Jane and I both woke up coughing and spluttering. I had been battling a bit of a chest cold for a few days and unfortunately Jane woke up with some of the same symptoms.
Gatlinburg apparently has manly Austrian historical links, and with that comes a plethora of pancake and waffle houses. A guide book we have been using for this region suggested the Pancake Pantry was the “grand-daddy of pancake houses”, so it seemed only appropriate that we sample some pancakes for breakfast, for medicinal purposes only, y’all understand.
The line outside the Pancake Pantry bode well, and the fare lived up to its reputation. Again, the serving sizes were enormous, and neither Jane or I managed to finish our plates of five pancakes each, although we gave it our best shot.
After breakfast, we rode the chairlift up to the mountain ridge overlooking the town of Gatlinburg. As we reached the summit, a sign advises that they are about to take your photo, so get ready to smile, to kiss or to wave. We thought we should do all three, and when we got to the top and looked at the resultant photo, for the first time on tour, we purchased the overpriced print that comes with almost every tourist attraction in America.
We thought we’d been pretty clever with our photo, until we looked at the photo board and saw all manner of poses, costumes and states of undress. Obviously, we just aren’t zany enough, but you know what? I’m OK with that.
Leaving the kitch of Gatlinburg behind, we drove into the National Park and discovered the true natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains. The drive into the mountains on a twisting road alongside mountain steams was more what we were hoping and expecting to find.
As we climbed into the mountains, the clouds closed in, robbing us of some of the views. Reaching the highest point accessible by road, Newfound Gap, at just over 5,000 feet, (which also marks the Tennessee – North Carolina border) the clouds gave way to spectacular views to the south.
Driving back down the North Carolina side of the Smoky Mountains, we pulled up and went for a short hike along one of the many trails in the Park. About 5 minutes into the hike, I said to Jane “So, we’ve advised people where we’re going, we’ve wearing appropriate hiking gear and we’ve got plenty of water, haven’t we ???”
Er, no … on all three counts … So the two least prepared hikers in the Smoky Mountains followed the trail into the hills for about half an hour, before retracing our steps to the car. We didn’t even need to leave a trail of breadcrumbs.
Given our lack of preparation and equipment, we had intentionally chosen one of the less strenuous hikes, and we were following an abundant source of water in a mountain stream, so we weren’t actually putting ourselves at any great risk. Nonetheless, we aren’t going to the poster couple for safe hiking any time soon.
Leaving the Smoky Mountains, our next objective was to chalk up some miles on the way to Charleston, our destination for the following night. We didn’t have anywhere en route we were particularly wanting to reach, other than wanting to get somewhere to watch the SuperBowl, hopefully in a big American sports bar with lots of atmosphere.
Picking a spot on the map that was reachable before kick-off, we chose Augusta, Georgia, a drive of about 250 miles (400km) for the day. Once again, most of the drive was along B roads with a 55 mph speed limit, that passed through lots of small towns, which always takes longer than expected.
We finally arrived into Augusta just as the Super Bowl was kicking off at 6:30pm and found the first hotel we could to book a room and dump our bags. We raced back to a recommended sports bar, to find it fell somewhat short of what we had in mind. The bar was only about a third full, with only half the crowd actually watching the game.
After watching the rest of the first half over a quick snack of the ubiquitous buffalo wings and potato skins, we gave up on the bar and went back to the hotel in time for Madonna’s halftime extravanganza. We watched the second half from our hotel bed, witnessing what was apparently one of the closest and most exciting Super Bowls in recent history.
Even for the uninitiated, it was pretty exciting, although as life long supporters of the New England Patriots (we decided we were just before kick-off), Jane and I were gutted to see our team go down to the New York Giants in the dying seconds of the game. Its tough being a fan …