Saturday, August 31, 2013

The "Grand Tour" Road Trip Part 2/4

DAY 4, Thursday (June 13th) -

On the road by 6:50am and it was already 75-degrees and oh, so muggy.  But that was okay, because less than 45-minutes later we were entering Great Smoky Mountain National Park!   


We were on high bear alert and I had my camera at the ready, but all we saw was a turkey and some deer.  

Cades Cove in the park was a great place to explore.  The first settlers arrived in the Cove in the early 1820's and by 1850 the population had reached 685.  There was an old church, cabins, and other historic buildings that we were able to wander through. It's a really beautiful valley.

The John Cable Mill at Cades Cove is still operational.  A park ranger grinds corn and it is sold in the gift shop.  The same grinding stone has been used for 145 years.

This is the Becky Cable House built in 1879 with lumber from the Cable Mill.  No indoor plumbing and heat came from a fireplace.  

We exited the park into Cherokee, North Carolina about 12:30pm just in time for lunch!  Ate more BBQ at Butts on the Creek BBQ in Maggie Valley and then found our way to I-40 and continued east.  

Butts on the Creek in North Carolina.

Robert chows down on the some fried corn on the cob.  Delicious!

With tummies full of brisket we continued on.  Passed over the Eastern Continental Divide and around 4pm we hit some really bad weather just west of Mocksville, NC.  Leaves and debris were blowing across the freeway and several trees had fallen onto the freeway in the opposite lanes.  

The man on the radio announced a tornado warning for east Tennessee and west North Carolina and suggested people take shelter.  Hello!  We're in west North Carolina!  Driving on the freeway!

Rain. Wind.  Lightening.  Rain. Wind.  Lightening!  I was quite scared, but couldn't do much but hunker down and pray.  Exited I-40 at Durham and headed north on I-85.  It was still raining, but not as hard so I was feeling a bit better about the weather.  

About 6:45pm we crossed into Virginia.  Severe weather storm alert again!  Robert was texting his daughter, who had already arrived for Gabriel's gradutation.  Her and Robert's parents were taking shelter in the basement of their hotel, because of a tornado alert!  I hunkered down (again) and hoped for the best.  

NOT happy.

Happy (because we had yet to be carried away by a tornado).

We survived the tornado warning and the weather had calmed, but now we were stuck in traffic near Richmond.   Spent a few romantic minutes in traffic watching the sun set over the semi trucks in front of us.  

Arrived in Fredericksburg a little after 9pm.  The Super 8 would be our home for the next four days.

Total day's mileage:  approx. 440 miles

DAY 5, Friday (June 14th) -

A sleep in day!  Yeah!  After some very long travel days, we were ready for a rest.  

Eventually made it to the Cracker Barrel to meet Robert's family for brunch, but on the way we detoured to A. Smith Bowman Distillery to take a quick tour and do a bourbon tasting.  I don't drink bourbon, but that morning I did and I liked it. 

The room smelled wonderful!

Robert stands in front of "Mary."  Unfortunately she wasn't running when we were there.


After breakfast, we went back to Robert's parents hotel and visited a bit longer and then it was off to get ready for Gabriel's graduation.  A celebration dinner at the Park Lane Tavern followed the ceremony with more time to visit with his family.  It was a late night, but a good one.

Lois, Gabriel, Robert, Katie, and Mike - The Piersons.

Congratulations Gabriel!

DAY 6, Saturday (June 15th) - 

We slept in late and missed the motel's complimentary breakfast.  Boo.  Instead we enjoyed more BBQ at Virginia BBQ before heading out to Gabriel's house for another BBQ (delicious ribs!) with his friends and family.  A very relaxed day.

Coming soon....part 3 of the "Grand Tour."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"The Grand Tour" Road Trip Part 1/4

The beginning of our "Grand Tour" Road Trip began in our RV parked in my parent's backyard, which at the time was our current location of domicile. The beginning began with a belly full of my mom's delicious spaghetti ("I want Robert to have a full tummy," she had said) and an early bedtime of 6pm. Our plan was to sleep a few hours and be on the road by midnight to start our longest road trip to date. We were heading to Spotsylvania, Virginia for Gabriel's high school graduation.

At 9pm with me just falling asleep and Robert apparently still staring at the carpeted ceiling of our RV, I heard him whisper, "Are you asleep?" "I was," I replied "Oh," came his response. I knew then that our departure wouldn't be at midnight. It would be right now.


With a few last kisses and hugs to our cat, we sped away under the cover of darkness. We made good time as Robert hightailed it east on I-8 towards our final destination some 2,572+ miles away.

Getting gas at Love's in Joseph City
At Gila Bend, Arizona we turned north on Highway 85 towards Phoenix. We stopped for gas in Buckeye, getting 25.8mpg, and at 3am Robert clicked on the air conditioning. Temperature: 84-degrees. Please note the time was 3am!

Phoenix would be reaching triple digits by daylight. Between the heat and humidity, the A/C would remain on for most of the trip.

Somewhere along the way there was a time change but I barely noticed as I was most likely asleep.

We eventually turned east on I-40 and watched the sun rise over the Meteor Crater Natural Landmark, somewhere west of Winslow. The sunrise was beautiful, but unfortunately it shined right into our faces. Another gas stop in Joseph City ($3.39/gal) and onward we drove.

At about 8:30am, we crossed into our least favorite state - New Mexico. Once we reached Gallup, everything east would be new territory for us.  Although neither of us care much for New Mexico, we were very excited to see everything!

Welcome to the Land of Enchantment!


However, in New Mexico there wasn't much to see except poverty, flatness, and dirt. We drove on as fast as the speed limit would allow (okay, maybe a bit faster) and eventually reached Albuquerque by 11am.

We still weren't enchanted by the "Land of Enchantment" and were glad when we finally crossed into Texas (Time: 3:40pm).

Bye bye Land of Enchantment!
Hello Lone Star State!

Yee Haw! We had another time change and continued on into Texas, however, Texas didn't look much different than New Mexico. Still hot, flat, and brown.

Somewhere west of Amarillo we passed a cattle stockyard and for miles all we could smell was cow poop. Not a nice welcome to Texas. As it was now Monday afternoon and Robert had been driving since Sunday night, we decided to stop in Amarillo for our first night of slumber. As usual, we opted for the Super 8 Motel.

After settling in at the motel, we headed out for dinner.  One of the things on our itinerary for this trip was to eat real Texas BBQ. Dinner was an all-you-can-eat BBQ bonanza at Dyer's BBQ!

With the smell of stinky cow poop long forgotten, we gorged on brisket, beef, and pulled pork. We left so-fat-it-hurt-to-walk kind of happy. We went back to the motel and fell into a BBQ coma for the next several hours.


Total day's mileage: 1043.9 miles.


Up early as neither of us could sleep, which was good as Amarillo was supposed to reach a high of 101-degrees. It was already 70-degrees with 50% humidity. A quick Super 8 complimentary breakfast of waffles shaped like Texas and on the road by 7am.

A beautiful Texas sunrise from our Super 8 Motel room window

We made good time across the Panhandle and into Oklahoma. While I was sleeping, Robert saw some tornado damage from the monstrous tornado that recently carved a path across Oklahoma.

Oklahoma tornado damage

I finally awoke when we reached Oklahoma City (10:35am).  We were both surprised by how lush and green the state was. I always pictured it to be a dust bowl. We stopped for lunch at McDonald's about 2pm. It was 95-degrees.

Gotta love that $1 menu!

Crossed over into Arkansas not much later. It was so HOT, the hurt-to-breath kind of hot. Not much to see as we cruised through Little Rock and made good time into "The Volunteer" state of Tennessee.

Which way do we go?

Made it to Nashville where we bunked at another Super 8. It was a long travel day as it was already after 10pm. A good time to stop.

Total day's mileage: 920 miles.


Happy Birthday Mom!

Rise and shine about 7:10am. Temperature: 80-degrees w/75% humidity. Ugh.

We picked a great day to take a walking tour of downtown Nashville as we broke into a sweat just exiting our motel room. I was a bit disappointed with Music Row. Suppose I had expected more, maybe to see Blake Shelton or something, but downtown Nashville was nice.

Apparently I have my own sandwich shop in Nashville

We walked around Capitol Hill and saw where James Polk was buried and watched some state prisoners cut grass. The guard didn't even get out of the van as we approached. Robert said she had on a full face of makeup, so she probably didn't want to melt in the humidity. I was smart and didn't wear any makeup.

After wandering around Nashville, we had breakfast at the Waffle House.  We gorged ourselves on grits and waffles and when we left, we saw a buzzard perched on the restaurant's sign watching us and probably waiting for us to keel over from a heart attack or high cholesterol.

Nom nom nom nom

We didn't wait around to find out what the buzzard was waiting for, but hopped in the car, cranked the A/C and continued following the long, white line eastbound on I-40.

I fell asleep and again missed a time change.  Arrived in Sevierville - Dolly Parton's hometown! - around 2:30pm.  Decided to call it a day as we wanted to spend enough time the following day at Great Smoky Mountain National Park, which was less than an hour away.

Checked into the local Super 8 Motel.  The room was great with a balcony overlooking a river.  Tons of birds and I saw my first Northern Cardinal -  Awesome! - and another little bird I couldn't identify.

Beautiful birds

Singing away!

And then it was off to find more BBQ.  We dined at Tony Gore's Smoky Mountain BBQ and Grill.  It was delicious!  I liked it better than the Texas BBQ at Dyer's.  

My favorite BBQ of the entire trip!  Absolutely delicious.

Followed dinner with a nice, long soak in the hot tub and then splashed around in the pool to cool off.  It was a short travel day, but a good one.  We really liked Tennessee.  It's a beautiful state and definitely worth going back to visit.

Total day's mileage: 217.0 miles.

Coming soon.... Part 2 of the Grand Tour.