June 5, 1995 Gatlinburg, TN
We must be getting acclimated to the local time at this point, as we were both able to sleep in until 8:00 (7:00 Indy time). We had finally shut down for the night on Sunday after watching "Beavis and Butthead" on the 2-inch television Todd brought -- It still amazes me that our campsite has cable.
We had a fairly active day on Sunday, so sleeping was not a problem for either of us.
After our showers, the first order of business for the day was an Official Camp Breakfast. Anyone who has had much experience at camping probably knows the drill -- a pound of bacon and a half-dozen (we're dieting) eggs.
Yesterday, we picked up a small skillet at Wal Mart, along with some plastic utensils and a few other cooking/food related items. We really are getting better at planning these trips - Although we had absolutely no food- or cooking-related items, at least we remembered to bring things like rain gear, long pants, shirts... all the things we had forgotten last year.
Back to breakfast. Although we now own a skillet, we still have nothing to cook with but a campfire. This is really not a problem, except that we have no sort of grate to hold the skillet, so we had to lay a couple of logs across the fire, lay the skillet across them, and hope they could manage not to burn through before we were done cooking.
After Todd got the fire started, we set to work layering our new 12" pan with a full pound of bacon. This made for several layers of pork, but we needed the grease to cook the eggs, and we did not want it to burn by cooking the bacon a bit at a time. As we were about to put it on the fire, Todd pointed out that I might want to be careful about scalding my fingers when turning the bacon, as we have no utensils whatsoever.
Since the idea of sticking my hands into scalding hot grease really did not appeal to me, I hopped on the bike and scooted down to the grocery for a spatula, fork, and slotted spoon for cooking. While there, I also picked up some OJ (the drink, not the criminal case).
That solved, we put the pan on the fire. Actually, more in than on, as we really have no control at all as to the height of the pan with this setup. Bacon began sizzling at once, and we knew we were on our way to a breakfast to be remembered.
After about 10 minutes and a few grease burns, we had a full serving of golden-black bacon ready to eat. This left about half a pan of grease for the eggs -- Perfect! Todd took 6 of the eggs, and one at a time, cracked them into the grease. Safety tip for everyone reading -- When dropping an egg into a pan with 1" of hot grease, do so from a point NEAR the surface of the pan. A two foot drop can really make things get exciting.
One by one, Todd dropped the eggs, and I basted them with the grease. The fire was a little hotter than ideal, so the timing of getting the egg "cooked" but not "blackened" was a little slim. As the last egg was pulled out and put on the plate (which was held inside the Frisbee for safety reasons), we poured the juice, and feasted on a fabulous breakfast that can only be experienced in campsite conditions. The ingredients can be painstakingly reproduced in a kitchen, but the results are never quite right.
After breakfast, I hopped onto CompuServe to check the local weather. The weatherguessers were giving 30% odds on afternoon storms, so we chose to stick close to home for today. The desk clerk here at the campground had told us about a 'Nature Drive' in Gatlinburg, so we decided to check it out.
We found the road with no problem, and spent a couple of hours making our way around the trail, stopping at several of the "Points of Interest" along the way. The first of these was the home of Noah "Bud" Ogle, a farmer who had made his home here in 1879. I'm sure "Bud" was a nice enough fellow, but he sure wasn't the brightest of guys. This location was about as suitable for farming as the 7th floor of the Bank One tower would be.
On down the road, we stopped at the parking site for "Rainbow Falls", which was another 2.5 mile hike away. We started out on it, but decided pretty quickly that a walk of that length, given the terrain and temperature, would need a little more planning. We noticed that another destination on down the path was the Le Conte lodge - a lodge and restaurant that is only accessible by a 6-plus mile hike, from what we can tell. The sign warns everyone that reservations are REQUIRED for lodging or dining - it makes us wonder what would happen if a reservation were lost -- After a 6-mile hike to the place, few people would be in a mood to hear such news.
As it was nearing lunchtime, we headed back to the camp (with a stop at Subway on the way -- neither of us really felt like cooking). We paid our lodging fee for the next two days, and then headed back out the the Nature Drive to finish our tour.
The next stop to catch our eye was Grotto Falls - only a 1.2 mile hike from the road. We parked the bikes, and set out on a moderate hike to the area. This area -- in the foothills of Mount Le Conte -- is quite densely wooded, but the paths are well worn and easy to follow.
We reached the falls in 45 minutes or so, and the view was excellent. Todd spent some time to get good positioning for photos, and I climbed up to the top of the falls to get a view of the area. While on top, I was curious as to the availability of cellular service, so I powered up the phone, and was pleased to see a 60% signal strength meter reading. This made sense to me after I thought about it -- in country such as this, the cell sites are placed on top of the many large hills to give as wide a coverage area as possible. Even though I work with technology every day, I am constantly amazed at the way in which it can make our lives easier or more comfortable in so many ways.
After 30 minutes or so at the falls, we began the journey back to the motorcycles. Todd commented how little wildlife we had seen in the area -- the only critter we had spotted up to then was a ground squirrel. Not five minutes later, as though someone had heard him, we came across a group of people clustered around a spot in the trail. As we approached, one of them pointed out a bear that was making its way through the woods about 25 yards away. Todd tried to get into position for a good picture, but no sooner did we arrive, and the bear chose to take a nap.
After a while, it became obvious that the bear was not going to give us much of a show, so we pushed on. We got back to the bikes, and rode down to another, smaller, waterfall that was right at the edge of the road. This time, both of us climbed to the top, and although the photo opp was not what we were hoping for, we have to admit that both of us could use the excersize anyway.
A few more stops rounded out our tour of the Nature Drive, and as there was plenty of time left in the day, we opted to head for the Ober Gatlinburg amusement park. Although it is possible to drive directly to the park(as we found out about 1/2 way up on the tram ride), we opted to park downtown and take the "Tram" up the mountain. Ober Gatlinburg is about 2 miles from the town proper, and about 2,000 feet higher in elevation. The tram, which was built in 1973 at a cost of 5 million dollars, is the largest arial tram in the world, with a 2.25-mile trip in each direction. The cars (two total) can each carry 120 passengers each (although after a ride in one, it seems that the people would have to be stacked like cordwood to fit). This information was related by Dave, our host for the ride. He was also able to tell us that a passenger who might chance to fall from the highest point on the trip would reach "Ground Zero" precisely 2.8 seconds later. Good to know.
After we reached the top, we decided that the first order of business was the "Alpine Slide". This is a pair of 1,800 foot long fiberglass "chutes" winding down the mountainside, with plastic sleds that have wheels that can be extended to increase speed, and brake pads to slow the craft down. To reach the starting point, we took the ski lift half-way up the hill (the area is used for snow-skiing in the winter). On the trip up, my phone rang - it was Brent, asking how the vacation was going. Again, I am amazed that I can be on a ski lift in southern Tennesse, and can still be easily reached when necessary.
As we boarded our sleds, on opposite chutes, our attendant "Bubba Ray" went over the safety rules and operating instructions. It was painfully obvious that Bubba would probably have trouble spelling his own name even if it was tatooed on his own arm. Mostly, it was common-sense stuff - "Please do not kill yourselves or others with the sled", or something like that. As the previous victims made their way down, Bubba gave us the Green Light, and off we went. Todd took an early lead (almost at the expense of some skin on the first turn), and try as I might, I trailed him by about 25 feet through the entire run. I had been on an Alpine Slide once when I was in the Boy Scouts, but that was a good 15 years ago.
After finishing the race without serious injury to either of us, we looked around for other ways in which to do bodily harm to ourselves, as that one had failed. Todd contemplated the Bungee Jump and the Trampoline Thing, but deemed the first too expensive, and the second not dangerous enough. Finally, we found a possibility in the Go-Kart race track, with golf carts-turned-race cars running on a figure-eight course. Five minutes for five bucks sounded reasonable enough, so we turned over the necessary tickets and were assigned our "rides". These cars - basically golf carts with a new body - are WAY too small for my 6'3" frame, and I had a hard time squeezing into it while keeping all valuable body parts within the confines of the vehicle. I managed to situate myself, and we were given the green for the race. The contestants for this contest were Todd, myself, and a woman bearing a remarkable resemblance to Lyn St. James (probably getting ready for next year's 500). Todd managed to get by her on the second lap, but I was stuck - she tried to put me into the wall every time I moved in for a pass. Finally, I got by her on the final lap, but it was far too late to catch up with Todd, and he took the checkered flag.
By now, it was getting up on 6:30, and since rain was forecast, we chose to head for the homestead. Since there was time to kill before the next Tram ride down, I called Steve to see how things were going at work, and Todd (who is Steve's boss at his part-time job) inquired how his store was doing in his absence. Soon, the Tram was ready to depart, and we made the 10-minute trip back down into town. We went back to camp, and prepared our evening meal of hot dogs over the fire, with a S'More each for dessert. We learned our lesson yesterday, and limited ourselves to one each on the dessert.
After dinner, Todd reclined on the bike for a quick nap, and I sat down to put these thoughts to paper (uh... figuratively speaking, of course). This was a very active day for both of us, so I am sure we will have no trouble sleeping. As I have been typing, Todd woke up and checked the Weather Channel -- it looks like the rains will pass by us to the east, so we are trying to decide what to do tomorrow. More on that next time.
Todd and I can be reached at my Compserve address (74044,3457), or via Internet at [email protected]. This report is sent via a Canon Innova Book 10C laptop, with a Motorola Power PCMCIA Modem plugged into my MicroTAC Elite, which is dangling from a tent pole in order to get enough signal to transmit properly.