I hope you're all following along at home! Day One: Richmond, VA to Harriman, TN (just West of Knoxville) via Abingdon and Gatlinburg. We had a fun first day on the road. After a sad farewell to all the animals we got going. The first leg of the journey took us to the Valero on Semmes Ave for gas, coffee and donuts. Then we were on the highway and immediately stuck in traffic. It was starting to look like a long way to Texas! The delay was short and we were soon ticking away the miles. By the time we were done with the first Sedaris tale we almost at Roanoke and steaming our way out of Virginia. First though, a late lunch in Abingdon, a quaint railway town in the Southwest of our home state.
There were a few flakes of snow in the air as we stepped out of the car and ran into the Ellis Soda Shoppe for a bite to eat. We walked a few blocks down the high street after lunch but it was bitterly cold so we got back in the car and soon crossed in to Tennessee. Although we had been driving through the mountains, you don't really get to see them from the Interstate, so I had been wanting to take a detour to make sure that we experienced the Smokies. Gatlinburg is not far off our route and sits on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains Park. It has this awesome space needle that I was dying to visit. As we drove in from the highway we got a great view of snowcapped mountains. You could clearly see the snowline, where the steep slopes fade from white to dark. Little did we know that would be the best thing about our detour!
Gatlinburg was described by my travelling companion as 'Virginia Beach in the Mountains'. In other words, it is a resort town full of hotels, and places for the people who stay in the hotels to eat and spend money on inane amusements, such as the space needle, a dilapidated structure that barely scrapes the low clouds (let alone space) and is accessed by a lift who's doors only close if the occupants stand in the right place (backs pressed against the wall). The only other thing we found to do in town was take a free taste of Moonshine, although I could have had the same experience for almost the same price by taking a sip of antifreeze. We exited Gatlinburg by a different route and passed through the town of Pigeon Forge, which was like Myrtle Beach in the mountains. The Christmas lights were insane. In the median of the main drag they had erected the twelve days of Christmas. Every few blocks there was another group from the song. From the direction we were coming from we started at 12 and counted down. The creators had done a good job representing each verse, although four (traditionally Colly Birds) had been difficult so they went with the variant 'calling birds' and presented us with four parrots sitting atop telephones. Needless to say we were on the edge of our carseats as we approach the imfamous partridge, only to find the smallest, least ambitious light-structure in history! Oh well.
To round off the day we had Mexican for dinner and found a Crayola in our salsa. Seriously...