4th of July in Great Smoky Mountain Nat’l Park

My trip was starting out on a good note — I was upgraded to first class on my red eye to Dallas!  No food but I did get a chocolate chip cookie.  It’s the little things, I tell ya.

Dallas to Raleigh was uneventful and I was quickly on my way to Hertz.  I joined the Hertz frequent driver program through my American Express.  Supposedly there are perks?

Woohoo!  Perk I thought I had when I saw my name on the Hertz board, showing slot 8 was my pre-arranged rental.

Candy Apple Red Cadillac SLS

Dare I believe?  I was certain I had requested the smallest car but maybe this was a free upgrade?  I cautiously loaded my suitcase into the car and drove to the exit gate. ….. uh, yeah, according to Gate Guard Joe this wasn’t my car.

Back to Hertz counter where the Hertz agent and I chuckled heartily over the mix up before she gave me keys to my new rental.

Black Nissan Sentra – Back
Black Nissan Sentra – Front

What can I say?  It started, had AC (which became critical during the days of 104 degrees)  and four doors.  And Gate Guard Joe smiled and let me exit.

Then Spontaneous Me popped into my brain — instead of heading east to Wilmington, North Carolina and family, let’s head west to Asheville and the Great Smoky Mountains!!  Ok, I stopped at a McDonald’s to look up the route on my Galaxy phone (does anyone use this phone to make calls? Just askin’…) and make a hotel reservation in Asheville.

It was 4th of July and I was being independent!

But first I had to stop at a local produce stand and buy fruit.  It was a ritual for my father to stop and get cantaloupe or watermelon when we drove from Massachusetts to North Carolina every 4th of July.   That first watermelon always seemed to be the sweetest and juiciest.

Crappy photo of roadside produce stand

I picked up 1 medium size watermelon and was getting ready to pay until the woman said “watermelons 3/$5.”  Oh yeah, baby, come to mama!   3 for $5?  Watermelons are $6-$7 each here in Los Angeles.  I was done until I spied cantaloupes.  3/$5!   Blueberries 2 quarts/$5.

Which led me to Walmart.  I normally don’t travel with silverware or knives and shortly after I drove off, I realized I needed both in order to eat the watermelon or the cantaloupe!  With a $4.98 watermelon knife (yes a watermelon knife) and $.96 forks (yeah, spoons would’ve been better)

Detour over …. well not exactly!  This is North Carolina on 4th of July, after all.

Fireworks for Sale in Walmart Parking Lot

Not being a fan of fireworks, I bought the smallest package of sparklers they were selling.

Suddenly the sky darkened and the downpour started, accompanied by brilliant bolts of lightning and loud cracks of thunder.  Um, there are no photos of that because I couldn’t figure out my new camera…..

Westward!

Ashevill North Carolina is the gateway to the Smoky Mountains.   My hotel was less than 2 miles from downtown — an easy walk even in the heat.  As any small town, downtown was pedestrian-only because of a 4th of July festival and parade.

My best decision was to stop and buy wine from the local supermarket.  Because unknown to me, I was going to go through several dry counties!