Gatlinburg trip October 2007

After the great time we had in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg last year we decided a return trip in 2007 was needed. Sarah wanted to go in the fall to see the leaves change. We decided to go in the first week of October to take advantage of Columbus Day. Sarah found a cabin she liked. We decided we would leave on a Wednesday evening after I got off work and stay in Frankfort, the site of our most recent motorcycle trip.

On the Jeep front, I had made several changes (3" exhaust, air filter mod, Kennedy lift pump) and I was interested to see if they would increase my highway mileage. Last year I had gotten 28 mpg on the interstate and this year I hoped to hit 30 mpg. My normal, every-day mileage is up a few mpg so I wanted to see if that would translate to the highway.

October 3

Vacation day has finally arrived. When I got home from work Sarah had the Jeep packed. I secured the house and we were off.

The first stop was Joe's Crab Shack in Louisville. Neither of us had eaten there before and Sarah wanted to try it. For once the Mapquest directions were off and we spent about 15 minutes finding the place. It was very nice. They also have outside seating so we did that. It is right on the river. It was dark and the nearby bridges were lit up with colored lights. There were boats and barges on the river. It was a great supper.

Our next stop was Frankfort and the Capital Plaza Hotel. It was close to midnight by now so we hit the hay.

October 4

We had planned to sleep in a little but were awakened at 8:00 am by the maid knocking on the door. Kind of early I thought, so I stuck the 'Do Not Disturb' notice on the door. Sarah got up and read for awhile while I laid in bed but didn't sleep. About 9:30 we decided to pack up and hit the road. I took Sarah to Daniel Boone's grave and made a lap around the capitol building. We stopped at Sonic for breakfast.

After that we started putting down the interstate miles. An hour or so later I was getting a little droopy so we pulled into the Berea WalMart to pick up a few items (eyedrops for me) and to walk around a little. This was where I repaired my motorcycle on our summer bike trip.

We hadn't been on the road for long when Sarah decided she wanted to stop at the Dog Patch Trading Post in London, KY. Gotta keep the women happy, so we stopped and Sarah spent some time looking at all the junk they had. This made me bored and sleepy so I got a Coke.

For some reason I found my shoulders getting stiff while driving and I kept getting sleepy, so I kept moving around and stretching my arms on the grab handles. Unlike the bike trips, there are not hourly or so stops for gas. The diesel Jeep can easily go the entire trip down without refueling.

As we got into the mountains I noticed a triaxle dump truck coming down the long grade and something didn't look right about it...the road curved but it was going straight. When it crashed into the center divider I realized its front tire had blown out. It wasn't a hard crash but was pretty cool to watch.

As we got into south central Tennessee we got into some rain showers. I'm not a big fan of driving on the interstate in rain. There's always a Ma & Pa Kettle who drive 20 mph and get traffic snarled. It rained through the Knoxville area. By the time we reached the Sevierville turnoff it was just sprinkling. I pulled off and filled the tank so I could check the highway mileage later. The rain-scrubbed mountain air was refreshing.

The traffic through Sevierville was light but Pigeon Forge traffic lived up to its infamous reputation. As we crept along my cellphone rang. When I saw the number I got excited...

For the last several months I have been on a Goldwing hunt. Not just any Goldwing though. The elusive Goldwing I'd been seeking was a 2002/2003 orange with ABS. Prior to this trip I had seriously considered going home via Chattanooga and getting an orange 2007 at Southern Honda, but I eventually decided against it. A couple days before this trip I had found an orange one in Cycletrader. It wasn't advertised as an ABS model, but close inspection of the pictures reveal that it was. I contacted the seller via email. When I came back to my desk minutes before I left for vacation he'd left a message on my phone. We'd been playing phone tag since then and I wanted to let him know I'd take the bike. We spoke for awhile and he told about the bike. He confirmed the ABS and I told him I'd take the bike. He said it was mine. Yes! A great trip just got better! And now I had another trip to plan!!

We finally got through Pigeon Forge, onto US321, and headed to Wears Valley Road. The cabin we rented this year is in the same general area as last year's so it was easy to find the turnoff to our new cabin. Holy crap. We thought last year's road was steep. This road was longer and steeper with blind curves and dropoffs.

It was worth the effort. The cabin and view were awesome. Click on the links below for more pictures.

Views from the cabin

Cabin interior

We hurriedly put our stuff in the cabin. It was a little after 5:00 pm and tonight we have 6:00 pm reservations at the Dixie Stampede. We washed our faces and headed back into town via our roller coaster cabin road.

We left the Stampede tired and full. The food was good and there was plenty of it. Sarah had never been there and she really liked it. We picked up some pop at a convenience store on the way and went back to the cabin. We lounged in the hottub for a while staring out over the mountains. It doesn't get any better than this.

Sarah took a shower and went to bed. I took a shower and set up the laptop for the internet. I had to use the phone line for dialup. If the cabin had had high speed internet it would have taken the SWAT team to get me out of there. I looked for cargo trailers to haul the Goldwing. I checked Ebay and found some trailers being sold by Trailers and More located just north of Knoxville. I checked their website and they seemed to have a selection worth checking out. We decided to go check them out in the morning. After a long, fruitful day I went to bed.

October 5

I woke up before the alarm clock this morning with two questions. Where was I and how come I can't see? I remembered I was on vacation in a cabin in the Smokies (YES!!) and I was being blinded by the rising sun. We lounged around the cabin a little then got ready to go.

Our first stop was for breakfast at IHOP. I had an omelette and to my surprise it also came with pancakes. The pancakes looked good, but I was too full from the Dixie Stampede to eat them. On the way out the door a guy started talking to Sarah about a vacation timeshare sort of thing by Bluegreen Vacation Club. He said he could get us free tickets to two shows in town. We decided what the heck. We signed up for the 3:00 pm presentation and headed north to Knoxville.

The perfect cargo trailer I was looking for was a 6x14, V-nose, single axle with trailer brakes, and ramp door. I knew from previous research this would only be had by special ordering it. The 6x14 size is harder to find and getting trailer brakes on a single axle is a shot in the dark. When we got to Trailers and More I looked at what they had. They had several 6x12 V-noses with single axles and one tandem. Tandems come standard with trailer brakes. The tandem also had extra D-rings and a trim package. The tandem it would be. I went inside and talked to Nick Meier...a guy so busy he needed 6 hands. By the time the papers were signed he had knocked $400 off their already low price and threw in some extra D-rings and stuff. Sweet!! I'd pick up the trailer Monday on our way back home. If you're in the market for a trailer give Nick and Trailers and More a call.

My new trailer.

After getting the trailer we headed back to Pigeon Forge. The cops were thick so I watched my speed. Did I mention the cops here run blue lights and I have a blue light bar on my Jeep? Worked out nicely. I could tell a lot of people thought I was police at first. You get "that stare" from other drivers.

We stopped at a bookstore in Knoxville and Sarah got a few books. At the turnoff to Sevierville we stopped at a Honda dealer and a Kawasaki/Yamaha/Suzuki dealer. Sarah tried on bikes for size and I looked for a wheel chock for the trailer. Neither of us found what we wanted. When we got back to Pigeon Forge we had enough time left to go pick up supplies at Walmart.

We arrived for our presentation at Bluegreen. It was actually enjoyable and interesting. Our 'guest host' Keith was a good guy. When the presentation and tours are finished comes the inevitable sales pitch. I told them it was an interesting presentation but I would like more time to research it further, and I was sincere. At this time one of the supervisors came over and basically said if you didn't sign up now you lose most of the benefits mentioned in the presentation. That high pressure tactic made up my mind and my answer was NO. I felt sorry for Keith because he was a good guy and probably stood to make a good commission on the sale. But I'm not going to drop a chunk of money on something after a 90 minute sales pitch. We collected our free tickets and left.

We decided to go back to the cabin and freshen up. On the way I stopped at the convenience store and bought a map of the Pigeon Forge area. When we had left the Dixie Stampede last night I had taken a back road instead of the main drag. The main street is almost always crowded but the off streets are almost deserted and a quicker way to get places...if you know where they go. I was going to research the back roads.

Later that night we came back into town and went to eat at TGIFridays. I had a shrimp and chicken fettucini concoction. It was very good, but spicy. Sometimes spicy things upset my GI tract. If you read about our 2007 Asheville trip you know what I'm talking about.

When we got back to the cabin I figured the mileage on the trip down. I was disappointed that it was still 28 mpg...the same as last time. I really expected to see 30 mpg. As I walked my log book back out to the Jeep I looked at the Jeep and it occurred to me that since the last trip I've added the grill guard and my lightbar. I'm sure neither one of those are good for highway mileage. So, either my efficiency upgrades didn't improve the mileage, or they did improve mileage and the added drag of the lightbar and grill guard cancelled it out. A mystery for time I guess.

October 6

I hadn't even gotten to bed this morning when I started to feel the rumbling, gassy tummy. Here we go again. I was up and down most of the night giving the cabin plumbing a stress test. It lingered on into the morning and early afternoon. Our free tickets were to a 3:00 pm show of Magic Beyond Belief and the 8:15 pm show at the Comedy Barn.

By the time for the Magic Beyond Belief show I was feeling better. I downed some more TUMS and we headed out. The show was great. Two thumbs up.

Magic Beyond Belief pictures

After the show I felt the need to return to the cabin for some more rectal purge. The traffic on the main street was poking along so I decided to try an alternate route. I turned west on Apple Valley Road to New Era Road, to South New Era Road, to Goose Gap Road, and back to the cabin. The back roads are in good condition and a quicker way to go if you know they are there.

My stomach had calmed down again by time for the Comedy Barn show. This show was great, too. The comedy is the old fashioned silly kind and 100% clean. It reminds me of Hee Haw. Like every other place they take your picture on the way in in hopes of selling them to you. We bought the pictures from the Dixie Stampede but passed on all the others. The free tickets we received from Bluegreen were good seats at both shows.

After the show my stomach was still feeling okay so we went looking for somewhere to eat. Nothing spicy for me so Sarah wanted to go to Calhouns. I had a good, plain steak and potatoes. It was very good and settling. After supper we went back to the cabin and lounged around for the rest of the evening.

October 7

Today we have a busy day planned. It is our last day of running around. Sarah has been wanting to go horseback riding and today she will get her wish. We chose the Smoky Mountain Deer Farm because they had guided rides. It is east of Sevierville on US411. Once again we used the backroads and were there in no time. Neither us had ridden for many years. We chose the hour ride and it was fun and relaxing. It was a little rough on the bottom side.

If a head ever needed to be hidden by a cowboy hat...the back of my head looks like a monkey's butt.

Our next adventure was to cruise the Roaring Fork motor trail southeast of Gatlinburg. We bypassed Pigeon Forge via back roads and headed into Gatlinburg where traffic was its normal self...slow. The Roaring Fork trail is setup similar to Cades Cove. You drive a one-way loop to check out nature. There are many pulloffs to stop and check things out.

We had barely gotten on the trail when we saw cars pulled over and scattered everywhere. That only means one thing. Bear! Sure enough, a bear and her cub were foraging in the woods about 25 yards off the road. Sarah got pictures and I got some video. There wasn't much else to see on the loop. It's not as interesting as Cades Cove. Because of the drought many of the streams and waterfalls were dry. I could feel a Hindenburg-sized gas bubble forming in my colon and I was ready for a bathroom.

The next stop was Clingman's Dome. We were going to stop here in 2006 but they were closed for remodeling. On our 2007 bike trip it was pouring rain when we came through. The drive to the dome was beautiful in the sunny weather. Much better than being drowned like rats on the bikes.

Arriving at the parking lot I was rewarded with two beautiful orange Goldwing and a nice big bathroom. With gawking and my business finished we started the 1/2 mile walk uphill to the dome. The walkway to the top is paved and I'm guessing the grade is 20-30%. It's hard on a lazy engineer. I was doing better than Sarah though, and she's young. After a few rest stops we made it to the top. The views are worth the effort. The walk down is a lot easier (wink).

Pictures from Clingman's Dome

We left Clingman's Dome and headed back to Pigeon Forge via the Gatlinburg Bypass. The road has beautiful scenery and is a cool drive. Hopefully next year when we come through on the bikes the weather will be as nice. We stopped at a pulloff and took the above picture of Gatlinburg.

Sarah had made herself pancakes this morning, but I had only had some TUMS. It was early evening and both of us were getting very hungry. We stopped at a Shoneys on the south end of Pigeon Forge. That was some really good food! Their mashed potatoes rivaled my mom's. Afterwards we drove around looking for places Sarah might want to shop at. She found a quilt place but it was closed. We'll go there tomorrow on our way home. We headed back to the cabin.

There is a diary in the cabin that residents leave their thoughts on. Lots of people have mentioned raccoons that come to visit. We haven't seen hide nor hair of them. On the way into the cabin tonight I dropped a bread roll from Sarah's doggy bag and decided to "leave it for the raccoons". Later we were sitting on the deck when we heard scampering. Sarah looked around the corner and her eyes got big and she reached for her camera. Around the corner came three raccoons to pay us a visit. They were slightly timid but came up to us and sniffed around. One even came over and sniffed my foot. It tickled. They stayed for a few minutes then went back into the woods. We put out Sarah's leftovers from Calhouns. They never returned that evening but the next morning everything was gone but the potatoes.

Raccoon pictures

It had been a good day full of horses, bears, and raccoons. Unfortunately, it was our last night at the cabin and we started packing up some of our stuff. Tomorrow we head back to Indiana.

4 - Horse Ride
6 - Roaring Fork trail
11 - Clingman's Dome
12 - Shoney's
13 - Quilt place

October 8

Today the loose plan is to pack up and be on the road by 8:30 am. We ended up leaving at 9:32. We stopped at IHOP and they had a 20 minute wait. Negative. Not waiting for IHOP. We headed up the road to the quilt shop and a bookstore Sarah wanted to investigate. She didn't find anything she liked at either place. I picked up some calendars as gifts.

We headed to Knoxville to pick up my trailer. We passed another IHOP but didn't see it until we were past the exit. Poor advertising. We got to Trailers & More where I hooked up to the trailer. Nick came out and did an inspection. I signed some papers and we were on our way. The trailer pulled well behind the diesel Jeep Liberty.

We passed exit after exit but no IHOPs presented themselves. Finally Sarah turned to me with big, hungry blue eyes and said "how about the next Cracker Barrel?" Point taken. Somewhere in southern Kentucky we found a Cracker Barrel. I had some pancakes and they were good. The rest of the trip was typical. Louisville sucked as usual. Crowded interchanges. Some people poking along, others thinking they are the next Earnhardt reincarnation.

We arrived home around 6:30 pm. We unpacked, went through 5 days of mail, and TURNED ON THE AIR CONDITIONING. It was cool when I left so I had turned off the air. The last few days were in the 90's and the house temperature when we got home was 87*. Whew! Sarah had to work that night so she took a nap.

I wholeheartedly recommend a cabin stay in the Smoky Mountains. Whether you stay a weekend or a month, there's plenty to do.

See You On The Highway

Other trips

E-mail me