Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mountain Crossing

After more than 21 hours in the car, I have arrived! It's been a weird drive and I am very grateful to have made even if it did take several more hours than anticipated. I hit a bunch of detours and argued with the GPS navigator quite a bit, resulting in more than three hours of wasted driving on just the first day. Other than getting lost, there was nothing out of the ordinary during the day, but once the sun went down things got weird. I left the foothills and entered the mountains just as it was getting dark, going first through the Cherokee Reservation and then the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. I was stressed out just getting through the reservation with it's twisty, sharply curving roads, and I had no idea just how much spookier the drive would be going over the mountain range. Going up the mountain was bad, but coming down was nerve wracking to say the least. There was still a lot of snow and ice at the higher elevations which added to the surreal experience, as well as my stress. It was eerie and beautiful in the mountains at night, but on the way home I will be sure to cross during the day.

Since being detoured off of Highway 40 and into the park, I was going without the assistance of my GPS and so I had no idea what was coming next or how much further I had to go. I was very relieved to finally return to civilization when I left the park and entered Pigeon Forge, and what a weird welcome that was. I had spotted Gatlinburg during the descent and assumed Pigeon Forge would be just another little mountain town. Instead everything is lighted and flashing and it has a very Branson type of vibe going on with some crazy attractions and architecture. It all made sense though once I realized that it is also home to Dollywood, so that explains the gaudiness and spectacle.

As tempting as it was to stop and take in the sights, I pressed on last night to Knoxville, Tennessee. Taking into consideration the time I lost while driving toward Charlotte instead of Asheville, I thought I would be arriving in Knoxville around eight or eight thirty. As it turned out, I did not pull into the parking garage until 11:30. I was exhausted and my ankle is still sore from having to ride my brake pedal so much thanks to the mountains. I didn't leave this morning as early as I had hoped, but still managed to get on the road just after 10. Knoxville seemed pleasant enough, though almost immediately after leaving the hotel I hit yet another detour and got a little tour of the University of Tennessee campus. Other than getting turned around and lost a bit one more time, thankfully today's drive was a lot easier as it consisted of long, straight roads and seemingly endless farmland. I arrived at the hotel just before nine, got checked into my room, and have now started to gradually bring in all the stuff that I packed. Damn, I need to go to sleep. It's been a long ride and I am tired, but I am so excited to be here. Woo-Hoo!


  1. Just a word of advice while driving in the mountains, drop down into a lower gear, 1st or 2nd (even if you have an automatic). It'll limit the car's speed & keep you from burning up your brakes.

  2. Thanks for the advice, I appreciate it. It's completely flat where I live so I don't get a lot of experience driving with a gradient.