Connor and I are on our fifth annual Two Guys Road Trip. Actually, at this hot moment, he is snoozing happily, ignoring all the noise and sunshine pouring into the room. As many of you are likely aware, and as Connor noted at the end of last year’s report, over the past four years we covered the cardinal directions and had many great adventures. This year, hopefully starting our next four-year installment of directions, we headed south-east to the Smoky Mountains and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
Yesterday was simply a fantastic day. We started the day working our way through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I suppose we knew how beautiful it would be, or anticipated how beautiful it would be, but until you are standing in the middle of a mountain stream having hopping across boulders, you really don’t experience how really beautiful it is. We then headed south and found ourselves in Cherokee, North Carolina. After chatting with the locals at the Cherokee Harley Davidson store, we found ourselves downing some good home-style cookin’ at Granny’s Restaurant. It was there I spotted a gentleman, clearly part of the local community and a respected and recognized leader. I pointed him out to Connor and said I wanted to go meet him and find out who he was. The man had the most interesting face, full of heritage, strength, character … and I wanted to get a picture of him if I could.
Of course, Connor was mortified at the thought. Exactly how creepy would that be? What exactly is your plan? Was I just going to waltz over a say, “Hey, you have a cool face. Can I get a picture of it?” Really Dad, how embarrassing would that be? OK, all good points, but I tried to point out that when your gut tells you something, whether it is intrigued because something could be interesting, or anxious because things don’t feel quite right, you should listen to yourself. It is what will help you along the way in your life and hopefully make it a bit more spectacular and safe.
After lunch and outside the restaurant, we did get a chance to strike up a conversation with the man, and as it turns out, he was Michell Hicks, principal chief of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee. Michell was a nice man, very eager to know who we were, where we were from and wish us well on our journey. Of course, I did get my picture. From there, we continued through the Smoky Mountains, driving somewhat blindly due to lack of mobile phone coverage and our rejection of any other map aids. Remember, the point of the road trips is to explore, experience, and take it as it comes.
As we picked through the interesting choices for roads, unwittingly we found ourselves on US 129, which may mean something to some readers, but initially meant nothing to us. As we drove the incredible road, racing through many parts of it, seeing a parade of sports cars and motorcycles, we realized we were on no ordinary road. When we started to see photographers stationed along the side of the turns (www.killboy.com and http://www.us129photos.com), we knew we had found something special. When we finally reached the end of the most extreme twists and turns, we stopped at a biker shop to learn we had just gone through the prime 11 miles of what driving enthusiasts have named The Tail of the Dragon.
When I think back on our road trips, I am quite sure we have narrowly missed finding many incredible things and have chosen to pass up many of the highly advertised sights. I don’t really worry about those. Instead, I think back on all the unexpected discoveries, from the many ordinary people, yet extraordinary in each of their own ways, we have spoken with, to the less advertised but far more interesting locations. For me, it is the essence of life is a journey. Around every corner, there may be something unexpected, wild, fun, dangerous, sad, boring, intriguing, etc. And for my son Connor? These trips are your defensive driving lessons. I can only hope they help you as you will head out on your own journey in the not too distant future.