While we were in Gatlinburg, something happened that I am having problems comprehending. As I probably mentioned before, I wanted to see a black bear and get pictures of it in the wild. If I had actually had a chance to do that, I would have at least been cautious. They recommend that you stay back 50 yards from the bears. I don’t know if I would have been that far, but what these people did was ridiculous. These are wild animals!
The trolley stop was directly across from our motel. We had originally thought that we would ride it to just see an overview of the sights. Instead, we had a meeting to attend. We drove there not realizing that it would have been a nice walk through downtown. Because we got there 45 minutes early, we decided to walk around. We saw many of the interesting things that are available to do, although I had come to see the nature, not to do the touristy-type things. I took pictures to share with you of many of the things available to do, although we did not do any of them. After the meeting, we dropped the car off at the motel and headed back to the strip. We ate Chinese food and sampled some wine. We eventually bought some strawberry wine, which I had never had before and some chocolate caramel fudge, which I just couldn’t resist. I took more pictures and after hanging around town for quite a while, we headed back to the room so that we could leave early the next morning. Apparently, the hike up the mountain to the Falls the day before was starting to catch up with both of us.
So to answer the question: no, we didn’t end up taking any of the trolleys even though they cover many areas of town, not just downtown, and also areas in Pigeon Forge, a nearby town.
Friday morning we got up and left about 6:30am. We took a slight jog off the road in Memphis to see where Beale Street was, but decided not to spend the night like we originally planned, but to keep on driving. We ended up driving all the way home and arrived about 8:30pm. It was a long day, but a very enjoyable trip.
As a side note, during the entire trip, we saw license plates from forty-four states and three Canadian provinces.
To set the record straight, I get very nervous on winding switchback mountain roads. But the roads in Tennessee are probably about as good as you will ever get, not only in that situation, but in general. So even though it was raining, we headed off for the Cades Cove Loop. Cades Cove is in a relatively flat area between mountain ridges in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, according to the tour booklet. The drive is an eleven mile loop that showcases some of the most beautiful scenery, wildlife and history in the area. This information comes from the tour booklet: Cades Cove was a farming community. There were essentially five gravel roads that the settlers used to come and go from the area. Many of these are now used as hiking trails. The National Park has over a hundred trails spread throughout the area. In the Cove, there are over 80 historic buildings. Several historic churches were in the community: Primitive Baptist Church, Methodist Church, and the Missionary Baptist Church. There are many forms of wildlife in the park, although I think you would have to hike in the park, not just drive the eleven mile loop, to see most of them. We did see deer, wild turkeys and almost saw some bears. By the time we arrived, the park ranger was heading back to his car and the bears were gone.
On the way back, we stopped at several of the pullovers. These are paved areas that cars can park or stop in to let other cars pass them or to take pictures or just get out to see the scenery. Along the way, I got out to take a picture of the creek running next to the road. While there and looking further back into the woods, I noticed a small waterfall. Then further on, we stopped at a larger waterfall called The Sinks. We pulled over and took pictures several times until we reached Laurel Falls.
I am not able to hike very much due to problems with my ankle. However, this is one of the shortest hikes in the area 1.3 miles to the falls and 1.3 miles back. We decided to tackle this hike. As long as I can take my time, I’m usually able to do things. On the way up the trail, some teenagers about 30 feet ahead of us saw a bear cub right before he scampered away. Of course, we missed that one too. On the way down from the falls, we heard this strange noise. We asked a park volunteer what it was, and he said that it was probably a baby bear calling for its mom. The brush was very thick around there, and we couldn’t see it. The falls were spectacular. Not the largest ones I have ever seen, but quite beautiful.
By the time that we got down from the hike, it was about 3:30pm. We ate lunch/supper and headed for the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in the middle of Gatlinburg, actually almost directly across from our motel. Not far after we began ascending the trail, there was another traffic jam. Unfortunately, we were about seven cars back and two vehicles in front of us were two very rude motorcyclists. Yes, it was a bear that everyone wanted to see. But the motorcyclists were in a hurry and kept reving their engines. Eventually, they turned around and left, but not before scaring the bear away. So there was my third close encounter that never happened. By the time we descended the trail, it was dark, and we were very tired. It had been a very interesting, event-filled day!
My daughter and granddaughter that I usually travel with were supposed to come with us, but my daughter ended up with strep throat; so they could not come on this trip. My husband and I haven’t done a trip, just the two of us, for a while.
So early Monday morning, we left on our adventure. Our first stop was the Buc-ees in Royce City, Texas. After seeing the signs advertising this location, we decided it would be a good stop, especially since they seem to have a sense of humor. One of the things we do to entertain ourselves on trips is to see how many different state license plates we can see. Before we had even left the state of Texas, we saw twenty different states. This was in the first one hundred and seventy-seven miles.
The border between Texas and Arkansas is in the middle of Texarkana. At first, the bridges across the highway have a Texas insignia on them. Suddenly, you notice that the insignia changes to an Arkansas state picture. After crossing into Arkansas, we started seeing cotton fields. Some of them had already been harvested, and some were in the process of being harvested. We also saw some silos and the Arkansas River. In the distance we could see a bridge spanning the St. Francis River.
The border of Arkansas and Tennessee is the middle of the Mississippi River. We crossed the bridge over the river and entered into Memphis, Tennessee. Besides the huge bridge spanning the river, the first thing you see is a Bass Pro Shop shaped like a pyramid. We stopped at the Welcome Center alongside the river to get some pictures. The famous St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital is also located in Memphis and can be seen from the road as you drive through the city. We ate a late lunch at a Cracker Barrel at a small town outside of Memphis. In the parking lot of the restaurant we saw our first trees that were showing bright signs of Autumn. Although there were cotton fields in Arkansas, Tennessee had many more fields that were much larger. The fields were so white that they almost looked snow-covered as we zipped past them.
Around 7PM Central Daylight Time we arrived in Nashville. It is a much larger city than I expected with many lights. The traffic was terrible, even this late. It reminded us of driving in Houston.
As we continued our journey, we could not help but notice the beautiful moon in the sky above. It was almost, but not quite, a full moon. It spread light all across the area. Unfortunately, the nighttime pictures from the car didn’t come out well at all.
We debated whether or not we wanted to drive all the way to Gatlinburg. I had done some research and decided that we might not be able to find a room in the area because this is one of the busiest times of the year in that area. My husband had no idea that it would be as busy as it was, but he took my suggestion to stop in Crossville, Tennessee. We had a very peaceful night at the Super 8 motel, and we were only a couple of hours from our destination.
Tuesday morning we were up, had breakfast and were on the road by 6:30am. As soon as we crossed into the next county the time zone changed, making it an hour later. Before long, we passed the exit for Oak Ridge, Tennessee. I’m sure that there are many wonderful things there, but I know that one of my son-in-law’s mother lives there and that the country music group “The Oak Ridge Boys” are from there. We stayed on interstate 40 and drove through Knoxville. From there, we cut down and drove through Sevierville, where we visited a covered bridge.
After leaving the bridge, we drove through Pigeon Forge and around Gatlinburg to the Sugarlands Visitor Center. It is one of the entrances to the Smokey Mountains National Park. While visiting there, we learned some information about what to do in the park and headed out. Since it was supposed to rain the next day, we decided to try to get some of the interesting things in the higher elevations done this day.
We drove up a mountain to Newfound Gap, where we were in both Tennessee and North Carolina at the same time.
Then we continued up the mountain trail to Clingman’s Dome. This is the highest elevation ( 6,643 feet) in Tennessee and also in The Smokey Mountain National Park. The only problem that we encountered here was that apparently, many other people had the same idea about avoiding the next day’s weather, and we ended up in a terrible traffic jam because there is not enough parking at the top of this mountain. We sat in traffic for about an hour. Then, my husband said: “Get out and take pictures in case I can’t find a parking space.” So I jumped out and took the pictures while he circled around the parking lot looking for a space. After about twenty minutes that it took him to get back to where I was, he told me to jump back in the car, and we drove down the mountain. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to see the sights from there, but he was very happy to look at my pictures and to get out of that traffic.
We decided to head to the motel to try to figure out what to do next and to see if we could check in early. This was about 2:30pm. We followed the directions on WAZE, which routed us onto River Road because the traffic on Parkway was so bad. I can’t imagine how it was any worse than on River Road. We arrived at the Greystone Lodge on the River just about check-in time. The river was just about dry because the town has been in a drought. In 2016, the Gatlinburg area had a devastating fire that destroyed much of the forest in the area and killed several people. We were told that the fire was stopped on the hill directly behind our room.
After supper, we went back to our room where we sat on the balcony just watching the sights below. One interesting thing is that there were no mosquitoes. I attract them like crazy, and I didn’t see a single one. Another interesting thing was that as we sat on our fifth floor balcony, we could look through the leaves of a huge tree and see cars driving up mountain roads that were above our level.
After about an hour, we went into our room and went to sleep. We didn’t realize just how tired we were, and we had a very busy day scheduled the next day – rain or no rain.
I owe everyone an explanation about why I have been somewhat silent this past week. Last Monday, my husband and I left for a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Gatlinburg is an amazing place. There is something for everyone. If you like the hustle and bustle of the city, downtown Gatlinburg is for you. Traffic is backed up for blocks and blocks. Although once you are able to park your car, you can walk to most places or take the trolley. There are shows, exhibits and foods of all kinds. This week, there was a craft fair being held in the convention center.
If being out in nature is more of your thing, you can’t find a better location. From anywhere in town, you can see the Smokey Mountains. By driving out of town just a short distance, you can not only see spectacular views of the mountains, but also waterfalls, wildlife, if you are lucky, and wooden bridges. One of the main things I wanted to do there was to see a black bear in the wild. I will tell you about it in a future post, but unfortunately, I didn’t get to see one.
First, I have to explain the traffic. It isn’t always like this, but October is the peak tourist season. People flock to this location to see the leaves changing color for Autumn. Even though we saw some beautiful colors, we were not there for the main leaf changes . The changes were just beginning. There were more yellows, and even some of the leaves have started to drop. This year, there has been a drought, and the weather has been much warmer than usual. It is quite possible that a cold front will blow through and many of the leaves will fall off the trees. This would shorten the season of color. However, presently, the red leaves are just starting to turn.
In the upcoming week, I will post articles about this trip. I tried to keep up with moderating my blog and comments on my phone, although I can’t really do that very well. So please forgive me if I missed anyone. I had to delete all the emails I got because I had so many I would never have caught up with them. I should be back for a while now and will try to do better with keeping up with everything. Thanks for your patience.
Please understand that many of my pictures were taken through the car windows. Sometimes there were just not places to pull off the road to take pictures. But I did take some from the locations we stopped to see the sights.
We stopped in El Paso, Illinois to attend Mass. The church was St. Mary’s and the sign in front of it said that this was the church that Archbishop Fulton Sheen was baptized at.
We drove on through Missouri to Joplin and cut down on I 49 to sleep at my middle daughter’s house. Her family lives in Northwest Arkansas. The drive down I 49 was beautiful, although hard to see in the dark. We would get another chance to see it the next morning on our way to Wichita, Kansas. I had never thought of Kansas as very appealing. It always seemed to be just flat land that went on forever. But eastern Kansas is nothing like western Kansas. There are rolling hills and lots of stockponds. The wind was very strong. After picking up a dog in Wichita, we headed due south on I 35. We went through Oklahoma City, the Arbuckle Mountains and Turner Falls area, Ardmore and Marietta. Then we crossed back into Texas. We spent the night in my house, and I got to sleep in my own bed!!
The next morning we continued our reverse of the areas we had driven and finally got back to Michigan. Even this far north, the leaves have not started changing except in very small patches. We picked up a Mastiff puppy and headed to Wisconsin. At first, it was just very windy, but then the rain started. It was not too bad for most of the trip, especially when we were sitting in traffic for about an hour because of a wreck ahead of us. But once we were alongside of Chicago, the rain got really bad. We could hardly see the markings for the lanes. We pulled over once, and when it finally let up, we continued our drive to Plymouth, Wisconsin. The puppy was very happy to be out of the cage, and he seemed to enjoy his new home and owners, who were very happy to see him.
There was an event going on in Plymouth and we couldn’t find a motel for just one night so we drove to Sheboygan. We were all tired and slept really hard. We woke up to a sunny, cool day. We needed jackets for the first time on the trip. Today was a rest day. So we checked out what there was to do, and we found Deland Park. It was amazing! As we drove up, we could see huge kites flying above the park. There were all sorts of kites. There was a marina right near the parking lot, and near the outer banks of the marina, there was a real lighthouse. There was also a beach with one person sitting there in his swimsuit after walking out into the water. Everyone else in the area had on jackets and coats. The park had three playgrounds in the area and a Lao, Hmong and American Veterans Memorial to commemorate “the service and sacrifice of the Hmong people of Laos who fought for the United States during the Secret War from 1961-1975, part of the Laotian Civil War”, according to Wikipedia.
After leaving Deland Park, we stopped and ate at Harry’s Diner which was reminiscent of the 50s. We thought it would be more lunch food, but it was actually a breakfast place. At first, the prices looked high, but when they brought out the food, there was so much that we were glad that we decided to split the meal three ways.
After eating, we were back on the road. We stopped for the night in Minock, Illinois.
Wednesday morning, we woke up in Atlantic, Iowa to a beautiful, sunny, 55 degree morning. The motel had an indoor pool so my granddaughter got to swim before we left for the day. Once on the road again, we headed for Nebraska. The news said that there had been five tornadoes during the night from Iowa to Wisconsin. Apparently, Wisconsin got the worse of it. We stopped in Lincoln, Nebraska. We looked for somewhere to go to walk around and get a little exercise. We found a beautiful place called the Sunken Gardens. It had some sculptures and gorgeous flowers. Because we are having a late Autumn this year, very few leaves have changed colors. However, this place has so many plants that are all displaying fall colors.
After a relaxing evening, we left Lincoln and drove to Hebron, where we picked up a Great Dane puppy. He is huge, but only four months old. He was so scared. His tail was between his legs, and he was shaking. We are basically driving the reverse of the route we took to get here. I noticed several things that are different up here from down south. When they are doing construction on the road, they sometimes have something called a zipper merge. The construction is in the middle and cars split and go on both sides of it. Another thing we saw was fields and fields of bright yellow crops. I looked it up and think that it was rapeseed, used to make canola oil. The final thing I noticed is that in the northern part of the country, there are many more traffic circles than we have in the south. I hardly know of any traffic circles around home.
I decided to go on this trip with my daughter somewhat at the last minute. Usually, I plan things out well in advance. This time I thought about it and pretty much just decided to go. So after posting pictures for my challenges, I packed up and left. The first day, we left about 10am. We ate lunch at Steak and Shake in Mc Alester, Oklahoma and continued to follow the same road through Muscogee and on to Missouri. We picked up a precious eight week old Cane Corso puppy who was really scared. She shook a whole lot but actually was very good.
The next morning we got up early. We drove through St. Louis and took pictures of the Arch through our bug-studded windshield. We crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois, and immediately the traffic seemed to ease up. One thing that I noticed is that there are lots of semis with Canadian license plates on the road up here. Later that day we drove through Indiana, where the time zone changed, and into Ohio. It was getting late so we stopped for the night.
Tuesday morning, we drove to a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. As you drive into the city, there are numerous oil storage tanks and refineries. We got a glimpse of the “Bridge to Canada.” Unfortunately, I don’t have a passport or card; so we couldn’t cross over into Canada. I have actually been there before, when I was a child. My daughter and granddaughter have never been there yet. We continued our drive passing through Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, and Grand Rapids. We crossed back into Indiana and found a nice spot to pull over to see Lake Michigan. Then we went into Illinois and Iowa . As we are driving I start taking pictures of this gorgeous sunset. As beautiful as it was, I had a strange feeling that this was not a good thing. My daughter’s map app locked up, and we missed our exit to deliver this cute little Cocker Spaniel, who had been so nervous that he got car sick. We noticed our mistake as we passed the exit. So we took the next exit, which took us down several dirt roads with deer all along the sides of the roads. It was dark by now, and we were getting very concerned about the weather. We dropped off the puppy and began looking for a safe place, because there was a tornado warning, and they were expecting dollar-sized hail. The first place we came to was a small gas station. We parked under the awning and the gentleman inside came running out. He told us if we wanted to protect the car from the hail, we should park on the other side of the pumps because of the direction the storm was coming from. So we moved the car and went inside. He proceeded to tell us that the station wasn’t a very safe place because of all the windows, and that we really hadn’t picked a very good place if there was a tornado. So we asked where the nearest town was. It was seven miles away. Since nothing was going on yet, we drove there and found a Walmart. At least it wouldn’t have many windows. At first there were very few people in the store. But as the minutes ticked by, people started trickling in to seek refuge from the storm. Several drivers of fully loaded cattle trucks came in and said the wind was shaking their trucks so badly that they had to get off the road. We stayed there about an hour until there was a break in the weather. We drove across the street to a motel where we got the very last room. Someone came in after us and said that there was flooding down the road, and they couldn’t get to the only other motel in town. Unfortunately, they didn’t get a room.