Day 122 - Learner Drivers!

Trip Start May 19, 2008
Trip End Nov 08, 2008

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Where I stayed
Smokemont Campground, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North

Flag of United States  , North Carolina
Wednesday, September 17, 2008

We were up and about early and on the road for 8.30. Today was really overcast and when we passed through the town of Iva around 9 am the petrol station still had the floodlights on over the forecourt. It was chillier than yesterday too. When we passed through Anderson around 11 am, the temperature was only 68'F!

From Anderson, as we headed north, the woodland just got denser and denser. But unlike yesterday where it was just rows and rows of the same trees, here there was much more variety and some of the leaves had started to turn.

We crossed the state line into North Carolina just after midday and were delighted with the progress we were making being well over half way to our destination. But after about 5 miles it all began to go a bit pear-shaped. We had to take a minor road to link up with the road we needed, and whilst it was only 12 miles long, it took us about 30 minutes due to all the twists and gradients that our map failed to illustrate. Eventually we reached the intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway. As we turned onto it, there was a sign which read "WARNING Avoid Parkway In Fog, Snow And Ice", and as if by magic, a veil of fog appeared! Not deterred we carried on, the fog getting thicker and thicker. The scenery along the Parkway is supposedly stunning, shame we couldn't see it for the fog! After about 12 miles, Neil said "I've got a sign for the 151", to which Mel replied "I haven't got a 151 on the map". And then she spotted it and realised that we had just gone 12 miles in the wrong direction!

So we took the 151 to hook us across to the 19 and nearly got taken out in the process. The 151 is a narrow, minor road which twists through woodland. And as we went around a right-hand bend, coming the other way was a 3 truck convoy of huge wide loads, the first of which was cutting the corner of the bend and almost ran us into the rock face on our side of the road. How he didn't hit us we will never know. Mel was too busy watching the back end of his truck come towards us, but Neil noticed on the front of the truck was a sign saying "Student Driver"!!!! On a wide load! On a narrow, windy country road! Incredible!

Finally back on civilised roads, we passed through several towns before entering the Cherokee Indian Reservation and about 15 miles after that, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We stopped at a ranger station about a mile inside the park to check out our camping options and discovered that there was a campground only 3 miles further up the road which we were delighted to hear. The journey from the state line to the park, which on the map looked like a couple of hours travelling at the most, had in fact taken us 5 hours!!!

At the campground we were requested to go through the ridiculous system once again of driving through and selecting a pitch, then driving back to the office, before driving once more to your pitch. We rebelled and parked on our chosen site and then "walked" back to the office to register. As we settled in for the evening and began to read all the park literature, we discovered that since 1948, haze from air pollution has reduced average visibility 40 percent in winter and 80 percent in summer. Also, park rainfall is 5-10 times more acidic than average, and the most alarming thing, levels of ozone pollution at the park's higher elevations can exceed standards for human health in summer months. And they make you drive around the campground twice!

Miles travelled: 185

Total miles travelled: 11566

Days on road: 102

States visited: 21

National Parks visited: 12
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