I am a mountain lover, but I like trees on my mountains, which is why I love the Appalachians. We have been in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, but never the Smokies. It’s my Dad’s favorite place in the world. So, I wanted visit it on our way back home from the South.
We stayed in a hotel in a quiet foothills town in Tennessee and drove in to check out Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. They looked like unabashed tourist traps to me, with sign upon sign and shop upon shop. It seems like the American idea of a vacation is to leave the city with its crush of people and traffic and travel to a beautiful part of the country overbuilt with hotels, go-cart tracks, mini golf courses, and the other obligatory crap that is in every tourist spot. In other words, vacationers leave the hordes of the city and its traffic to go to another place with hordes of people and traffic. Not me. We kept right on moving. We did find Gatlinburg a little more palatable than Pigeon Forge. At least it has a really cool rocky creek running right through the middle of town.
Our next stop was one of the National Park Visitor Centers. These always seem to really nice. We bought the last t-shirt of the trip, a park road map and a waterfall map. By then our time was very limited and I did not want to be winding all around the mountains late at night. So, we hit a park road that followed a river. It was incredibly beautiful with huge boulders and occasional waterfalls. Eventually, I had to get my feet wet in the gushing waters. I was totally unprepared for such exploring and did get my shorts wet, no matter how hard I tried to avoid it.
We already want to go back and explore more waterfalls. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen and was quite a contrast to the Florida beach.
Backing up a little, after leaving the Gulf Coast of Florida, we crossed the state going through Orlando to meet my friend Erik Guzman for lunch. Steve Brown was in his office and invited us to chat for several minutes. Steve and Erik could not have been more gracious. It was a highlight. I love these guys. Then we ate lunch with Erik at the fabulous 4 Rivers Smokehouse.
We stopped off at St. Augustine, the oldest city in America (founded 1565) and toured the Castillo De San Marcos fort, built 1672-1695 and occupied by the Spanish, the English, the Confederacy, and the U.S. federal government. It has never been breached. They have a very nice historical pedestrian shopping district in St. Augustine and probably loads of other cool things that we did not have time to see. Yet, another place we need to return to.
This trip was the best vacation that my wife and I have ever taken. We had no agenda, but loads of fun. Even though we drove 3,500 hundred miles, it wasn’t burdensome because every day was an adventure.
We ate some picnic lunches to save money. While traveling through Georgia, we exited looking for a park or some place to eat our lunch. We couldn’t find anything. Finally, I saw a road and turned around pulling over at a little clearing. I looked at the street sign and it said, Dusty Bottoms Road, and so it was.
This was a great time with my wife and we will cherish the memories for a long, long time.
Thanks for bearing with my little travelogue.