Like all good things, our little road trip up to the Knoxville, Tennessee area had a hard-stop on Monday, as we all had to return to our respective work lives on Tuesday.
Yes, retirement is still a few years off and as much as I’d like to think it could come as early as 2015, I’m not sure we’d be able to enjoy too many weekends like this one per year on our retirement income: that’s gonna take some planning and budgeting. Planning I’ve got pretty well in hand, it’s the budgeting that I’ve never been any good at. I basically have an amount of income that I set aside and save, another bucket covers fixed expenses, another bucket gets filled for unexpected expenses and the rest “flows” and stimulates the economy. We’ll see… it’s still a couple years off and I’m not out of ideas when it comes to some potential post retirement revenue-generating opportunities.
As for the trip home from Gatlinburg, it would be about a 200-mile ride back up over the Newfound Gap, down through Cherokee, Nantahala, and Blue Ridge on a mix of two and four lane highways. The only wild card was that darn weather. Just looking at the various weather radars, we looked to be OK in Tennessee as the rain was falling to the west and wouldn’t catch up to us before we were out of Tennessee and North Carolina. However, back at home in Kennesaw it was pouring. But, there was a pretty good chance we’d hit a hole in that weather system when we rolled back into Cobb County around 4:00pm in the afternoon. In any event, we had our rain gear and would just make a point of “suiting-up” at the first signs of rain rather than waiting until we were wet.
We rolled-out around 10:00am under partly sunny skies and made our way up and over Newfound Gap. The ride up was a repeat of our trip up to Clingman’s Dome less the rain: it made a big difference! However, I must say the roads on the North Carolina side of the gap were far nicer and better-maintained than the ones on the Tennessee side! The ride down 411 into Cherokee had to be one of the most scenic rides I’ve ever enjoyed! The air had a slight nip, but it wasn’t actually “cold” and we were finally enjoying some sunshine.
We had a brief encounter with nature when somewhere closed to the bottom of the mountain I collected an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly in the Windsplitter vent of my windshield. The poor little butterfly somehow got wedged in by its body and a wing and couldn’t blow through the vent: it was just stuck there. As we slowed for a stop I gave blew a puff of air at the little guy and that allowed him to fly free of the vent… only to land and grab ahold of Debbie’s shirt! He stayed firmly attached to her shirt until we stopped for gas a few minutes later, at which point I attempted to remove him by inviting him to climb on my finger.
He followed my cues but as I worked to “release” him back into the air he simply flew to my shoulder and grabbed on there. Debbie was able to finally remove him and deposited him on some flowering shrubs at the gas station. They say it’s good luck to be touched by a butterfly: I wonder what it means to be embraced by one?
Our ride down to Blue Ridge where we stopped for lunch at Harvest on Main was uneventful; beautiful in spots and cool enough to make me put on my jacket, but otherwise free of any events. Harvest on Main was spectacular, keeping our weekend dining scores extremely high: we were definitely batting near .900, with the only ‘meh’ meals being the Hampton Inn breakfast bars.
When we came out of Harvest the sun was beaming brightly and we enjoyed a sunny ride for the last 1.5 hours back into Kennesaw, GA. After passing Cobb County’s McCollumn Airport, David & Deb split left for home on Old 41 as we headed west on US41 towards our humble abode.
Back at the house the typical weekend honey-dos had been taken care of on Friday so it was pretty much just unpacking, doing the laundry from the trip and cleaning all of the dead bugs, mud and road grime off the Road King so it would be ready to go in for its 1,000mi initial service on Tuesday.
It was good to be back home, but October 3rd can’t get here fast enough: that’s when we head down to Panama City Beach for the fall edition of Thunderbeach! Although the ride down at 335 miles is quite a bit longer than the 233 mile trip up to Maryville, Tennessee, the saddle time is about the same or a bit less at around 5 hours, assuming we don’t get stuck in traffic near Atlanta.
Oh yeah, and I did give into vanity by checking out the photos taken of us by the three different outfits who park themselves along the Cherohala Skyway and US129: there were actually a few good ones too! So, now we also have our official trophy shots!