Our search for Xanthophylls, Carotenoids and Anthocyanins has begun!
We left Kentucky horse country Wendesday morning and headed toward the Appalachian Mountains. We noticed the truck and trailer were very dirty, so we stopped at a truck wash on the way there. It is only the second time in five years we've had professionals wash the truck and trailer. We usually do it ourselves but with limited time and a very dirty rig, we figured this was a good time to splurge. They washed everything much more quickly than we could have and it was worth every penny.
We reserved a camp site in a town called Walland, TN. It was in the not far from several drives we wanted to take in and around Smokey Mountain National Park. The first day, we drove a four hour circuit that took us about six hours.
One of the most difficult part of these fall drives on the scooter is waiting for warmth. The temps have been in the 40's each morning and we really need to wait until it gets to almost 60* before we can ride without discomfort. Sixty degrees might not seem that cold, but imagine that temp with 50 mph winds. That is what 60* feels like on the scooter! We were finally able to leave a little after 11 AM.
The first leg of the journey took us down the Foothills Parkway. It was a nice 17 mile ride that took us along the smaller hills west of the park. We changed elevation enough to see the different color foliage as we went from the top of the foothills to the river bottom.
About half of the drive was green, but at the top it was quite vivid.
Here is a view of the road from the Lookout Tower.
We took a 1/2 mile uphill hike to the tower on a trail through the trees.
We also stopped at some other vistas along the road and saw great views. Not every part of the Appalachians are experiencing fall yet.
From the Foothills Parkway, we entered the The Dragon, also known as HWY 129. The Dragon is one of the more famous motorcycle rides. It's 11 miles has 318 curves. Vehicles over 30 feet are not allowed on the road because of the turns and sharp drop-offs. We heard about it last time we were in North Carolina, but were too far away to drive it at the time. Now before you think we are dare devils, you need to understand that these roads are completely safe if you control your speed and stay out of other people's way. There were plenty of turnouts to pull aside when a faster driver came up behind.
(Edit: We later drove HWY 129 on Saturday (next post) and found it not quite as timid as our weekday drive. There were many cars and bikes desiring to decrease their fastest times to the tip of the Dragon's tail. That, along with more crowded roadways, created a more interesting drive.)
Here is how road looked. We went at our own compfortable speed (if Susan doesn't get nervous, it is not fast) but there were a few cyclist who scorchced past us.
You know the road is iconic when there are so many tributes to it at the roadside stops.
We stopped at Deals Gap to split a lunch. It was fun parking our scooter next to the big Harleys in the parking lot. On a sober note, there is a large cross painted in a parking lot at the bottom of the mountain for helicopter transport to area hospitals. A grim reminder to be careful.
After the Dragon, we took a couple of smaller roads on the North Carolina side of the mountains to get to the national park entrance. They also offered some nice views.
After arriving at Smoky Mountain National Park, we once again went up in elevation and finally saw the views we had been waiting for. Those shots toward the sun washed out much of the color, but the views were still stunning.
Once we turned from the sun, the fall colors really popped!
Driving through all that color was also pretty.
It was getting to be evening, so we pushed on toward home. Part of that drive took us down Little River Gorge Road. This little drive was still pretty green but in a few days/weeks, it will also be stunning.
Driving through this beauty makes us think of God power demostrated in His creation, time, growth, change, and beauty. It is good to slow down and think on these things.
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night.