Time for the return leg back to DC. Goodbye to the South and thanks y’all!
An epic drive today. Could have been more epic as we had intended to do the entire route via the Blue Ridge Parkway but, once it became apparent that this would cause us to miss our homeward flight in a week’s time, we diverted onto interstates for part of the route.
The Blue Ridge Parkway itself is as scenic as you might expect, but dangerously so. Not only is it distracting, but there is an urge to stop at every overlook, which would extend the journey time beyond the end of the universe. To be honest, it all looks very similar and, although it is quite spectacular with layers of mountains gradually fading into the distance, I don’t think that the camera will do it justice. Still, this country has far too much space and too much scenery!
I couldn’t help thinking about the Waltons and Laurel & Hardy as we drove through. Just looked it up and we are not far from the Walton’s museum – I think they have the original farmhouse used in the TV series. Little too close to Charlottesville for comfort though and Ethan has no idea what the Walton’s was all about.
We have probably seen more of rural America today than on any of our other trips. Lots of it looks very pleasant and patriotic (I can’t imagine seeing that sort of concentration of flags outside houses in the UK). Other parts look a little more sinister with menacing looking shacks and imagined sheds full of meat hooks. We were both a little concerned when the sat nav threw a wobbly in Arse End, Virginia.
There are of course some great place names. I was somewhat disappointed, given that I know there is a theme park containing a full-size replica of Noah’s Ark, that is wasn’t on Mount Ararat Hill as we drove through.
We resisted (well mostly) the urge for juvenile humour at Rocky Knob and by the time we passed through Back Creek after almost 10 hours of driving, it sounded oddly prophetic.
A day of contrasts today. We are perched in the hills high above Pigeon Forge, living in the lap of luxury…
Down in Pigeon Forge, life does not seem to run at the same slow pace. Imagine Skegness and Blackpool combined, throw in a little Vegas showmanship and overdo it in the way that only Americans can, and you will have some idea of what Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are like. As far as I can make out, Pigeon Forge is where the larger attractions are and the all-you-can-eat sing-along-ho-down-diner-barns (Americans love their barns!) and Gatlinburg is more arcades, souvenir shops and catering for the hard-core drinkers with the moonshine tasting experiences. My cold had reached the level where I couldn’t smell anything, but the moonshine bars managed to break through that – although I sensed it first with my eyes!
Sunday breakfast in Pigeon Forge was quite an experience. I suspect that on top of the tourists, it may be an occasion for folk to come down from the hills. Nuff said.
From Pigeon Forge we drifted into the Smokies proper and up to Clingmans Dome – the highest point in the east Smokies I am reliably informed. The majestic views were somewhat veiled. I can’t help but think that sometimes things can be a little too smoky!
Ethan, of course, is still looking forward to meeting the creators of these that we keep seeing everywhere…
The trees are full of them and we can’t figure out whether each is the work of one spider or a colony. Not sure which is worse.
And just when I was feeling bad about once again stereotyping folk, this turned up at the cabin below us…
I seem to be coming down with Ethan’s cold now and could probably do without a long drive, but needs must.
First stop of the day – further into the back of beyond than we would generally like – is the Georgia Guidestones. This is a sort of mini Stonehenge commissioned by an anonymous donor, wanting to spread his message to humanity in multiple different languages. Much beloved of all the mystery and conspiracy shows, I felt it had to be worth a visit. Most of the message makes perfect sense, although the first few have been interpreted in some quarters as some iffy eugenics scheme.
From here we drifted on to Tallulah Falls. This is where Deliverance was filmed – although you would never know it from the information in the visitor centre. Apparently, they don’t like to draw attention to it. Not a single mention of purty mouths – very disappointing! Anyway, as I didn’t have my crossbow with me, we decided to skip the long hike up the trail in the heat and settled for an ice cream instead. How intrepid are we?
From here, a long, slow, tortuous drive up into the Smoky Mountains and our cabin above Pigeon Forge. This genuinely is purty and I’m typing this sat in a rocking chair on the balcony overlooking this view…