Saturday, July 05, 2008
It's like Where's Waldo, but with a baseball cap.
Someone at the Smoky Mountains today mistook me for a park ranger. I was amused.
So I am sitting in a motel in Chattanooga, not because I didn't want to camp but because yet again my atlas misled me about the existence of camping in this area and I am so tired of aimless driving. I had the bad luck of arriving at the Smoky Mountains on July 4, mid-afternoon. I knew there was no chance of finding a campsite but I tried anyway, and of course they were full. The road into and out of the park was bumper-to-bumper for *miles* because every single person in the U.S. went to the Smokies for the holiday weekend, so it took me over an hour just to get out of Cherokee, NC and onto a road that, according to my atlas (which of course is never wrong!), would lead to a campground in the Pisgah National Forest. On the plus side, the Blue Ridge Parkway is amazingly gorgeous. On the minus side, I think it took me 90 minutes to find the campground. When I arrived, there was *one* site left, which I snagged. Other cars arrived soon after, and were SOL. I flopped onto my sleeping bag, listened to the dozens of bumblebees that shared my site (!), and was vastly relieved at my luck. And it was cheap, too!
This morning, the park was still crowded but the road wasn't so bad, and I managed to find some reasonable samples. It also rained and was very foggy. The supposedly stunning views from 441 as I crossed the ridge looked like this: guard rail, then *nothingness*. Eerie and underwhelming.
Gatlinburg, which must be traversed in order to get back into Tennessee, cracks me up. Pigeon Forge, next town out, is similar. Miles and miles of hotels and tourist traps, Fastest Go-Carts in Town and Salt-Water Taffy and Ripley's Believe It or Not. It's actually a lot of fun as long as you've stashed the car somewhere first.
Tourist at Smoky Mtns. gift shop: Is there a way to go *around* Gatlinburg?
Cashier/ranger: Hahahaha! I mean, no.
For sale at the same gift shop: a book intended for small children, about the Trail of Tears. I didn't open it, but I wonder what it could possibly say. What next, My First Holocaust Reader?
I spent some time in Cherokee studying the faces of the locals, looking for some hint of features that I might share. I saw nothing... three generations have blended them away. Too bad; I would have liked to have the black hair, like my dad and grandma have.
Alabama tomorrow, then either TN or GA during the week when I have to actually meet with people. I want to go home. Can I please go home now?