Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tennessee Change in Plans

Wednesday, October 16th
Kentucky to Tennessee

At the end of last post, it was October 16th, and we were leaving Fort Boonesborough SP, headed for Tennessee.
Our initial plan was that we were going to Nashville.  But plans change!  And sometimes, they change very last minute.  We were actually driving out of the park, when we changed direction. 

This ridiculous government shutdown has really screwed things up for a lot of people.  We wanted to visit the Great Smoky Mountains, so we were trying to hold off, giving them a chance to get "it" together.  Some States had paid to open their parks.  Tennessee and North Carolina had just teamed up and paid to open the Great Smoky Mountains... but only from Wednesday to Sunday.

With this news, we turned left out of the park, instead of right.  Our sudden revised plan was to go to Pigeon Forge and stay a few days.  I phoned parks while Jeff drove us in that direction.  I searched and called for many miles with no luck.  Some parks had a site for tonight, but that was it.  Other parks were so ridiculously priced, it was no wonder they had space.  We were getting close to the exit for Pigeon Forge, and I didn't have anything... so I had Jeff keep going. 

We decided to go on into North Carolina, to the other side of the Great Smoky Mountains NP.  I called Harrah's Cherokee Casino in Cherokee, NC at the other end of the NP, and confirmed that they allowed RV overnight parking.  So that was the new plan.

The new problem with this new plan was that it was getting late.  We didn't know the roads, and we have learned to not travel with the fifth wheel after dark.  It doesn't go well.
So I found a Walmart in Newport, TN where we could stay the night.

Another good Walmart lot that we would recommend.
Big Bad Blunder
When we parked, we were focused on pulling up as close as we could to the curb.  This way we can put all our slides out and still be way within the parking lines.  What we DIDN'T focus on was that big tree!  See that big yellow tree in the photo above?  We drove our rig right into that tree, before we noticed it!  All we could do was pull ourselves out of it and hope it didn't do a lot of damage.
It was visible from the ground, that a branch had ripped a hole in the rubber roof, so I climbed on the roof to survey the damage.  Fortunately, that was the full extent of the damage.  Jeff tossed up a tube of Goop (we love that stuff!) and I put a seal over the tear.  Its about a pea size hole that I closed up and "gooped" real good.
An extra at this Walmart was a gas station in the same parking lot that had a water faucet and, upon asking, had no problem with us using it to fill our 6 gallon water jug.  So we put 18 gallons of fresh water in our tank and filled up our generator.  We were now prepared for a couple nights in the casino lot.
Thursday, October 17th
     North Carolina
Poor Routing
We had less than 70 miles to travel today, but were we ever glad that we didn't attempt it yesterday after dark!  I do the best research I can, when it comes to our routes.  I have a book that lists Low Clearances, I look up roads on the internet, I Google Earth roads... but sometimes, I make a wrong choice for us.  Today was one of those days. 
We took Hwy 19 from I-40 to Cherokee.  I saw that the road was curvy, but that was nothing for Jeff.  What we DIDN'T Know was that it was extremely Narrow... there was only a few inches of  pavement outside of the fog line.  But we didn't have even those extra inches of pavement much of the time.  There were many places where the pavement had broken away into the inside of the white line... and the drop off was about a foot!  In other places, usually on corners, the rock wall seemed to protrude into the road.  We ALSO didn't know that many miles of the road was at a 6% to 8% down grade.  And what we DIDN'T figure on was that there would be dense fog!!  We went in and out of the fog... sometimes barely seeing the front of the truck.

So here we were on this extremely narrow and corroded road with extremely sharp corners with jagged rock walls... trying to control the gears and brakes at an average 7% downgrade in dense fog!!!!  It was tense! and I felt so bad for sending my driver this way.  I honestly don't know how we stayed on the road and made it safely to the end.  I guess our guardian angels were working overtime!
Harrah's Cherokee Casino
Were we ever glad and thankful to arrive at our destination.  No problem finding it and getting in.  What a huge parking lot they had and they did in fact have designated overnight RV parking... and it was incredible!
 We had grass, a walking path, and a beautiful flowing stream... in our front yard!
We couldn't ask for anything better.  We were so glad with our decision to stay here.
Friday, October 18th
Great Smoky Mountains
I'd had my Mom send our important mail to the Post Office in Pigeon Forge, but with our change in plans we were in the area sooner than we had planned.  We were parked on the South end of the Great Smoky Mountains, so we didn't want to make the trip through the park until we knew we had mail at the other end.  Fortunately when I called this morning, they confirmed that the package was there. 
So we anxiously set out to enjoy a day in the Great Smoky Mountains and visit Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. 
At first it seemed like there weren't that many visitors.  It was a beautiful Fall drive.


Then it happened.  We found the visitors!
We made the mistake of wanting to visit Clingman's Dome.
That's not our picture of Clingman's Dome,
because we never saw it!
THIS is what WE saw...
A long, long, line of vehicles not going anywhere.  We all inched along.  Drivers that could, turned around... and I think that was the only reason we were able to inch along!
This wasn't our idea of a good time... and we had mail that we had to pick up in Pigeon Forge! 
So when we found a potential turn around spot, we did it.  I could just imagine what the people pulling the trailer were thinking... there was no way they were going to get turned around.
Finally out of that mess... we were able to enjoy the beauty of the mountains.

After exiting the park, we drove straight into Pigeon Forge and to the Post Office.
After getting our mail envelope, we took a lunch break...
looked around and headed for Gatlinburg.
But then it happened again...
Way too many people in one little place.
The entire stretch in and out of Gatlinburg was bumper to bumper and crowded sidewalks.
This wasn't at all what we expected out of Gatlinburg.  This looked to us to just be a tourist town with lots of places for people to eat, drink and spend money.
There was no more room for anyone to stop... even if they wanted to join the crowd.
So with us moving along so slowly, we rolled down the windows and snapped photos.

Now, tell me... if you have never been to Gatlinburg, but have wanted to visit Gatlinburg...
is THIS what you are expecting??
I'm also sure that if you HAVE truly visited Gatlinburg... you have a totally different take. 
This isn't really it... is it??

 We made our way back through the Smoky Mountains... and it really was beautiful.
But we were also very happy to be HOME, out of the crowds...
even if home is in a casino parking lot!

Saturday, October 19th
Hanging Out by the creek
We had no real plans for the day, but we weren't ready to leave either.  This casino place was great.  So we stayed the day.  We walked and rode the bicycles, and went into a local shop, where as usual we saw all kinds of things that we had no use for.  We did a few projects at the wheel house, and got ready to leave in the morning.
Sunday, October 20th
Bound for South Carolina
Because we had ended up at the North Carolina end of the Great Smoky Mountains... as much as we HAD wanted to visit Nashville... we weren't going to back track to go there.  Instead, we changed our trip plans to include South Carolina and Georgia, before going to Florida.
And we've had our fill of back road experiences for now, so we are staying on the Interstates.
We found a PA park in Kinards, SC.  160 miles away.  We arrived without incident... just a few traffic jams for whatever reason.
Monday, October 21st
Magnolia RV Park
We're staying at a PA park near Clinton, SC and Newberry, SC.  It's peaceful, and well run by a friendly couple.

Jeff always enjoys the chance to have a good fire.

Every once in a while we get motivated to accomplish something.  Tonight it was organizing our utility closet, for me... and repairing our outside speakers, for Jeff.

Our outdoor speakers have been blown for a long time, so we haven't been able to use them.  Tonight, Jeff took them apart and saw that they were torn around the edges.  So we got out the GOOP!  He repaired them and they sound great!!
I was tired of opening the utility door and getting hit in the head by the broom handle and having everything else fall out on the floor.  So we bought clamps to hold the handles on the wall.  It only took me 3 years to think of this!!
Tuesday, October 22nd
Travel Day
Travel Days have become simpler again.  We don't dread them so much.  We can get on an open interstate and just drive.  Today its 109 miles on I-26 then 70 miles on I-95.
WHOO HOO! I'm caught up on our travels!


  1. Sounds like you have had a time of it. Yes Gatlinburg is always like that. We love the Smokies, hate Gatlinburg. I emailed you our phone number so you can call when you get close. Drive safe

  2. I wish I knew you wanted to see Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. I would have told you to ad void the area. Nothing but tourist traps!

    Thank goodness Jeff is an excellent driver. You made me nervous just reading about it.

    I want a campfire!

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. The fall foliage in the east is beautiful but very difficult to observe in many areas because of the crowds. October is a tough time to find campground because of all the Halloween activities on top of the leaves. Glad you got a few views of the foliage.

    We stay at the Magnolia RV Park over night on our way to Atlanta. Nice pull throughs so we don't have to unhook for the night. Great people!

    Gee, I'm with Marsha. I was scared just reading your post. So happy all worked out for you and Jeff.

    When we get ready to travel and will be taking roads that are not interstates, John uses Googles Street View. This view allows you to actually drive the road you will travel with real footage. You can see all the businesses along the road, tell how tight turns are, look the road conditions, see if there are biking lanes or paths, etc. It is a life saver. We can see what to look for at a park entrance so we never miss a turn. If you go to Google maps, put your curser on the little man on top of the + and -. Then click and drag the man to the road you want to drive. When you put the man there, the view will turn to actual road. Use your mouse to drive down the road. It is amazing! We saw one of the Google cars that does the driving on our bike ride in Canada. If you have any questions send me an email. I think you'll really feel better with back road trips if you use this first.

    Happy Travels!

    1. Thank you for that, Pam! I remember using google streets before, but a long time ago and by accident I think. Now I know where to go!

  4. Sorry the Smokies didn't work out for you! The problem was the Friday arrival mostly. Forget the weekends to see the "major" sights in the area. We stay away from Gatlinburg as much as possible to avoid the mania, but you have to go through it to get to the park. Trick is to hit it early or late when the crowds thin...a little. Your impression of the town is not wrong, and every time we drive through I shake my head at all the people with the glazed looks on their faces going in and out the shops thinking that they are having "fun". No one really looks like they are, except yesterday I saw a young girl hamming it up posing on one of the "Star Cars". As we drive through on our way to the free attractions and then home to our homecooked meals I giggle about all the money we save. Of course we spend it on diesel fuel, right?

  5. BTW, what book do you use for low clearance road checking???

    1. I use the motor carriers atlas. It has lots of info, but has a section of low clearances by state.

  6. I hadn't read this yet. It made me chuckle, we didn't have it quite so bad but definitely too many people. We are on the SC & GA border at the Petersburg campground on Strom Thurmon Lake (COE) just beautiful. Much better to be out with nature once again. Where you headed next. I think we will go to a State park near Savannah called Skidway Island, you should join us.

  7. Hate Gatlinburg, love the Smokies (my brother is there right now-he took a group on a photo tour) last fall we ended up in Bryson City just down the road a piece. Now you have me rethinking my closet. Hunting Island State Park near Beaufort was one of our favorite places of that trip, on the ocean and you can fish from their pier with no license.

  8. We stayed in Gettysburg over the 4th of July weekend. Big mistake LOL! Loved the Smokies. Once we headed to Gatlinburg and the GPS said like 9 miles at one point. 20 min. later the GPS said like 7.5 miles!! We said to heck with that and turned around. I just wanted to see the knife museum.
    IT's a little different traveling over here in the east compared to the west isn't in!!

  9. Sorry about your experience with Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. We avoid that area. The area is beautiful but way too many people for us. At least you didn't make the mistake of getting on the Dragon's tail.

    Our paths almost crossed on the 20th and 21st. We had to pick a spot to take care of some business in the area. We were heading for Kinards but at the last minute decided to go to Cane Creek park in Waxhaw to visit with some friends there.

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