Because of the rock fall on top of Interstate 40 at the Tennessee / North Carolina border, we had planned an alternate route north of the Interstate through the French Broad River valley. Meredith of course loved the term and thought of every opportunity for me to keep seeking out my French Broad.
We stopped for an hour or so in Asheville, NC. This is the Austin of Appalachians. Lots of trendy restaurants, bars, hipster places - so hipster that by accident, we wandered into a head shop called "Wonderland". One would think that a statue of the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland would have been a big hint...so we enjoyed looking at the tie-dyed t-shirts.
We walked along Church Ave and came about back to the main city center right along a 1967 London double-decker bus. The bus had been put into a parcel of land (permitted as a mobile food vendor) for a coffee shop. You buy your coffee on the first level and can sit outside or on the second deck. They had to use a crane to place the bus in its current location. Meredith enjoyed their coffee.
I thoroughly enjoyed the landscape architecture of the public park surrounding the civic structures of the City and County buildings. We will be coming back to Asheville. Next time - to see the Biltmore Estate.
Taking the Dixie Hwy northeast to Tennessee turned out to be our best decision yet this trip. There was lots of mountains and valleys to look at, nice roads that wound through the trees. Small towns including Hot Springs, NC on the Appalachian Trail (we're coming back there also) and opportunities to ride white water rafting along the French Broad River.
Reaching Tennessee, we headed to the southeast towards Gatlinburg, TN. There were lots of RV camping and cabin rentals along the way. Reaching Gatlinburg, we found a public parking space and began walking through the main drag of the City. Gatlinburg can only be described as a cross between a Carnival Midway and Bourbon Street in New Orleans. T-shirt shops, candy stores, mini-golf, barkers, street performers, people smoking and lo, the literally tens of pancake houses as far as the eye can see. Meredith especially wanted to come to Gatlinburg as it was were her parents had honeymooned almost 50 years previously. They had ridden on a ski lift up the mountain where they had their picture taken. So we rode up the mountain. It wasn't until I was sitting down on the chair with Alexander when I noticed that this was a real ski lift with only a metal bar and a rather slick-worn seat between you and the 15 to 30 foot drop to the road/mountain below. I ended up with a death grip on Alex and couldn't turn around to check on Meredith and Mr. Bouncy Ford. I had visions of having to fish him off of the side of the mountain.
Luckily, we moved slowly and obviously we all survived.
Later, we took in a streetside magic/comedy show. Alexander wanted to purchase the floating dollar trick and the "peeing raccoon" trick.
We ended up driving through Pigeon Forge and seeing yet more Pancake Houses and "As Seen on TV" stores. We stayed that night in Knoxville, ate at a nice local restaurant and looked forward to the next day.