Sunday dawned chill and clear, and I won't bore you with how lost I got by following stranger's directions instead of listening to my GPS. Tom-Tom and I have trust issues that we must resolve in counseling. Suffice to say, I visited Greenville, Tennessee twice in one day and from different routes. By noon, it was HOT. I had the top back and my temper was a little frayed by the time I reached Pigeon Forge, a place I hadn't planned to visit.

For reference, Dollywood is in Pigeon Forge along with unlimited entertainment attractions. I happened upon the best attraction the little town has to offer. The Pigeon River runs through Pigeon Forge (imagine that!). The Pigeon River isn't very wide or deep. It gurgles and whispers over rocks. It is enchanting. As a kid, my parents took me to Cherokee, North Carolina and my Dad and I fished in such a river. I actually use that memory in my vampire novel, Cardinal Desires.

Back on track and on the road again: I knew the way to Deals Gap at last. I stayed in a hotel overlooking the Pigeon River, could hear it when I left the balcony door open, which I did to a crisp mountain night, and (drumroll) the room had a Jacuzzi tub.

Next morning I saddled up Z3PO and it's off to Deals Gap we go. Stopped for a Hardee's country ham biscuit (not available everywhere—not in TX) and off I go to Tapoco, North Carolina. I was in high spirits and in love, of course, with Z3PO when I stopped at one of those fake but lovely mountain stores selling expensive, unique gifts. The sign that turned me around was "Moonshine," and I thought that would make a nice present for my Ex. They didn't sell moonshine, silly me, but they directed me to heaven. And I bought a beautiful candle with an extraordinary smell (reminiscent of sandalwood).

The enchanted forest: A winding road by a gurgling river (served on the rocks), the air filled with yellow and black butterflies. Like manna from heaven, dogwoods dropped pink and white blossoms, into the open top of my car. The sunlight filtering through leaves. Fresh, crispy mountain morning breeze. And threaded through this natural beauty the musical purr of the Z3's exhausts. The total sensory input was like music—made visual as well as auditory.

Along the way, I stopped by a waterfall and across the rushing water was a man with a pad and paper, without a shirt, writing away. Trust me this Waterfall Ernest Hemingway should have been wearing his shirt!
The winding river road led to Cage's Cove, a nature preserve. I saw deer and bear, crossed shallow streams in the car. I stopped to visit the past in log cabins and to say a prayer in an old wooden church. This slow 10 miles behind mini-vans and sedans braking every five seconds was still a serene part of a magical journey.

I ran Deals Gap—both ways—to and fro. At the motorcycle resort, I flirted with a gorgeous young man who looked Native American, bought my Tail of the Dragon sticker, a tee for me and for my son, and returned to the Pigeon River and the Jacuzzi for my final night as a free spirit in the mountains.

The trip to home was a bit grueling, as I'd played too long and was due back at work on Thursday. On Tuesday, I set cruise control at 85 and zippy-Z'd along the interstates. Eight hours of intense driving later, I stayed the night at a something hotel, ate something. On Wednesday, ditto on the cruise control and at 3:30 PM, I rolled into Houston and had the bugs washed off my new car.

Time was to be, as it always is, too short. I left part of me in the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina.

9 comments

  1. Beth Trissel // July 25, 2008 at 12:18 PM  

    Oh Linda, this is so beautifully written. I felt,saw, heard right along with you and I know those mountains. I grew up in Tennessee and often visited North Carolina. Part of my heart is there along with yours.
    A richly wonderful post!

  2. Toni V.S. // July 25, 2008 at 1:54 PM  

    I remember driving through the mountains when returning to Georgia from a trip to Nebraska. At 3AM, after driving all day and anxious to get home, I was literally on the edge of my seat as we finally left those twists and turns behind. The lights of Chattanooga viewed from one of those curves were beautiful, however.

  3. Renee Knowles // July 25, 2008 at 10:45 PM  

    This sounds like a marvelous trip, Linda! What wonderful descriptions!

    Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

    Renee
    www.reneeknowles.com

  4. Mary Marvella // July 26, 2008 at 12:19 AM  

    Sorry I couldn't have gone with you!
    Sounds like you blew the cobwebs from your head. I've been to Cades cove and it was gorgeous! Great job of sharing with us!

  5. Helen Hardt // July 26, 2008 at 1:01 PM  

    What a beautiful post, Linda. I enjoyed every word!

  6. Mary Ricksen // July 26, 2008 at 3:14 PM  

    Linda, I have to thank you for that moment. The moment you put me there with your fabulous imagery. Which happens to be my thing. We have gone to North Carolina for the last twenty years or so. At first in Asheville, NC, at my in-laws. Then we discovered Ela. A little town between Bryson City and Cherokee. We have been renting the same place for many, many, years. When I go there it's like stepping back in time. We bought a quarter acre on the top of a mountain on Cooper's Creek( a real creek exactly like yours). We just had the land cleared and now we're thinking.
    Linda I was there, OH THANKS, my husband saw the trailer and he just gave a big sigh. That was just a wonderful post.

  7. Nightingale // July 26, 2008 at 5:22 PM  

    I love the area. Mary, I love Asheville. Now I have to go visit Ela. I'm driving the Z back to Greenville over Labor Day to Homecoming, a grant pilgrimage of Z's from all over the country to their birthplace.

  8. Anonymous // July 26, 2008 at 9:05 PM  

    Linda, your are just too much! You make me want to jump in my van and strike out on my own. Leave the world behind just me and my computer and maybe Coco!

    The Scarlet Pumpernickel

  9. Cheryel Hutton // July 27, 2008 at 6:39 PM  

    I'm so glad you liked our little part of the world :)

    Someday I'd like to visit Houston.

    Cheryel
    (from Chattanooga)