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  1. #1

    Default Summer 2008 - Ramble 1

    Day 1

    Our adventure this year began with a direct flight into Atlanta on Delta. The first time we had used Delta and the first time into Atlanta. An uneventful journey saw us arrive on time in the afternoon. Atlanta airport both impressed and disappointed. The disappointment was due to the massive wait for our luggage twice ! the first time waiting before customs and then after dropping it off again for delivery to baggage reclaim another huge wait for it to eventually re-appear. In between these waits the airport impressed with well organised spacious areas and an efficient underground automated train system to move you around.

    Because of the long waiting times, we were driving out of the airport in our 12 seater minivan (for 7 of us – but we do take a lot of luggage !) over an hour later than I had planned. We had a short drive of 60-70 miles north east to our first overnight stop at Gainesville. Overconfidence caused my first mistake which was to glance at the map instead of looking at it properly to find Gainesville and tell my wife (navigator) to guide us to the 400 north. In fact the word Gainesville was printed in between two roads the 400 led to the northern one of these two when Gainesville actually sits on the southern one of the two and we should have followed the 85 out of Atlanta. Not a catastrophic mistake as we could cut across, but it did add some driving and it did mean that we approached the town from a different direction than planned which made the instructions we had for finding the hotel meaningless.

    We ate that evening in a local restaurant and were asked where we were from because of our accents. We used to be asked that question a lot when we travelled out west in the early 1990’s but latterly have been rarely asked. On this trip we were asked often I don’t know if that’s because less UK people travel this area or if the people are just more curious. When we answered where we were from it shocked the waitress and she exclaimed ‘why on earth have you come to Gainesville then ?’

    In fact we had only travelled to Gainesville because it got us out of Atlanta and shortened the following days drive. On the way back to the hotel we called in at a supermarket to get some beer for a nightcap in the room and found they did not sell it ! Mistake number 2 a failure to investigate beer availability before travelling.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Oh Goody!

    It's always great when we I see the first of your yearly field reports. For those who want a refresher of UK's past adventures, consider:

    2007 Ramble: Las Vegas to Utah, Arizona and Disneyland.

    2006 Ramble: (still looking for it)

    2005 Holiday: Orlando, Florida -- Disneyworld and Sea World


  3. #3



    2006 was round Belgium and France rather than the USA !

    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 08-19-2008 at 11:13 AM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default That explains it!

    Thanks for the explanation -- I couldn't figure out how we were missing that year's report!


  5. #5

    Default Summer 2008 - ramble 2

    Day 2

    Up bright and early courtesy of jet lag and off we headed in a northerly direction. We drove out of Georgia and into North Carolina towards the foothills of the Appalachians (Smoky Mountains) a not very memorable drive. What was noticeable was the difference in the amount of road traffic when compared with the Western States. One of the joys of these trips for me over the years has been the open empty roads and leaving the crowded UK roads far away behind me. Whilst the roads on this whole trip were never up to UK traffic densities, they were much much busier than we have seen on previous trips.

    Our goal on this day was to get as close as possible to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to set us up for driving through it the following day. The town we had chosen for our stay was Cherokee, a conveniently positioned point on a map when we planned the trip, as we drove in close to lunchtime it unfolded before us as an attractive downtown area nestled in the bottom of a steep sided valley. This town is also the centre of the Cherokee nation. We killed a few hours walking the shops and the river side and taking lunch (to my disappointment, we were informed by the waitress over lunch that we were in a dry county. Yet another beer planning failure !).

    That evening we set off to explore for somewhere to eat and discovered a completely different Cherokee that we had missed during the day because of the route of the road we had chosen to enter the town on (the old US 441) and because of the central position of our Motel. At its southern end, to our surprise, Cherokee has an enormous Casino (Harrahs as I recall) surrounded by motels and at its northern end it is crowded out with Motels for the National Park visitors. Another alcohol free night. I seriously thought about driving to nearby Bryson City the nearest place to get some beer but was not sufficiently motivated to do so, I did however make a solemn vow to do better beer availability planning for the next trip.

  6. #6

    Default Summer 2008 - ramble 3

    Day 3

    Another prompt start with our bodies telling us that although the locals thought it was 8 o’clock in the morning, it was in fact 1 in the afternoon. Our plan was to spend as much of the day as required to see Smoky Mountain National Park as we only had less than 50 miles to do to get to Gatlinburg our next stop. As our planning was sufficiently good to let us know that there was nowhere to eat in the national park, we first visited a supermarket to get a picnic lunch.

    Just minutes up the road from Cherokee we entered the national park and very soon stopped at the Oconaluftee visitor centre. Great Smoky Mountains national park is notable as the only national park in the USA without an entrance fee and is the most visited national park in the USA. The second fact is not caused by the first! Apparently, around 70% of the population of the USA is within a day’s drive of Smoky Mountains, hence its popularity.

    In my travels to the USA over the years I have developed a keen interest in the history of the country and I purchased a book about the history of the Cherokee people called ‘The Trail of Tears’. I have just started to read this since my return home and it is an engrossing read. The Oconaluftee visitor centre and surrounds is a USA history treasure trove complete with the Mountain Farm Museum and just up the road Mingus Mill a working water mill. It was approaching lunchtime before we left this area.

    We drove into the park steadily upwards in elevation and just before Newfound Gap at the crest of the Appalachians we took the road to Clingmans Dome the highest peak in Great Smoky Mountain. The outlook was spectacular from this vantage point and we ate our picnic lunch gazing over a view to die for.

    After lunch we carried on and very shortly after rejoining the main road reached Newfound Gap entering Tennessee for the first time and stopped again. For me the interesting thing here was to read about and see the pictures of Franklin D. Roosevelt on this very same spot dedicating the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on September 2, 1940, "for the permanent enjoyment of the people."

    We drove on stopping at Sugarlands visitor centre at the other end of the park and then immediately outside the park boundary entered Gatlinberg. Wow, what a contrast, from a pristine wooded mountain landscape into heavily commercialised tourist town in just a few yards. The good news though for those of you sympathising with my beerless state was that almost the first building we saw was a liquor store!

    After checking in at the motel we ate locally and were ‘entertained’ at the end of the meal by the spectacle of a drunk being ejected from the restaurant and then fighting to get back in through the new locked doors. Surprisingly quickly the police showed up and ultimately shipped him off in an ambulance bleeding from his head and strapped to a stretcher. Maybe there’s a reason for all those dry counties.................?


  7. #7

    Default Summer 2008 - Ramble 4

    Day 4

    Torrential rain overnight and into the morning kept us in the motel until mid morning and turned the pretty mountain stream that ran down the back of the motel into a raging torrent. Over breakfast we were advised in a homely southern drawl ‘you don’t get mountains this green without a little rain honey’.

    We caught the trolley bus into town and then the cable car up to Ober Gatlinberg, a ski resort in winter high up in the mountains above the town. My boys went on the chair lift and alpine slide and we had a snack lunch before returning down the cable car to the town. We then visited Ripleys believe it or not down on the main street.

    That night on recommendation of the motel staff we ate in Corkys Ribs and Bar-B-Que sampling the ‘world famous BBQ sauce’ (world famous??? not in our part of the world).

    Day 5

    A short drive to Pigeon forge and Dollywood. A long day in extreme heat riding some surprisingly good rides. I felt that Dollywood compared favourably to the Disney parks in terms of quality which I was not expecting at all. That evening we stocked up at a supermarket and stayed in.

    All in all two very touristy days, but then again we were tourists weren’t we?

  8. #8

    Default Summer 2008 - Ramble 5

    Day 6

    Off on our travels again we set out on the same road through Pigeon Forge we had driven trouble free the day before. To my surprise we immediately hit heavy traffic and severe delays due to road works. I could not understand how just the day before we had travelled this road with no delays. It turns out the problem was Monday. On these holidays I lose track of which day of the week it is and I eventually realised this was a Monday hence the day before – Sunday had no active road works.

    Eventually we got clear of the traffic and headed north to our first stop Davy Crockets birth place. This was another one of those places spotted on the map during planning that just had to be fitted in. Until I saw the map reference I could easily have been convinced that Davy Crocket was an entirely fictional character such is my ignorance.

    We visited the small visitors centre first and were engrossed reading the exhibits about Crockets life story. It really does read like a work of fiction but it’s true! Born into poverty in this spot in East Tennessee Crocket was a farmer, hunter, soldier, congressman and was finally executed after the battle of the Alamo fighting for Texan independence. The taster of his life story was so intoxicating that I bought a biography of his life for later reading.

    Outside we visited the recreation of his original home and a ranger explained a little about how large families such as Crockets could live in such a tiny building. Close by the house is a stone memorial to Crocket circled by a low wall with stones from every state built into it commemorating this American hero’s life.

    We paused for lunch at a Zaxby’s a fast food (chicken) outlet we had seen all over this region. I enjoyed the food but they do not sell coffee only soft drinks. Certain coffee addicted members of our party were consequently severely disappointed and coffee depleted and vowed not to darken another Zaxby’s door.

    Onwards we pressed heading for the Cumberland Gap on the border between Tennessee and Kentucky. This was also picked as a destination after spotting it on the map and having a childhood memory triggered of Lonnie Donnigan singing about Cumberland Gap. The weather worsened and we approached the area in torrential rain. The visibility was so poor it was like driving on the bottom of a pond. We drove through Harrogate (the original town only being a few miles from where I live in the UK) on the Tennessee side through the Cumberland Gap tunnel to our destination for the evening Middlesboro (the original Middlesbrough in the UK is 70 miles or so from home) on the Kentucky side of the tunnel.

    That night in the Chinese restaurant when I asked for a beer I was told (imagine a heavy Chinese accent) ‘You in Kentucky now, no beer here’. Hah! No problem, back in the hotel room I was fully stocked.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Top read !

    Hi UK
    Thanks, I'm really enjoying the read and there is also lots of good info for others as well.
    Looking forward to more. Have you thought about adding pics? I'm a sucker for pics ;-)


  10. #10


    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    Hi UK
    Thanks, I'm really enjoying the read and there is also lots of good info for others as well.
    Looking forward to more. Have you thought about adding pics? I'm a sucker for pics ;-)


    Glad you are enjoying it. I take video rather then pics. When I've downloaded the video I can grab stills from it. However, I assume I will not be able to retrospectively add pics to the postings as I only seem able to edit the most recent post.


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