The third Saturday in October. If you are from the south, you probably know what this means. If not, let me explain. The third Saturday in October is the day every year where the University of Tennessee Volunteers and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide play their grudge match on the football field. It’s an old rivalry dating back to 1901. This year, it was UT’s turn to host in Knoxville .
I had already decided that I was going to Knoxville for the game, and so I convinced my grandmother to go to the game with me, even though she’s not a big football fan, or a UT fan for that matter. But there’s something about the 107,000 people and the marching band and all the pomp and circumstance that everyone needs to appreciate at least once. So I talked her in to it. Friday morning, I was thinking about what else we could do this weekend, and I realized it was also peak foliage weekend around the Great Smokey Mountains National Park . I called her on Friday and told her to be ready and pack her bag--we were making a weekend out of it.
So I left work at 4:00 CDT on Friday, October 20, 2006. The first stop was in Middlesboro , Kentucky . I met Grandma there to play bingo. I got there around 9:15 or so. I played about $100 worth of pull tabs, and didn’t win a thing. Well, crap, so much for making a little money to take on our trip.
We got up Saturday morning, and left Rose Hill around 10:30 EDT (approximately). On the way down US Highway 58, I stopped in Ewing to take some pictures of the White Rocks, which is a beautiful formation of white rocks on top of the Cumberland Mountain . Farther on down Hwy 58, I stopped at the edge of Cumberland Gap National Historic Park to take some more photos. In Cumberland Gap, we got onto US Hwy 25E, and took that into Tazewell , Tennessee . In Tazewell, we got onto TN Hwy 33, and took that into Knoxville . Once we got into Knoxville , we parked and walked up the hill, down the hill, over the hill, and around the hill to get over to Neyland Stadium, home of the Vols. While walking over to the stadium, there was a family walking with us who happened to have some extra tickets, so we went ahead and bought them for $75 apiece, since we didn’t have any. The seats were in the end zone under the Jumbotron, but turned out to be pretty good seats.
Once we got down to the stadium, we stood around outside with everyone else as we waited for the UT Pride of the Southland Marching Band to make their descent down the hill toward the stadium. The marching band is one of the best parts of the UT football game. They’re one of the best marching bands around. Once the band came down, we started walking over to the stadium with the other thousands of people who were watching the band with us.
The game turned out to be a slugfest. High on defense, lacking on offense. UT did not play particularly well, and it looked like we might be going down. But a late touchdown put us up 16-13, which was the final score. The marching band performed circle drills during halftime. I got lots of good pictures in the stadium, and even got a little bit of video of the band doing their halftime show.
After the game is where the fun really begins. Grandma kept saying, “We ain’t got no business going nowhere. Let’s just ride through Pigeon Forge and go home.” Well, if you know me, you know that didn’t work. I didn’t know exactly where we were going to end up. From Knoxville , we got on I-40 eastbound and went to Asheville . In Asheville , I got on I-26 eastbound (though really south, in my opinion), and we headed down into South Carolina . In Spartanburg , we stopped and got a room at the Courtyard by Marriott. We got a really nice room. It was a queen double suite. I think Grandma was pretty impressed with the room, and the price was quite reasonable. We watched a little bit of TV, and I checked out the map to determine where exactly we were going to end up going. Shortly, we both went to bed, and I was out like a light.
I woke up at 8:30 on Sunday morning and looked out the window. It was raining and foggy. I was quite upset, because I thought it was going to ruin the whole purpose of the trip—fall foliage viewing. But, I turned on the TV and watched the weather report, and they said it was supposed to clear up and warm up, so we stayed on target for the return home.
We left the hotel, and got on Business I-85 toward Spartanburg , and got off on US Hwy 221. We stopped at Mickey D’s and got us a biscuit, then continued northbound on Hwy 221. After we got back in North Carolina , we were driving along and there was a sign on the side of the road for a produce place that had apples for sale. We were right on the place, and I said, “Do you want any apples?” and she replied, “Yes”, so I whipped right in and we bought a half bushel of mixed apples of all varieties.
In Marion , North Carolina we passed a Wal-Mart. I had almost filled up my memory card on my camera, so we stopped in and I bought another one. I got one that holds 1 gb, so it should hold about 1,000 pictures. That should almost cover a trip! LOL
At Linville , North Carolina , US 221 intersects with the Blue Ridge Parkway , so we got on the parkway heading back north/west. According to www.blueridgeparkway.org, “Outstanding scenery and recreational opportunities make the Blue Ridge Parkway one of the most popular units of the National Park System. " America 's Favorite Drive " winds its way 469 miles through mountain meadows and past seemingly endless vistas. Split-rail fences, old farmsteads and historic structures complement spectacular views of distant mountains and neighboring valleys.” It was definitely very scenic, as I think we managed to pick the peak weekend for most of the drive. We also got to see Mount Mitchell, which is the highest point in North Carolina . We did not drive over to it.
Once we got up on top of Black Mountain , we were past peak, with most of the leaves gone. However, the one thing that remained was the red berries of the mountain ash. They were bright red, and we could see them atop the mountain before we got there. I finally managed to get a good picture of them. You couldn’t stop on the stretch where most of them were, because we were in the Asheville Watershed, and you aren’t supposed to pull over on the side of the road through there.
Once we arrived in Asheville , we got on I-26 westbound. We were finally starting to get hungry, so we stopped at Applebee’s for a bite of lunch. After there, we started on the home stretch, taking the I-26/I-181/US-23 combination to Weber City . From there, it is US-23 to Duffield, and then US-58 back to Rose Hill. Once we arrived back in Rose Hill, I was glad to be on level ground and able to walk around for a little bit before getting back on the road toward Nashville .