole next week. We got a lot of our stuff ready on Wednesday, and Sarah had the car mostly packed by the time I got home from work on Thursday (naturally, I rode my bicycle to work). We packed a few additional items and left around 6:30 pm — earlier than we expected. Our plan was to drive to Jellico, TN, where we had reservations at a Days Inn for that night.

Once we reached I-65, it quickly became clear that the bike rack wasn’t working too well. The bikes were being blown around by the wind, and it was making me nervous. I exited the interstate and secured the bikes using some rope. I almost didn’t even bring the rope on this trip, wondering if we would need it.

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Securing the bicycles

So, we learned two valuable lessons: 1. always bring rope and 2. my bike rack is OK for small trips, but not for long trips on the Interstate.

The drive was pretty uneventful, and it got dark shortly after we entered Kentucky, so we couldn’t see the land on our way in. I could sense the land getting more mountainous and the road windier as we approached Jellico, but I really had no idea what it would look like in the morning.

The Days Inn was pretty decent, there were no problems with our reservation, and we went right to our room. We found the Bible open to Psalms.

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The Bible in our room was opened to Psalms for our benefit

I don’t know why this detail sticks out in my head, but it does. Maybe it’s the fact that I had no intention or reading the Bible, or the fact that we found the South to be every bit as religious as people seem to assume the Midwest is. There are a lot of religious people in Indiana, but it’s not as inescapable as we found it to be in the South.

We wrote some things in our journals (which I’m not even referring to now), something we would only do once or twice more. I had a lot of trouble hand-writing my thoughts. I have crappy handwriting, and I can type a lot faster than I write. For whatever reason, it wasn’t working for me.

We drank a couple of beers that we brought with us and tried to get some sleep, knowing the next day would be a long one. The Days Inn claimed to have a mountain view, but it was too dark to tell if that was true or not. We’d have to wait until morning to find out.

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