Sodden

April 27, 2013

Click HERE to view a map of my trip to-date.

I left Asheville early on Friday morning, headed west on the last 40 or so miles of the 469 mile (755 km) long Blue Ridge Parkway.

Here are some pictures taken by Charles the morning I departed Asheville

Pack 1

Showing Charles my plug-in heated vest that connects to a cigarette lighter outlet on my bike.

Pack 2

Warming up my bike

Pack 3

My last stop before entering Tennessee would be the town of Cherokee in the Cherokee Indian Reservation of southwest North Carolina. Although I didn’t anticipate stopping for long in Cherokee, it’s an area I’ve wanted to drive through because I’m 1/16th Cherokee. My great great grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee, married to a German immigrant and buried in a Lutheran cemetery in Manheim, Pennsylvania. I’ve inherited this ancestry through my maternal bloodline.

Here are some ridgeline pictures taken along the last stretch of the Blue Ridge in North Carolina and Tennessee.

BlueRidge1

This panorama shot was taken with my Android phone

Blue Ridge panorama

6053

Crossing the North Carolina/Tennessee border

Crossing the line

As I descended the steep and winding road into Cherokee the traffic condensed for the first time of my nearly 500 miles on the parkway. In parts of Virginia and northern North Carolina I would ride for sometimes as long as 20 minutes without passing another car. Now I was in a line of cars and motorcycles all headed in the same direction, to Cherokee. As I entered the town I asked myself why so many tourists were coming here. Cherokee ArcadeFor the most part, it completely lacked any charm or enticement for my palate. It was a complete tourist trap. It was doing what it was intended to do – trapping many thousands of tourists a day at peak season. A reminder of the former beauty of this mountain valley was on the road ahead of me through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I later learned when I asked for directions to the grocery store that there was also a casino on the edge of town. The person who gave me directions said, “Go down such and such a road past the CASINO and take the next left…” That probably explained some of the congestion.

I took an hour to walk through the Cherokee Museum of History, which was interesting, but mostly depressing. The first part of the museum presented the rich culture and heritage. About half way through it seemed to be one story and presentation after another of how the Cherokee was cheated, bribed, lied to, massacred, forcibly relocated, sometimes assisted but eventually betrayed, and eventually “westernized”.  Perhaps someday I’ll return with printed evidence of my ancestry and try to experience this area from a different perspective.

Here are a few pictures from the museum and a *very* brief history of the tragedy of the Cherokee people.

Cherokee museum   Cherokee museum   Cherokee

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park with its deep valleys and lush spring foliage lay ahead of me.

GSMNP

After climbing over mountains and descending through breath-taking valleys dyed in fluorescent early spring foliage, I pulled into Elkmont campground on the northern border of the national park. This time, unlike Rocky Top campground on the Blue Ridge, which I camped in despite the fact that it was closed and gated, Elkmont was open and full of campers. Here are a series of pictures showing how I set up my simple camp site (as per a request from my Thai friends, Ton and Bomb).

Elkmont 1

My one-person tent with rain fly installed. Rain was in the forecast for early the next morning.

Elkmont 2

Inside the tent, with sleeping bag unrolled.

Elkmont 3

Whisper Lite one-burner stove cooking up some chili.

Elkmont 4

The stream adjacent to my camp site. Play the audio below to hear the sound of the stream.

Elkmont waters

Sound of the water

I was awakened by rain throughout the night. I kept hoping it would subside by the morning, and it did, with just a small enough window for me to pack up my wet gear and get back on the road west and north to Kentucky. Minutes after I left the campsite the deluge of rain returned. I rode slowly throughout the day in intermittent storms. Before I left the Great Smoky Mountain National Park I stopped for some pictures of the mountains reaching above foggy valleys of neon green foliage. I had been traveling with my Nikon camera strapped over my neck, but due to the rain I had to pack it securely under a waterproof bag. Thank goodness for my waterproof point-and-shoot.

GSMNP

Beyond the GSMNP on my ride north and west I passed Douglas Lake, created by a Roosevelt-era Tennessee Valley Authority project. I was awed by the water from my overlook view, so I later looked it up on the internet and found out “work on Douglas Dam began in February 1942 and was completed on a crash schedule in just 12 months and 17 days. The construction of Douglas set a world record for projects of equivalent size.”

Douglas Lake

The rain did not let up throughout the day.

Rain over water

When I spotted a motel in Tazewell, Tennessee, during a downpour I decided I wouldn’t be pitching a tent tonight. I’m now safe and dry inside my motel room typing this blog. This is the weather system I’m surrounded by. I think tomorrow may be another wet day. It goes with being on two wheels.

WeatherInTennessee2_04-27-2013

The motel clerk, a small, elderly woman with a tooth missing, had one of the strongest regional dialects I had yet heard down here. Here’s some audio I captured of it.

Tomorrow, rain or shine, I’ll cross the Tennessee border into Kentucky on my way to the Mammoth Cave National Park area. After that it’s westward across the Mississippi River and into Missouri.

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If you’re new to this blog, check out my blog archive here in order to catch up on my travels to-date.

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All content Copyrighted ©  Stephen Tavella

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