It was a sunny late afternoon drive, on Friday, October 6, 2017, along state highways curving the edge of foothills (and driving near some of the areas we had visited last weekend) to reach Townsend, Tennessee in a little over four hours.
Lily was hitched and towed to the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains where we stayed overnight in a very crowded KOA.
The Vistabule was quickly secured. We headed out for supper at the Carriage House Restaurant, returned to play several rounds of Rummy, then tucked in for the night.
After the luxury of sleeping a bit late, we were ready to eat again. Earl had noticed the Apple Valley Stores and Cafe in passing and wanted to head there for breakfast.
Though it caters to tourist crowds, the staff knows how to do it well. We enjoyed the food and service on its porch. It was a great start to our day, but definitely not doctor approved food.
I had planned a secret outing especially for Earl and could not resist dropping a few hints. I gave him an address to enter into the GPS and told him to accept a gift, without complaint, for himself as an early retirement gift.
Since he can not see sign boards well enough to read them from a distance, Earl had no inkling of where I was taking him until we walked into the house used as a show place for the Wood ‘N Strings Dulcimer Shop.
A couple of years prior as we discussed retirement and what he might like to do with free time, he had mentioned a desire to learn to play a Lap Harp. It was an unexpected notion to me, he’s a city boy after all.
I was fully expecting that with some hands-on shopping we would walk out with one of the shop’s specialities: beautifully handmade Dulcimers.
Earl was in awe and held back from touching anything, though the clerk had invited us to play any of the instruments we wanted to try out.
I finally ran my fingers across the strings of a large Festival Dulcimer and got Earl started. He roamed around taking a close look at all the instruments, art and gift items, while I sat and waited since I dislike shopping.
After circling the rooms, Earl focused in on the display of Lap Harps in a cupboard.
The clerk mentioned the various ways people hold a Lap Harp and different options used to strike or pluck the strings.
He showed how music sheets are inserted under the strings so that even beginners are able to play songs.
Earl decided upon a dark wood Lap Harp because the strings contrasted with the surface and were easier to see. He got outfitted with every accessory needed, and picked out several packets of music sheets.
Earl is a low-key guy. I only knew his excitement because he made the purchases without hesitancy. He was thankful, but I was overjoyed to fulfill his wish and appeared more gleeful than he did.
Once we left, I said, “Aren’t you going to thank me with some driving music?” He immediately leapt to pull out the lap harp. That’s when I knew just how happy he really was to have it.
I pulled into a Day Use Area by the river and Earl started a mix of using sheet music along with teaching himself by sound to get acquainted with his Lap Harp.
Later, after grabbing a sandwich from The Apple Valley Cafe, there was still plenty of day ahead of us. So, we headed to the Townsend entrance of the Foothills Parkway at mile 16.9. The planned 71 mile parkway is still under construction, there are just separate sections completed.
The piece of The Foothills Parkway we drove is lower in elevation and more gently curved in comparison to other parkways we have enjoyed.
The beauty of the views from its overlooks are outstanding. We had a beautiful, relaxing experience with sparse traffic.
The area trees showed a bit more changes in color than we noticed during our previous day’s drive. We drove in several miles before turning back.
Once again we left a parkway without going the full distance available. There was yet another hurricane approaching a southern coast and it was coming rapidly to bring tropical storm conditions to Tennessee. We are no storm chasers, Nate is the second tropical storm chasing us from a camping trip this year.
Skipping the second night of camping, we opted to pack up and get away from trees and rivers during the expected winds and rain.
We took the interstate home with Earl practicing on his Lap Harp at times. Lily stayed dry all the way into storage. Afterwards, back on the road there was a road delay entering the outskirts of Atlanta. Our return drive took about two hours more than expected, but the wind and rain held off all the way home.