Knoxville, TN, to Roanoke, VA

Today was supposed to be our second-shortest day, but we ended up being in the car for    9 hours, though we only went from Knoxville, TN, to Roanoke, VA. The time was devoured by driving along the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway, which meant an average speed of about 35 mph. It meant a long day in the car, but oh my, was it worth it!

I can imagine that the Smoky Mountains would have been a riot of colors about a month or month and a half ago, but now they are majestic in their nakedness. And I’m sure we had a greater view of the mountains with the trees so bare. In the summer, it must be hard to see beyond the roadside. Now, there were breath-taking vistas around every bend.

We actually didn’t set out on the road until 10 am today, sleeping in later today since we all feel a little short on sleep, having come east and lost 3 hours en route. We hit the road and took a little trip around Knoxville, a lovely working town at the confluence of the Holston and French Broad rivers. The downtown was empty when we arrived yesterday, but we figured that was because it was Thanksgiving afternoon. It was still pretty abandoned when we drove through it today, which just added to its charm. Lots of brick buildings and a magnificent sports arena downtown where the Tennessee Titans play. Big Titans fans here. As our waiter told us last night, the telephone prefix for Tennessee spells VOL…they love their Volunteers!

After leaving Knoxville, we headed south to find the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway, after we drove through Pigeon Forge, where Dollyland is located. Saw the gates to Dollyland, which is about all the Dollyland experiece I wanted. The bizarre thing is how outrageous Pigeon Forge is…it looks like a hillbilly Las Vegas! Filled with themed hotels, huge arcade parks, and every form of fast food that one can imagine. Plus, today was Black Friday and all of the shoppers were out in force, so it was a brain-numbing experience driving through the main part of town. Got to witness a fender-bender as drivers behaved badly, but no one was hurt, thankfully.

Once we got out of the valley and into the mountains, we were pretty much alone on the road, except for the insane bicyclists who found the challenge of the mountains something to pursue. Craziness!

We plied the parkway for about three hours and then I realized that we weren’t going to get off the mountains in the daylight unless we headed down immediately, so we turned off on Hwy 226 and fell into the valley. STEEP descent that cost Sydney her breakfast, but it was only 15 miles long, so the journey was over quickly. Then it was back to our good friend I-40 East and on to I-77 North, until we hit I-81, which will take us up to the Arlington area tomorrow. We had thought we’d hit the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway again tomorrow, but we’re eager to get “home,” so we’ll just take the I-81 all the way.

This has been a phenomenal road trip. We couldn’t have asked for anything different: great weather, a flawless drive with a dependable rental car, and hours of family time, just listening to music, cracking jokes, making observations about the journey, and thoroughly enjoying one another’s company. It has been exactly what we hoped for: A HANSON ROADTRIP for the MEMORY BOOKS.