2 days, 1160 miles, 18 hours of driving, 1 hike, 2 full tanks of gas, 1 massive thunderstorm, 2 plates of BBQ, 1 crop dusting plane and a drive-in diner took us from Asheville, NC to Austin, TX.
We split our journey by staying overnight in Memphis, TN en-route to Austin, TX for Texas Linuxfest. Our route from Asheville saw us pass through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park along the Interstate. So, me being me, we took a slight detour through a more scenic highway pass a few miles south of the Interstate and ended up at Clingman's Dome 6,664ft above sea level.
The views from the 360 degree viewing platform at the top of the steep 0.5 mile walk from the car park were stupendous. Visibility was about 40 miles but this has apparently dropped, on average, approximately 80% over the past century due to air pollution.
I don't normally go in for panorama's but this view was completely impossible to capture any other way. Here it is in full, high resolution.
The viewing tower sits just, by a few ft, on the North Carolinan side of the border with Tenessee. The border for the two states runs along the ridge at the top of these mountains as does the Appalachian trail.
After making our through the rest of the National Park and out the other side into Gatlinburg, a really fun little holiday town. We drove past Dollywood before gunning it along I-40 for Memphis some 6 hours away. A moment of joy for me though as the junction we passed through to get onto I-40 was a diverging diamond interchange. I've read about these and they're almost up there with the humble roundabount in my top 2 junctions. I spent far too long playing Transport Tycoon as a teenager and junction design is still one of my favourite topics.
Nothing really noteworthy happened for the rest of the afternoon until we rolled into Memphis at 8.45pm. Taking up our Washington DC Uber drivers suggestion we headed straight for the bar-b-q shop. Good job we got there when we did as it shut at 9pm! The food was predictably fantastic and delicious. Also predictably, there was too much of it.
We found a hotel (we hadn't booked one) downtown shortly afterward and fell into a deep sleep pretty fast!
The next morning, we crossed the mighty Mississippi river first thing after leaving Memphis behind. Memphis was a cool town but we just didn't have time in the itinerary this trip - we will be back. The civil rights museum alone gets fantastic reviews, as does Graceland and then there's the rest of the City too.
Arkansas literally doesn't have much to write home about. Lots of massive fields and farms, that's about it! We did see a plane crop dusting next to the Interstate so we pulled off and I used my zoom lens, which is getting a lot more usage than I expected this trip, to grab this shot. The heat haze was strong so despite the fact this looks like it's not in focus, I assure you it is! In fairness we were quite a long way away and I had to shoot at 600mm to get this so tight in.
As I was shooting the plane I could hear the distant wail of train horns. It's like curry to a pisshead to me and a few minutes later I'd located the source and awaited a suitable passing subject.
We stopped for lunch just short of Little Rock at Nick's BBQ & Catfish. The Catfish was deep fried and the meat was delicious and fluffy.
Several hours later we crossed the border into Texas. Angry looking storm clouds greeted us. We could see that there was some thunder and lightning but it was only rain, right? How bad could it be?
Turns out, pretty bad. I guess it should have been obvious when, as the big splodges started to fall, the locals had all started pulling over under bridges. We kept going and within 90 seconds had gone from completely dry road to "oh my god I can't see the road". The wipers just couldn't keep up and we were down from 75mph to 20mph. Seeing far enough ahead to even see the next white line painted on the road was almost impossible. The next exit was 2 miles and with my adrenaline pumping we made it. It's hard to express how terrifying that situation was, not necessarily because of the weather itself but because we were on a 75mph road and who knows what the people around you might be doing! Indeed someone did overtake us doing 50+mph.
After 30 minutes the storm had subsided enough that we were able to continue on to Dallas eventually arriving into Austin just short of midnight.
We have a few days in Austin now for Texas Linuxfest to relax. Phew!