Carolina Beach NC to Lenoir City TN (2421 miles so far)

Today, we began the first leg of our journey home.

Last night, we spent some valuable internet time trying to decide what the best route to Maryville would be, having decided that we would go that far and spend the night nearby. Mapquest was insistent that going into South Carolina toward Columbia was the best route, probably because of the interstate roads. I really thought going west through North Carolina would’ve been better, but who can argue with the internet, the source of all knowledge? Off toward South Carolina we headed.

Just before we crossed into South Carolina, we started seeing signs for Pedro’s South of the Border. We can’t resist a good rubber-snake shop, so we had to pull off the interstate for a peek. Pedro’s was the hugest, cheeziest place I’ve seen in a long time — it was great! Hat shops, gift shops, lodging, antiques, mini-golf, amusement rides, fireworks, gas…. they had it all. Definitely someplace you could spend a lot of time exploring. We blew about an hour, and pointed the TrailBlazer westwardly, more or less.

The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful until we got to Asheville, and the pull off to go through the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. We wound through the little roads, with the rain starting to fall the farther we got into the mountains. By the time we were near Cherokee NC, it was raining hard, which made the drive up and down the hills kinda interesting! We finally got to the eastern entrance to the Smokies, and stopped to do a little shopping, and stretch our legs before going across the mountain tops.

As we drove through the park, the cloud deck got lower, and by the time we reached about 4000 feet of elevation, it was so foggy you couldn’t see two cars in front of you. A whole line of us snaked along the winding road, crossing the entrance to Clingman’s Dome at an elevation of 5046 feet — the highest point on the trip. I would’ve liked to continue on to the Dome (6643 feet), but with the fog, there was no point. We drove down to the western entrance, and stopped to shop again.

After a little break, we headed on to Maryville TN, to visit Grandma. She was doing well, and we enjoyed a nice pizza dinner with her, and chit-chatted about life, the universe, and everything. A couple of hours later, we said our goodbyes, and drove to Lenoir City TN.

We stopped at The Inn of Lenoir, where they proudly sported brand new king-size beds. I can report with confidence that the one we test drove was indeed comfortable! 🙂 This was a quaint little mom-and-pop motel — seriously, the mom and dad and daughter ran the place! — and was cheap, clean and restful.

Tomorrow — on to home!