Happy Thanksgiving Y’all

Heading inland away from the beaches the temperature started to fall as the elevations increased, we were heading to the mountains. First stop was Chapel Hill, another uni town, this one The University of North Carolina. It just happened to be match day so everyone was in their pale blue colours, it’s incredible the scale of the College Sports set ups over here, to rival at least our division 1 or whatever its called these days, in crowds. Great vibes though, pre game. From there to Boone where we found no Mills but we did stumble upon a fab veggie place for dinner. Not surprisingly, there isn’t usually much for us odd ones who don’t eat meat around these parts! Another uni town with a polar bear for street art, among other oddities and who knew the police are sponsored?!

We headed off on The Blue Ridge Parkway with Laurel & Hardy on the wireless and stunning colours of ‘Fall’ around us as we traversed the mountains. Coppers, rusts, red’s, a bit like Westonbirt on acid for scale and general vastness. There is a definite blue haze and we saw deer on a hike to one of many waterfalls.

We arrived at Asheville, it came highly recommended by Karen, and a day or so here was well worth it. A very arty, bohemian place it’s becoming well known for its micro breweries (there’s so many across the US). Asheville is nestled among the mountains, is reasonably modern and close to the Vanderbilt Country Estate, the largest privately owned home in the US, in Biltmore. Lots of art shops and eclectic hippy outlets, restaurants galore and tourist tat. One waitress described it as a place full of ‘Trustarians’ (wealthy people pretending to hip off their trust funds, we like that!) There’s a ton of street art, creative windows (we like the Freddy Mercury one) and Woolworths, well not as we know it. It is now a shared space gallery/arts & crafts space but with a old fashioned diner style milk shake bar to put on a few pounds for! Bustling with life, Asheville was a superb stop. I stopped Nick trying to buy a bus ticket…

In The Pisgah National Forest we took The Yellow Gap Road, we didn’t find Dorothy but we did find the glorious Looking Glass Falls. Water crashing down on clear pools filled with rust leaves and sunlight glistening on the water. All around this area, icicles had formed where water had trickled off the rocks in the shade, yes it was a lot colder inland. Continuing on the Blue Ridge Parkway we entered The Great Smokey Mountains National Park. After numerous stops along the way we arrived in Cherokee quite late, it was a shock. Having spent a day in mountain solace, to arrive in the Casino centred small town, with its bright lights was a shock to our little systems. We had to take a look though, so wandered the half mile to explore. We managed to find the entrance, finding our way out was a bit more challenging. It’s such a glitzy sprawling complex with a vast gaming hall full of ‘slots’ and ‘tables’ and people mindlessly gazing at screens and pressing buttons. We like to class ourselves as reasonably smart but we couldn’t fathom out any of the rules… maybe the only one is throw away what you have? The Hurrahs Casino is pretty epic and funnily enough, being legal on the reservation to gamble (a la Vegas) it’s also the only non bar outlet in town that can serve alcohol, funny that!

Getting over the Casino shock, the Smoky Mountains were our saviour. Undulating land forms, tree covered, softening the edges across the vast view, we were lucky with the weather and could see for miles, and miles the reds and rusts of the leaves about to fall, pops of colour among the evergreens. In the quietness, the birds singling and soaring made for magic. After a short hike at Mingo Falls, we continued on, noticing increased Thanksgiving traffic as we did. Smoky is the most popular NP is the US due to its easy proximity to major cities.

The highest point in The Smoky Mountains is Clingmans Dome, otherwise known as Old Smoky (yes there’s another song coming on..) After a steep walk up, there’s a viewing platform which on such a clear day meant we could see for 100 plus miles in all directions. What a spot to take it all in. Retracing our steps back to base we stopped at a viewpoint to gaze at the soft setting sunlight, throwing the valleys into relief. Pictures can’t evoke the scene as we watched the sun go down and the last golden leaves flutter down as they give up in the cold, to the carpet of colour.

South of The Smoky Mountains are several small historic towns. Silva is a famous one, most recently as a key location for the film Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri but also The Fugitive. A charming historic town, primarily Main Street but all the original 1900’s architectural details remain, nothing is spoiled through modernism ,on the exteriors at least. By day it’s a buzz, at night it lights up beautifully, a town with a glint in it’s eye. A great way to while away a few hours and get great coffee! Other notable historic towns of the area that we’ve also drunk coffee in are Bryson City and Clayton. As is the case in many US towns, some of the signs are fantastic retro.

We saw Black Bears! Amazing, we saw a mother and three cubs and we didn’t need our Bear Bell 🙂 We spent some time up in the North West part of Smoky (short form!) known as Cades Cove. Following the river edged road toward Gatlinburg, Tennessee, was stunning. The shallow waters in the dappled sunlight, mini rapids and fall colours were glorious as we then headed into a different landscape of flatter farmland. An area once inhabited by native tribes, there remains original buildings and churches to explore from settlers times. It’s truly lovely, the only drawback was Thanksgiving, it brings everyone out. They all disappear in the evening though, to their turkeys and cakes. Knowing everywhere would likely be shut we had emergency supplies of a microwave mac’n’cheese and some tofu turkey to have at the hotel. Thankfully we did find somewhere so we joined the local police for dinner in an oriental establishment for some sushi! I’m not kidding! A fine way to end the Smoky & Blue Ridge Mountains part of the trip but to be honest, we’ll be back here in the van.

So anyhow, do the following pictures suggest we might be missing Jigsaw? We know she’s in safe hands but I miss feeding her and being ignored and Nick misses all the love and attention she gives him! Yes, it’s all things cat!

On another note, here’s some of what makes America great 🙂

Anyone wanting to see the route we’ve taken so far, click on the menu and then map. We are now heading into Georgia. Y’all not from round here are ye?

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