Day 3 on the Blue Ridge Parkway - Almost Home

Peg at The Peaks of Otter Restaurant

Blacksmith's Shop at Mabry Mill

Duck. Duck. GOOSE!

Mabry Mill

View from the Blue Ridge Parkway

Beautiful yes but be careful

Day 3 was our last day on the Blue Ridge Parkway and the last day being away from home. We traveled more than 3700 miles and drove through 15 states on our vacation. Most of the driving was done on state highways and we avoided the Interstates when we could. So, now we are tired but happy. We still have a couple days off to tackle clean-up and rest before going back to work. Guess we need to start planning next year's trip!

Goober says "Hey!"

Biscuitville - Mmmm Good!

Wally's Service Station

Peg in the Pokey

Peg fills in for Andy

Squad Car Tours
We spent the night in Mt. Airy, home to Mayberry. Mt. Airy was where Andy Griffith grew up and is where the Andy Griffith Show TV show was based around. Many of the restaurants in the area try to capitalize on the show even though they are not related. The night before we ate at Goober's. While the food was great it had nothing to do with the character "Goober" from the show. In the morning, after stopping at Biscuitville for breakfast we took a quick ride around the town. The tourist spots have seen better times and are pretty run down now but it was still fun to play. Goober says "Hey!"

Day 2 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Peak of Mount Mitchell

Storm rolling in to Mount Mitchell

Access road to Mount Mitchell

View near Mount Jefferson - HDR

Day two of our trip driving the entire Blue Ridge Parkway had us making a slight side excursion to Mount Mitchell. Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River at 6684 ft. You can drive almost all the way to the top. While we were there a thunderstorm rolled in. One minute it was sunny with the next being a complete white-out and you couldn't see anything because you were in the clouds. We had a good meal at the restaurant here and just watched the storm move on. The absolute beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway makes for a very calming trip. Since we were driving during the middle of the week we did not have much in the way of traffic on the Parkway. It is very easy to escape and be all alone up here if you should so desire.

To the Parkway

Pony by a creek

One of a thousand beautiful views along the river

Bunches Bald Overlook

Mustang overheats slightly

Looking Glass Falls

A Natural Trout Stream Marking

After riding The Tail of the Dragon we slowly made our way up US 28 over to US 19 and eventually onto the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Cherokee, NC. It is really hard to get anywhere fast when you drive the back roads. There is always a reason to stop and look at everything along the way. Running with the AC on while climbing mountains and doing all this stop and go sightseeing caused the Mustang to overheat slightly at one of the stops. We probably would have been okay if we had kept driving since it didn't actually overheat until we stopped to take pictures at Bunches Bald Overlook. We stopped for 20-30 minutes to let the motor cool off and we were fine. There is much construction going on right now on the Parkway and we where forced to take a small detour because about 10 miles of the Parkway was closed. This actually turned out to be a good thing since the detour took us right past Looking Glass Falls. This beautiful 60 foot drop falls is right next to US 276 in the Pisgah National Forest. As if we needed to be reminded we were in the wilderness, there were "wild" markers along the stream after the falls indicating that it was a native trout stream.

A little bit of The Tail of the Dragon

Peg shot a little bit of video from her point and shoot camera while I was driving The Tail of the Dragon. The video is a little deceptive since the road is much more curvier than it appears.

Taming the Dragon

Sign near the beginning of The Tail of the Dragon

Deals Gap - There is a good little store here to pick up souvenirs and drinks

GoGo Pony parked at the overlook on The Tail of the Dragon

Peg enjoys the view from The Tail of the Dragon (and catches her breath!)
We spent the night in Robbinsville, NC at the Microtel Inn and Suites. This simple hotel is the closest chain located near The Tail of the Dragon. While almost everything in the area caters to motorcycles we felt comfortable staying here. There are a couple of restaurants within walking distance and we ate at a great little Mexican joint just up the road a bit. I have been wanting to drive The Tail of the Dragon for some time. Located between the Tennessee and North Carolina border on Rt 129 the Tail boasts 318 curves in 11 miles making it a very technical road. The speed limit has been reduced to 30 mph but this is still fast enough to have a fun time. There are signs everywhere warning you of limited medical assistance and to "travel at your own risk." Several places along the Tail you see skid marks leading off the road and into the woods making a scary reminder to be safe. We almost had a new hood ornament when we rounded a curve only to find a motorcyclist in our lane. You must stay in your lane at all times on these narrow roads. This road is also heavily patrolled by Johnny Law so keep your speed in check. The Tail of the Dragon did not disappoint me. It was a great little drive.

Heading East

Rapids bellow Ocoee Dam No. 2

Ocoee Dam No. 2

Ocoee Dam No. 1 and Ocoee Lake
Traveling back east from Alabama we took the scenic route along Interstate 64 through Tennessee and North Carolina. This route takes you through the Cherokee National Forest and the Nantahala National Forest. Probably the most scenic portion of the drive is the section in Tennessee that runs next to the Ocoee River Gorge and the Ocoee Lakes. There are many pull-offs along this section where you can stop and watch kayakers and rafters play in the rapids. Also, just below Dam No. 3 is the whitewater course where the 1996 Olympic kayak events took place.

Playing on the Gulf Coast

The Hot Rod Power Tour Long Haulers gather for a photo

The USS Alabama

The submarine USS Drum
Bubba chilin' at Huck's Cove in Gautier, Mississippi
Today we made our way west along the Gulf Coast after pausing in the morning for the Hot Rod Power Tour Long Haulers photo. Well, actually we took pictures in the morning of the ships and things but the photo was taking way too long and I almost passed out from the heat.  I had to retreat to the AC of the snack shop before the picture was taken. June in Alabama? What were we thinking! Driving along the shore we didn't see any evidence of the oil spill other than empty beaches. It was kind of sad. We stopped in an out of the way hole called Huck's Cove in Gautier, Mississippi for lunch.  What a neat place this is right on the water.  Great food in a laid back place. Tomorrow we start heading back slowly northeast.

Hot Rod Power Tour Day 7 - The Finish Line

Hot Rod on the Road to Mobile, AL
Peg Flashes the Peace Sign at the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center

View from the 9th Floor at the Renaissance Hotel
Trying something different
It's the last day of the Hot Rod Power Tour and Peg did the driving early on so I could play at taking some more photos on the road. With a wide angle lens I was able to shoot the cars right next to us in the other lane. The hard part was setting the shutter speed just fast enough to keep the car clear while blurring the wheels and background. I found that anything more than 125th of a second made the cars look like they were parked. Once in Mobile, AL we again bailed after a short time and went off to play. Right across from our hotel was the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center and we had the place almost to ourselves. We played with most of the hands on exhibits and had a blast. Back at the Renaissance Hotel, our 9th Floor water view had plenty of things to watch. We spent a couple hours just watching boats, trains, and of hot rods go by.  Down at the hotel market I found some odd chips that I just had to try. They were actually pretty good. I'll eat anything at least once.

Hot Rod Power Tour Day 6 - Too Much Heat

Incline Railroad - Chattanooga, TN
Great Hot Rod at Regions Stadium in Birmingham, AL
Today we held back from the pack to go and ride the Incline Railroad in Chattanooga, TN. This cable car holds the title of steepest railroad with a incline of over 70 degrees near the top. The views are great and the ride to the top only takes a few minutes. If you like trains and you have nothing better to do this is a good way to kill an hour. With the temperature rising we were off to Birmingham, AL for day 6. At this point both Peg and myself were having trouble dealing with the heat. I just couldn't drink fast enough to keep up with the sweating. Temperatures were in the 90s and the humiture was well into the 100s.

Hot Rod Power Tour Day 5 - And then the rains came

Hot Rods in the Rain

Butterfly at the Chattanooga Aquarium
Bubba pretending to be a fish

Well we were bound to have a rain day. Most of the day Wednesday it rained.  We had a few hours were it didn't but we decided to cut our losses and go play at the Chattanooga Aquarium. And what a great decision this would be. The aquarium is actually two buildings with different exhibits. They even have a mesmerizing butterfly room. It was sort of freaky to have all these colorful butterflies floating around you. In a different part of the aquarium, while no one was watching, I squished myself into one of the kid displays where you could be inside the aquarium. Always take time out to play.  For dinner we had the "Magical Mystery Tour" pizza at the Mellow Mushroom just up the street. Yum!

Hot Rod Power Tour Day 4 - Doing our own thing

Bubba meets Superman in Metropolis, IL
Big John in Metropolis, IL

Country store somewhere near Land Between the Lakes Kentucky

Ford Tri-Motor 4-AT-E "The Tin Goose"

Cockpit of the Ford Tri-Motor
We were starting to OD a little on the car scene so we decided to take the opportunity to divert from the planned route and discover what the locals had to offer. While planning our trip I had requested all the free brochures that all the different states' department of tourism had available. This is a great way to find things you would otherwise know nothing about. A quirky little entry for Metropolis, Illinois caught my eye. So we were off to find Superman. And we did find him everywhere downtown. Metropolis also has Big John. This huge bag boy greats you at the front of the parking lot for the supermarket.  This was a good place to stop for a restroom break and snap a few pictures. A few hours later we were feeling a little hungry and so we stopped at a country store for a snack. Homemade FUDGE!  These cheesy little stores are always good for a laugh or two so it is a good idea to take the time to explore. Our final destination was Bowling Green, Kentucky. We did the "get your time card stamped and pick-up your goodies" routine once again. But, I noticed a sign that said "Fly the Ford". This awesome Ford Tri-Motor model 4-AT-E was flying people around and I just had to take a ride. What a great ending to a great day!

Hot Rod Power Tour Day 3 - It's Getting Hotter

Hot Rod Power Tour Morning Meeting Day 3

3000 Fellow Hot Rodders all trying to make a right turn

Old Time Garage at the Mid America Motorworks lunch stop

The Exhibition Hall (minus people) at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Du Quoin
The morning drivers meetings on the Hot Rod Power Tour are a great way to talk with all the fellow Hot Rodders. When almost a thousand rodders leave at the same time you can't help but get a smile on your face. If you don't have a reason to leave early I recommend you drive with the pack. Just remember to bring your patience because it can be slow going. Oh, and little towns become parking lots when all these hot rods end up trying to make a right turn at the same time! Just relax and enjoy the spectacle. Today we were lucky enough to have a lunch stop sponsored by Mid America Motorworks. The food was awesome, our hosts were fabulous, and the museum and store were a great rest stop from the heat. We ended up in the beautiful Illinois State Fairgrounds in DuQuoin. You would never guess that this place used to be a strip mine  before it was purchased back in 1923.