Driveabout: Day 11
The sun was just beginning to peek over the mountains as I hopped on my bike and pedaled towards the 11-mile Cade's Cove Scenic Loop. The gates were still locked at the exit, where a couple of cars waited to enter; probably park employees, since it's a one-way loop. (At least I hope they were park employees and not just confused.) The entrance gate was also locked and there were about 40 cars lined up to make the circuit. I slipped past them and ducked through a gap in the fence. No dealing with car traffic, at least for a while.
Ears, fingers and ankles stinging from the cold, I zipped along and saw Cade's Cove like I've never seen it before. Empty, except for some of the wildlife I spotted along the way, which included a white tailed buck deer, a fawn and a field full of horses, one of which was very interested in what I was doing out there.
Lots of hills on the loop, and I haven't been able to mountain bike as often as I'd like, so I actually had to walk my bike up a few of the grades, but it was a fantastic workout. I got back to the camper and asked Jae if she wanted breakfast in or out - we opted for driving down the mountain into Townsend for a meal at The Carriage House.
Naturally, our next stop, being in Townsend, was Wood-N-Strings Dulcimer Shop. Luckily, Mike and Connie Clemmer were both in the shop - it'd been over 8 years since either of them had seen Jae and we had a good time catching up. The Clemmers are a wonderful family and I've enjoyed getting to know them over the years, playing at the Pickin' Porch and visiting at various events. I told them back in August that I was going to try and get Jae over to the store in November and I'm glad we were able to make it happen.
Once off-mountain, we headed towards Nashville, stopping in Oak Ridge to visit the Wheat Community African Burial Ground. Starting around 1810, the Laurel Banks Plantation, once situated on the banks of the Clinch River, had slaves that were buried on this plot of land. It's believed that many of the descendants of these slaves are also buried here. The graves, believed to number between 90 and 100, are unmarked. A number of small tributes had been laid upon the commemorative marker and I added a small quartz stone as my own token of remembrance.
We had lunch at Don Eduardo's in Kingston before checking in at Cedars of Lebanon State Park in Lebanon. Officially half-way through our driveabout, we started looking at our next move. The park's campgrounds were beginning to shut down for the winter, so we'd have to be prepared for the possibility that boon docking would be required as long as we were in this part of the country. The temperature was definitely beginning to drop overnight. 12 volt furnaces are a beautiful thing!