Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Driving In A Prius To Find What's Left Of Gatlinburg

It may surprise you to find out just how much get up and go the modern Toyota Prius has. What is less surprising is that it took every bit of that get up and go to make it up those Smoky Mountains. I'm not saying that large motorhomes towing Escalades were honking impatiently at me while I had the acceleration pedal nailed to the floorboard, but it was something like that. My wife prefers that I do the driving, so she is free to tell me what I'm doing wrong. I actually tried to make this arrangement better by getting her a GPS tablet so she could navigate. Now we have two cellphones, a car gps, and the tablet, all giving us different directions, while my wife is saying, "where's the button?"  Me? I'm about as calm as one can be. I'm driving a car that makes very little sound and gets better gas milage that anyone can believe. Usually, on a trip, we are getting 40-45 miles a gallon and this makes me very happy. I usually keep this display up where I can see it to remind me of why we have this car.
Then, there are the other times, when going uphill, with a semi truck riding my back bumper and the Prius engine sounding like it will explode any minute, while Pam is shouting, "Give me Warp 11!". I just wave and pull over to the side of the road, until every single car in the world that is faster than a  Prius passes by and then I continue.
Fortunately for me, I have experience with this. It is a little bit better than driving a old VW van uphill in the mountains. At least this car will get to 60 mph eventually. Not surprisingly, no other driver wants to find out how long it will take, so as soon as they recognize what I'm driving, they start trying to pass.

But, this is really about how beautiful the mountains can be in the winter. We got to see snow our first day and then the weather really let up and we were able to brave the drive over the pass and into Gatlinburg.
Long before we reached Gatlinburg, we could see the signs of forest fire and it still seems so strange that so recently everything was dry and now it is so wet. It was hard to tell if the trees were still alive, but they didn't look burned through like I have seen after other fires. The really interesting part was seeing that the evergreen trees seem mostly untouched.

Arrving in Gatlinburg made you do a doubletake. At first, it appeared that everything was okay after all, and then you realized, the firefighters made sure that main street survived no matter what. It was a smart move because a total shutdown of the town might have meant the end of it all for the business owners. We only found the destruction by driving on backstreets and looking up the side of the mountain. I feel sure that Gatlinburg will come back from this. We will make sure to do our fair share by coming up and driving mainstreet and buying things we don't need. The parking lots were pretty full and my secret free spots to park were all gone, so I'm thinking that Gatlinburg can still pull them in.
We left town before the weather started swinging back to a real winter time. When the locals are nervously looking at the news on TV and everybody is stocking up on food and booze, you know it is time for Floridians to get back home. So we went as fast as a Prius can go, still stopping here and there to look at the wildlife.
By the way...those aren't moose. We actually had somebody ask us about that while on the side of the road. I need to read up on elk though. Are the guys with antlers really hiding in the woods from hunters, or do they lose the antlers every year? My thinking was the leader was a large female and she had some juveniles with her. She just gave me that "no nonsense" vibe. Yep, I'm sure that was a female.


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