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on top of old smoky - the road trip
Old 07-14-2007, 06:34 AM   #1
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on top of old smoky - the road trip

brother is renting us a cabin (& two jet skis, woohoo!) on lake norris in tennessee for a week. thought i'd add a few days there & back & do some site seeing. just starting to study the maps.

possible stops on way north (from fort lauderdale) include atlanta & chattanooga. cabin looks like good spot for sidetrips to knoxville & great smoky mountains national park. then maybe head east by southeast on way back with stops in asheville nc, maybe charlotte? anything interesting in columbia or charleston sc?

my only time in that area was last autumn leaf peeping along the blue ridge parkway (gorgeous). i stayed in asheville but turned out it was height of tourist season (worse than south florida) so i feel i didn't get a good impression of the town and want to give it a second try.

gonna bring either mountain bike or the hybrid. mt bike better for trail riding but i don't know if it will be too hot for that. i would have thought of that area as being cool but now i'm told it can get really hot in summer. with hybrid i can do some easy trails & off road but it is better for touring downtown areas as it positions the body upright instead of leaning forward.

would appreciate comments from anyone familiar with the area on bike options and on general touring. i love nature and also i like to look at old houses, historic districts, downtowns, waterfronts. i like beautiful scenery on the drive and would appreciate any good touring roads as opposed to just interstate highways. thank you.
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Old 07-14-2007, 09:01 AM   #2
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The smoky mountains are great (where I live), I do recommend coming during the week, especially during the summer, as traffic can get utterly horrible (13+ million people per year in small towns visiting)

Cades Cove is amazing, as you can see alot of wildlife at all times, with many places to hike. You can also take a nice drive along the Blue Ridge too which is amazing.

You will most likely see black bears also, about once a year some silly tourist tries to give them a snickers or something and gets mauled, so I do not recommend this hehe. Generally the bears are harmless though. When hiking make it a habit to be kinda loud sometimes so they can hear you coming. In the small chance you do come across a bear, which I do sometimes trout fishing, do NOT run, they will think you are prey. I generally just clap my hands at them and say NO BEAR if they start getting close. The chances of actually running into a bear though on the more well used trails is very small.

Most places are super safe to hike, but you may wanna check with park rangers on some trails, due to bears and other predators, as some parts further away from the national park can contain mountain lions. Like I said before danger is rare, but better to be aware and prepared.

It is pretty hot here now, pushing 90 every day with very little breeze here in the valley, but the temp drops about 3 degrees every 1,000 feet you go up. It can be kinda cool as you go up, so you may wanna bring a small jacket just in case.

Douglas and Cherokee lake are very nice too, lake levels are down alot though from not much rain this year.
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Old 07-14-2007, 09:09 AM   #3
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Aren't they the "Tar Heels"? See if you can find out what it means while there.
Some say they got the names because they were so slow to get into battle during the Civil War.
Others say they got the name because they were so steadfast in the Civil War.
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Old 07-14-2007, 09:48 AM   #4
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DW and I love to visit Gatlinburg every year. This year we will be in the area for two weeks in September staying in our timeshares.

If you like historical things I would definitely tour Biltmore Estate in Ashville NC on your way up or back. Do the "behind the scenes tour to get a more indepth exposure to the largest house in the USA. We don't bike but we have taken several hikes in the Smoky Mtn. Nat'l Park.

We will be taking a day trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway and also a day trip to Chattanooga. Not sure what is there but has to be something historic in that area.

If you want history and old houses definitely visit Charleston. We were that for a week two years ago staying in the old downtown district near the market. There are hundreds of beautiful old homes and buildings to see. Many you can tour for a fee. There are also several famous old plantation houses in the area to tour. Of course there is Fort Sumpter and an old aircraft carrier and submarine you can tour at Patriot's Park. If you go all the way over to Charleston you might as well hit Savannah while you are at it. I have never been there but have heard there is a lot of history there as well.
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Old 07-14-2007, 10:37 AM   #5
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WOW! We're close what a coincidence. We're near Maggie Valley right now. Drove into Smokey Mountains NP yesterday from Cherokee side. Will be coming around to the Tennessee side in the next week or so.

I must say we've been enjoying the moderate temperatures in spite of the rain. We had to run the heater this morning, it's getting down into the 50s in the early morning.

Gorgeous views! (Pun - gorge! get it! LOL!) I'll post some pics in a bit.

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Old 07-14-2007, 07:40 PM   #6
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In Chattanooga, lookout mountain is a great place to go! They used to have a pretty awesome laser light show there too, I do not know 100% if they still do it or not.
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Old 07-15-2007, 02:27 AM   #7
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bigritchie: i've gotten used to sharks and barracudas and that's just on internet forums, and then there's all that scarey stuff in the ocean, so i guess i can handle a black bear or two. tell me though, if i'm biking on that trail, will they see me as fleeing meat on wheels?

instead of yelling "no bear" i thought maybe i'd have some t-shirts made up with a bear inside a circle and a diagonal line running thru it. the interspecies "no bear" sign.

i looked up yahoo images of cades cove. looks stunning. i will have to check it out and search for the covered bridge which looks to belong there.

i'm confused about the weather. you say hot but audrey says cool. is it that it is cool in evening and morning but hot during rest of day?

dex: i don't no nothin' about no tar heels. and i don't know why but that reminds me to put a fresh coat of wax on the car before i hit the road.

tom52: i didn't realize that's where they put gatlinburg but just checked on map and sure enough. also just north of there is something my sil wants to see called pigeon forge, anything there worth the trip? when you do blue ridge parkway allow for some time. the road is very windy and slow, especially when i was there at peak color. the views are really impressive. but i couldn't even get up grandfather mountain because of the crowds and i tried on two different days. i picked up the drive at asheville on my last visit and headed up to boone. this year i'll check out the section between smoky mtns and asheville.

thanx for the confirmation on charleston. i thought i had heard good things from there. sounds like a town to have the hybrid bike for touring historic district. i'm not doing savannah this trip, been there twice already. will stop in savannah when i roadtrip to n.y. later this year.

audreyh1: looking foward to you posting pics. that really is a sweet life you set up for yourself, always surrounding yourself with beautiful & changing scenery. sure hope it doesn't rain too much while we're there. we will be there not this but next week. norris lake area is about 1/2 hour north of knoxville which looks to be about 1/2 hour north of smoky park. hard to tell. on map looks like short distance but those roads are so windy so maps can be deceiving when i try to judge time & linear distance from them.

how about any suggestions from anyone on stuff like waterfalls (which are fairly easily accessible) or caverns? museums? any other "must see" locations?
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Old 07-15-2007, 07:31 PM   #8
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also a day trip to Chattanooga. Not sure what is there but has to be something historic in that area.
just found something that looks like might be pretty cool at lookout mountain where bigritchie suggested going.

i think it's a 140 ft waterfall only it is 1100 ft underground.

Ruby Falls - Digital Brochure
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Old 07-15-2007, 09:09 PM   #9
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Yea I forgot about Ruby falls, it is really nice. Forbidden caverns is nice too and in the Smoky Mt. area.

On bike I doubt you would have to worry about a bear really, as long as you do not ride to close to them.

They might think the T-shirt means genocide all bears! With the No bear thing though, I have had bears come up pretty close to me when I fish alot and have a nice pile, they can smell it miles away, and I just smack my hands and yell NO BEAR, and they wonder off, if they keep coming near them, I just leave some fish there and wonder off. I cannot wait to go fish more after FIRE in a couple of months, I used to just go wonder off into the mountains for a week or 2 build a shelter and practice survival skills, alot of the bear encounters I have also are way back in the woods too.

it is kinda funny in Gatlinburg though bears started coming down so much all the restaurants had to put special enclosures around the trash cans. Nothing like going to throw the trash out and having a 500 pound bear there hehe (FYI you probably know this, but do not do not do not if you camp sleep anywhere near where you eat, and dispose of food far away. It is all fun and games eating in your tent, till a bear rips it down at night smelling the leftovers hehe).

O yea it is hot down in the valley, and as you go up it gets cooler. Right now the valley is pushing 90 everyday. I would say you can go up into the mountains in shorts just maybe bring jacket just in case.
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Old 07-15-2007, 09:12 PM   #10
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Good pic!
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Old 07-16-2007, 01:41 AM   #11
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I was in Chattanooga just last week visiting family before we drove out to California. I lived in that part of the work for a couple of decades.

There is a TON of stuff to see in the area.

Racoon Mountain power generating station is a unique trip. There is a man made lake on the top of the mountain and the water flows into the mountain into a power plant that was carved out of the inside of the mountain. Huge turbines create the power as the water falls through them into the river below.

Rock City is the major tourist trap on Lookout Mtn. It is interesting if just for the views of the
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Old 07-16-2007, 01:48 AM   #12
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I was in Chattanooga just last week visiting family before we drove out to California. I lived in that part of the work for a couple of decades.

There is a TON of stuff to see in the area.

Racoon Mountain power generating station is a unique trip. There is a man made lake on the top of the mountain and the water flows into the mountain into a power plant that was carved out of the inside of the mountain. Huge turbines create the power as the water falls through them into the river below.

Rock City is the major tourist trap on Lookout Mtn. It is interesting if just for the views of the area. It is claimed one can see 7 states from a vantage point there put the summer haze will limit that number to only 4 or 5.

Incline Railway...a cable car system that runs straight up the side of the mountain. Nice later in the day.

If you like Civil War history this is the place. There were three major battles fought here and there are plaques, canons and monuments all over the place. There are hikes you can take that follow some of the battles and Chicamauga Battle field park has a very nice museum on firearms and other items used in the battle.

Water is everywhere. Lakes, Lakes and more lakes. Rent a boat or ride a paddle wheel river boat down the Tennessee river. Some have dinner cruises and in mid October will cruise the river for the "color cruise" it is very very beautiful.

Aquarium. There largest freshwater commercial aquarium in the world is downtown. It is huge and well worth the visit. They are always adding new stuff and even have some saltwater creatures now.

Lots more....just do some Googling.
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Old 07-16-2007, 04:15 PM   #13
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i like engineering stuff, thanks for the heads up stever. just last night discovered the aquarium online. didn't realize it was fresh water. downtown tampa aquarium has a really good fresh water display. i'm stopping in atlanta where i hear there is an excellent aquarium.

i like some history stuff but don't really need to stare at an empty old battle field. civil war museums are a good idea though. that would give this roadtrip a nice old south theme.

i do wonder about eating there. my brother & sil already expressed concern as i guess they'll be barbequeing meat products every night.

just how deep south is tennessee anyway? will i need a southerner to new yorker dictionary? any chance i'll find a health food store near knoxville. will they sell tofu or will they just lynch me for asking. i'm picturing shopping aisles filled with fresh elk and free range possum. i suppose i could always stop by bigritchie's trout taco stand for a midday snack.

ok, well, wish me luck.
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Old 07-16-2007, 04:33 PM   #14
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i like engineering stuff, thanks for the heads up stever. just last night discovered the aquarium online. didn't realize it was fresh water. downtown tampa aquarium has a really good fresh water display. i'm stopping in atlanta where i hear there is an excellent aquarium.

i like some history stuff but don't really need to stare at an empty old battle field. civil war museums are a good idea though. that would give this roadtrip a nice old south theme.

i do wonder about eating there. my brother & sil already expressed concern as i guess they'll be barbequeing meat products every night.

just how deep south is tennessee anyway? will i need a southerner to new yorker dictionary? any chance i'll find a health food store near knoxville. will they sell tofu or will they just lynch me for asking. i'm picturing shopping aisles filled with fresh elk and free range possum. i suppose i could always stop by bigritchie's trout taco stand for a midday snack.

ok, well, wish me luck.
Tennessee is plenty "southern". Y'all be nice now, ya hear?.........
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Old 07-16-2007, 05:21 PM   #15
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just how deep south is tennessee anyway?
Here is my rule of thumb. Any place where most of the restuarants have grits on the menu, or any place where someone calls me a yankee, or worse yet damn yankee, is plenty deep south. So, by my estimation Tennessee qualifies.

PS we are considering retiring to Tennesse. We love it there!
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Old 07-18-2007, 01:05 PM   #16
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between practicing my suthun drawl and learning to cook grits i've been studying some maps & tour books. looks like lots to see on this trip. bringing hybrid instead of mtn bike for historic tours, especially for charleston and i might also check out beaufort s.c.

question for bigritchie: if i drive the scenic route which bisects great smoky mountains national park (i think it is newfound gap road), and then pick up the blue ridge parkway to asheville, can i do that drive in one day during daylight hours? or should i go around the park and take the scenic section of hwy 40 to 23 & 74 where it intersects with the b.r. pkwy?

i've done the b.r. pkwy from asheville to boone and i recall it's a pretty slow drive so just wondering. i'd hate to be on that road at night as the mustang doesn't fly.
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Old 07-20-2007, 09:00 PM   #17
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Temps:

In our campground, the hottest it gets is into the high 80s. It's usually lower than that, and if it's a rainy part of the day it stays in the 70s.

Driving up in the mountains, it's mid 70s at most, and up higher altitude down into the 60s!

We've fallen in love with the Blue Ridge Parkway - driven the last 12 or 18 miles into the park several times. It's a beautifully engineered road with gentle sweeping curves (no hard breaking required), incredible vistas, and the most amazing feeling of privacy out in the wilderness. Last night we stopped to watch a Ruffed Grouse standing in the road and then rounded the corner to scare a huge black wild pig who proceeded to crash up the steep embankment.

Nope - didn't see no bears, but a hiker warned us about one up a couple miles ahead when hiking the Deep Creek area yesterday.

On to the Tennessee side next week. We're staying somewhere between Pigeon Forge and Sieverville.

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Old 07-21-2007, 09:45 PM   #18
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Earth Fare Home

There is one in west knoxville. My favorite grocery store. One of the things I most look forward to with ER is always having the time to drive there and do my grocery shopping there.
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Old 07-21-2007, 09:55 PM   #19
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I went camping in Middle Tennessee this week, got utterly roasted by 95+ degree weather and some nasty thunderstorms, other than that utterly wonderful, and very warm lake.............uggg am I retired yet hehe
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Old 07-23-2007, 04:35 PM   #20
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The Chattanooga Aquarium has a new penguin exhibit which is a lot of fun to watch. The whole area around the Aquarium and the Riverfront is really nice; great walking along the river. Lots of fun places to eat.

Rock City is truly a tourist delight best enjoyed with children, I think.

Ruby Falls is a little anticlimatic, but still fun if you don't mind going underground.

Raccoon Mountain is spectacular. We were able to see the reservoir when they drained it a couple of years ago to do some repairs, and it was mind boggling. The view down the Tennessee River Gorge is one of the most beautiful you will ever see.

If you're in town on a Sunday, there is a Chattanooga Market on the Southside that has a different theme each week, and lots of fresh fruits and veggies brought in that you can purchase, along with crafts, etc.

If you're here on a Friday night, there is a free concert at Miller Plaza every Friday starting at 7:00 with a wide variety of musical styles. Lots of bikers attend and it's fun to look at the variety of bikes all lined up on the street. You can buy food and beer, and walk around, or sit and listen to the bands, or you can gather in front of the bandstand and shake your booty if you so desire!
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