Here I am — day 2 of my North Carolina drive trip.  I am in Tennessee, heading to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, no schedule, no plan, 100 degrees outside and I’m cruising in my black Nissan Sentra!

I don’t like mountain driving so what the heck was I doing?  I live in California, have driven in California, Colorado, Nevada and Utah …. surely Tennessee can’t be that bad.   It was.  Getting to the National Park involved lots of ups and downs on steep highways.   I pulled off the road often to let cars pass.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

But again I wasn’t in a hurry and had no plan.

I spent the afternoon in the park, hiking and sightseeing in the town of Cherokee.  It’s home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Cherokee Museum.   The  Museum is worth a trip!

It dispassionately presents the history of the Cherokee and offers something for children and adults.

My  next surprise drive through was Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  What a gorgeous town, even as it’s overrun with tourists.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Would I go back?  Absolutely.  it’s gorgeous, rustic and surrounded by the Smoky Mountains.  Pigeon Forge is home to Dollywood (who knew?)  and I decided to go.  Except as I’m driving toward Dollywood, I hear storm warnings on the radio.  When I arrive at the park, the parking folks told me the park was closing because of the coming storms.

Disappointed?  Yup but I continued on, this time opting to drive on to Knoxville.  And the proverbial c**p hit the fan as I neared Knoxville.   The skies grew dark (really dark) and as I neared Knoxville, the wind picked up.  I had a great recommendation for a bbq place in Knoxville and was heading there.  Until I exited downtown Knoxville and tree limbs, leaves, and trash cans were blowing around.

Oh maybe I don’t need to drive around Knoxville, maybe I should I continue driving.  So I did.

The dark skies opened up and the downpour started.  It was more than a downpour, it was torrential rain along with thunder and lightning.  Lightning that hit trees on the side of the road and started a fire.  Yup, saw that.

Being headstrong, I planned to continue on but I could barely see 5 feet in front of my car.  When 5 truckers exited the highway at one time, I followed them.  If truckers weren’t willing to drive on, I certainly wasn’t.

Later I heard on the 10p news there were 2 deaths in the park due to flash flooding in the National Park and extensive damage in Knoxville from the severe storms.  The thought suddenly flashed in my mind — no one knows where I am!  It was probably time for me to head east and check in with family.

But first I enjoyed a bottle of wine.

Bodega Elena de Mendoza Malbec

Delicious!  Best $9 spent on wine.   It made sitting in my Motel 6 room pleasant.

I’d like to say I dutifully headed east to family.  Maybe next time.  While I did head east, I saw a brochure for Chimey Rock   and decided to detour.

Brochure of Chimney Rock

The 2.5 miles up the narrow winding mountain road to reach the park left me shaking in the knees.  My Sentra wasn’t meant to climb up steep hills even if I had the gas to the floor.  Fear of mountain driving exploded.

I spent the afternoon there for several reasons — the hiking and the views are magnificant!  And the elevator.  Yup, elevator!  A 26-story elevator built in the mountain!

 And, um, I wasn’t ready to drive down the mountain.  I needed to work up my courage and game plan because on the down I was on the outside.  Yeah, the side next to the cliff.

It took me 1/2-hour to get down and I drove in the middle of road most of the way down.  Yeah I need to work on this fear.  next trip

Writen by Chanel Babe

Hitting my stride in my 50s. An eclectic collector of wine, Chanel(r) purses, vintage teapots, cowboy boots and travel adventures. This is my MIDLIFE adventure . Welcome onboard~

Thank you for joining me on this journey in midlife!