On Saturday, August 7, 2010, DeeDee, Jack, and I began our drive to spend one week of summer vacation in the Smoky Mountains (Gatlinburg, TN). I purchased a new GPS for the trip. It is a nüvi® 3790T. Man, this thing is pretty slick. I particularly like the voice-activated command selection. Very cool.
Shockingly, I did not trust the GPS while driving on I75. It told me to reroute and take Exit 52 (Dade City) and then drive North on US301 and pick up I75 later. Naturally, I thought that the dumb machine was wrong. Little did I know that the GPS was trying to keep me from heading into 9 miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic. Score 1 for technology.
After stopping for the night in Georgia, we started our journey again when we ran into quite a bit more traffic. This time, I decide to hit the reroute button myself and it led me through winding roads and small towns. I am not sure how far this new direction extended our drive time, but, if I had to guess, it would probably be about an hour. Oh well, we were on vacation. No big deal.
As we were driving, DeeDee found that the GPS displayed elevation in feet. As a Floridian, anything north of 100 feet above sea level is a mountain. Naturally, we were all fascinated by the steady climb and were amazed as the GPS informed us that we were over 5,000 feet above sea level.
When you are traveling, it is my belief that you should try the local cuisine. This may shock you, but I am a member of the Kansas City BBQ Society and I have judged a competition before. I know… I know… Hard to believe. So, when you are driving through Dillsboro, North Carolina and you see a sign that says Dillsboro Smokehouse – why wouldn’t you stop and partake of some North Carolina barbecue. I am not going to bore you with the details, but I really enjoyed my meal. Sweet Potato Fries… a plus.
When we arrived on Sunday night, the rest of the crew was waiting for us. The cabin was NICE! We stayed in the Silvercreek cabin at Elk Springs Resort.
On Monday, we decided to drive to Cades Cove which is located in the Smoky Mountain National Park. Driving through the park, I was amazed with the number of available areas to pull off the road and just explore, hike or take photos. Awesome. During our drive to the cove, I sensed that Jack was getting a bit antsy. I pulled off to the side and let him get into the water.
While driving the loop at Cades Cove, there was a lot of cool things to see including young black bears hanging from the trees. As cool as that sounds, I have to complain about the other drivers on the road. Cades Cove is a ONE LANE ROAD with designated areas for pulling to the side and stepping out to view historical buildings, taking photos and hiking. So, when someone spots two baby bears hanging from the trees, they simply stop, get out of the car, and take hundreds of photos from every conceivable angle blocking all traffic until they are good and ready to keep going. Rude. Very Rude. I wanted to honk my horn, but I was trying no to freak out the momma bear who was on the ground with at least half a dozen amateur photographers within 30 yards (and no barricade) from a mother bear protecting its young. Smart. As for DeeDee, Jack and I, we were able to view the bear by stopping our car for about 10 seconds with DeeDee standing up through the sunroof and taking as many shots as she could.
Cades Cove also provided us with an opportunity to check out Abrams Falls. I knew going in that the hike would total 5 miles (roundtrip), but what I wasn’t prepared for was the hike climbs three hundred and forty feet up the mountain over rocky terrain. I have heard people claiming that this is a moderately difficult hike. I am not going to lie. This hike kicked my butt. Jack, on the other hand, was jogging circles around DeeDee and I. Smart aleck kid.
On Tuesday, DeeDee, her dad, Randy, and his wife, Marilyn, drove over to Asheville, North Carolina to the Biltmore Estate. We toured the estate and gardens (both were magnificent). But, I cannot help but think – why is the entry fee so expensive ($60)? It is less expensive to go to a theme park. On the plus side, we had lunch at Deerpark at the estate. The food was excellent and it really wasn’t too expensive. While I did enjoy the wine tasting at the Biltmore Winery, it was not charming or special in any way.
On Wednesday, Jack and I went white water rafting. I decided to use Smoky Mountain Outdoors located on the Little Pigeon River. It was good fun. I almost fell in when going down a rather steep rapid. Jack was smiling the whole time.
On Thursday, DeeDee, Jack and I went to Dollywood. Since we frequent the parks in central Florida all the time, we were not too impressed with Dollywood. In fact, we could not even fill a whole day at the park. While I am complaining, I might as well get it all out. We went to the Old Mill Restaurant in Pigeon Forge. Yuk! If you want more details, I wrote a review on Yelp.com.
Forunately, we did have a good meal the following day at the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant. Fritters served with apple butter, fried chicken, sweet tea – I was a happy camper.
I do have more photos from the trip. CLICK HERE FOR SLIDESHOW.