Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Big Ridge State Park, Maynardsville, Tennessee

Started the day in Clinton, South Carolina, at 8:00 a.m.

Checked out the breakfast array. After taxes, the Hampton Inn & Suites cost $101. Ouch. This is already our fourth stay in a hotel, though Jeff said he only intended, or "budgeted", three nights during this trip.

I faxed off a request to my bank for the transfer of another $10k to my checking account.

We're officially "heading north again."

***

Midnight

We're settled into Big Ridge State Park, near Maynardsville, TN. Arrived here via a maze of rural roads, climbing hills in slow hairpin curves. Jeff was at his wits end navigating in the dark, not knowing where the hell we were going. It was my fault: I had mixed up campgrounds, thinking Big Ridge was where I had stayed last year. But nothing looked familiar. I just assumed we were approaching it from a different direction.

Only as we arrived at the park, did I realize this was not the same place. A look at the map and it became obvious: I camped at Panther Creek State Park last time, some 30 miles away. But it may turn out for the best. Depending on our route to Buffalo, this park may be nearer our intended track.

Following a GPS, I don’t question things much, and rarely consult the map. It becomes a bad habit. But there had already been several battles of "the GPS versus the map" today, where I insisted on pulling over and consulting the map because I didn't trust what the GPS was telling us. (I swear I’ll never have one.)

***

Earlier this evening, we ate dinner at a "Texas Roadhouse" restaurant on the north side of Knoxville. I had suggested he “should” try it. After my experience in Brownsville, Texas, I figured it was a "good fit" for anyone in our family. We tried calling Jess (voice mail), Priscilla (voice mail), Kellie (voice mail), Drew (successful!), then Kellie again (successful!)

Good fried chicken and mashed potatoes!

Leaving the restaurant, the GPS directed us south and east when I knew we should be going north and west. After several miles, we were back where we had started. It did not know there was a freeway on-ramp right outside the restaurant.

***

Jeff was just sitting in his tent. “I’m sweating like a pig!” I suggested he go take a shower. He finally borrowed my sandals and trudged off to the bath house.

Just an hour ago, he was telling Drew we were “having fun”. Now, he’s hating life. It’s difficult for me to deal with it.

***

Around mid-day, we made our way to the Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort in North Carolina and hung out with the bikers for a short time. Then it was time to take Jeff over the "Tail of the Dragon". We rode quite conservatively, familiarizing ourselves with the turns. Ran down the mountain into Tennessee for 11 miles, then turned around and cruised back up to the resort.

"Okay, I'm satisfied." Jeff was content with our little cruise along this famous motorcyclist's destination. I couldn’t believe it! We had driven all this way for a 30-minute ride? I didn’t dare dwell on it. It would drive me nuts. At the Deal's Gap store, he bought some souvenirs for Matt (a key chain and t-shirt.)

Well, as a concession to me, he agreed to take a ride over the Cherohala Skyway, a much broader and more scenic highway that climbs over the spine of the Unicoi Mountains to Telico Plains.

Having lost an opportunity for further motorcycling "action shots", I leave it to the pros to give us a little taste of the "Tail of the Dragon":


(Full screen recommended! Click here to link to Google Videos.)

And just for fun, here's another. This gives a little better feel of the total experience.



(Whew!)

In retrospect, it was probably a providential decision to leave Deal's Gap behind. My brakes are in very bad shape, especially for downhill braking – it’s getting dangerous!

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