Today, we had a definite goal for the day, which was to meet up with the Midwestern convoyers at the hotel in Alcoa, Tennessee, and, time permitting, get in a scenic drive on the Cherahola Skyway.
On last year's trip to Homecoming, we went the long way around. Pennsylvania to Cincinnati to Nashville to Greenville. On the trip from Nashville to Greenville, we got a chance to drive a really fun stretch of road - US 129 between Tennessee and North Carolina, otherwise known as "The Dragon". It's a stretch of 11 miles of road with 318 turns. The path goes up and down a mountain around a reservoir, and is not to be missed. Last year, the staging point for the people coming from Nashville was a hotel in Alcoa, TN. The Midwesterners chose to drive straight there, and we planned on linking up with them at the hotel. On Thursday, we'd link up with the Nashville Convoyers who were also on the way through The Dragon.
That morning, as I sat down for breakfast with Al, Rosemarie, and Ron, I found that they wanted to get to Greenville that day. I can understand, because it was their first Homecoming, and it's always exciting the first time (not mention the second, and the third, and the fourth...). This morning, I came to realize that Al kept his car as spotless as possible. The previous night, Al found the local Car Wash, and was up at the crack of dawn getting it spotless. It looks great, as I'm sure you'll agree. Al related a story of chasing a cat off of his Z3 that morning. I, however, was not so lucky.
I chose to stay at the Alcoa Hilton that night, and we decided that I'd lead us through The Dragon, and at the end, we'd say our goodbyes. We were close to the start of the Dragon, and got to it some time near 11 AM. Just like last year, I spied a prison road cleanup crew, pretty much at the same point as last year. After turning down the road to the reservoir near The Dragon, I panicked when I saw that someone was having trouble with a mobile home - they're not gonna take that thing up the mountain, are they? Fortunately, they weren't, and that beast ended up turning off a road a few miles beforehand. Whew!
Riding The Dragon is something that simply defies description. It's much better if you experience it for yourself. Al stuck close to me most of the way through, and Ron was a bit behind. Al commented over the Talkabout that he felt like he was driving at LeMans. I most definitely agree! Driving straight through, we did not encounter anything in front of us, so we finished in under 20 minutes. Very Cool! At the end, there's a small gas station and souvenir shop where we stopped for a couple of minutes to catch our breath. Al and Ron went onward at this point, and I hung around for a few moments more while I finished a soda. While standing around, Nathan Fong (Z3 POWER on the Z3 message board) pulls up from the direction that Ron and Al just went down. Nathan was on his way up to the Alcoa Hilton to meet the Midwesterners. He and I drove back through, and if I was thinking more on my feet, I would have asked Nathan to drive through with me as his passenger while I videotaped the ride. Oh well, maybe next time!
Once we got to the other side, and then back on the main road, I could've sworn that I'd seen Rachel and Dave driving towards The Dragon. before it sank in, I think we were out of Talkabout Range, so I tried calling Rachel on the phone. The Phone Gods were not smiling that day, and I couldn't reach her. By this time, Nathan and I were pulling in to the Hotel. We both checked in somehow went our separate ways. I had noticed a car wash place between the Hotel and The Dragon, so a bit later, I drove over. In a nod to our Television-oriented culture, they named the place "Bausch". Hoping as I might, no overly 'healthy' women in skimpy bathing suits came running out in slow motion to cleanse my car. I had to do it alone.
Washing complete, I headed back to the hotel. It was getting later towards the evening, and I checked my Midwest Convoy time tables, and realized that they were well past overdue. For one reason or another, for the rest of the afternoon, every time I walked out to my car, some convoy branch showed up in the parking lot. I also spied Earl (CNYN RNR on the message board)'s new car, which he had just picked up from the factory a few days earlier. He drove out from the factory to meet up with us.
Eventually, all of the Midwesterners made it. I learned that there was a major traffic accident on one of the Interstates on their route, and they had to stop for a half hour or more, somewhere North of Knoxville. By the time the accident was cleared, it started to be Rush Hour, so traffic slowed down even further! I felt bad for them, but glad that they had come through without any other problems. Somewhere around this time, the Ohio Convoyers showed up as well, and we all relaxed a little while in the Hospitality Suite. Fred Byrom (Teachum on the message board) started handing out the special Midwest Convoy shirts he had made for the trip. I spotted Carter Lee and Michael Wand, who went off on an adventure to pick up Bimmer Steven, who was waiting in Kingsport Tennessee. If I had known, I'd have picked him up when I passed through that town the night before. I also spoke with Tim Cullis, who had flown over from England with his wife, and had been granted the use of a Z3 for Homecoming by the plant (he's got a great Z3 site, by the way...).
Some time in the afternoon, I got a call from Rachel. She and Dave were having a blast down on the Cherahola Skyway, and had stopped at one of the scenic overlooks. I told them where I was, that I'd found the Bausch place and gave directions to it. She and Dave would show up several hours later, telling wonderful stories of their adventures. Earlier, I was severely tempted to try to find them on the path, but I was a little bit low on energy, and they indicated how far away they were.
All Pictures are Copyright 2000 by Jon Trudel.
Photos may be reused with permission
More Homecoming Fun
Page 1 - Prep for the trip
Page 2 - The roads not taken
Page 3 - Linking up in Tennessee
Page 4 - Re-Enter the Dragon
Page 5 - Nonstop to Greenville
Page 6 - Friday Flies By
Page 7 - Panoramic Profundity
Page 8 - Tech Tent and Saturday Night Surprises
Page 9 - Sundays are for Sleeping Late
Page 10 - Divergence and Convergence
Page 11 - The Long Way Home
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