Friday, May 01, 2009

Road Trip (Part I)

Well, we just got back from our great adventure out east, where I grabbed another state for the list of States I've Been In (if just barely) ... North Carolina.

Everyone thinks "oh, the beach". Well ... no. We were about as far away from the beach as you could be and still be in North Carolina. Which was fine. The Smokey Mountains are pretty. Especially when you get to stay in a nice cabin with family. Who are also friends.

We went up to Fort Wayne on the 23rd to pick up Vicki's mom, then head down to North Carolina to visit Vicki's cousin Jim and his wife Carol in their new cabin for a few days, and head back here for Mothers Day and her birthday.

That's ... probably a 1600-1700 mile triangle. Maybe more.

It was the maiden voyage (significant voyage) for the Garmin Nuvi 260, and I programmed in our various destinations as "favorites" before we left. We took two days to get from Fort Wayne to Murphy, via Mt. Vernon KY. Later we would take another two to get from Murphy to home, mostly to keep from wearing mother out.

The trip was a pretty one, with the subtle variations in the shades of green in the new spring leaves on the trees. They were not yet thick enough to block out sunlight shining through them, lighting them up like fiber optic ornamentals, while framing the redbuds and dogwoods which were in full bloom the whole way.

I made on variation in our route to Murphy by getting off of I-75 about 15 miles early to get on the TN 68 scenic route. Vicki looked at the atlas map where there was a stretch of road on our route going off of 68 that was made up of two thin lines instead of one solid line (up to Unaka, NC)... and asked "Is that a road???? I figured if it was on such a non-detailed map at that scale, it must be fine. (Their cabin is around the Hanging Dog Mountain symbol. Click on the map for a larger view.)

"Serena" (that's the GPS - the name associated with the female british accented voice) directed me to bear left onto County Road 618, a gravel road... which I dutifly did. It had us driving something around 6 or10 miles and then turn right on Joe Brown Highway. So I wasn't too concerned as the road became less gravel and then more dirt ... and then more leaves than dirt. Still, there were a few vehicles coming the other way that didn't appear to be logging trucks. I grew up driving gravel roads. We pressed on. I could sense skepticism from my passengers, so I tried to keep the converstion light. It was pretty. We were literally driving through the woods, going over an Appalachian ridge. In a couple of places chunks of mountain protruded from the road, but it was nothing we couldn't handle in a Taurus at 20 mph. Plus the road got better once we crossed into North Carolina - though there was no marker on the road. Only the GPS clued me in on that event. And finally, after twisting and turning on what is easily the most twisty, turney road I've ever driven (or likely ever will -- I'm not sure how one could be more curvy) .... we got down to the place where we we were to turn right onto Joe Brown Highway.

It didn't look any different. Of course, with a monicre like "Highway" ... I assumed it would be paved. So, I had to riff for about another 10 miles at 25 mph to keep everything light. Turns out that whole road on the map above from where we left 68 down to Murphy is the "Joe Brown Highway" - or the Old Unico Turnpike.

Eventually we got to some paved roads and before we knew it we were dumped out right at our destination, Jim and Carol's cabin as promised.

And it did cut out quite a bit of time in the end. May have saved us an hour. Plus we got some pretty scenery and a story to tell.

And it's late so I'll finish this later.

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