Refreshed from a couple of days of relaxation while reliving childhood memories, I was saddened to be leaving Asheville but excited about finishing my journey. While this portion of the BRP (south of Asheville) was quite familiar to me, it still represented my completion of the entire 469 miles.
Starting out, the day held promise as I soon saw clouds hovering below the peaks of mountains. I imagined I would be capturing some great Smoky Mountain shots to overcome the sadness of finishing my drive. But less than an hour into my drive, I came across a roadblock. Road construction was again the culprit but this time rather than just a single lane being blocked, the entire road was closed—for the next 50 miles!
I was devastated.
After clocking over 400 of its 469 miles, I was going to miss the finish. I pulled over and tried to decide what to do. Anyone who has come this close to completing a dream can relate to the emotions I was feeling. My thoughts ranged from ramming through the barrier and taking my chances to…I don’t know what. I obviously wasn’t thinking rationally.
In the end, I exited the BRP and began to follow their detour route. Soon I was driving among so many trees that even my GPS couldn’t find me. I knew I was at least driving westerly in the direction towards home but I didn’t know what road I would come across that would lead me to a familiar route—for I hadn’t even brought a map knowing full well the route I would be taking.
I soon came across a beautiful waterfall and decided to stop and take several photos. Still not sure where I was, I continued on the road I was on never once seeing a “detour sign” indicating I was on the right road. I eventually came across US 64, a highway I knew well and one that even ran through my hometown.
I came across another waterfall I had never seen before and not long afterwards was passing the Ocoee River, site of the 1996 summer Olympic white water rafting competition. As I entered Cleveland, TN, I was faced with the choice of taking US 64 all the way back to my home in western Tennessee or taking the faster interstate route. Still feeling a bit of sunburn pain and sadness for the end of my adventure, I opted for the faster interstate route home.
With the top up and little of interest to see on the interstate route, I had many hours alone to think and reflect back over my trip. My feelings were mixed. While my goal had been to drive the BRP from beginning to end in one single trip, my consolation prize was that I could at least say that I had driven every mile of the BRP—just not all in one journey. Although this paled in comparison to Mr. Browning’s walk of the BRP route before it was built over 75 years ago, it still satisfied my childhood dream of driving the BRP in a sports car.
I came home with some great photos and great memories. However, I recall one of the photos I most wanted to come home with was the famous S-curve bridge known as the Linn Cove Viaduct (see day 1 photo) but now I can’t recall why I didn’t capture it. I can only assume that the view I was most familiar with from years of seeing photos could not be captured from the road itself and so knowing my photo wouldn’t match the one in my mind taken from an elevated perspective, I didn’t take any.
In retrospect, I must say I am happy to have experienced parts of the BRP for the first time and as I visualize those sections in my mind now, I am confident that I will drive on those unfamiliar portions again one day. It won’t be a trip from beginning to end like this one and maybe that fact will entice my wife to come along. It will be a chance to explore the northern sections of the BRP for a second time and to learn first hand where the rubber meets the road, more of the secrets and history of this classic driver’s road.