My wife and I both like to get in the car and go for drives on the weekends, we never really have a destination in mind, we just go. We have found ourselves all over the state of Florida, from Key West, the East coast, the Gulf Coast, North Florida and just about everywhere in between. We decided to take a few days off work to make a long weekend, drive North and explore somewhere else.
We loaded enough clothes for a four day getaway, and after a stop at Starbucks for the lovely Mrs. Kesler, we hit the road. We picked up Hwy 441 just south of Ocala (Florida) and drove north into Georgia.
We hadn't been in Georgia long when we came across and antique shop on the side of the road, it looked inviting so we stopped in.
While Kathy looked around I talked a while to the owner.
He had moved here from California in the '80s. He and his wife would travel around picking up stuff from all over and selling it in their store, now he does less traveling and more consigning.
We drove on North the rest of the day and spent the night in the town of Milledgeville, just outside Macon Ga. The next morning we continued north, came across a, junk shop? Junk is a good way of describing a lot of this stuff, some things were nice though. The problem was that nothing had a price, if you were interested in something, you had to take it to the barber shop next door and ask the barber what he wanted for it. It was too much work for me so we moved on.
We wanted to find a park with some trails for hiking so I turned on a road that I thought would take me to a park, actually I had turned one intersection too early but came across an old tourist shop on the old hwy 441 that had been bypassed by the new one when it was four laned. There were some wood carvings out front.
Inside were many interesting items. Again as Kathy shopped around, I talked to the owner and the woman working with him, I think the old man was the younger woman's (my age) father. While the woman was making us some boiled peanuts, I went outside to listen to a little blugrass group that was playing.
I asked if I could try my hand at the bucket/pole/string instrument, I wouldn't say I was good at it, but I was close.
A few more items from inside the store.
We bought our peanuts, along with some home made blackberry jam some "Peach Cobbler" cider and asked the owner where we could do some hiking. As it turns out, we were just above Tallulah Falls State Park, he directed us to the entrance and off we went. We sat on a bench overlooking the gorge to enjoy our Hot Boiled Peanuts, they were good but not the best I've had. We made our way to the stairway that led down. Each person we encountered told us, "if you're not in shape don't go down, it's a long way back up. It's over 1000 steps.
We are pretty fit so we went on down. Here is a photo of some of the steps.
We were a bit disappointed that we weren't allowed near the waterfalls, so I suggested that since the Smokey Mountains were just a few more hours away, we should just go there. There is plenty of water and hiking to do up there.
So Northward we went.
This photo was taken as we entered Cherokee North Carolina.
Well before dark we arrived on the North Carolina side of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.
We took a walk down by the river near the Visitor's center.
It was very peaceful until this guy and his four girlfriends came by. When he calls, he sounds similar to an elephant.
We drove on over the mountains to the Tennessee side and found us a nice Condo for the night just outside the park. This is the view looking down from our bedroom balcony.
We had some dinner in downtown Gatlinburg and walked the streets for a while. When our kids were still at home, we took several trips up here but could never afford to stay in town or eat out. It was nice to be able to do those things this time but still have very fond memories of the times here with our kids and the fun we had.
We headed out Sunday morning, the weather was cool and I wanted to ride with the top down. Kathy wrapped herself in an old blanket to stay warm.
Back when we used to come here with the kids, we would stop at these little pull offs and just play in the creeks, sometimes for hours.
We would walk up and down the creeks jumping from one rock to another and trying to balance ourselves on old fallen logs.
Just a photo of a pretty car in front of some beautiful scenery.
Playing like children.
At Newfound Gap, on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, a bystander took this photo for us.
We even walked a little bit down the Appalachian Trail just so we could say we had.
We then drove up to Clingman's dome. I think this is the highest point in the park. You don't actually drive to the top, there is still a good hike from the parking area to the top.
As we drove back down to the North Carolina side, we stopped for a few photo ops. Kathy gets the credit for these.
This is Mingus Mill, I remember coming here with our kids, I think we had a picnic once here on the grass.
We ate a late lunch at the Little Princess diner in Cherokee then began to head back south.
The mountains turned to hills...
...and after another night spent in Ga, we were back in old Florida. We came across this abandoned Gas Station, my guess is that after Interstate 75 was put in, the traffic on 441 dwindled to almost nothing and this old place was needed no more.
We are already looking forward to our next unknown adventure, maybe next time we can take a whole week or maybe two.