Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Snowstorms in the Smokies—heading south

Oct. 29-31, Crossville, Tennessee to Summerfield, Florida

With news reports of Hurricane Sandy flooding the media, we paid much attention to the forecast for the Great Smoky Mountains in Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina. The edge of the storm brought high winds and snow to the mountains on Monday night with more snow forecast on the way.  We left Nashville on Monday with plans to visit relatives on the way to Knoxville, then off to see the Smokies and the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. The storm changed our plans. We knew we left Oregon at least two weeks later than we should, so we were prepared for colder weather, but not blizzard conditions!  One of the joys of living full-time in the motorhome is flexibility; we did not have any reservations to cancel, so all we had to do was turn right instead of continuing east.  We will have to catch this area another time. Along with the other places we have missed along the way, the Smokies will get added to the “another time” list.

We were, however, able to fulfill an important intention for me and that was to visit my ex-mother-in-law's siblings who are all originally from Oak Ridge, Tennessee. When my boys were growing up, we attended several Bryant family reunions at a resort called Fairfield Glade near Crossville, TE.  We also had a memorable gathering at the Cumberland Mountain State Park in Crossville.  I have not seen this part of the family for over twenty years, but they continue to hold a special place in my heart.  Twenty years ago, when I saw them last, they were closer to the age I am now—so again the dramatic passage of time and its effects were a most evident part of this reunion.

The first visit took place at a Cracker Barrel about ten miles outside Nashville where we met the eldest sister Pat and her husband Gerald for lunch.  This was Vic’s first experience in a Cracker Barrel so that marked a milestone in itself.  Gerald is 83 and Pat is 79 and although both have had some health challenges, they looked great and their minds were sharp as a tack.  Gerald used to work at the Oak Ridge nuclear plant, then known as the Clinton Engineering Works, as a machinist back in the 40s and 50s, so Vic learned all about the development of the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project that took place here.  My ex-mother-in-law’s parents worked at the plant and two of her sisters married men from the plant. They all lived in what is now described as the “secret city” of Oak Ridge that housed more than 75,000 residents back in the 40s. Today, the plant is a major nuclear research facility that includes a museum we hear is worth seeing.  Anyway, the history of that era which these folks lived through is pretty fascinating. While Vic was busy listening to Gerald's stories, Pat and I had a chance to catch up on all her family's accomplishments and challenges, including her own battle with lung cancer.  I felt so grateful to reconnect with this strong woman who inspired me with her optimism, faith, and wry sense of humor. It was a precious visit with two special human beings.

Our next plan was to head east of I-40 to Crossville, Tennessee where we would get the chance to visit two more of Pat's siblings and their spouses at a retirement resort called Fairfield Glade. We only planned an overnight stop here at a Passport America park called Deer Run RV Resort, so the best time to meet was for dinner. Aunt Deanie and her brother Gerry are twins and they both live here, so the plan was to have supper (southern term) together at the Assisted Living Center where Gerry and his wife live. Spending time here offered another stunning reminder to enjoy our relative youth and good health. The place was lovely though and we had a great visit hearing stories of their families and reminiscing about times together in the 80s with all the cousins and the shenanigans that went on when they were all together. It certainly speaks to the value of holding family reunions as these gatherings gave my boys a greater appreciation for their southern heritage and will always be some of my children’s fondest vacation memories. I am so glad we found ways to handle the expense of traveling all the way to Tennessee from Oregon when my boys were young to have these times with extended family.

When we woke up at the PA park in Crossville on Tuesday morning, it was decision day. Hurricane Sandy was hurtling toward the East Coast and its effects were forecast to be far-reaching.  Our next stop was to be Pigeon Forge, TE which we would use as a base to explore the Gatlinburg, Cade’s Cove locales in the Great Smoky National Park.  The weather app on my phone showed that it had snowed at the higher elevations in the park and they were experiencing sustained winds of 30-40 mph.  Not good travel conditions!


We took a moment to listen to our intuitions and agreed it was time to head south to the sunshine.  Florida weather has started to cool off with highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s and that sounded pretty darn good to us. The drive from Crossville south through Georgia went smoothly except for windy conditions with gusts up to 35 mph—challenging conditions in a “high profile vehicle.”  The only other challenge was bad timing in driving into Atlanta on I-75 at 4:30 p.m. The interstate looked like a parking lot, but Vic stayed patient and before we knew it we were past the stress of getting caught in a traffic jam on the freeway in a motorhome.

We traveled about 325 miles yesterday to the small town of Perry, Georgia, about 35 miles south of Macon where we stayed at a lovely Passport America park called Fair Harbor RV Park. Great layover park with huge pull-throughs, full-hook-ups, less than a mile off I-75,  no noise from the interstate, and lovely grounds—all for the cost of $18 plus tax.

And so today Florida welcomed us with clear blue skies and swaying palm trees.

We are happy to be here with many options for places to go, friends and family to visit, and water adventures in our kayak. Happy Hallow’s Eve to everyone.


  1. You headed in the right direction for this time of year. Enjoy the warm weather ... hope to be out of the cold and in FL ourselves in early December.

  2. Welcome to Florida. It's supposed to be back in the 80's least here in Tampa Bay.

  3. GREAT pumpkin face!! How wonderful that you got to visit family from whom you have been so long parted.

    325 miles is a LOT of miles! Waiting to hear where you are in Florida.


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