90ish days of summer
This post comes about two weeks late — but better late than never, right?
I actually have four more posts I really need to write after I complete this one. Oops. That’s what I get for not writing in the past two weeks…
On our drive back from the four-day music extravaganza that is Bonnaroo, Jeff and I took an alternate route from Manchester, Tenn., back to Silver Spring. Whereas on our way to Tennesee, we took a pretty direct course, we decided to go the scenic route — through Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
From Silver Spring to Manchester:
From Manchester to Silver Spring:
The scenic route was also about four hours longer than the direct course. But it was completely worth it.
Our first step off the beaten path was outside of Knoxville, when we began the drive down US-71 between Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. This stretch of 15 miles was, unexpectedly, the biggest lovefest combination of As Seen on TV products, kitschy tourist trap attractions and gimmicky mountain hamlets I’ve ever seen in my life. Also: PANCAKES. EVERYWHERE.
Seriously. We saw restaurants advertising pancakes every mile of the way. This obsession with the admittedly delicious breakfast vittles resumed after we emerged from the Smokies and found ourselves in the midst of a Cherokee reservation in North Carolina.
But now I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to Tennessee!
I was driving, so Jeff was responsible for the photographic evidence of how ridiculous Sevierville-Pigeon Forge-Gatlinburg are.
Then, all of a sudden, we were in the Smokies.
This was my first time in the Appalachians. Unfortunately, we were running short on time — we knew this alternate route would add a few hours to our travel time — so we didn’t do much beyond stop at the viewpoints and take photos.
It was very green. I’d never seen so much green before I came to this side of the Mississippi this summer.
Then, we entered North Carolina.
At the same viewpoint/rest stop/what-have-you, we also found the Appalachian Trail.
We continued on our way.
I’d like to pause now and point out…
- All the photos I took that are in this post (i.e., those whose captions do not end with “Photo by Jeff”) were shot on Fuji Superia Reala 100 film.
- As always, you can view more photos HERE.
Some other notes about the trip back to Silver Spring:
- North Carolina’s highwayside maintenance is a little inconsistent. At some points, the sides were really well manicured, with neatly-planted plots of flowers, shrubs and trees adding a colorful splash to the passing landscape. At other points, the grass hadn’t been mown in probably months and the weeds were overgrown. When I first noticed this, I inquired into stimulus dollars — at which Jeff responded that highwayside maintenance would be the first to get the axe in the event of state budget cuts. Which is reasonable, but that doesn’t explain the very nicely-kept gardens at certain points of I-40.
- I have this thing about fog. I think it’s really pretty from a distance, but when it’s right up against the car or my feet, it scares me. I associate fog with axe murderers. I wish I were kidding.
- It was beautifully foggy as we sailed through the northern hills of North Carolina. By some coincidence, John Denver’s “Country Roads” came up on shuffle. Except for the reference to West Virginia, the song was very fitting to the beauty that we saw on either side of the highway. I wanted to stretch my neck and see everything, but had to keep my eyes on the road (most of the time…).
- It was scarily foggy when we were in Jeff’s neighborhood around 1 a.m. It had just rained, so a light fog was rising from the street. Freaked me out!
Somehow, the trip from Tennessee back to Maryland was extremely American. By that, I mean we perhaps had more than our fair share of gorgeous vistas, high gas prices, strange encounters with others (not as many as I’d have liked) and massive consumerism.
Interestingly, this trip stands in stark contrast to our Westward spring break trip — which was also very American in the free-spirit, I’ll-go-where-I-want, this-land-is-your-land-this-land-is-my-land respect.
Weird, that. Road trips across two very different sides of the great U.S. of A., and both are excellent exemplars of what America is.
And that is the end of that. Now I need to whip up four more blog entries before I’m caught up!