Smokey Mountain NP Diary 2010

Diary of Linda, Meghan, and my trip to Smokey Mountain NP Area October, 2010

09/27/10 Left San Diego about 8:00am on our 40 day trip to Smoky Mtn NP and Wisconsin. The first day was a gruesome experience. Midway between Barstow and Laughlin NV I had a blow out on a the driver's side back trailer tire. It was about 110 F. and only the rim was left as the tire totally separated from the wheel. A passing vehicle pointed it out to me. I was about one mile from a gas station and I limped into their huge lot. We knew AAA would take more than an hour so I decided to change it myself, a very grueling and tiring job. I did it in the shade with few problems. We continued about 100 miles to Bull Head City AZ where I purchased two new tires at Big O Tire for $347. We checked in at Riverside RV Park in Laughlin getting a nice shade tree and grass quite close to the casino. It was 5:30pm so we went to the Casino Gourmet Room to have dinner and celebrate Linda's 66th birthday. It was nice cool, a lovely view of river, and the food was great. We at least ended the day on a good note.


09/28/10 Left early 7:30am and drove to Holbrook AZ near the Petrified Forest NP where we checked into the KOA RV Park. We stayed hooked up having dinner and breakfast at the KOA restaurant. Temperature was much cooler in the 80's and we had a pleasant comfortable stay here.


09/29/10 Left about 8:00am and drove to Santa Fe New Mexico. Had a problem finding an RV Park. Found a very average urban park for $48 per night. This is no quaint town anymore as it is huge, perhaps 120K people in surrounding area. We had just enough time to go down town to the original historic district full of high end shops, museums, historical buildings, and great restaurants. Only could spend 2 hours before everything closed up. Linda was cranky as she hadn't slept much two previous nights due to noise. We lucked out and picked a great hotel restaurant down town featuring the local New Mexico high end cuisine. The best Mexican food I ever had.


09/30/10 We got on our way about 8:00am and headed for Kenton OK a remote place in the Pan Handle of Oklahoma just above Texas. The 265 mile drive was mostly in mountains 6 - 7K high and was very beautiful and at a temperature of 65 F.. We arrived at Black Mesa SP around 4:00pm local time. The terrain is high desert, juniper trees, cactus, beautiful volcanic rock shelves, still green, some flowers, and wide open wild country. The park has huge sites with electric and water, a small lake, nature trail around the lake, I got a huge site away from the park lights. Will set my telescope up tomorrow night. The termperature was 80 F.. The Astronomy star party location is only about 8 miles west.


10/01/10 Beautiful morning with clouds and a 10 mph wind. I made cheese omelets for our breakfast. Linda and I took Meghan for a 2.5 mile hike on the nature trail in the morning. I will set up the 15" Obsession telescope in my camp site for some observing when it gets dark. Unfortunately a thin cloud cover was mostly over the entire sky until 10:00pm when I retired. I will get up around 3am and see if the sky is clear. Got up at 4:00am, it was clear, but could not bring myself to get up in the cold morning air.


10/02/10 I got up to a view beautiful sunny morning and had fresh cinnamon rolls for breakfast. The temperature was in the low 60's. I took Meghan off leash for a short hike up the road leaving the campground to the lake exit creek. I visited the star party site around 11:00am. Probably 400 people were already there. The conditions were great; mostly flat mowed grass land, nice clear views in all directions, a few small cedar trees, power cords provided for scopes only, bathrooms, a eating facility similar to a boy scout camp. Perhaps 7 venders where there but nothing like the presence of the west coast star parties. I bought a few goodies for my scopes. I left the 5th wheel at the Black Mesa camp ground because of hook ups and the nice large dark sites. I made fried rice for dinner tonight. At night the observing was good until 12:00am at which time I got total cloud cover. I tried out my AstroTract and it worked well except the polar scope was damaged so I could not polar align. I will have to request a new polar scope as it is misaligned due to cross threading during assembly. The scope will still tract well if used with a wide angle lens. Got into bed around 1:00am.


10/03/10 Got up about 9:30am, had breakfast and packed away my large Dob scope. Drove to the star party site to register and picked up my T shirt . I took a few photos on my return to camp. Watched TV football games and did some photo processing on computer in the afternoon. If the 15 - 25 mph wind stops I will visit the star party tonight take some AstroTract photos and to visit other Obsession owners at the star party. I visited the Okie Tex site an hour before dark. The variety of huge scopes at this party is amazing. Many Obsessions and few Star Master Dobs ranging from 12" to 30". I talked to several Obsession owners from Georgia and got a few views through their scopes. I then met two guys from Amarillo TX with an 18" Classic and a 30" Classic Obsessions. The darkness and clarity of the sky tonight is apparently the reason this star party has been so popular throughout the years. The 30" owner showed me the East and West Veil Nebulas which was absolutely unbelievable for the amount of detail that one can see in the 30". It was a bit windy but the darkness of the sky and the brightness of Milky way was unbelievable. The guys were complaining that the light of Jupiter was polluting the sky which I thought was quite comical. Did not do any imaging on my AstroTract because I could not align with my broken polar scope. Had to leave about 11:30pm so I can get up in the morning. I would definitely come back here again hopefully for the whole week to do imaging and view through my 15" Obsession Dob.


10/04/10 Got up about 8:00am and finally got on the road around 9:30am after getting all my astro gear packed up for travel. It was a long brutal 350 mile drive to Enid OK, The road was bumpy in several stretches and Meghan got motion sick throwing up twice. We stayed at a nice RV Park called High Point. Had to buy a new 50a to 30a convertor as I could not fine mine anywhere in the trailer? Probably left it some where on the road of a previous trip.


10/05/10 We are on Central time zone now. Got on the road at 9:00am. Spend the day driving east through Oklahoma farm land much more productive than the western part of the state. Stayed at a KOA in Fort Smith Arkansas. No wifi again.


10/06/10 Got on the road at 7:30am. I never realized how big an area the Ozark mountains cover. They are not high but very beautiful. The colors are beginning but are a bit subdued. Stopped for lunch at a very good classic southern barbecue restaurant. I had a nice lite lunch; fried cat fish and ribs Yum YUM. We arrived at Memphis, TN around 1:30pm, got parked into the Graceland RV Park and got our tickets to see Elvis Presley's home called Graceland. It cost about $60 with our AAA and senior discounts to take the tour. Linda enjoyed the house the most. I of course loved his car, motorcycle, and tractor collection. The jet planes also gave one an idea of his extreme wealth. We had dinner at a famous barbecue restaurant getting free transportation to it in a pink limo. If you are an Elvis fan this is a must see place before you die.


10/07/10 We arrived in Nashville about 2:30pm and checked into Jellystone RV Park a very clean and nice park with a wooded back drop very pretty. The Park office got me tickets for the Country Classics Opry show at the Wyman theater in down town Nashville. We picked up tickets at the Grand Old Opry House near our RV Park and then had a late lunch/dinner at the Santa Fe Cattle CO Restaurant which was excellent. At 5:30pm we took a fun Grayline bus tour down town to the Wyman Theater. The 2 hour show was also a live radio broadcast and the quality of the many singers and the country band was excellent. Linda especially liked the show as she is a country music fan. The bus returned us to our park by 10:00pm. The cost of the show for both of us was $94 and $35 for the bus transportation (money well spent as down down was busy place.


10/08/10 Got on the road for Gatlinburg at 8:44am. Arrived at our Jellystone campground around 3:00pm and got set up for our 8 day stay here. The camp ground was heavily wooded, our large site right on a beautiful good sized babbling creek. The bathroom was very close and the wifi actually worked here. My sister and her husband arrived about 4:30pm. Setting up their large tent was really an ordeal. For dinner we had a salad, Costco barbecued fillet mignon steaks, garden grown Kentucky Wonder green beans, frozen corn, and smores for dessert.. Yum Yum.


10/09/10 I made cheese and corn omelets for breakfast. Did a short walk with the girls and Meghan into the Smoky Mtn NP which bordered right next to our RV park. We came to a stream that had to be forded and the girls wimped out. We decided to drive through Gatlinburg to the park entrance visitor center. The traffic through Gatlinburg was total grid lock because it was a Saturday on a holiday weekend. Leaving the Visitor center was even worse so we ended up taking a road through the park and through Pigeon Forge back home. Dave was driving his Chrysler van and the brakes started to smoke and even flame coming down a long grade into Pigeon Forge. He had them checked out the next day and they found no problem. He recently had new brakes put on. My theory is that the workman spilled brake fluid on the drum which ignited from the heat. We stopped at a grocery store and stocked up on food. I barbecued pork chops at our camp site for dinner.


10/10/10 We went to Dollywood at 3:00pm - 6:00pm to partake of a promotion getting 2 days entry for the price of one day. The cost was $52 per person. plus $8 for parking. It was Gospel and Crafts week the entire month of October. This park is the best theme park I have ever been to, at least in October. The arts and crafts were very high quality and very educational. The music was good but not great. Southern Gospel music is not what I envisioned it to be. The lines at the best shows were unbelievably long perhaps up to 1 hour wait to even get a seat. After Dollywood we ate at Bennets a very good barbecue restaurant in Pigeon Forge. Linda and I split the Big Daddy combination which was excellent. Especially the Hog Wings, cole slaw, and baked beans were to die for. Did not like driving home in the dark on a curvy narrow road to our camp ground.


10/11/10 We discovered that we could reserve seats for Dollywood music shows for $15 per couple avoiding the lines all together. We were given an electronic device that allowed entry just before the show. These reservations can only be made the day of for each show and you have to arrive early to get the reservations. We had a enjoyable day at Dollywood arriving at 9:00am and leaving about 4:30pm. I bought a quart of fresh sorghum which was made right on the grounds next to the shop. My dad raised and made sorghum syrup on the farm in Wisconsin. We will try it out on my home made sour dough pancakes later this week. Had left overs for dinner at the trailer.


10/12/10 Slept in late today. Finally got onto the road into the Smoky Mtn NP heading for Cades Cove around 10:00pm. It was a beautiful sunny day and the colors were breath taking. We had a nice picnic just before entering Cades Cove. Cades Cove used to be a farming settlement mostly occupied by Baptist and Protestants. During the great depression their land was turned into a National Park and they all had to leave. There are many old farm buildings and churches still in reasonable condition. The 12 mile loop through this cove is so beautiful in the fall. The area was made a national park because of excessive logging and hunting. Most game animals became extinct in the area including deer and elk which have now been reintroduced back into the park. Drove back and had dinner at Pigeon Forge at Huck Fin's Restaurant


11/13/10 I made sour dough pancakes from scratch this morning for breakfast. They came out especially good, I guess the dough loved the high humidity here in the Smoky Mountains. Joanne and David did the local art craft trail today. Linda and I did a few domestic chores and generally stayed in camp most of the day also sleeping in a lounge chair next to the babbling creek. For dinner, I made an angel hair pasta shrimp saute with onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, fresh garlic, and fresh parmesan cheese. Yum Yum.


10/14/10 It rained big time last night perhaps 3-4 inches. I got up in the middle of the night and discovered that the 5th wheel awning had trapped about 5 gallons of rain water. I broke Linda's broom pushing it out. We had breakfast and we all headed for Klingman's Dome in Smoky Mountain NP, which is the highest point 6500' in the eastern states. Seven miles from the top the fog got really thick and Linda had a fit about the danger so we headed back. The autumn colors up here were awesome. I stopped along the way for many photos with fog layers in them. We came back to the trailer and had lunch. Joanne and David went back to Gatlinburg to attend a craft show at the convention center. I cooked hamburgers on the grill tonight which turned out to be very delicious.


10/15/10 Slept late this morning and had a leisurely light breakfast. I spent the next 3 hours preparing to travel tomorrow. Joanne helped me get my telescope equipment back into the pickup. Linda, Meghan, and I did a 3 mile hike on a remote trail in Smoky Mountain Park near our RV Park. Meghan was allowed to run off leash. The trail was all up hill mostly along a fast running creek. Meghan went crazy with all those smells of squirrels, deer, elk, bear, etc. Met a couple who were doing photography and they liked dogs so no problem with Meghan off leash. Our last night in Gatlinburg we decided to eat at a popular steak house called the Alamo. The salad and steak was very good. Had to send the creamed spinach back as it was cold and pasty yuk yuk. David and Joanne had put their big tent away and slept on their huge air mattress in our trailer. This air mattress was amazing huge queen size, with head board, and a built in air pump. They were comfortable but a bit cold on the floor.


10/16/10 Linda snored most of the night and I got very little sleep. We left Gatlinburg at 6:45am in the dark heading northeast to Columbus Indiana. The mountains were beautiful with fog areas lingering in the low areas. Drove a beautiful 380 miles but was gruesome because of my fatigue. Arrived at a campground just east of Columbus about 4:40pm. We did not unhook the trailer and ate left overs. I was so tired that I went to bed around 8:00pm. I decided to sleep on the sofa in the back of the trailer so I could isolate Linda's snoring from my ears. It worked and I had a relatively good evening of slumber.


10/17/10 Got on the road at 7:30am. Had lunch at Culvers in Champagne, Illinois the home of the University of Illinois. The Culver butter burgers and turtle sundae are to die for. We arrived in Belvidere, Illinois at my sister Charlene's house about 4:00pm. We parked the 5th wheel in their driveway having electricity and water. We visited a couple hours and then Charlene cooked us chicken divine for dinner. Watched some TV and went to bed early.


10/18/10 Charlene made a nice vegetable omelet breakfast for us at 8:30am. At 12:30pm we went to lunch at the Stone Eagle Tavern restaurant. The food and wine was excellent at a competitive price. Next we went into Rockford to visit the Arboretum. We walked about 3 miles around the ground taking photos, enjoying the great weather, and observing the flora and fauna. I came home and slept 1.5 hours before Charlene's excellent cranberry pork, country squash, and stuffing dinner. After dinner we all watched "Coach Carter" on the 50" wide screen TV with great speaker system.


10/19/10 Charlene made us some delicious french toast for breakfast. Linda did some laundry and then went to Walmart for some shopping. Next Charlene drove us out to Edwards Orchard where we had pulled pork sandwich and some apple cake donuts for lunch. We then did some shopping in the excellent gift shop. I took lots of photos of the beautiful Orchard, farm buildings, windmill, and pumpkin patches. At night we went out for fish fry and then came home and watched a movie called "Cinderella Man" which was very good.


10/20/10 Got up at 8:30am and had a light breakfast of fruit muffins made by Charlene. We then left for a matinée play to Fort Atkins at the Fireside Theater. This dinner theater is way better than it used to be with great food, comfortable seats, nice gift shops, and some real renovation improvements We had a wonderful lunch at the dinner theater and got seated. Just before the play was to start an announcement was made that it was cancelled due to a nitrate fire at a nursery about a block away. What a bummer. We drove back to Chars and then all did a walk with Meghan at wonderful city park on the Belvidere River.


10/21/10 Got up early and was on our way to Wisconsin by 8:30am. Checked into KOA at Deforest at 11:00am. Met Joanne at her home in Rio and then went to visit my 96 year old mother at the Columbia Healthcare Center in Wyocena. She was in good spirits and recognized me. While there we wheel chaired mother to another wing where her sister Adeline was located with her husband Lawernce Jahn. We had a good time conversing with them. They had a nice view out their apartment window of a lake surrounded by trees and marshland. We were very impressed with the quantity of facilities and care at this rest home. Joanne did good finding this home for mother. After a couple hours we drove to Wisconsin Dells to buy fudge, candy, and Carr Valley cheese to take back to California. Returned to our trailer to take Meghan for a walk. We all drove to Madison to have supper at the Cathay Chinese restaurant. The food was great, but we did over order and had to bring 1/2 of it home.


10/22/10 Linda and I visited mother again at 10:00am for a couple hours. Then we went to Joanne's house where we got loaded into their van to visit yarn shops. Had I known it was going to be a 6 hour affair I would have stayed home!!! Returned back to our trailer and picked up Meghan. Returned to Joanne's house. I took Meghan for a 2 mile hike in a recently picked Wisconsin corn field which she enjoyed a lot. Joanne ordered some great Wisconsin pizza for supper. yum yum.


10/23/10 Spent morning in camp. Went to visit mother at 1:30pm. The 3 Jahn girls Karen, Myrna, and Sharon were there. We wheeled mother down to the Jahn apartment and had a great reunion with all the Jahns and with Linda and I. Sharon and I got Meghan from the car and ran her around in view of the apartment window on the huge grassy area in back. Everyone enjoyed Meghan's energetic activity. Next I went to Joanne's house and watched on TV the UW play Iowa. It was an exciting came and UW ended up winning by 1 point. I helped David split fire wood for 1.5 hours. Joanne returned from a trip to Chicago with her sister about 6:30pm at which time we had left over Chinese food for supper. Watched the SF and Philadelphia baseball game play off game before returning to our trailer.


10/24/10 Spent the morning in camp getting trailer ready for 7 day trip home and updating my diary on the computer. Went to see mother again at 1:15pm. Then went to Joanne's house. Watched some TV and Joanne made us a nice light supper of wild rice soup, french bread, and apple crisp. Watched the Packer Viking game a bit and then said our good byes for this trip.


10/25/10 Left about 7:30am for trip back to San Diego. The scenery through eastern Wisconsin and Iowa was beautiful with the fall colors, beautiful farm fields, and the lime stone rock formations. We stayed just west of Des Moines, IA at a very nice KOA with large sites in country setting. Bought a new bottle of propane for $2.49 / gallon. I left the truck hooked up to the trailer. Linda cooked tuna melt sandwiches so we didn't have to go out for supper. We had rain and wind most of the night.


10/26/10 It was dark, raining, and very windy when we got off this morning at 8:00am. As we proceeded through Iowa into Nebraska the rain stopped but the wind increased from 30 to 55 mph. Fortunately the wind was out of the west and we were going straight west so I was able to keep the rig on the road without much trouble. We stopped for lunch in Lincoln Nebraska at a Culvers. I had one of their delicious hamburgers probably the last one for a long time. The wind kept increasing and occasionally switching directions make driving more treacherous. My gas mileage was horrible with the head wind, only getting 9.1 mpg. I finally reached Kearney, NE and we stayed in the Fort Kearney SP camp ground. I found a nice site right next to a bass lake in the nearly empty park. It had electricity only but no problem as it it is a beautiful park this time of year. I walked Meghan 2.5 miles around the park and past 4 of the small little lakes. I cooked omelets for supper.


10/27/10 Got on the road at 7:30am. At first very little wind but it kept increasing. After 200 miles I had enough of that extreme cross wind and was actually worried about keeping the rig on the road. We stopped at Sidney NE at 11:30am and checked into the Cabella's world head quarters camp ground. They expected cold weather tonight and were in the process of shutting off the water. I got my tank filled up before they did it. Fortunately we had power and plenty of propane to keep us warm. I cooked brats and sauerkraut for dinner. It was no fun listening to the wind buffet the trailer back and forth all day. We had local TV and wifi so we were able to entertain ourselves. It got down to 21 F this night. Around midnight the winds subsided.


10/28/10 Got on highway 80 going west at 7:30am with virtually no wind. I have driven to midwest on several routes and highways and highway 80 is by far the shortest and best highway for a big trailer and truck. The highway is generally smoother with no killer 6-8% long grades. I drove 475 miles to Rock Springs WY and checked into the KOA. They had full hook ups including an elaborate water box with insulation to prevent freeze up. I took Meghan onto adjacent vacant property spotting a fox and a huge jack rabbit. Meghan got mud on her paws tracking it into the trailer which made Linda very unhappy. I had a pleasant evening having a couple glasses of good red wine and watching the World Series.


10/29/10 Made fresh baked cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Was on the road by 8:00am heading for Salt Lake City. We checked into East Bay RV Park. Before checking in I had the truck and RV washed at a commercial truck wash for $40. They did a not great but a reasonable job and it sure looks better than it did. We called Mollie to meet for dinner somewhere but got no response. I guess she was busy sewing halloween costumes for a friend. We went out for pizza and watched the 2nd game of the world series before retiring.


10/30/10 Got on the road at 7:30am for Las Vegas a 380 mile drive. Had a Dairy Queen chocolate malt for lunch in Cedar City. Ran into more strong 50 mph cross winds dislodging some of my 5th wheel molding. Finally reached Sams Town RV Park in Henderson about 4:00pm. This RV park is excellent and only cost $25 per night. All the amenities except wifi. Wifi could be purchased for $6 per night and it worked great. Most wifi on this trip really sucked (like virtually useless), I need to research another solution for wifi on the road. We watched 3rd game of the world series and then went to dinner at Willy Jose's in Sams Town Casino. The food was ok but not great. I was dead tired from the drive and went to bed at 8:00pm. Linda gambled on the slots and made $200.


10/31/10 Got up about 7:00am and logged onto pay wifi for an hour. I sure feel better today and no long distance driving. Yeah Yeah. I made cheese omelets for Linda and my breakfast. Called Renee Carter to arrange dinner tonight. She suggested that we play bridge this afternoon at the Henderson Bridge Club, so we did. The club was very modern and nice with two wide screen tv's to watch sports events during breaks. Linda and I had a 64% game and won first overall. Probably because we had a sit out and missed having to play Proctor Hawkins. We went out to dinner with Renee at Billy Bobs Steak House in Sams Town Casino. The girls had salmon which was good. I ordered the Octoberfest special Sauerbraten dinner with rib eye steak. It was OK but not great. My menu choices have not been great this trip. Did have a nice time socializing with Renee and the wine choices were good here.


11/01/10 Had fruit and cereal for breakfast. After dumping all the tanks for the last time this trip. We got on our way at 8:00am driving out on Flamingo Road past Ballys and Caesars only a 6 mile drive. If we drive to LV for a regional, staying at Sams Town RV will definitely be a viable option. We arrived home at 3:00pm and began unloading. We both agreed that this was mostly a very fun trip we had.

Last updated on November 30, 2010