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Old 14th September 2009, 03:05   #1
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Default Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA

Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

Route: Greenville (SC) – Spartanburg – Hendersonville – Asheville – Canton – Clyde – Great Smoky Mountains (till Gatlinburg) – Greenville (380miles)

Members: ROYs, Umesh, Varaprasad in Chevrolet Malibu LT V6

I am in South Carolina, US since early July. The early few weeks went in settling down so freaking out was out of question. Sometime in the last week of August, I got a chance to sneak out of office to take the driving test to get a SC license. So now atleast I can drive here. I was missing my Alto a lot.

An unplanned trip: Now the labour day long weekend plans gone for a toss when we had a major proposal deliverable for Tuesday (Sept 08). Hence, it looked like a weekend slogging again. Most part of Saturday and Sunday were spent in Umesh’s apartment on work. Finally on a Sunday evening, my wife was speaking to Jagdish’s wife, “Lamba weekend mila, waste ho gaya, Bangalore hota to humlog Friday raat ko hi Alto leke nikal jaate”. Still there were no plans for outing. All of a sudden Umesh floated the idea, “Just lets go somewhere on Monday”. So we decided to go to Mountains instead of the beach. Jagdish had some more work on the proposal so he stayed back but Umesh and myself gathered the josh to atleast go for a ride on Monday. Varaprasad too joined us for the trip.

We called all car rentals but being a long weekend cars were all booked. Then we went to Airport to check if there are any cars. We reached airport at 9PM and found a new Chevy Malibu and Hyundai Sonata available with Avis. I now called my wife to get ready by 7AM as she was unaware of our plan. I immediately chose the Chevy and took a GPS as well. Took the car at 9:30PM and drove directly to Walmart to pickup some weekly groceries. The short drive to Walmart was amazing as I was driving 169Bhp car for the first time. The torque was amazing.

Sept 07, 2009 (Monday): We get up at 5AM and were ready by 6:30AM. Even the kid took her bath early morning and was ready to go. Then I casually went to check out into Umesh’s apartment. As expected in a typical bachelor apartment. Umesh and Vara was fast asleep. I had wake them up and remind them about the planned drive.

Baby: I am ready but where are the uncles?
Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA-img_0022c.jpg

Me and Malibu inifront of my apartment
Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA-img_0023c.jpg

So it was only by 7:45AM that we could start the car. Set the GPS for Gatlinburg that is westwards of smoky mountains hence we can drive the entire mountain stretch.

We stay very near to the interstate I-85 and it took us not time to hit I-85 towards Spartanburg. I-85 is a beautiful highway but with speed limit of just 75mph. It was very difficult for me to keep the car at that speed. I was always in the range of 85-90mph unknowingly. The car was handling amazingly well specially at the curves (of course due to the 17inches low profile footwear).

Some pics taken from the car on the Interstates
Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA-img_0025c.jpg

Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA-img_0030c.jpg

We hit I-26 somewhere after Spartanburg. All of us were soaked under the nice greenly terrain coupled with the melodious Hindi music as we marched on. It took us no time to enter North Carolina State.

We hit the local highway US19 from interstate (I-26) and by 9:30AM we were at the foothills of smoky mountains. It was drizzling when we entered the ghat road on the mountains. At about 10PM we reach the information centre at Smoky Mountain National Park. We got a guidebook and understood there are few points that included few waterfalls as well but since it was already 10:30AM we cannot do it all today. It was then we realized that the park was a huge on. It is like a state itself.

US19 through ghats
Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA-img_0041c.jpg

We did some nice photography there as a small stream was passing by and decided to try Cades cove. We were expecting to reach there in 2 hours time but we faced some unexpected traffic jam after Pigeon Forge on the entire highway. At one point we could drive just 2 miles in 30min. As it was already 1PM and we were nowhere we decided to drop this idea for a later trip and stop for lunch somewhere. Luckily spotted a Mexican joint and had some chicken salads with some soft drinks and baby had some rice.

Wife and baby near the stream
Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA-img_0042c.jpg
baby wants to play with water from the stream
Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA-img_0045c.jpg

Smoky Mountains
Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA-img_0047c.jpg
Roys infront of Smoky Mountains
Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA-img_0051c.jpg

While starting the return journey we took the hilly ghat road that takes to the highest point of the mountain. The drive was very lonely among the dense forest. At one point we were starting to wonder whether the GPS giving right signals as there not a single car nor houses on the route. Only dense jungles around. Nevertheless we kept on moving.

Funny GPS: In that lonely stretch my GPS gave a left signal into a kachha road with a very steep incline. I took it in the lowest gear and after taking the first hairpin, to my utter surprise I see the road abruptly end. The remaining area was full of graveyard. Looked scary indeed and no one around inside that dense jungle amongst the corpse. In all this we forgot to take the picture though.

Anyway it was challenge to take the U turn at that place. Nevertheless we continued our journey on the lonely stretch hoping there will be no more surprises.

Another surprise: If the grave was not all, there was another surprise in store. The beautiful tarred road in the mountain abruptly ends at near the peak and another kachha road starts from there. There was just a trekking trail from there going into the mountains. I stopped the car at the edge and we were really undecided whether to follow the GPS path or go back. Luckily we got a Chinese family on a Mazda3 stop behind us with the same dilemma whether they are right. They badly wanted to hit I-40.

Suprised Kachha Road
Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA-img_0058c.jpg

Sudden help in jungle: Just when I was about to take the U turn back. I found a harley Davidson stop behind. I looked at the guy and just shouted halfway taking the U turn, “I need your help, Can you help me?” He parked his bike and walked to us with huge smile and greeted us with “Namaste, Namaste, I know you are Indians”. I told him how to take the interstate asap. He told us, “Just go 2 mile in this kachha road you will get a tarred road and another 2 miles from there is I-40.” Initially I couldn’t believe that I was so near to the interstate but decided to go with his word. After couple of hairpins on the narrow kachha road we indeed found the tarred road and with a signage of I-40 to the left. It was indeed great sign of relief for all of us as it was already 3:30PM and we need to come out asap. We soon stopped at a picnic spot on the tarred road with a flowing stream and took some pics.

Pics at Picnic Spot
Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA-img_0060c.jpg

Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA-img_0067c.jpg
with Varaprasad
Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA-img_0070c.jpg
Roys with Umesh
Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA-img_0071c.jpg

Return journey: It was about 4 PM when we started from there and hit I-40 soon as told by that gentleman on the bike. With the GPS also giving right signals we soon sped on the interstate.

Beautiful I-40 through the mountains
Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA-img_0074c.jpg
Entering a Tunnel
Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA-img_0075c.jpg

Highest Speed on I-26: One problem in US is that you need to be within the speed limit. A little 10mph on the higher side is fine but anything above is calling for trouble and heavy fine. I indeed saw some police vehicles inside the bushes with speed gun especially near bigger towns like Asheville and Spartanburg. Unlike in India, I was always touching 90mph unknowingly on a 70mph interstate. So I had to check on the speedo time to time.

It was somewhere after Asheville where the traffic was less and I decide to follow an SUV. I thought Americans might care of the speed limit so let me follow this SUV as pilot on the fast lane. I was enjoying the drive peacefully with this SUV as pilot. Suddenly a glance at the speedo, I see it touching 105mph and the distance between me and my pilot is same as usual. Then I thought chalo then its not only me, others too drive a higher speeds much above the limit.

Anyway after sometime I decide to play on the safe side and brought the speed down to 85mph. I need to learn how to use cruise control here.

In all this, we passed Spartanburg in a whisker and reached Greenville and into our house by 5:30PM. Must say the return journey was very fast. I enjoyed my first drive in US and also the much powerful Malibu. Even at speeds of 100+ mph it was rock solid on the road and the curves.

Conclusion: This was the first trip that was taken without a plan so ultimately it became a recce of the smoky mountains. We plan to go again and cover some more places sometime in the fall when you can see colourful leaves. Best thing was that the car gave 30mpg of average for the entire 390miles with steep ghat roads and full load of 4 adults and one kid.

Signing off
Abhijit Kumar Roy
Attached Thumbnails
Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA-img_0043c.jpg  

Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA-img_0055c.jpg  

Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA-img_0066c.jpg  

Weekend Travelogue: Trip to Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA-img_0076c.jpg  

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Old 14th September 2009, 08:07   #2
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Real nice travelogue and pictures! Smoky's is a great place to be, and yes you must definitely try it during fall - its simply awesome at that time.

And mate do try and follow the speed limit as it is strictly followed here in the US. It's just that you might have been lucky or the person you might have been following had a radar detector installed in his SUV. Anyways, better safe than feeling sorry after shelling out $$ ;-)
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Old 14th September 2009, 10:14   #3
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ha, so it started from there. Good. So now we can see many places in US virtually from here
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Old 14th September 2009, 10:39   #4
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So after conquering roads in India,Roys are now taking up the US.
Nice drive and very good pictures indeed. Hope to see more of it.
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Old 14th September 2009, 10:44   #5
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Nice writeup Abhi. Do visit it during Fall once again and try staying in one of the log huts. I did Smoky 4 times during my stay in SC, the ghat roads being one of the reason. Once I crossed the ghats in the middle of the night, while traveling to TN.

I bought a radar detector and it helped a lot. However, being around 80-85 is suggested.

Looking forward to more wrietups from you. The apartment looks familiar
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Old 14th September 2009, 10:47   #6
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@Roy, Nice log. Rememberd the golden days

OT: Is it turtle creek on Roper Mount Road ?
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Old 14th September 2009, 11:13   #7
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Abhi good to see a travelogue from you, been wondering that why are you not that active on "Tbhp". anyways now i know the reason
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Old 14th September 2009, 11:41   #8
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So that answers why you were so inactive last few months. Nice travelog as always and we are waiting for more Let's Go travelogs from US of A..
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Old 14th September 2009, 12:18   #9
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Very descriptive and also impressive pics of the countryside akroy!!
I have never been to the US but since my parent company is located in Tennessee would hopefully have a chance to visit soon.
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Old 14th September 2009, 12:18   #10
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Nice travelogue.Feeling good to see the photographs.A sincere "Tbhp" still sharing travelogue whether in India or abroad.Thanks
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Old 14th September 2009, 12:35   #11
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Abhi, good to see you started there.

As others suggested, keep an eye on the speed limit religiously.
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Old 14th September 2009, 12:40   #12
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Gatlinburg is an awesome place. I made a road trip from Nashville to Gatlinburg in Dec 2001. It was cold and misty and I had LOADS of fun. This thread brought back a lot of memories. Thanks for the post.
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Old 14th September 2009, 15:55   #13
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Hey Abhi, now "Videshi" travelogues from you, good pictures man.
BTW, why are you not in your traditional Kurta, left it behind in India?
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Old 15th September 2009, 06:25   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saurabh M View Post
I bought a radar detector and it helped a lot. However, being around 80-85 is suggested.
I will also buy one as unknowingly my speeds are increasing. I was just not able to keep that high powered car at 75mph.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saurabh M View Post
Looking forward to more wrietups from you. The apartment looks familiar
Yup, You left and I joined. Wish there was some overlap

Quote:
Originally Posted by lambuhere1
OT: Is it turtle creek on Roper Mount Road ?
No, its Huntington Downs, near to turtle creek offcourse

Quote:
Originally Posted by lukeskywalker
Hey Abhi, now "Videshi" travelogues from you, good pictures man.
BTW, why are you not in your traditional Kurta, left it behind in India?
Hari, I am always in my traditional kurta be it india or USA. Also if see my india travelogues again, my driving attire has not changed either.

Abhi

Last edited by akroy : 15th September 2009 at 06:26.
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