Sunday, September 3, 2017

To the Great Smoky Mountains and Back

Elyse learned about the Blue Ridge Mountains last week in school, and came home talking very excitedly about them. We decided a great thing to do this Labor Day weekend would be to drive up and let her see them firsthand!

We set out Saturday morning a little after 8:00, and, remarkably for us, drove for two hours without a single stop. We did have to take a little break around 10:30 to visit the restrooms and stretch our legs, and also (it turns out) buy a Scooby-Doo DVD and a couple of other things at the Walmart in Clayton, GA (where, incredibly enough, ninety miles from home, I ran into a former student of mine, a guy named Dennis, who's close to my age; he also lives her in Loganville, but also owns a home up there in Clayton. The phrase "small world" didn't get to be a cliche for no reason.)

After our stint at Walmart, we drove straight for another forty-five miles to our first planned stop, the Haywood Smokehouse, where Anna and Jessica and I had had lunch two years ago:

Elyse was not so happy to be there; she didn't like the smoky smell or the decor or the surroundings or the idea of having barbecue or the wait, but Anna and Jessica dressed up their forks and did a good job of distracting her with a Utensil Dance:

Unfortunately, Elyse didn't like the grilled cheese sandwich or the macaroni and cheese we ordered for her, but she did have a good time walking around Dillsboro and taking pictures after lunch:

Here's the picture she took while I was taking the picture above:

And here's a picture she took of her sister:

Elyse really wants our next house to have a balcony, so she was really attracted to this house:

We bought some chocolate (of a remarkably mundane variety, given their offerings) here:

Here are some of the pictures Elyse took in the Dillsboro Chocolate Factory:

Then we drove north for another hour, while Elyse read her Nancy Drew book in the car:

We made a brief detour to go through the McDonald's drive through in Cherokee to get Elyse some fries and hash browns (yes, two types of fried potatoes), and then we entered the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and stopped at the Ocanaluftee Visitor Center:

The chickens that roam the Mountain Farm Museum are clearly not pets, as pets are not permitted:

From this point, we drove north up Newfound Gap Road, all the way to Newfound Gap and the Tennessee state line; sadly, however, I don't have any pictures, because it was raining, and visibility was pretty poor. We turned around after we went through the first tunnel and returned to Cherokee, where it was not raining.

Elyse had become convinced at some point that this trip would not be complete until she got to pan for gold and gems at one of the many roadside mining places that you pass when you drive up into the mountains. We told her that doing so was just for fun and the experience of it, and that the chances of actually discovering anything valuable at such places was pretty slim; she seemed to accept that, but wanted to do it anyway. So, to help make up for the disappointment of the rainy mountain drive, we did:

Both girls enjoyed it, and it was an interesting experience, worth the ten dollars we paid. (We also got to keep the green bucket and the plastic shovel our load of dirt came in.) We didn't bother showing our finds to the assayers, however; the adventure of panning and getting our hands all muddy was reward enough.

Our hotel for the night was way back in Clayton, so from there we went south on 441, with only a short stop at the K-Mart in Franklin, NC, for some Advil. This is how Elyse amused herself while Mommy made her purchase:

Finally, after answering "Are we almost there?" about a hundred times, we arrived at the Quality Inn & Suites in Clayton, had some supper (leftovers from Haywood for Anna and me, McDonald's for the girls), and then the girls went swimming:

Here's the view from our hotel looking north up US 441:

And this is looking south:

The next morning we went to the lobby just after 7:00 (the beginning of breakfast time) to partake of the free hot breakfast (which was among the things that helped us decide on this hotel):

We checked out a little before 11:00 this morning, and made a spontaneous stop at Goats on the Roof just a few miles down the road in Tiger, GA:

(That's a real goat up there on the roof, a black one, blocking the word Goats on the sign.)

We looked around for a while, stuffed ourselves with ice cream (no, not before lunch--instead of lunch), then went another ten miles down the road to Tallulah Point Overlook:

After this we came pretty much straight home, then spent the rest of the day watching TV and trying to get over the post-vacation blues, which are just as real even when the vacation is only thirty hours long.

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