The Trip Part II / by Michael Durr

We arrived in the Smokeys, after driving through the ridiculous towns of Pigeon Forge and Gaitlinburg, and spoke with a ranger about where we should go. The park is enormous, but we found a great spot called Cades Cove. If offered everything we were looking for, bike trails, hiking trails, and access to the Appalachian Trail. We followed the winding roads up north to Cades Cove and found a great campsite buried in the woods. After setting up camp, we grabbed the bikes and went on a 13 mile scenic loop. We saw lots of wild life, and old structures that had been placed along the loop. Unfortunately, it began to drizzle and the roads got slick. Jim ended up wiping out on his bike and realized after about a mile that his glasses were missing. We detoured back and ended up finding them. The ride was amazing but much more challenging than we though. It was cold and rainy, plus roads in the Smokeys aren't like roads in Chicago. They have steep hills! We got back exhausted but did a quick little hike in the back of our campsite. It was actually pretty cool with a river running and a bit of mist in the air, of course I fell in the river and soaked my right shoe. When we got back to the campsite, since it was raining we drove down to a pavilion to cook our dinner and I spent some time in the bathroom drying my shoe with the hand dryers. After dinner it had stopped raining and we attempted to build a fire, the wood was damp and hard to work with but Jim pulled off a fire large enough for us to roast a few marshmallows and warm up.  

The next morning was the serious hike day. We discovered an 8 mile hike that seemed challenging, but not so challenging that we would end up not making it back before dark. Of course, I woke up to my right shoe completely soaked through. It had rained that whole night and my shoe was just on the edge of the tents vestibule and took on water all night. So, we had breakfast in the same location as dinner and I spent 30 minutes with the hand dryers again. We also came across an employee cleaning the grounds that asked us in his thick Tennessee accent if we were down from the AT. It made us feel good that he asked us that because we must have looked the part. With our shoes dry again, we began the hike. Eight miles, at least four of which we were hiking vertically, of treacherous wet leaves, loose rocks, mud and mist. It was difficult and we both cursed the weather a number of times, but it was worth it. We got to the top of a mountain surrounded by mist not knowing where the closest human was. We actually only saw two other people that day and they hiked past us like a couple of amateurs. We hiked with a Jet Boil and cooked up one of our backpacking meals at the summit of the mountain. Delicious. We could only imagine when we came to a break in the trees near the top what the view would have looked like, because for us it was like staring into a white wall. We did not let it get us down though, it was still an awesome experience. The hike down was faster then the hike up, but just as brutal. When we got back to the campsite we were soaked, smelly, and sore and had to make the decision to stay another night or drive to Nashville.

 

We knew that staying would not have benefitted us in anyway, so we began the five hour drive to Nashville. The drive was actually nice. We warmed up talked about the hike and got into Nashville around 9pm, keep in mind we left for the hike around 7am that morning. After having trouble finding out where to park, Jim found a place and I waited in the car while he checked us in. He texted me a few minutes later that there was 20 people ahead of him and it was going to take awhile. Then my phone died. We finally got into the room after a quick dinner in the lobby with a rather interesting waiter and we fell asleep immediately.

The next day, no driving, only biking. We woke up an watched another Walking Dead. From there, we had breakfast at the Pancake Pantry, and had lunch at Savarino's Cucina. We biked around the city seeing the sights and them came up with the Bike and Brew Experience. 4 breweries, 4 flights, in 4 hours... all on bikes. The journey began at Blackstone, where we chatted with our waitress about what places to visit and we got the low down on times and locations. The next place was Yazzoo they had a great beer called Hop Project and we met some cool people there. Jim ended up chatting with an EMT and I ended up chatting with a couple in from Kansas. We actually convinced them to have dinner at Blackstone and we ended up walking to the next loaction and meeting up with our new EMT buddy. The next place was Jackalope, they had some great beers and I ended up purchasing a growler to take Lindsay's dad in Indianapolis. After Jackaolope it was back to the bikes and on to Fat Bottom, we had our fourth flight and were feeling good. We ended up having an amazing burger there and them biked back to the Ramada across the street from the football stadium. It was time for a bit of drunken swimming in the guitar shaped pool. All of the rooms looked out over this pool. Of course we had to get the frisbee so I ran out to the car dripping wet in my suit and grabbed the bee. We played for about an hour chucking it around the pool. Someone may or may not have called the police because we ended up being told by an officer that the pool was closed. Then it was bed time.

The next morning, feeling refreshed, we began the 5 hour drive to Indianapolis. We stopped for lunch at Smokey Pigs in Bowling Green, KY and had some delicious BBQ. That place was hilarious! We pulled into Indy around 6pm and met up with Lindsay's dad. After some growler beer from Jackalope, we decided it was a good idea to eat dinner as quickly as possible and go see James Bond: Skyfall, it was awesome. Then it was back to the house for some r&r.

The next morning Lindsay's mom made us some amazing breakfast and we saddled up and headed home. Of course we pulled into Chicago minutes after a huge storm had just passed, but it ended up being a nice day in the city.

That was The Trip.

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