The Beauty Around Us

Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog

Posts from the ‘Tennessee’ category

Maggie Valley, NC to Townsend, TN and Back

We spent the week of May 14th on vacation in Virginia and North Carolina. I have been uploading blog posts about our vacation since May 29th. This blog post is about our fifth day of vacation.

I awakened at 6:15 am on Thursday, May 18, and was showered and dressed for the day by 6:50 am.

At 7:30 am we went to breakfast at Pop’s Grits & Eggs, which is located next door to A Holiday Motel.  This was our second breakfast at Pop’s in as many days. As we entered the restaurant two of our VROC friends, Lonnie and Rick,  saw Bob and me and invited us to join them at their table. Bob and I ordered Western Omelets for breakfast. The food and conversation was great. As we were leaving the restaurant three more VROC friends — Jim, Tim and Paul, came in for breakfast. We chatted briefly, before exiting the restaurant.

Bob and I made plans the previous night to join “Skid” in a group ride.

“Skid”, at A Holiday Motel, preparing for the group ride

We departed A Holiday Motel around 9:30 am en route Townsend TN.  The ride that we left on is referred to as “the Townsend Loop”.  The Townsend Loop ride originates in Maggie Valley NC and travels via Newfound Gap Road (U.S. Route 441), Old TN-73 and Lamar Alexander Parkway to Townsend.  Townsend is a lunch stop.  Then the ride continues to (and on) the Tail of the Dragon and back to Maggie Valley.  When we attended SEVROC in 2015, Bob and I went on this ride.  More than 20 people participated in the ride in 2015.  This year our group ride consisted of only five people: “Skid” and Sandy, “Bass Man”, and Bob and I.  “Skid” and “Bass Man” rode their motorcycles, with “Skid” in the lead.  Sandy rode in the car with Bob and me.  I drove; Bob sat in the backseat.

Our first stop was at Newfound Gap, on the North Carolina-Tennessee border.

Newfound Gap is a mountain pass located near the center of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Situated along the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, the state line crosses the gap.
Rockefeller Memorial at Newfound Gap
Taking in the scenic view from Newfound Gap
What a gorgeous view from Newfound Gap!
Our Townsend Loop group, minus one — Me!

Our second stop was at Smokin’ Joe’s Bar-B-Que in Townsend TN.  We arrived at the restaurant shortly before noon.  The restaurant wasn’t busy.  We were seated immediately and lunch orders taken.  I remembered how good the hush puppies were from lunch 2 years ago, so we asked for a large order of hush puppies.  Bob ordered a salad with some kind of meat BBQ.  I ordered a pulled pork sandwich.  Our main lunch entrees were OK; the hush puppies were just as good as I remembered them.

After lunch Bob, Sandy and I parted ways with “Skid” and “Bass Man”. The motorcyclists left to ride The Tail of the Dragon, before returning to Maggie Valley. Bob, Sandy and I went to Gatlinburg and then returned to Maggie Valley via U.S. Route 441.  If we had spotted somewhere to park in Gatlinburg, we would have stopped and walked around a bit.  We didn’t see any parking, so we didn’t stop.  As we drove through the city, we did see some damage from the November 2016 wildfires.  We saw more fire damage from U.S. Route 441.

Fire Damage from Nov. 2016 Wildfires
U.S. Route 441 (TN)
Fire Damage from Nov. 2016 Wildfires
This is the same stop as above, but a close-up of the mountain on the right is shown.
Sandy and I at Chimney Tops Overlook
U.S. Route 441 (TN)

According to the Nashville Public Radio website article , the November 2016 wildfires started November 23 in the Chimney Tops area and turned deadly five days later.  Fourteen people were killed; more than 175 people were injured; and at least 2,400 structures were damaged.  Two juveniles were charged with aggravated arson in connection with the wildfires.

We made one additional stop before returning to Maggie Valley.  Less than 1/2 mile south of Newfound Gap, we turned off U.S. Route 441 onto Clingmans Dome Road.  We followed Clingmans Dome Road to a parking lot.

Clingmans Dome Informational Sign

We were not willing to climb the steep half-mile walk to the observation tower shown on the informational sign.  I did take a picture, though, that looked like Bob and Sandy were on their way up the trail to the observation tower.  I took this photograph to tease “Skid”, to let him think that Sandy climbed that trail.  “Skid” wasn’t fooled.

Bob and Sandy on the trail leading to Clingmans Dome

We didn’t have to climb that steep trail, though, to enjoy scenic vistas.

View from Clingmans Dome parking lot
View from Clingmans Dome parking lot
View from Clingmans Dome parking lot

Bob, Sandy and I made it back to A Holiday Motel (home base for the Southeast Vulcan Riders and Owners (SEVROC) motorcycle rally) shortly after “Skid” and “Bass Man” made it back from their ride on the Tail of the Dragon.

Rather than go out, Bob and I ate leftovers for dinner.  Later in the evening we socialized with our VROC friends, before calling it a night.  I called it a night much sooner than Bob did!

Waynesboro, VA to Maggie Valley, NC

We spent the week of May 14th on vacation in Virginia and North Carolina. Earlier this week I uploaded blog posts about the first two days of our vacation. This blog post is about our third day of vacation.

We checked out of Best Western Waynesboro on Tuesday, May 16, at 7:00 am, after a complimentary breakfast at the hotel.

We logged most of our miles driving south on Interstate 81.

Bob took this picture of me, driving.
I was at the wheel for about 20 minutes from Warren PA to Maggie Valley NC; Bob drove rest of the time.

Around 11:00 am we ate a picnic lunch at the Tennessee Welcome Center along Interstate 81 (Bristol, TN).

Tennessee Welcome Center
Bristol, TN
(photo by Bob)

We stopped briefly at Metcalf Overlook, shortly before the North Carolina border.

Metcalf Overlook
Metcalf Overlook

I think that the overlook on the opposite side of Interstate 26 would provide more interesting photo opportunities.  I will have to remember my thoughts the next time we pass through this area.

Interstate 26 Mars Hill, NC
We were within 50 miles of Maggie Valley, when I took this picture.
Those mountains call my name!

We arrived at A Holiday Motel in Maggie Valley NC around 2:15 pm.  We checked in and unpacked. A Holiday Motel, where we would spend the next 5 nights, is home base for the Southeast Vulcan Riders and Owners (SEVROC) motorcycle rally.  The rally’s official start was not until Thursday, but rally attendees began arriving on Monday.  SEVROC is an annual event. This year marked its 19th year. This is our fourth SEVROC rally. We attended the rally previously in 2008, 2014, and 2015. Our mode of transportation in those years was by motorcycle AND car.  I have never been able to ride long distances on the motorcycle, but I have been able to make the drive.  I was uncertain if I would be able to drive this year, as the arthritis in my right knee appears to have worsened in the past year or so.  Therefore, we opted to travel by car only.  VROC rallies are more about the PEOPLE than the bikes, so it doesn’t really matter how you travel to a rally.  What is important is that you come to the rally!  Over the years I have come to think of a VROC rally as a family reunion.

We spent our 5-night stay in Room 4, the room right next to the office on the left. In 2014 and 2015 we stayed in room 5, which is located next to the office on the right. In 2008 the rally was held at another hotel in Maggie Valley.  Room 4 is furnished with two full size beds separated by a nightstand, which occupy three walls. A mini refrigerator, topped with a microwave and coffeemaker, and a two drawer dresser topped with a small flat screen TV occupy the fourth wall. The fourth wall contains the door to the bathroom and a small closet. It is a small, but comfortable and clean room.

We didn’t see any of our VROC friends, when we first arrived at A Holiday Motel. I would say within an hour of our arrival, though, “Skid” and Sandy rode in. “Skid” and Sandy arrived at A Holiday Motel on Monday afternoon and had been out for a ride and ice cream at Dairy Queen. While chatting with “Skid” and Sandy, “Bass Man” rode in.

At 5:30 pm we left for dinner. We ate dinner at Sagebrush Steakhouse in Waynesville with “Skid” and Sandy and “Bass Man”. “Skid” and Sandy accompanied us in the car. “Bass Man” followed on his motorcycle. Sandy ordered a half size Harvest Salad. “Skid” ordered Rodeo Chicken. Bob ordered Tenderloin Tips, sauteed with peppers & onions and mushrooms.  I forget what “Bass Man” ordered for dinner.  I ordered a Turkey Cheddar Melt with bacon and tomato, served on toasted Wheat Berry bread. Sandy and I each ordered a blackberry cobbler with ice cream for dessert. The cobbler cost only $3.99 and was huge. I shared my cobbler with Bob. Sandy didn’t share her cobbler, and she wasn’t able to finish it. The food was excellent and reasonably priced. Service, however, was slow especially when waiting for the bill.  It was around 8:00 pm, when we returned to A Holiday Motel.

“Wrong Turn” and “KT” arrived this evening. We chatted with “Wrong Turn”, “KT” and Sandy, before retiring at 10:00 pm for the night.

Our friend “Skid” wrote a blog post about this day as well.  Please click here to read his account of the day.  Some of the photographs that “Skid” shared in his post include pictures of Bob and me.

VROC Reunion Rally 2015: Getting There – Central City KY to Dyersburg TN

Today is Day 4 of our 13-day vacation.  We are traveling to Eureka Springs, AR to attend the annual Vulcan Riders and Owners Club (VROC) Reunion rally.  Yesterday, we met up with six VROC friends.  We are riding, as a group, to the rally.

We awakened at 5:15 am, after a good night’s sleep. The eight of us had discussed meeting for breakfast at 8:00 am at the Huddle House located next to the Best Western Plus Venture Inn, our hotel accommodation for the night. That didn’t happen. Everyone ate breakfast at the hotel, which made sense as breakfast was included in our room rate.

We left Central City, KY en route Dyersburg, TN at 9:00 am, after fueling up at a Shell gas station located near the hotel.

En route Shell gas station, at 8:36 am

While at the Shell gas station, Jim A. and Jim T. consulted a map of today’s planned ride.

I think Katie looks a little bit concerned that Jim A. is helping plan today’s route.
Jim A.’s VROC nickname is “Wrong Turn” 🙂

At 10:19 am, during a rest stop, Jim A. and Jim T. took another look at the map.
Bradley, Tim and Bob look on.

About an hour later, Jim T. made a wrong turn.
The rest of us did not follow him.
We waited a few minutes for Jim T. to catch up with us.

I smile when I think of the few times today that Jim T. raised his hand in the air, making a circle with his finger.  One such U-turn was made on a 4-lane highway!

A highlight of today’s trip was when we drove through the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.  Located in western Tennessee and Kentucky, the Land Between the Lakes is the largest inland peninsula in the U.S.A. Originally created when the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers were impounded (creating Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley),the Land Between the Lakes features over 170,000 acres of forested and protected public land, and over 300 miles of undeveloped shoreline. We stopped at the Golden Pond Visitor Center.  While Jim T.. Bradley, Tim and Dee and Jim A. and Katie watched a 35-minute show in the Golden Pond Planetarium, Bob and I went for a drive through the Elk & Bison Prairie. We saw several bison and some turkeys. There are elk on the prairie as well, but we didn’t see any. We drove the prairie loop two times. On our second trip, bison were on the road. Bob had to slowly weave the car through the herd.








We made two more scenic stops en route Dyersburg, TN.  From the Golden Pond Visitor Center we drove to Fort Donelson National Battlefield, stopping at the remains of the Great Western Furnace.

Great Western Furnace


Interpretive Signs Regarding the Great Western Furnace


Preparing to leave the Great Western Furnace

We began our tour of Fort Donelson National Battlefield at the visitor center, where we watched the orientation film Fort Donelson: Gateway to the Confederate Heartland.  The film centers around a story line that draws on the lifelong friendship between Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate General Simon B. Buckner.  The film was informative, as well as engaging.  From the visitor center we took a short ride through the battlefield to Fort Donelson.

Bradley at Fort Donelson
He is looking out at Lake Barkley (the historic Cumberland River).

This is what Bradley was looking at.

This is Jim T. and his son, Bradley.
Jim and Bradley have a wonderful father-son relationship.
This will be Bradley’s first trip to the Eureka Springs Reunion Rally, as it is our first.

Be sure to continue to read my blog posts about our Eureka Springs vacation.  Bradley will be the recipient of a BIG surprise, while at the Reunion Rally.

We drove 286 miles today. To the best of my recollection this is the route that we followed today:

We arrived at the Hampton Inn Dyersburg at 6:45 pm. We checked in and went to dinner at Applebee’s, located near the hotel. We had a party of 15 for dinner. We met up with Jason and his girlfriend Traci, Toby, Bill and Carolyn and Butch and Theresa. We now have riders from Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Kentucky.  All 15 of us (8 motorcycles, one car and one truck) will be riding together to the VROC Reunion Rally in Eureka Springs tomorrow.

West Virginia and North Carolina Vacation – Day 6 of 9

On the morning of Thursday, May 13, we awakened at 6:15 am and were showered and dressed by 7:00 am.

We ate breakfast at Pop’s Grits & Eggs, which is located next door to A Holiday Motel.  At the time,  the restaurant had been opened for only a week. Laura F. and “Bassman” joined us for breakfast. The food and service were great, even though the waitress had called in to say she would be a no show that day.

Ready to Roll

We departed A Holiday Motel at 9:00 am en route Townsend, TN. I drove; Bob rode the motorcycle. Sandy R. accompanied me. Sandy and I were at the end of a line of motorcycles, led by “Skid”. We took U.S. Route 19 to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which we followed to U.S Route 441. Sandy and I got left behind when we made a bathroom stop at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, located about 16 miles from Newfound Gap. We caught up with everyone at Newfound Gap.

Newfound Gap
on the North Carolina-Tennesee Border

Bob and Mike

Newfound Gap


From Newfound Gap we followed Rt. 441 and Rt. 73 to Townsend, TN. We ate lunch at Smokin Joe’s BBQ.

“Skid” and Sandy at Smokin Joe’s BBQ

Jaime and Phillip and their son, Caleb, met us at Smokin Joe’s BBQ.
“Skid” says hello.

Lunch at Smokin Joe’s BBQ

Lunch at Smokin Joe’s BBQ

Lunch at Smokin Joe’s BBQ

Lunch at Smokin Joe’s BBQ

Our lunch group took over a room inside Smokin Joe’s BBQ.

Lunch was very good.  I ordered ½ chicken with hush puppies, coleslaw and macaroni salad. Bob had a meat salad (and some of my chicken).

After lunch, Sandy and I parted ways with the motorcyclists. The motorcyclists left to ride The Tail of the Dragon. Sandy and I returned to Maggie Valley via Pigeon Forge and U.S. Route 441. We stopped at a couple overlooks and at a waterfall on our way back to A Holiday Motel.

Sandy at the Chimney Tops Overlook
Newfound Gap Road (U.S. Route 441-TN)

We made a second stop at Newfound Gap because I wanted to take additional pictures.

Sandy and I on the North Carolina-Tennessee Border

Newfound Gap view

Newfound Gap
Rockefeller Memorial and The Appalachian Trail

Sandy and I at Newfound Gap

 About 20 minutes after leaving Newfound Gap, we saw water rushing down a hill on the side of the road.

Waterfall along U.S. Route 411-NC

Sandy and I returned to A Holiday Motel around 3:50 pm.  Bob returned to the motel about 1 1/2 hours later. He enjoyed riding The Tail of the Dragon but said he would not have enjoyed it as much 2-up.  Bob said that I would not have liked it.

Bob “goin’ mad on the Dragon”
(Bob purchased this high-resolution digital image from

We ate dinner at Guayabitos Mexican Restaurant with Candy and Karl R. This restaurant is located within walking distance of A Holiday Motel. Bob and I each ordered a taco salad with beef tips. The taco salads were delicious, and the service was good.  We were sorry to hear that Karl has not been feeling well.  He spent the day at the hospital…diagnosis: pneumonia in the lower part, I believe, of his lung.

We spent the evening of our 6th day of vacation, as we do so at every VROC rally … at the “kaw pasture”, sitting around a roaring campfire, listening to music and talking with our friends.

North Carolina Vacation – Day 2 of 9

Day 2 (Monday, May 12) of our North Carolina vacation was a travel day.  We departed Oak Hill WV at 8:00 am, after a hot breakfast (complimentary) at our hotel. We arrived at the Best Western of Asheville Biltmore East in Asheville NC shortly before 2:00 pm. As was the case during yesterday’s travels, we had beautiful weather for traveling.  The sky was blue, with plenty of sunshine and no rain.  We had light to moderate traffic, with no delays in travel because of traffic.

We could have made the drive from Oak Hill WV to Asheville NC in 4 to 4 ½ hours, but we made several stops along the way. In addition to fuel stops, we made a few photo stops. We stopped at two rest areas in Tennessee and one in North Carolina.  All three rest areas were located in scenic areas and were well maintained.

The first Tennessee rest area that we stopped at welcomed us to the state. This rest area was located along Interstate 81 in Bristol TN.  We ate lunch at this rest area.

Tennessee Welcome Center

“Citizens” c. 1982

Lunch Break

We liked the sheltered picnic areas at the Tennessee Welcome Center.  Our picnic lunch included Bumble Bee tuna salad with crackers (ready to eat), no-sugar added diced peaches and a sugar free chocolate chip cookie.  We brought the makings for this picnic lunch for FIVE picnics!  Oh, see the box of creamer?  I brought the fixings for several cups of tea with us on this trip.  We did not bring a cooler with us.  The creamer did not require refrigeration; however,  it had to be stored below 80 degrees.  The temperature in the car would rise above 80 degrees very quickly, when stopped for more than a few minutes.  So, I had to bring the creamer with me when we stopped for lunch or photo opportunities.

The second Tennessee rest area that we stopped at was also a Welcome Center.  This rest area was located in Erwin TN along Interstate 26.  This rest area had beautiful mountain views and lots of land to stretch your legs.

Rest Area in Tennessee

Rest Area in Tennessee

Rest Area in Tennessee


We stopped at Metcalf Overlook in Tennessee, located along Interstate 26 near the North Carolina border.  I loved the tree-covered hills at this overlook.

The cows grazing in the field at the foot of the hills added a pastoral feel to the entire scene.

Metcalf Overlook

Our last stop before arriving at our hotel was at the North Carolina Welcome Center in Mars Hill NC.  What a beautiful rest area!

North Carolina Welcome Rest Area

North Carolina Welcome Rest Area

North Carolina Welcome Rest Area

As we were leaving this rest area, I noticed a trail behind the Visitors Center.  I read afterward that the trail provides beautiful views of Interstate 26 and the surrounding mountains.


As I wrote earlier, we arrived at our hotel in Asheville NC shortly before 2:00 pm.  I took note of the odometer reading upon reaching our hotel.  We put on approximately 650 miles on the car / motorcycle since leaving Warren PA on Sunday morning.   Our home for two nights was a large room with two queen beds, a desk and chair, a table and two chairs, microwave, refrigerator, dresser, nightstand, flat-screen TV and a large bathroom. Our room was located on the first floor at the back of the property.

We chose a great location for our 2-night stay. There were several restaurants in the immediate area to choose from, as well as plenty of shopping opportunities. We stopped at a couple of those shopping opportunities soon after arriving at our hotel. We purchased a Universal AC Adapter at Best Buy.  We communicate via Blue Tooth, while traveling.  Bob forgot to pack the charger for the Blue Tooth.  We walked into the Asheville Mall, looking for a restaurant.  We didn’t find a restaurant; however, I did find something interesting to photograph in the parking lot.

A “love, peace and harmony” van was parked at the Asheville Mall.

A “love, peace and harmony” van was parked at the Asheville Mall.

We ate dinner at Chili’s Restaurant, which was located a few hundred yards from the mall. We ordered from the 2 for $20 menu, which included one appetizer and an entree for each of us. We chose chips and salsa as an appetizer and ordered sirloin steak for our main entree. Bob ordered a 10 oz steak for $4.00 more. I ordered a 6 oz steak. Dinner was filling and very good.

We visited Biltmore Estates, while in Asheville NC — the subject of my next several blog posts.

Chambers on the Road

RV, other Travels and Home Life in Retirement


Travel blog & Strasbourg city guide

Enjoying Life In New Ways

The Frog and PenguINN

Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog

Bicycling the beauty around us

This is a bicycling journal.


Notes on Seeing, Reading & Writing, Living & Loving in The North

Skid and Sandy On The Road

Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog


Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog

My Mommy's Place

Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog

Viewing nature with Eileen

Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog

Deep Thoughts

Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog

Rambling On

Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog

Talk and Chatter

Reviews, talk, and fun

Senior Moments

The random musings of a fairly active Tennessee retiree

Pics & Pieces

Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog



Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer

Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog


Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog

Linda's Peaceful Place

Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog

Life's Funny Like That

Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog


Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog

I'll give you a piece of my mind

Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog

Hospitality Lane

Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog

Gretchen's Traveling

Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog

An English Girl Rambles from 2016 to ....

Showcases Portraiture, Scenic & Nature Photography and Feaures a Photo Journal Blog