Monday, October 13, 2008


Judy and I were up at 7 and left by 8:15 in order to meet Neena and Ron at the Cracker Barrel in Lenoir City, Tennessee by 9.

Friday began our traditional fall road-trips, which usually begin when the weather cools significantly in October. The temperature Thursday night was down in the 40’s, and the high expected for Friday (10/3) was around 74, and, with the sky a deep blue, it was perfect!

After pancakes, biscuits, sourdough toast, eggs and such, we were off on our 75 mile one way tour of the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forest. The two forests are really the same stretch of wilderness, with Cherokee’s 640,000 acres lying on the Tennessee side, and Nantahala’s 531,000 acres lying on the North Carolina side of the mutual border.

Ron had actually just returned home from spending a few days camping, hiking, and kayaking inside the Indian Boundary Campground, which is located in the Cherokee National Forest area. He wanted to show “the girls” the beautiful area and some of the early fall foliage. He insisted he drive Neena’s Honda, on which he had just had about $1400 worth of work done, including new brakes all the way ‘round.

At the visitor’s information center in Tellico Plains, Tennessee, we made our first “pit stop” and shed our light jackets.

From there we made our way east on 165 to Indian Boundary Campground, and toured the camping area, looking at the spaces and noting the variety of camper types, pop-ups, normal trailers, 5th wheels, and self-contained RVs.

We are becoming interested because of Charlotte and Gary’s recent purchase and subsequent trip to Florida, in their self-contained unit.

We then made another pit-stop and started around Indian Boundary Lake. It’s a 3.5 mile round trip, but we only went to mile-marker 1.0 before turning back to the parking lot. We plan to go back in about two weeks and make the full hike to see the full peak of the fall colors.

We left Indian Boundary and headed toward the 5500’ elevation at the Tennessee/North Carolina state line, known as Huckleberry Knob. We also plan to go back there during the peak foliage weeks, and hike out to one of the nearby balds. There are several “balds” in this area (not counting Ron), all due to the high elevation, wind, and cold at this level.

On each side of highway near the top of the “knob” are tall poles with a long board protruding at a right angle out over the road. You see at least two places where the forestry service has placed these poles. Do you know what they are for?

Think about it before reading on!

I didn’t know either because I was too busy shooting flowers to read the information posted at the overlook. However, the girls did read it and finally knew something we didn’t!

There is a large population of Glaucomys volans living in this area. That’s “flying squirrels to most of us, and these poles allow them to glide across the highway safely, avoiding being flattened in to tiny furry rugs! I know! I learned something too!

However, don’t go up there looking for them unless you stay until after dark – they’re nocturnal! (You can see a picture of one if you click on the link above.)

I got several great new wildflower shots during this trip, all of which can be seen my Flickr page (either click on the Flickr badge or the Wildflower link in the sidebar).

I’m including a scan of a “dragon” I found on a map of “The Dragon” (be sure to click this link), an 11 mile stretch of Highway 129, along the border of the Smoky Mountains National Park, that has 318 curves!

Motorcyclist and sport scar enthusiasts risk life, limb, and reckless driving tickets every clear day driving the road that beckons, “Ride me if you dare!

There are several wrecks and deaths each year, on curves with nicknames like, “Pearly Gates”, “The Whip”, “The Wall”, and “Gravity Cavity!”

The dragon lady, used as a logo for “The Dragon” reminded me of our own “Dragons!” It may come in handy for future posts!

Of course, the day was filled with laughter from the back seat, which spilled over into the front! Hard as Ron and I may have tried, we couldn’t help but either laugh along with, or at, the two crazy Dragons in the back!

One story from Neena, which usually entails her view of how her older sisters abused her as a child, concerned how the power used to frequently go off in their neighborhood. Neena was probably 8 or 9, while her sisters Judy and Linda were about 5 or 8 years older.

Anyway, this particular night, the girl’s mother had fixed a big pot of pinto beans and other things, but the girls all love to eat their beans with something sweet. This night Neena had a big pile of beans and a coconut covered “snowball!” Our first introduction to appetizers,” Neena said!

You do remember “snowballs” don’t you?

They were chocolate cake with a cream filling, covered with a marshmallow like icing, usually pink in color, and sprinkled in coconut!

Well, as Neena continued, she was just about to eat her “appetizer/dessert” when the power went off. The next thing she heard was Linda whispering to Judy, “Hey Judy, feel this!

It turns out that both of Neena’s sisters were fondling the top of the snowball in her plate, and when the power came back on all the coconut had been rubbed off!

Of course you had to be there for it to be funny to you, but for some reason it hit me hard in the funny bone! I suppose I was waiting for her to say that the snowball was gone when the lights came back on, but even without the expected punch line I cracked up. The laughter spread to everyone and by the time the last one caught the laughter bug, we were all about to pee our pants!

No, this wasn’t the only moment of levity, but it was the most intense!

So, as we headed back toward home on north bound two lanes of Highway 68, toward I-75, all eyes focused in on two cars ahead of us. One had crossed the two north bound lanes was sitting in the median, while a second was sitting to our right at an intersection.

Just as we were about to pass between the two cars at about 50 to 55 mph, the woman in the Ford Ranger to our right decided to pull across. Ron had already lifted his foot from the accelerator and as she suddenly pulled into our lane, Ron made a slight right direction change in order to pass behind her if she continued across. The woman, who was close enough for us to see clearly was holding a cellphone to her left ear, realized her mistake and slammed on her brakes, stopping directly in our lane, and our path!

Ron corrected his earlier move and slammed on his brakes, sending them into anti-lock mode, and turned to the left to pass her in the left lane. As soon as the car was straight, and it was evident the woman was stopped, Ron released the brakes and we rolled on past.

I had a good close-up of her, still talking on the phone, as we passed.

With adrenalin coursing through my veins, I shouted, “Put down that damn phone you idiot! Of course she couldn’t hear me, but I had to vent!

The last thing I do the night before one of our trips, and the first thing I do the morning of a trip, is ask the Good Lord to watch over us and bring us back safely. I’m thankful of two things: the answered prayer and that Ron had gotten the brakes fixed last week!

The beers Ron and I had at Aubrey’s back in Lenoir City, helped settle our nerves. Ron had Flat Tire and I had one Yuengling, and two wheat beers.

We hadn’t eaten since breakfast that morning so by the time we ordered we were starving, although, you couldn’t tell it by looking at us!

Neena and Judy split an order of Pizza Rockefeller and Chicken Quesadillas, Ron got the Grilled Tuna sandwich, and I decided on the Peanut Crusted Catfish! It calmed us and made us very full and happy once again!

Next week we’re off to a fall festival!


Rhea said...

What a gorgeous day for a fall road trip! I loved Tennessee (eastern) when I visited there for the first time last week. I wish I could have waited a few weeks to catch the foliage down there.

Jose said...

Wow, thank God for good brakes. Other than that sounds like a most excellent road trip.

BRUNO said...

That anti-lock brake system makes one helluva strange sound when it's activated, doesn't it?!

You hafta "un-learn" the way you drove---or still drive---the older, "normal" brake systems. Or at least I did.

And I'm still "learning to forget"...!

Byron Chesney said...

Yes, it was the perfect weekend for photography. I haven't seen a flying squirrel in years. There used to be a bunch at my Granny's house that I would watch when I was a kid. Glad you made it back safe!

ajdshootist said...

Over here in the UK they have made talking on a cell phone whilst driving a crime yet still you see idiots doing it.

Not a Granny said...

Sounds like you had a lot of fun! Glad you all made it back safely!

That catfish sounds heavenly!!

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Nothin' like drivin' one of those curvy roades, in a TRAFFIC JAM. Beautiful scenery, as usual. And great lookin' food. You guys take care.

pat houseworth said...

Who says you can't have excitment when you get old?


Great stuff as usual.....

david mcmahon said...

My kinda trip, Mushy.

Grandpa-Old Soldier said...

I think I would have had a lot more to say than you did. I One of the things I have most is people talking on cell phones, and naturally it is 99.9% of the time a women. The hands free ones are just as bad. Numerous acts of roadrage and several ending up in shootings have happened here in Houston. Thank the good Lord ya'll were not injured. Oh, and it looked like a great trip. My day will come when I can relax. (retire)

catscratch said...

Yah, the curves through the mountains are scary sometimes!

I was in CA for a week and was warned that I should definitely use the bluetooth when talking/driving. I think that law is one that should be nationwide.

Sandi McBride said...

So glad you all got out alive! I love the mountains but not the highways so much lol...we had a cabin in Carroll County Virginia that sat at the top of the mountain and it was a bitch getting up and couldn't take your foot off the gas going up or off the brake going post...but it made me hungry!