MAY 26, 2011 — Mom, Dad and I left Maryland, headed for Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. We were in the Tundra, pulling the 9×12 motorcycle trailer with Dad’s Harley and my Kawasaki. We stopped briefly in Asheville, NC, to drop off Jaci’s fishtank and fish at her apartment, and then completed the last 2-hour leg of our journey.
Our cabin, called Black Bear’s Den, was right off of Wears Valley Road, between Pigeon Forge and Townsend. We had everything we needed — 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, hot tub, weird little garage for the bikes — just not enough room to turn around the truck and trailer! Our proprietor was awesome, though, and gave us the access code to park our trailer in a gated community next door.
We started off our Tennessee vacation with a bang by taking the motorcycles down the Tail of the Dragon — 318 curves in 11 miles on Highway 129, ending at Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort in North Carolina. Mom and Dad were cruising on his Harley Road Glide, I was slowly navigating the turns on my Kawasaki Ninja EX500, and Jamie was happily be-bopping to music in her Honda CR-V.
I was able to have some special bonding time with my fur-niece, Lexi, and Jamie discovered her middle name on a road sign.
Jamie and I each were tossed down a big hill inside a ZYDRO (12′ inflatable ball with inner chamber filled with some water) at ZORB Smoky Mountains. What awesome fun!
Jaci, Jamie and I went horseback riding at Cades Cove Stables, where we rode to the base of a 110′ waterfall.
Jamie and I spent a day in Nashville, where we got matching travel tattoos at the Black 13 Tattoo Parlor (we’ve been planning these tats for seven years!) and explored a full-size replica of the Parthenon in Centennial Park.
Eventually both Jaci and Jamie had to head back home and to work, but Mom, Dad and I stayed a few more days. We took the truck on Cades Cove Loop Road, where we saw two black bears! We exited from the Loop onto Parson’s Branch Road (an improved dirt access road that connects to Highway 129) where we were surprised at the the number of butterflies in the road and got to see a variety of little roadside waterfalls.
We drove the Tail of the Dragon again, this time in the truck, checking out the Tree of Shame and picking up a dragon bell (for good luck) at Deal’s Gap for Dad’s Harley. I snapped a photo of Mom and Dad at an overlook with Calderwood Lake in the background.
On the way home we checked out some chainsaw art, all carved from logs. There were also some amazing custom mantels available.
And we visited The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge, which is still an active mill (but it’s also turned into quite the “touristy” spot).
JUNE 2, 2011 — On our last day in Tennessee, Dad and I took a ride on his Harley to the Foothills Parkway. We wanted to see if we could get a not-so-smoky picture of the Smoky Mountains (a shot that we *just* missed on our first day of riding out to do the Tail of the Dragon). The weather didn’t cooperate again, but we did a short hike to Look Rock for a hazy view of the Smokies.
To escape the record-breaking heat, we decided to spend our last afternoon exploring the Tuckaleechee Caverns in Townsend, which maintain a cool 58-degrees year round and boast to having the largest cavern room open to the public in Eastern America, as well as a 200′ underground waterfall, Silver Falls.
The next morning (June 3), we packed up the truck and headed home to Maryland and our cats with another amazing Amber Family vacation under our belts!