08/16/2007: "A long weekend in the mountains"
We took a break from work, boat projects and the heat and made a trip to the mountains. Since we bought the Miata we have talked about heading to the mountains to drive the Parkway. We were trying to decide where to go when I heard of an area called “The Tail of the Dragon.” Things are going slow at work since the new school is not ready for occupancy and there is only so much that we could do getting ready for the move. Cori was scheduled to be in Raleigh on Wednesday evening to go to a concert with Maril so this was a good opportunity to make a long weekend of it. We had a problem finding a place to stay for the weekend since it is high season in the mountains and we were booking pretty late, less then two weeks out. We finally decided on a place in Hendersonville and booked it. Thursday morning we left Raleigh and made the drive. We made a stop near Ashville at the Folk Art Center, we saw some real interesting stuff made by some very talented people. We drove a little of the Parkway then down to Hendersonville to find the Inn we had booked. We stayed at the Copper Crest Inn, a 99 year old Inn that is in the process of renovation. On Friday morning we made the drive to the Dragons Tail. We took the indirect route that included a drive through Mt Pisgah State Park on the winding roads going over the mountains. It took longer then we expected to get to the Dragon but it was a fun drive. The Miata is made for sharp curves through the forest. With the top down you have a great view and the car hugs the curves better then I ever imagined it would. The section of highway 28 leading up to the Dragon is called Hellbender 28 and was a good lead in to the Dragon.
The Tail of the Dragon is an 11 mile section of US Highway 129 that starts at a place called Deals Gap on the NC and Tennessee border that does not show up on any maps but has a population of 6. The road is part of the border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park so it has no intersections and climbs over a mountain pass. This means that it has a lot of curves and switchbacks. In reality it is an eleven mile uninterrupted stretch of road with 318 curves. I was too busy shifting and turning to count them but I will take their word for it. It was one impressive ride. It made all the roads we took getting there tame by comparison. You can find information, photos and maps by doing a search on “Tail of the Dragon”. We were there on a Friday to avoid the crowds on a weekend since it is very popular with sport car and motorcycle enthusiast. We did see eight of Tennessee’s finest patrolling the road and understand that there were double that on the weekend. We made one run out and back holding close to the 30 mile speed limit but that is fast enough unless one wants to really “white knuckle” it and the troopers were writing tickets.
The rest of the weekend was spent driving the Parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway starts in Virginia and follows the Blue Ridge Mountains through North Carolina to the Tennessee border. Friday afternoon we started at the end in Cherokee NC and drove north until we got to Ashville then headed to the Inn for the night and continued up the Parkway from Ashville to Blowing Rock on Saturday. The Parkway is actually a National Park built as a federal “make work” project during the 30’s bringing work into severely depressed areas. More info can be found by searching the Internet for “Blue Ridge Parkway”. Since it is a Parkway it has no intersections except at several points to exit or enter, no towns, no businesses and no commercial vehicles (trucks). You have to exit to find fuel, food etc. It has a posted speed limit of 45 which almost everyone follows. The appeal is that every couple of miles there is an overlook that will reveal some of the most impressive views of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains you will ever see. The road was built following the ridges rather then dropping down into the valleys so the scenery is awesome around every curve. Cori especially enjoyed holding the car at 45 around the curves. Again, this is the type of road the Miata was made for.
Sunday we had to drive home and go back to reality again but I have a lot of pictures and memories.
Tuesday I moved the boat to a repair yard in Oriental to have some work done so we will be residents of Oriental for a while. More on the repairs later.