Tuesday, July 30, 2013

OVER THE CLINCH MT

Every now and then that special road comes along that offers gorgeous scenery, challenging turns and allows one to escape the reality of the present and engages the mind with thoughts of earlier times.

2 wheels thru Tennessee

I was to meet Bob, a good friend, over here at McDonalds which is not far from my home.  We were going on a motorcycle ride which would take us through some of the finest riding country in East Tennessee.
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We rode from White Pine on route 113N to 70N all the way to Virginia, where we picked up route 58W which carried us over the Cumberland Mountains to The Cumberland Gap.  Remember Daniel Boone?  But, let me digress a bit.  Route 70 is a drive over the Clinch Mountain which is a spectacular piece of real-estate.  The road is smooth and perfect with tight turns and ninety degree corners that tax one’s abilities to maintain a brisk pace.  The thing I liked about that part of the ride is the sensation of stepping back in time a few years – OK, a lot of years.  Old, old farmsteads were common place along the route.  Some farms were still working enterprises while most have long since been deserted, it seems. 
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Old barns marked the many farms that lay in ruin, proof that families did indeed make a go of it up here on the mountain.  The fact that farms existed at all up here is proof of the tenacity the local people had in the day to even consider operating a farm on the steep, rock covered hillsides of the Clinch Mountain.  Many of the fields we drove past contained more visible stone than grass.  How in the world could anything grow on that surface? They tried though.
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The road continually turned this and that way with the occasional ninety degree right or left turn thrown in where one least expected to see it.  We cut our speed down to maintain a safer margin of control.
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We passed one bad land farm after another and the evidence of hard luck showed everywhere.  Some gave up and left and some rebuilt and stayed as could be seen by a newer home standing beside an old log or frame house.
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One thing is certain – this is the real Tennessee as I’ve always imagined it would be.  Quaint, picturesque farms sitting back against the hillside with lush green pastures in front.  Nothing new, yet the picture is one of contented folks enjoying life to the fullest on the land they built their homes on with their own hands and grew their own food in the fields they planted.  They still do to this day.
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So – where are we?
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The best looking crops I saw were on land next to the river.  I guess there’s merit to the stories about rich farmers who have land next to the river.  The grass is greener,  no rocks can be  seen and those river bottom farms seemed to have more modern methods of harvesting crops.  The river farms had their hay rolled up in the huge round bales.  They were lying all over the fields.  The farms on the mountain had hay stacks next to the barn or small twine tied bales stacked in sheds. Interesting…
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We drove along the Clinch River and came upon a very neat business.  It was a restaurant, bait shop, gift shop, canoe rental and motel all in one.  We had to stop in.
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This place was very cool, to say the least!  Yep, we decided to eat.  The special was salmon cakes, cooking beans with corn bread and ice tea.  There was an outside balcony overlooking the river out back.  We picked a table and ate ourselves almost to death.  The banana pudding was to die for.  We both over did it on the food.  It was all Bob’s fault.  If your ever up this way ya got to stop here.  You’ll love it.  There’s one more thing about this area on the Clinch Mountain and river areas.  The people are very, very polite and helpful.  They are genuine early American citizens just like your parents were.  How refreshing to talk to someone who doesn’t come across like a plastic facade. 
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We motored on up 70 to 58 West in Virginia which took us toward the Cumberland Gap.  We would go over the Cumberland Mountains on the way.
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The bad land farms disappeared once we entered into Virginia.  What was different here?  The division between the states is an imaginary line on a map, yet it was as if we drove onto a different continent or something.  The homes were more upscale and the properties appeared neat and visions of family struggle were no longer apparent.  Odd indeed.  I sense political powers at work here.  It is what it is.
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We worked our way down off the mountain and across Virginia and up the Cumberland Mountains until we finally came to The  Cumberland Gap.
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We stopped briefly to stretch and check the sky for rain.  It has been threatening for the past hour.  A drop could be felt here and there, but nothing serious.  Route 25E South was dead ahead and we would take that back toward home.  It’s a four lane highway, but a very pretty one.  We seemed to have the entire road to ourselves except for one truck and five or six cars.  The bikes were set on 55 miles per hour and we had a leisurely ride back.

I loved this ride today because it permitted me to view Tennessee through yet another window into the past.  I really like old things and I like history.  Tennessee has a rich history and those historical times still exist today on many of her landscapes.  Today, I had visions of men following behind oxen drawn plows – their skin burnt dark brown by a life time of outside toil, and bonnet covered heads of the women folk on hands and knees dropping kernels of corn into neatly spaced holes in the ground put there by children who would follow in their fathers footsteps.  That’s Tennessee to me.  OK – so I’m a romantic.

Ever been to Pigeon Forge, Sevierville or Gatlinburg?  Do yourself a favor.  Don’t go….