April 25, 2016

Starting mileage 3128.6

When we first pulled into the campground, two of the sites had been occupied.  When I poked my head out of the tent in the morning, we were the only ones left.  I can be accused of many things but being an early riser is definitely not one of them. I thought about making breakfast but still couldn’t bear the thought of eating anything so we went for a short walk before breaking camp.

When we had passed through Tellico Plains the evening before, I had noticed a bakery and figured a nice cup of coffee was in order.  Just because I wasn’t hungry didn’t mean I couldn’t get caffeinated. So we went back into town.  And the bakery was closed.  I had forgotten that it was Monday after all.  Somewhat dejected, I started to drive out of town when I happened to look to my left and saw a small brick shed with a sign that read “Tellico Jail”.  I don’t know if it was actually a jail but I had to stop for a quick picture.

Looking unimpressed with me.
Then I saw the local visitor centre and the sign out front said that they had the best T-shirts for the “Tail of the Dragon”.  Now I had heard of this road which is supposed to be a big draw for motorcycles.  I decided to pop in and find out more.  In the parking lot I  saw what looked like a shrub pruned in the shape of a dragon.

Giant shrub dragon. Whatever.
The Tail of the Dragon is a section of Highway 129 that is 11 miles long but has 318 curves.  When I told the woman working there that I was in the area and thinking about driving it, she hesitated then said that today would be a good day since it wouldn’t be as busy.  I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous about it.  For some reason I had this image in my head of broken pavement, sheer cliffs, narrow roads.  But I figured that since I was here I had to at least check it out.  She pulled out a map to give me directions and told me I would have to go along the Cherohala Skyway and that there was some great scenery along there.  I made a crack about having been through there yesterday and it was just like home, only with bigger hills.  She gave me kind of a puzzled look before going back to the map.  I could either take a big loop and drive the Tail from north to south which is how most people do it or take a more direct route to go from south to north.  Since I had to go north anyway, it was an easy decision to make.  Of course now that I had a map in hand, I noticed that I had crisscrossed the park I don’t know how many times in the past 24 hours.  Part of the fun of freestyle road tripping I guess.

With a stack of maps and brochures tucked under my arm, I went back to the car and out to  the road.  It did not take me long to realize that the day before, I had actually taken a wrong turn and was never on the Skyway.  Those nice hills that I had seen were actually foothills.  Well didn’t I feel the ass when I sorted that out.  The Skyway was exactly how I had thought it would be and on par with the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.

Definitely not like the hills at home.
There is a restaurant and motel at the bottom of the Tail and we stopped there before tackling the drive.  I certainly did not fit in with the crowd: a lone woman and three dogs in a Corolla with Ontario plates do stand out.  My nerves were not settled when I saw the high-end sports cars or the pack of motorcycles that pulled in talking about how their brakes were smoking.  What had I gotten us into?!?!  They even have signs for having your photo taken as you drive.

After strapping the dogs in, I sat in the drivers seat and steeled myself for the drive.  Music on and at a good level?  Check.  Everyone peed?  Check.  Hungry?  Still no.  Weird but I’ll think about that later.  We have a dragon tail to drive.  And here. We. Go.

They don’t seem concerned at all.
It was not what I thought it would be.  The road was the same road the I had been driving.  There weren’t sheer cliffs.  And the road was not only standard width but there were even places to pull off.  I just drove nice and slow and waved at the photo stands on some of the corners.  Now had I been on a motorcycle and driving quickly for bragging rights, then it would be terrifying.  Fortunately there wasn’t much for scenery that I could see so I wasn’t tempted to look anywhere and didn’t feel cheated out of the sights.  The odd thing was that there wasn’t a restaurant at the north end of the Tail.  I guess I did it backwards.

Fortunately there were plenty of other spots to stop and enjoy and we made frequent stops as we drove.  With the clock ticking away before I had to be back home, the drive was not as leisurely as it could have been even with our little walk breaks.  As we were approaching Cincinnati, Ohio I noticed there were a lot of signs for campgrounds.  Wanting to make the most of a mostly open road, I decided to wait until we passed through before putting in for the night.  I thought that with campgrounds to the south, there would be campgrounds to the north.  Well that backfired because I did not see a single sign north of the city.  You would think by now that I would have learned my lesson and done some research ahead of time.

Finally as we approached Dayton, Ohio, I saw there was a Red Roof Inn.  Perfect.  The room wasn’t as nice as the one we had stayed at in Greensboro but it was clean and I was tired.  And finally hungry.  I tried to order a pizza from a restaurant that was 7 kms away.  They told me I was outside of their delivery area.  By this point I was so tired, I didn’t care and crawled into bed.  Apparently I found the really comfy spot on the pillow because Leo decided to use me instead.