More Roadside Attractions–Graceland to Boone

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Enough of Graceland.   I’m heading where it’s warm and sunny and that means Florida and Georgia and Southern Appalachia.  Driving south through Alabama is interesting.

Toyota

I pass this building for about half an hour and wonder what purpose this huge building serves……it’s a Toyota manufacturing plant–and I’m driving a Toyota!  Cosmic!  My car was likely built here–in fact, I own three gas guzzling Toyotas (1990 LandCrusher, 2007 FJ Cruiser, and this 2015 Super-Sequoia with leather and cameras….but you know, they build the best cars & trucks, period!

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This is Flamingo–at the very end of the road in Florida’s Everglades.  It’s 42 miles from the park entrance but is worth the visit.  I rate this the second best campground in the country that I’ve visited;  Spearfish SD City RV Park is the #1 so far.  This campground is spacious, has electric and water (no septic or cable) and, believe it or not,  three bars of ATT reception!   There I run into some Airstream rally participants bound for the Florida Keys and guess what, I’ve never been to one of these (and will likely not attend again), but I did join 174 other Airstreams on Big Pine Key.  It was quite eventful with a swap-meet where I made $60 bucks, a breakfast that would put any three star hotel chain’s continental breakfast to shame and finishing with a macaroni salad dinner (with steak & ham–but only one helping!).  I didn’t take any pictures.  But the evening entertainment was the best I’ve heard in a long time and originally from Alaska!  They are the Redhead Express (four sisters) and the Walker Boys (three brothers = 7 kids in this family) and immensely talented.  I bought every CD they sold and am glad I did.

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Returning from the Florida Keys I take SR-27 up the center past the east shore of Lake Okeechobee–a beautiful drive through sugar plantations and quaint towns.  It reminded me of the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland Australia, without the Tablelands.  However, it’s the agriculture here and the infrastructure of roads that has ‘plugged up’ the “River of Grass” which flows down through Everglades Park.  The Florida Department of Transportation is ameliorating this issue by putting in culverts under both I-75 and S-41 which have essentially dammed (damned?) this flow…..

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At the same time, they’re raising these roads with coral “gravel” berms by the megatons because of……global warming!  Our precious tax dollars at work here–trillions.  This is the true cost of industrialization and I’ll bet in one or two decades we’ll also regret gouging all this coral up and piling it here.  Well, the bugs are so bad here, I’m moving back north to Melbourne (Florida) and Jekyll Island Georgia before cutting in to the Appalachian Mountain Range.

 

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The Blue Ridge Parkway is a long scenic roadway stretching from the Great Smoky Mountains in the south to the northern border of Shenandoah National Park for a full 469 miles.  It is winding and hilly and for a purpose–to follow the ridge lines of Appalachia and expose the ‘smoky’ views seen in the first post above.  My trailer has careened and careered for half of this Parkway so far.   Let’s pull over to some gateway communities surrounding Great Smoky National Park……

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When I first visited Gatlinburg about 20 years ago, it was…..well, tacky as hell but smaller.  Today it is even tackier and also bigger and more contiguous with Seviereville, then Pigeon Forge, and finally Gatlinburg.  It is a mind-numbing, endless strip-mall, stretching a good 30+ miles and getting progressively worse over time.  Dollywood is in Pigeon Forge and believe it or not, they approached me to design their adventure-land addition about 7 years ago.  When I went to visit, it was $55 just to park!  I immediately left.

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Tacky, tackier, tackiest……Pigeon Forge demands another superlative.

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No comment……you want to see more?  Look here on Google search.  I don’t want to post these here as there are too many and further, my server probably won’t let me post this as it exceeds First Amendment protections.  Imagine 30 or more miles of this!   Sadly, the town of Sevierville is the Sevier County seat and has a wonderful old town, the King Family Library and lots of history.  Lost on this strip mall.

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I’m still reeling from my Elvis experience (previous post) so didn’t attend this Museum either.  Gatlinburg has it all–and crowded right up the National Park boundary.   Let’s look at some of the earlier architecture…..

John Cable Mill

This is the John Cable Mill built in the early 1870s and still is functional and attractive.  This was a generation of practicality and simplicity (and taste).  So much so, that I based our poster design on this mill for the 75 anniversary of Great Smoky National Park.

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The penstock to the mill is simply designed, can be repaired easily, and accommodate varying amounts of flow.  The low flow rate shown here was enough to drive the mill.

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This ingenious flood-gate ensures the waterwheel will turn at low volumes. I’ve been contemplating a similar system in Alaska and now I know how to do it!  I’m still stumped about getting coins to fund my project though.

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This is the grist mill and flour was being milled as I watched–I bought a bag of corn flour and wheat flour–organic, fresh, and only ten bucks!

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Finally, I wander north to Boone, North Carolina–land of LGBT warfare.  I check each bathroom carefully before entering–so far no problems.  I initially intended to spend one night here at the Flintlock Campground, but ended up staying a week!  The folks here are very friendly, have a 7th day free, it is the home of Appalachian State Teachers College (23,000 friendly students–I enjoyed meeting many of them), the hub of the Mast Stores (seen across the street), an employee owned outdoor focused general store chain–which carries everything.  This week they had a sale on Carhartts and Filson and this is why Ranger Doug hung around so long!  That and the peach cobbler & ice cream they serve here for breakfast.  I just might become a Tar Heel……stay tuned.

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