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We’re up early and all packed. We drive Bobbi to the airport and just drop her at the door with her suitcase. "Bye. Thanks. I love you." And, we’re off. Heading for the great Smoky Mountains.
I’ve never seen what Earl describes. He’s been to the area many times as a child on family vacations. His dad is a history major (and a judge) and would teach about the many historical areas they visited.
I’m a boring travel mate. I sleep almost all the way.
We’re staying at the Holiday Inn at Maggie Valley, North Carolina. Earl is up early every morning. Ready and raring to go. I’m never ready to get up. That’s why I work evenings. For most of our stay we are the only guests at the hotel.
Earl takes me all over the valley, through the mountains, and up as close as we can to the Blue Ridge Parkway. As he drives the narrow, icy, snow encrusted mountain roads the views are unbelievable. When my head is up! Earl is driving a big 1978 Thunderbird.
Did I mention "big." And, "narrow" roads. I can’t see the road beside the car–the mountain drops off! One wrong slide and, Oh! I’m in the floor! Earl is laughing. OK. I thought he was afraid of heights?
We stop at almost every lookout area and breathe in the clean, crisp air. It’s cold but comfortable. I can see wisps of white smoke rising in the distance. It’s such raw country it’s hard to believe people live up here. Some homes we see have less protection from the elements than our bus home in the bottoms.
Cades Cove reminds me of the rural area around the bottoms. Fields and straight tree lines. That fine line between domesticated and wild. As we drive, ever so slow, we see deer in the distance. Around a curve, in a dense area of trees and brush, there are three deer just loitering in the road. We sit and watch until they move along. We stop at every old Church building in the area and Earl tells me their history’s.
We visit an old mill that hasn’t been used in forever. To get there we park our tank and walk on three inch thick ice, down the path, over an ice covered walk bridge and slide up to the wall. The mill isn’t much but that stream.
How beautiful it looks and sounds. The snow and cold have created an icy crust along the banks as low brush has become icicles overhanging the water. The crystal clear water ripples over the stony stream bed and the tinkling of it brings back memories. Maybe too many. I miss the isolation and solitude of the bottoms.
Earl’s up early again. He wants to go to The Biltmore Estate in Asheville. "I don’t feel good. You go on."
He’s back and wakes me. I’ve slept all day. He brought the book and shows me everything. He’s so excited and I wish I’d gone.
We spend a day in Cherokee, NC and another in Gatlinburg, TN. We’re tourists. It’s all new to me. We even go to Dollywood on Sunday and attend the little Methodist Church that morning. Earl sings with the choir. We’re both drawn to the blacksmith and woodcarver. The basket weaver and glassblower.
This is our last evening here. We’ve chilled some champaign and break it out. It’s still just the two of us as we sit in front of the fireplace sipping and reflecting. I don’t want to go back. It’s been so wonderful.
I've been to all the places you describe--and you describe them well. Cades Cove is indeed like stepping into the past. And the sections of Blue RIdge Parkway near Maggie Valley also had me hiding my eyes--eek! Those roads ARE narrow and HIGH.