St Josephs MO to West Plains MO Oct 10,2011

This was not a picture day as we were on roads without shoulders and hard to find turnoffs.  When we punched in our destination today instead of choosing the fastest route…generally the interstates, I picked the shortest. It showed a variety of colors of roads but not knowing what they all meant, I picked the shortest.  We found it odd that the shortest route was going to take what seemed a lot longer.  This blog is “pambrownsadventures”  and folks, today that is what we had.  I had wanted to take back roads or lesser highways and today seemed like a good day as this is a stat holiday in the U.S. as well, so figured lots of traffic.

It wasn’t long and we were in the countryside passing by well kept farms.  We travelled through towns we couldn’t find on the map (hello.. first clue) but the scenery and the fall colors were spectacular. I had noticed on the maps an area called “Ozarks”…I always thought the Ozark mountains were in Arkansas, but perhaps they also extended into Missouri.  I eventually figured it out….they were the Ozark Lakes.  The area is beautiful with many camp grounds and small motels catering to fisherman. It seems a great place for lake fishing and also lots of streams for fly fishing.

I was pretty pleased with myself as the traffic was light and the going easy with the exception of the ever changing speed limits. We stopped in a village for lunch ( sorry if it had a name we didn’t catch it.)  The cafe was well kept and in behind us, came a fella who ordered take out.  While he was waiting, two friends of his came in and they started talking.  The first guy asked them if they were fishing and they responded ” Yup, already caught our limit, nothing else to do now, may as well go home and get the gun and go shoot squirrels.”  A few minutes later I realized they were pulling his leg but it did provide a chuckle as they reminded me of typical “good ole boys.”

After lunch we continued on the guided route and seemed to get more and more remote. So remote we passed by two young amish looking girls in a horse and buggy.  Brian got very out of sorts when the system started taking us on gravel roads with less and less population and more and more trees and hills.  At this point the navigation system did not recognize the names of the road we were on..the sign posts said one name, the nav system another.  We tried staying on the better roads ( gravel) but were getting no where.  We stopped and reprogramed the system but she was undeterred…but now at least she had the right names.  We kept following the instructions until we were asked to go down a hardly more than dirt road.  By now Brian is less than in good spirits and was seriously questioning my ideas on the “scenic roads.”  I’m being polite here……

There was a decent looking farm house nearby I so suggested we stop in and ask for directions.( Remember men don’t do this.)  The only vehicle in the drive way was a motorhome and I went looking for the front door, hoping for the best.  Around the corner was a little patio area, very cute but fenced off.  I figured out how to undo the geri rigged locking system and went to the door and knocked.  I could see movement in the house and eventually an older lady(85+ is my guess) peeked out the window.  I smiled greatly and prayed…..she did open the door a crack.  I told the lady I was from Canada and our car’s navigation system seemed to be getting us lost….

I told her we were looking for a main road to get to West Plains.  By now her husband had joined her at the door.  They explained they had just returned from a 3000 mile trip and they named their navigation system “Agnes” to which she commented, “damned thing couldn’t find anywhere!”  We had a delightful short talk and then she said to follow the road to the left ( where the system wanted us to go) and follow it for a couple of miles and we’d get to the highway.  Feeling much relieved,I thanked her profusely and left.  Both she and the navigation system were correct and we were once again on the right track.  I think after today, Brian will be a long time before he lets me pick”the scenic” route!  All in all though, we passed through some beautiful places and the fall colors were simply spectacular.  The above photo doesn’t really capture the colors.

We’re off to Dickson Tennessee tomorrow.  It’s a bit west of Nashville. The navigation system took us through Kansas city with some route changes and we found it very harrowing to follow the directions.  Brian did a better job of reading the system correctly, so good thing I was driving.  We’re not always going to be able to avoid large cities, but if we plan to just pass through, that will be the plan.  We expect to slow down as we drive the Smokey Mountains and will also be staying in Asheville NC to do some touring around.  We are looking forward to arriving in Gibsonville on Friday where we can stay put for a few days.

West Plains, MO to Dickson Tennessee Oct 11,2011

This was another driving day of about 300 + miles.  We left Missouri, drove through a bit of Arkansas and into Tennesse.  You can tell we are in the “south” now.  While the weather has been unusually warm we did come across “snow” in Arkansas.  The cotton fields look like they are ripe as some cotton is blowing off onto the side of the road.  Brian stopped so I could pick some up for my future scrapbook.

When we left West Plains we were still in rolling, tree covered hills.  As we neared Hoxie, Arkansas  the landscape became open and definately farmland.  We did see quite a bit of harvesting and I think either the famers are rich or they use custom combines, as usually several pieces of equipment was being used in the fields.

One thing we have noticed along the highways is the amount of road kill and the fact that it is allowed to stay.  We’ve seen more pieces of animals than I care to. At one point I saw an intact body of a racoon…but headless. Yuk.  Deer that have been smashed flat. We’ve also seen an enormous amount of Dunlop and Firestone road kill.  It’s everywhere and poses quite a hazzard. They definately could use Volker Stevens services.

At we approached Memphis the amount of transport truck traffic increased significantly. I have never seen so many trucks on the roads before.  We estimated about 40% of the traffic in both directions were trucks.  When they want your lane, they signal and move over.  It’s up to you how you want to handle it……I found slamming on the brakes worked best!

We’ve a shorter tripped planned for tomorrow.  We’re heading for the Smokey Mountains and staying in the hills for a little peace and quiet.

 

The fall colors have varied with little change in the Memphis area, perhaps as they continue very warm…around 28 today.  In any case I did find some wild flowers.  Brian stopped at a turn off and I walked back along

side the highway to take some photos.  As I turned to go back to the car I looked down and there at my feet was the skin of what once was a very large snake.  As the weather was still warm….I hightailed out of there in one heck of a hurry!

Dickson TN to Pigeon Forge TN Oct 12, 2011

I think our readers know we are flying by the seat of our pants when it comes to how far we go in a day and where we are going to stay.  We’ve been avoiding big cities and high tourist places ( except Mount Rushmore).  I have been looking forward to travelling in the smoky mountains and getting some quiet time.  So last night I’m calculating the drive and decide to find a place in the Smoky Mountains to stay.  I read the Google map and it shows a scenic drive across the mountains and into North Carolina, in fact it’s listed as a National Scenic Drive.  On the map I see this little dot surrounded little tents which I think mean campgrounds.  The name of the place is Pigeon Forge. Okay for those of you who know, you’re already laughing.  I go on line looking for Best Western Hotel and find a nice one.  The photos shows trees and offers rooms with a river view and a private patio.  Hey…this sounds just like a wanted…a nice quiet spot in the mountains…a good place to sit back and breathe mountain air.

We’ve driven through Nashville and Knoxville to get here…heavy traffic all the way.  We turn off Interstate 40 and run into backed up traffic on the exit ramp.  Must be construction or an accident just ahead.  As we round the corner…..it’s two lanes of end to end, bumper to bumper traffic…creeping along….usually a two light wait to clear any intersection.  There are hotels, restaurants and tourist info places everywhere.  I know we have to turn off this road and head towards the mountains, so tell Brian there might not be many places ahead and we should eat here.  We stop in at the Cracker Barrel and I grab a booklet to read.  In it are promos for Cirque de Chine,Country Shows, The Comedy Barn and Dollywood.  The waitress explains…..we have arrived in what is commonly called “Vegas for Kids.”  She said the name was apt as you can’t find a liquor store for miles.  For God Sakes we’ve landed in Dollywood!!!!!  I’m still hopeful that our hotel is in the hills.  We follow the navigation system and it says we have 5 km to go…so I’m crossing my fingers.  Just like the real Vegas has a strip…so does Pigeon Forge and our hotel is right smack in the middle of it!  So much for quiet mountain serenity!

Just like Vegas, it has lots of wedding chapels like this one.  Apparently they go all out at Christmas time as you can see thousands of lights have been put up already.  Right now most places have beautiful fall decorations on display.  I don’t know if it’s usual, but the price of rooms here are ridiculously low.  Our room is very spacious, a huge fireplace, balcony that does over look the river, indoor and outdoor pools and a full hot breakfast for $80.  Many places along the strip are $39. We actually did consider staying another night and take in a show and touring around, but decided to stick with our plans.  Instead of stopping in Asheville, we are heading straight to our neice in Gibsonville.

Once we checked in today, I decided to go for a walk along the river. I did find my serene spot after all.The walk along the river was very restful.  It has been hard to keep up with the exercises and leg stretches.  On occasion I sit in the back seat with my leg extended on the console and that does give a good stretch to the leg.

This mornings drive was delayed for awhile as Nashville and area was blanketed in fog.  I did not want to be on the road will all the trucks I have seen.  We left just after 9 and the fog finally lifted by ten, but we have been cloudy all day. Tomorow it’s threatening rain.

 

 

Pigeon Forge TN to Gibsonville NC via the Blue Ridge Parkway Oct 13,2011

We woke up this morning to heavy rain.  Not a good omen as this was the day for sight seeing in the Smoky Mountains. By the time we left Pigeon Forge the rain had let up but no sun or breaks in the clouds could be seen.  Very quickly we were in the National Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  This is a designated “Scenic Route” and goes all the way from this point, through North Carolina into Virgina.  We followed the winding trail until Asheville NC.

As we gained height, we rain into low clouds and fog.  The trail is breathe taking with a tree lined canopy. Mile after mile of jaw dropping scenery and the fall colors leave you speechless.  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.  The trip was just over 100 miles but took much longer to travel due to hairpin turns, slow moving traffic and about 12 photo stops for us.  We ran into all kinds of weather.  Fog with visibility of 50 yards, rain coming down so hard it was knocking the leaves off the trees so again, a challenge to see.  For several miles we had no view off the road due to fog and low clouds. Eventually we did run into some sunny breaks, giving us an idea of the landscape we missed.

The Parkway has many tunnels…some short, some long but all have names.  I can’t imagine the basis for the various names but I think ” Frypan Tunnel” was my favorite. The photo on the left was taken at “Grave Yard Fields.” About 500 years ago the area experienced a “wind blow down.”  Over time the uprooted trees declayed leaving mounds resembling a grave yard…hense the name.  In 1925 the area was consumed by a fire and the fire destroyed the soils’ nutrients, so only small short plants have taken hold.  Over time as they die and feed the soil, the forest may reappear.  The photo as it appears here is downsized and doesn’t show as well as it could.  By now you know I’m enamoured with the fall colors so please excuse me while I post more photos of same.

We eventually turned off the Parkway and head to Asheville for lunch.  By now is was 130 pm and we still had 300 miles to go.  A quick phone call to Joy to let her know we wouldn’t be there for wings and beer.  After a lunch lunch at Ryan’s Buffet we were on the road.  A word about Ryans..for those Lethbridge folks who travel to Great Falls, Ryans is like the Golden Coral in Great Falls, Montana.  We paid a total of $11.42 for lunch for two, this incudes our beverages and tax.  What a deal.

It was time now to put in our destination into the navigation system and neither our hotel nor my neice home address would work.  I finally settled for someone’s address in Gibsonville.  I had some written directions for the hotel so was hopeful we could find the hotel ( about 5+ miles) from my neice.  Brian was very good and found what looked like the correct exit off the interstate.  Trouble was…it was blocked off as a semi had a roll over on it.  We continued to the next exit in hopes of finding the hotel.  No luck…finally had to call Ronnie who gave us directions.  We thought we had gone too far so pulled into a small shopping center.  This time I spoke with Joy who explained where the hotel was…..she didn’t even laugh…as she explained the hotel was pretty much over our left shoulder!  Hey by this time us old folks are worn and tired.  We told Joy we would settle into our hotel, grab a bite and see her in the morning. 

The hotel room is spacious with a separate seating area…pillow topped mattresses…whoopie, microwave, fridge, closet and all the amenities.  All amenities work well…except the “wireless” internet.  However each room has a data line and I brought my trusty blue cord so all is well.

I am looking forward to staying put for 5 nights.  The hotel has a laundry area and an exercise room, so I’m good to go.  Very much looking forward to seeing family tomorrow.

Spent an hour on the phone with my bank tonight but that’s a story for another day.