Vereran's Overlook, Grainger County, Tennessee, May 2020
We love our city and our home. I think our devotion to our small city is obvious on this website most every day. There are other places we love, bu this is the perfect place on earth for us to live.
But we also love to get away. Whether it is the excitement of taking an Uber to the airport or packing the bags in the car and getting on the road before the sun comes up, it’s a different kind of thrill from any others for us. The destination is important, but it is almost secondary to the ritual of packing the bags, loading the car and getting that to-go cup of coffee.
When not making bigger trips, we enjoy overnight stays closer to home. Asheville, Nashville, Lexington, and more offer a quick change of pace. A little pampering and a disregard of the budget for 48 hours or so is a great tonic to the routine, and we love it.
So, now what? We haven’t traveled since Mardi Gras, returning home February 24. We had a trip to Savannah and Charleston planned for early March, but by then the enormity of what was happening had settled in just a bit and we canceled.
Since then, as with most everyone, we not only haven’t gotten out of town, we’ve hardly gotten out of the house. It’s worn on us like it has on many of you. Still, we’re not ready to get on a plane or take a pleasure trip staying in a hotel. To think of stopping along an interstate while traveling just isn’t something we are ready to assume. So what to do?
We decided to take an old fashioned drive through the countryside. I filled up with gas for the first time in seven weeks, we packed our lunch and hit the wide-open road. True, we just made a big circle and returned home. We only got out of the car twice to take photos with our cell phones (I didn’t take the real camera), but we managed to get out of town, so that was something.
We took a loop we’d taken a number of times many years ago when I worked in Morristown and in Washburn (split week). The year would have been 1983. We probably haven’t been up that way since the mid-80s and remembered it fondly. It was as pretty as we remembered.
We drove out Magnolia to 11-W into Grainger County, driving past House Mountain, and to the little town of Joppa between Blaine and Rutledge. There’s a little road that winds over the mountain there called Joppa Mountain Road. I don’t recall seeing that label, but there is a sign that directs interested travelers toward Washburn.
The hairpin turns and switchbacks, as well as th nice vistas from the mountain are worth the little drive. We saw an amazing cyclist riding up the mountain. It would be Tour de France worthy. I did my best Phil Ligget imitation in my head as we passed him. It was on the downside that I once ran across a farmer guiding a plow behind a mule.
The road connects to 131 and a right turn to head north takes you toward Washburn. The hillsides, the rock formations, the small farms and occasionally fancy houses all make for an interesting ride. Washburn is tiny, but has a really cool barn and a small mart where you can use the restroom and stock up on junk food, if you like. We kept driving north past the medical clinic where I once had an office.
The road continues the beautiful scenery with the wilderness outpacing the civilization as you go. It eventually intersects with highway 32. A left will take you to Cumblerland Gap, while a right will take you back across the mountain toward Morristown. The Veteran’s Overlook at the top of the mountain is worth a stop and we got out to take photos while the guys were getting the monument there ready for Memorial Day. Cherokee Lake is in the distance.
We drove over to Morristown where, after some meandering, we came back into town on 11E. While in Morristown, we got out of the car for a second and final time to take pictures of the beautiful Rose Center. We also drove around downtown and I was intrigued by the older part of downtown (not a surprise), but particularly the fact that pedestrian walkways divert traffic to the second story of the stretch. I’ve got to investigate that sometime when the crowds of people we saw make me a little less nervous.
We drove home having driven about 112 miles (and having gotten 55.5 miles per gallon in the Prius!) and spent a happy three hours seeing something besides the interior of our home. Total cost: About $3.50. Relief to see something different? Priceless.
I hope you all have a happy Memorial Day. Stay safe.