Sunday, October 21, 2007

Williamsburg to Pigeon Forge, And A Stop Along The Way

Location: Pigeon Forge, TN

I discovered one of the great benefits of being a nomad -- stopping spontaneously at interesting places.

click for larger view of MonticelloTwo of my recent destinations have been Williamsburg, Virginia and Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Because campgrounds in both Williamsburg and Pigeon Forge are filled up on the weekends, and I did not do a good job of planning before that happened, I was limited to weekday visits. This left the entire weekend for traveling. I left Williamsburg on Friday and did not have to be in Pigeon Forge until Sunday. That made for a very leisurely trip through some gorgeous mountain scenery, most of it somewhere near peak color.

As I was driving through Virginia on Friday, I noticed I was about to pass Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home. I've never been there, and I had lots of time. It was raining off and on, but that's why I have rain garb (my Frogg Togg poncho covers everything worth covering), and last I knew I didn't melt. So exited the expressway and followed the signs to Monticello.

Click for larger view of Monticello GardenI bought my ticket and noticed that it included a shuttle ride to the house. Having been cramped up in the car all day, I asked if it could be walked, and was told it was "way too far." It turned out to be 3/5 of a mile. Not knowing that at the time, I boarded the shuttle and arrived at the house a few minutes later. This is when I found out that the tickets were timed, and I had forty five minutes to wander the gardens before the tour. The gardens were actually quite pretty in the mist, the time passed quickly. We were not allowed to take photos inside, and some of the rooms were so small that we had to take turns at each wall to see the furniture -- but it was a fabulous residence, full of clever devices, nooks and crannies, and lovely art.

Click for larger view of Thomas Jefferson's Grave When I left, I did take the walking path back, and found that it goes past Jefferson's grave.

On Sunday I got to Pigeon Forge, and discovered two disturbing problems. First, there are so many people here it is like Ocean City on a Saturday in August, except the traffic flows better in Ocean City (yes, really). "The Strip" is bumper to bumper cars passing by Pigeon Forge's shops, restaurants, and amusements designed to separate a parent and their money. Gatlinburg is even worse, if that's possible. The shops and attractions look cuter but there are only two lanes for the traffic, so it just crawls.

The second problem is that the weather station is calling for rain beginning tomorrow and continuing through the rest of my stay. Yes, I know everyone needs it, but couldn't I have a day or two of sunshine?

I did get a quick drive through part of the Smokey Mountain National Park this afternoon, but again the traffic was a nightmare. Even Yosemite's traffic was better managed.

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