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YEAR #3 - STOP #49

We woke up this morning and still had no electricity as we expected. Temperatures never did go below freezing last night, but it did come close.

We left left our campsite right on schedule at 10:30AM and started our travel further south on Insterstate 81 to just inside of the Tennessee border. Everything was going good, the winds had died down to something safe to drive in and with no rain we made good time.

Once off the Interstate we had to negotiate some two lane surface roads for the last 17 miles to the campground entrance. Not a problem until we saw the sign on the left! I immediately had flashbacks to the situation we found ourselves in when we traveled through Smuglers Notch up in Vermont.

Another mile down the road and there was another sign warning truckers their last chance to turn around was a half mile ahead. We pulled over in the turn around and used the GPS to zoom in on the road ahead. We then realized the turn off for the campground was just before the first switchback occurs, so we confidently proceeded forward.

What we didn't see while zoomed in was that once you arrive at the turnoff for the campground there is still another 8.4 miles until we arrive at our campsite.

Below is a close up of the 8.4 mile path from the turnoff of Tom Howard Road (on the right) to our campsite location (on the left). Just a few switchbacks, wouldn't you agree! Thankfully the speed limit was a modest 25MPH and there was nearly no one else on the road, so I was able to take up both lanes to make the turns when necessary.

TUESDAY - Today I'm going on a reconnaissance mission!

While it's true Tricia and I plan our stops six months or more in advance, one thing I don't plan is our route to get there.

I save that for something to do while we are at each stop. So today I started planning our route to our next stop in North Carolina. I know it's on the other side of the Appalachian Mountains from here and it's not going to be an easy drive.

I plug in the coordinates for where I am and where I want to go and see what the GPS comes up with. Keep in mind this is a special truckers version of a GPS, so it's not supposed to route me any where a vehicle my length, height and weight shouldn't go.

It has a setting where you get to select either the shortest route or the fastest route, they aren't always the same. I wish it had an option to select the safest route, because that is the one I would use most often, like today.

Sure enough it wants to go straight over the mountains, through all the switchback warning areas, so it will get us there fast and short, but not safe. I drove the first quarter of that route today with just ROVER and didn't feel comfortable doing so. No way am I towing THE POD over this route.

So I started to manually reroute us around the mountains instead of over them and turned our future 100 mile travel day into a 175 mile travel day, but at least we stand half a chance of arriving alive!

WEDNESDAY - This morning we are off to visit another cave here in Tennessee. Appalachian Caverns is another small privately owned show cave and we once again go in not expecting much to see. What we did find was a small gift shop that was still closed ten minutes before the first tour at 10:00AM was scheduled to start so we waited outside in the truck.

Someone did open the door just before ten o'clock, but it wasn't the tour guide, he hadn't arrived yet. At 10:15AM our tour guide arrived and we finally got underway.

What got off to a rocky start was quickly forgotten when we realized just how knowledgeable and passionate our guide was about presenting us the modest cave. There were very few grand formations or awesome views, but the presentation more than made up for it.

Most of the tour was spent walking upon elevated walkways
due to the entire floor of the cave being one continuous flowing creek.

If you guessed Indiana Brown Bat you would be correct.

Can you tell what this is hanging from the ceiling?

After the tour we grabbed a quick lunch at Hardee's, made a stop at Walamrt to replace my 12 year old computer mouse and filled up ROVER with gasoline for a bargain price of just $1.79 a gallon. When you're camping 25 miles outside of town in a National Forest you have to plan your in town activities accordingly.

While driving back to camp we noticed a lot of smoke on the side of a nearby mountain. Even from twenty miles away it appeared to be in the same direction as the campground. The closer we got the more confident I was that it was in the vicinity of the campground.

By the time we reached the turnoff for the campground we were right on the edge of the smoke. Just a half mile down the 8.4 mile campground driveway we saw this.

A low smoldering fire burning right along side the only road leading into the campground. My first thought was someone flicked a lit cigarette out their car window and my second thought was call the fire department. Fortunatley we had no cell phone signal so we couldn't call. We would have to wait until we get back to THE POD and turn on the cell phone booster to get signal.

I started thinking "that little fire didn't create all the smoke we saw in the sky". Once we went around the next switchback we saw more fire along the roadside and I started to wonder if we should continue on.

Finally we rounded another blind corner in the road and everything began to make sense.

There was a United States Forest Service truck parked along the edge of the road and a Forest Ranger monitoring the situation. We stopped to ask if everything was under control and should we worry about moving our trailer out of the campground.

He assured us everything was fine and they were just conducting a prescribed burn in the area to burn off most of the autumn leaves on the ground, so that if there was a real fire it would be easier to contain.

Over the next four miles of roadway we saw more fires and a dozen more rangers monitoring it.

At least the smoke didn't find it's way down to the campground!

Just a suggestion guys! Next time you plan a prescribed burn near a campground, how about a heads up to the campers, so no one panics and calls 911 like we almost did. We all watch the television news about what's happening out west in regards to out of control forest fires!

THURSDAY - We have another cave tour planned for today and during breakfast we discussed the idea of not going. We still have five more planned before the end of the year and felt maybe this one could be skipped. We're so glad we decided to go!

Bristol Caverns is privately owned and operated by a gentleman named Gary. We got to meet him before the tour started and he gave a lot of insight as to which of our future tours we should definitely not pass up on. He purchased Bristol Caverns back in the early 1980s after having visited many of the show caves in the central and eastern United States.

Not only did he purchase the 17 acres of land that includes the gift shop, parking lot and cave entrance, he purchased the mineral rights to all the area the cave tour encompasses. Basically he purchased the rights to the land under the neighboring homes and the county road that passes in front of his ticket office. Pretty smart fellow if you ask me! No chances for future claims of illegal trespassing or sharing the profits of his attraction.

Anyway here are some photos of our tour today, no captions this time.


SUNDAY - Those of you who have explored other pages of this website know that I have a Bucket List for each state we visit. One thing on that bucket list is something to eat and usually something non-alcoholic to drink that each state is known for. Other items on the list would include National Parks, Forests and Monuments, cave tours and of course my L.O.V.E.D. I.T. items.
Check the list out HERE if you get a chance.

For the state of Tennessee I chose Nashvile Hot Chicken, Memphis Dry Rub Ribs and Dr. Enuf. If you're not from northeastern Tennessee chances are you've never heard of Dr. Enuf, but I'll bet you've heard of his famous brother, Mountain Dew.

Both of these beverages were bottle in Johnson City, TN until the mid 1960's when Mountain Dew was sold to Pepsi Cola and the rest is history. Dr. Enuf was developed back in 1949 by a Chicago chemist as a vitamin enriched lemon-lime flavored energy drink. It contains 220% of the daily requirement of Thiamin and 80% Niacin and still does to this day.

I tried it and it tastes like a 7UP with a hint of a ginger ale after taste. As far as the energy boost, I've drank a six-pack of this stuff this week and still feel unboosted. :-(

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