Smokey Mountains

Tuesday morning was another early start. I was on the road and ready to sit in rush hour traffic by 8 am. Tuesday was the first day of the trip that I didn't get any rain; actually, Monday barely rained, but was cloudy most of the day. Unfortunately, the beautiful blue skies were wasted on a day of driving.

I stopped for breakfast at Cup A Joe in Hillsborough, NC. The coffee was excellent, and so was the pumpkin walnut muffin. But they offered free wireless internet, so my driving schedule went out the window. In the end that really didn't matter, because the weather forecast in the Smokey Mountains was getting more and more gloomy, and the only reason for me to rush, was so that I'd be able to get my tent set up before dark. I stopped for lunch at Uptown BBQ in Morganton, NC. I had a delicious pork BBQ wrap with jalepeno peppers. It is right off of the interstate, so if you are passing through, I recommend it.

About a 45 miles from Asheville, NC, I began seeing the storm clouds peeking out over the mountains. I decided that it wasn't worth being miserable in the rain just for the camping experience, especially since I have more opportunities in California to do some camping. While I was disappointed with the weather I was going to have in the Smokeys, I was a bit relieved that it would give me some time to catch up on emails, blogging, and time to get my car fixed.

I forgot to mention that my navigation system, while still partially functional (it displayed my current location properly), it was no longer able to locate addresses that I gave it. It only found locations in VA, WV, MD, & PA. I went to the Toyota dealer in Raleigh, and asked if the problem was a region issue. They assured me that Toyota's weren't region based, and that I'd have to leave my car over night for them to fix it. I didn't have time for that, so I got the address of the Toyota dealer in Asheville, and now that I wasn't in a hurry to get to a camp site, I stopped there prepared for them to tell me I'd have to leave the car overnight. The service rep in Asheville immediately asked, "are you searching in the right region?" So, as you probably guessed, the car wasn't broken at all. I simply needed to RTFM.

I arrived on the Cherokee reservation just outside Smokey Mountains National Park, and my main criteria was finding a hotel with an internet connection. I spotted a Holiday Inn Express boasting high speed internet, and it was right across the street from Harrah's Casino. I actually didn't know there was a casino on the reservation, but with the weather, I expected to spend some time gambling. Surprisingly though, I did not even step into the casino. I worked on the photos I'd taken, skipped dinner and got to bed early to catch up on the sleep I haven't been getting.

Wednesday was a dreary, rainy, foggy morning. I was in no hurry to get into the park. I ate lunch at Hungry Bear, a local restaurant recommended by the hotel front desk. The food was ok, but nothing I'd go out of my way to eat again. I stopped at the visitor station to ask a ranger for a trail recommendation for such lousy weather, and I ended up meeting Lee Price. He had been camping in the park with a friend who had just undergone chemotherapy. His friend didn't feel up to finishing the trip with the rain, so Lee wanted a ride back to his truck along the Appalachian Trail. Since I really didn't have anything better to do, I drove him up the mountain.

Unfortunately, I never got to a hike, mostly because it was raining on and off, and I wasn't particularly interested in hiking in the rain. I did manage to get some decent pictures despite the weather. And blue skies and sunshine did sporadically appear for a few moments here and there. After dark, I headed back to the hotel, cooked some food in the room.

I'm a week into the trip now, and I'm surprised at how little time I have despite the leisurely pace. In addition to all the driving and visiting with friends and/or checking out the sites, I've found that keeping this blog up to date along the way takes more time than I expected. I'm also trying to learn all about Adobe's Camera Raw and how to best use my new Nikon D200. Of course, I'm not terribly use to being busy, so it could just all be relative.

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