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May
27
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We got away in good time today and looked like we would be seriously rained upon in a couple of spots but got in dry. Yay! We are in a very nice and quirky hotel tonight and also caught up with some USA travellers we met in 2013 for dinner so ran out of time to upload the blog before we headed out.

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Oh oh, can we make it out from under before it drops it's guts? Yes barely and not wet enough to worry about. YAY!!

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Coffee stop ay Whitehaven and this is their Welcome centre.

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Some great memories with these road signs.

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And Norm's GPS stopped working so 'my assignment if I chose to accept it was to lead us into St Louis' and I did quite well. You can see the famous arch to the right as well as some of the skyline.

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And almost there, even got the indicator on and yes we are staying in a train station, an awesome building and again the famous arch is visible in the distance.

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And the main lobby. Has a great bar and heaps of spots to sit and lean back and watch the light show on the ceiling. Okay there are more comfortable chairs in the lounge area beyond these ones.

Bits and Bobs:

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A couple of road signs for you. The first has been quite common in most states with similar wording meaning you slow down or pull over for all stopped vehicles on the side of the road.  It's also interesting to note that a lot of roadworks don't have reduced speed limits but have a sign which says speed panalties double in work zones and another, a reduced speed limit if workers present, and then there's the one below which really says to take things seriously. (Taken from a reasonable distance, sorry it's so fuzzy).

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Last Two Night's Accommodation:

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Renaissance Nashville Hotel, 611 Commerce Street, Nashville, TN 37203
The hotel has been a lovely experience. Lovely roomy space in the room, generous bathroom and gloriously comfortable bed. 22nd floor so a great view which was lovely as well. Restaurant and bar, a Starbucks with great cakes (Norm sampled them) and all the staff are friendly and helpful and pleased to be here. Nice mix. Well done Marriott.


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May
26
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Well we have enjoyed a kick back day in Nashville, dodging some sprinkles and missing a downpour. We've enjoyed the town / city, has a small town feel about it which is nice. To the photos.

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The Country Music Hall of Fame where our own Keith Urban is a member.

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The Nashville Symphony Orchestra building in the front centre with more of the skyline behind it. Must feel a bit like a poor relation with the whole town geared towards country music.

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We visited the Johnny Cash Museum which was a treat. It has only been here a couple of years and not large but comprehensive. This is a photo of the Highwaymen which I particularly enjoy but love all of Johnny Cash's songs as well. The Museum also had an area showcasing the Sun Record Company which was the start for many young stars so these next two shots are for you Tom Gardiner.

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We caught a bus down to the riverfront in front of the State Capitol Building to check out their Bicentennial Memorial to the history of Tennessee which was incredibly impressive with lovely reflection spots and an amphitheater including beautifully thoughtful memorials to both the Civil War and the World Wars. This is a memorial to the human cost of the Civil War.

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And this is a view in the rain towards the city from the end by the 1996 pillar which signified the 200th year. There was a pillar for every 10 years from when the state was proclaimed in 1796 on the right hand side and then a low wall with quotes and historical facts on the left. Very impressive and a tribute to the state. A not insignificant cost.

Bits and Bobs:

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A couple of bits of quirky for the day today above and below. These were a couple of the coffee brews at the Johnny Cash Museum being a bit of a play on words of a couple of Johnny Cash's songs.

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And above a pushbike rack at the Nashville Symphony Orchestra Building and below two others at the Nashville Farmers Market which ran along the other side of the street to the Bicentennial Memorial. The trees here were Tulip Poplars and the leaves of the trees had a most delicious peppermint fragrance. We have just missed the blossom, don't know what that looks like.

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May
25
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Well we had a pretty wet ride into Nashville today with the majority of the trip with heavy rain, lots of surface water, heavy traffic and road spray so we didn't get much of a chance to take in the countryside as we were super focused on the ride. We were happy to get into Nashville in good time. I also discovered why it is so much better to have plastic dollar notes as I'm currently drying out my wet paper notes.

I spent a lot of time reflecting on our trip so far today and had a bit of a laugh to myself thinking about the huge number of churches we had seen particularly in the south and imagining my dear old Dad commenting with "there sure seems to be a lot of God botherers down here" and I'd have to agree.

The rain cleared off just before we got in so we had a chance to have a wander down the street so I'll let the pictures tell the story.

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There was  a massive thunderstorm last night and we were amazed at the huge amount of water galloping down the street beside the hotel and when we got to the garage where the bikes were parked this is what we found.

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This is the view from our 22nd floor window.

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For anyone who knows anything about country music in the USA you know you've made it when you get to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. This is the Ryman Auditorium which was the original Grand Ole Opry. The new one is way out of the city.

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We headed down to check out Broadway and  the cafe on the left is Legends where many stars started off and they routinely come back to release new records there, including Keith Urban who regularly comes back unannounced to play there.

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There is live music everywhere in all the cafes restaurants and bars and it sounds great.

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Another shot of Broadway. The Paris looking tower is on the Bridgestone Auditorium.

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And this is 1st Avenue on the water which used to be warehouses and is now being reborn as cafes, restaurants, bars and breweries.

Bits and Bobs:

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Lots of great signs around. This one warning you off dancing on tables with spurs on. ...really!

Last Night's Accommodation:

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Springhill Suites by Marriott Memphis Downtown, 85 West Court Avenue, Memphis TN, 38103
Comfortable suite with included continental breakfast. Staff friendly and helpful. Parking a short distance away so crossed the fingers but they were okay. Phew! Pool looked good but wanted to have a tramp about before I got in and then there was a massive thunderstorm so put paid to that idea. Ah well, it will eventually happen.


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May
24
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The morning was a pleasant temperature to ride into Graceland and the traffic was remarkably quiet given the Memorial Day Weekend (to honour all who have and do serve in the military). We arrived at Graceland shortly after 10am but still had to wait until midday for a tour to the Mansion so visited a number of other sites and we enjoyed the experience. We were blown away to hear that Elvis's 70's comeback concert was viewed by over 1.5 billion people worldwide, even more than the landing on the moon! We thoroughly enjoyed the tour and hearing more of Elvis's generosity to his community near and far and had a real sense of sadness that his life ended way too soon. To say his legacy in employment opportunities in both Tupelo and  in Memphis is enormous would be an understatement. Again the pictures can tell the story.

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The entry from the car park to the Graceland machine.

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The Lisa Marie plane which was used for trips to concerts all over the country and private trips anywhere the family wanted to go.

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The front of the Graceland Mansion bought when Elvis was 27. His parents and grandmother also lived here with him.

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The lounge and through to the music room.

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And the dining room. The china on the table is the wedding china given to Elvis and Priscilla.

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And the road which not surprisingly Graceland is situated on ... Elvis Presley Boulevard.

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Approaching Downtown Memphis. Not far past here we turned the corner past Sun Records which was where Elvis started off and there was a line right up the street and a couple of coaches out in front.

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A Downtown Memphis view.

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Lots of horses and carriage rides available in Memphis and here's the 'horse rank' or whatever it's called.

Bits and Bobs:

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Liked this sign in Huey's Bar and Grill Downtown Memphis where we had a late lunch.

Last Night's Accommodation:

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Hilton Garden Inn Tupelo, 363E Main Street, Tupelo, MS, 38804
Very nice room and surroundings and a restaurant as well so we don't have to head out for dinner, yay! The day was big enough without having to do that as well. Impressed to see that their pool has a lift into the pool for wheelchair bound people.


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May
23
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We had a lot of ground to cover today and nearly all of it at an 80kmh speed limit so we had to stay focused and we virtually had the Trace to ourselves apart from a few bikes and a couple of cars in the morning and a lot more bikes and a few more cars in the afternoon so a bonus considering it is the Memorial Day long weekend and heaps of people moving about, just not on the Natchez Trace.

There were two things I would have liked to get a photo of and missed because there was nowhere safe to pull off the Trace to take it. The first was of some wildflowers which were a vibrant purple / deep pink and were stunning. The second was of tornado damage to the forest from a tornado in April 2011. It had just decimated the forest and we went from towering pines and luxuriant growth to low and stunted growth and a few sparse pines with great trunks sticking up above the green which had just been snapped off like matchsticks. Incredible power.

I'm going to be lazy tonight and include photos of descriptions of most of the photos since it gives the accurate details.

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The entry to the Natchez Trace and the story below.

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 The Mississippi College in Clinton and a proud description below for women.

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French Camp Visitor Centre cabin veranda where we checked out a working Sorghum Mill Press and some interesting machinery used in the process.

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Elvis Presley's birthplace in Tupelo along with a Visitors centre and Museum and a whole lot of other stuff as well. The description is below.

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Last Night's Accommodation:

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Hampton Inn & Suites Natchez, 627 South Canal Street, Natchez, MI, 39120
Another comfortable spot to spend the night. Assumed wrongly that because the hotel was adjacent to a convention centre it would also be close, as in walking distance to restaurants. Not so so we sampled some frozen pizza, pasta and lasagna which wasn't too bad.


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May
22
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We didn't think to take a photo with all the boys last night and headed down to catch them before they headed off to school this morning around 6.30am to see the school bus disappear so the outcome is below. It was a treat to catch up with them all and sorry Chris and Matt that we didn't get you in the frame. For all the family back in Australia they are all doing well and we got and gave heaps of hugs on our and your behalf.

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Nola, Kevin, Norm and below with Tamara and Nick.

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We had a leisurely morning before heading off to Natchez but even so feel a little weary tonight. Must be something to do with all those kms yesterday, a later night than we have been used to and an early morning.

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A very speccie house on the way to Kevin's.

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And Norm having some fun snapping pics on our way.

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Some beautiful homes in Natchez. This one is Dunleith Historic Inn built in 1856 and is a National Historic Landmark.

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And another. Twin Oaks built in 1852 and is on the National Register.  

Bits and Bobs:

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This is why the big ass American utes are called trucks. Have garage / barn will travel.

Last Night's Accommodation:

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The Grace Family B&B - 23338 Fairway Gardens Court, Springfield, LA 70462
Well the accommodation was superb and hugs and kisses laid on as well as endless catching up ... way beyond anything we have experienced ...nor are we likely to so I'll finish right there. A treat from start to finish!


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May
21
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We headed off early this morning so we could have as much time as possible with our nephew Kevin Grace and his boys, Nick, Chris and Matt it's been a treat to catch up with them and needless to say the boys are growing like crazy and Dad will be the shortest in no time flat. It was great also to get to give Tamara and Paul a hug as well. How blessed are we. It's been a treat to catch up with them all.

We had a lot of ground to cover today and spent a lot of time on the interstate riding through countryside and foliage which was very reminiscent of being on the Sunshine Coast on our way to Buderim. We peeled off the interstate at Kevin's suggestion to check out Biloxi on the Mississippi Gulf with the beach on our left and some great houses on the right. Biloxi was interesting, on the southern outskirts it seemed as if the town was being absorbed into an outbreak of casinos and yet there were lots of empty spaces where houses had obviously been and not surprisingly Kevin tells us these were properties destroyed by Cyclone Katrina in 2005 so what we saw were a collection of expensive holiday homes, suburban homes and grand houses of yesteryear.

We did 300km before our morning coffee and in that time the speed limit was 113kmh and we averaged 120kms and in that time we passed trucks, 1 old car leaning on a 45 degree angle to the right and another old bloke in a car even older than Norm and everything else passed us and I mean EVERYTHING ELSE passed us. Made us look decidedly sedentary. Been a good trip and we almost made it into Kevin's without getting wet but considering the rainfall they had had we got off lightly.

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Getting well down the track we came across a bridge over 10km long over a couple of rivers a number of tributaries and a whole lot of swamp land / mangrove areas. This is a shot as we approached an extra height area and below right at the hump. Not a lot of galvanizing here.

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Soon after I spotted Norm with the camera out at the back of an old truck and couldn't see the attraction .... until I pulled alongside it. To quote Norm "yeah well I've had to do that a couple of times". I cringe but I'm proud he is such a can do person.

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And The casino takeover continues and here is the Hard Rock Casino  .... not just a cafe.

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Lunch on Biloxi Beach at Shaggys .. I kid you not. Great meal and I loved the big ass carpark spaces and the name of the place across the road just cracked me up. This statement is evidently a compliment in local terms.

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And some of the more stately homes along the beach below.

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Last Night's Accommodation:

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Hampton Inn & Suites Atlanta Montgomery - Downtown, 100 Commerce Street, Montgomery, AL 36104
Getting familiar with the Hampton experience and happy to be so. Another lovely building. Staff friendly and helpful. Room comfortable and more spacious than last night. Included hot breakfast in the morning.
As we were heading back to our room after breakfast a guy at the desk said "are you guys riding the bikes out in the car park?" (pretty obvious in bike boots and leather vests) we said yes and the guy said "you have a $25.00 penalty" so I asked what for and was told "for having way more fun than me". We had a good laugh and conversation. Was fun.


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May
20
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We enjoyed our ride to Montgomery and again since we traveled through State Parks and Scenic Highways and country roads we had very little traffic and just enjoyed the experience. We traveled over the highest point in the state of Alabama in the Cheaha State Park and through lots of luxuriant rainforest type growth and pine forest as well as farming country. We have been spoiled having so much green around us and so little traffic and other people so good therapy for these two old battle weary bods.

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We headed for Heflin to get onto the Talladega National Forest Scenic Highway and we found the Cleburne County Courthouse which was beautifully maintained.

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We wound our way through the Talladega National Forest to the end of one road and headed down a country road (called just that) and very soon came upon this log truck. Norm was intrigued by the overhang .... clearly not in Australia.

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We went for a bit of a wander around downtown Montgomery when we got in and discovered we were in an area where the slave trade was centred and some of the signs around are really confronting. The area is in the process of refurbishment and has been for a number of years but there are many empty buildings. This is a shot to the Alabama State Capitol .... situated on  .... wait for it ... Goat Hill!! Loved it.

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And this is a shot of the Court Square Fountain (with the State Capitol to the right past the fountain 6 blocks away). Every building you can see around the square, and a number up the street in front are all empty.

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The Alley, a former Rail Station building where many restaurants are housed.

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And at the rear of the Alley to the left is the Mexican Restaurant where we plan to have dinner tonight.

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Murphy House built in 1851 by John H Murphy who among other things was a slave trader. The slave trade was a very lucrative business and the whole idea of it makes my skin crawl. The building was refurbished by the Water Works and Sanitary Sewer Board in 1970.

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And part of the refurbishment of the area is also our hotel which was refurbished in 2009 and has been beautifully done. This is the lobby.

Bits and Bobs:

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Morning coffee at McDonalds. Their latte is quite acceptable though we have a hard time convincing them we don't want any flavours added to it!

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As we drove through the Cheaha State Park we were stopped to wait for a pilot car to escort us through the roadworks. We hadn't met any cars before this and few afterwards. The speed limit was 72kmh and in spite of this we hurtled along at up to 80kmh to keep up to the car. Gotta love it.

Last Night's Accommodation:

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Hampton Inn & Suites Atlanta Downtown, 161 Spring Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30303
Another comfortable spot to drop and relax. Clean and lovely facilities with a complimentary continental breakfast. Parking beside hotel so handy. We even managed to find the weather channel #326!!! A smaller room than previously but beautifully appointed. The front entrance is closed off and you now enter from the car park so took that shot.

Complimentary Continental breakfast is an interesting exercise. We've found these vary from some juice cereal and pastries to scrambled egg, breakfast potatoes and sausage and or bacon as well as pancakes or waffles or egg and bacon or sausage and egg muffins. So far only found one with black tea so we carry our own. Have even found some reasonable coffee.


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May
19
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While we told you yesterday that it was official that we've ridden the Skyline Drive / Blue Ridge Parkway, (469miles / 750kms) in fact with all the other bits and pieces we actually rode 1,107kms ...just saying.

Now to today. We continued to ride through the Great Smoky Mountains with lots of signs pointing to emerald and ruby mines and boiled peanuts ... what?! The foliage was more of the same we have experienced over the ride through the Parkway with luxuriant foliage albeit with increasing numbers of pine trees as there had been yesterday. The growth largely looks to be temperate rain forest type growth and only thins out as the altitude increases. The morning started out warm and humid and ended hot and humid so we will be ditching the woolen long johns tomorrow. Got into Atlanta around 2pm and were glad to get off the motorway / freeway and into the city. The largest number of lanes heading in our direction on the way in was 10 but mostly 6 and all moving fast so an experience. The traffic here is fast but much more predictable than home, and prepared to give you a go, again better than home.  A shower was followed by a tramp around a bit of our area through the Centennial Olympic Park as we are staying in the area where a lot of accommodation for the Centennial Olympics was provided. So again, the pictures can tell the story.

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A big cheer to our Travel Queen Sue Ritter for her call to direct us to the Nantahala Gorge and Lake and onto Wayah Road which is a well known great motorcycle ride, the locals call it Thunder Road and it was an awesome ride. As we headed up the Gorge the water was apparently warmer than the surface temperature and mist was drifting up off the water.

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This is a shot across Nantahala Lake.

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And along Wayah Road where the water tumbled, galloped and roared beside us as we climbed. There were also small waterfalls. It was hard to focus on the road which was a wonderful twisty ride.

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A look at some of the Atlanta Skyline.

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And again. This is actually the Westin and the top is a revolving restaurant.

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And the Centennial Olympic Park.

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And a view to the city from the park.

Bits and Bobs:

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A bit of a surprise to find these big solar panels over a car park on our way back to our hotel from the park. Quirky and creative thinking.


Last Night's Accommodation:

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Hampton Inn Cherokee, 185 Tsalagi Road, Cherokee, NC, 28719
Another lovely comfortable spot to stay. Only downfall was the lack of restaurant so headed into town where there are supposed to be a lot of restaurants but blowed if we could find them other than the massive Casino and didn't want to go there. We finally found a family restaurant and had a quick dinner before heading back to the Inn. We were bushed so the bed was looking good and felt good as well. Photo is from their website, when Norm went out to take a photo last night there was an awesome thunderstorm happening so he decided not to go out and forgot to take it this morning.


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May
18
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Well it's official, we've ridden the Skyline Drive / Blue Ridge Parkway, all 469 miles / 750kms of it plus the odd diversion or two to cater for detours and to get to hotels and the like and it was awesome from start to finish.  Today was a big day with sunshine, rain, more rain, hail, more rain, sunshine, more rain and fog and what else .... oh yeah a cycle race in the heaviest of the rain which went for miles with over 100 riders to weave past. At least we had the right size vehicle to get safely past.  The rain meant we didn't have to consider a lot of photo shots since we were dripping wet and cameras were stowed away as well as big numbers of Overlooks (Scenic View sites) which were overgrown ... as it had been for 30 to 50 years. The Department of the Interior must need some more funding to do the physical work instead of just cranking out the printed matter to say what could be seen if you could only see it. Sounding a bit grumpy, sorry. We have enjoyed the peacefulness of the Parkway combined with the magnificent ever changing trees, foliage and views. No matter the weather or light, or lack thereof the new green of so many leaves was incredible and then when the sun came out the new green became lime green and the dappled shade was magnificent and changed the whole context. It was like seeing a beautiful building suddenly flood lit which totally changed the look of it. As well as the fragrances which followed us all day and were beautifully sweet. We discovered that the cream flowers in the photo yesterday were magnolias as we saw many trees of them today with half opened flowers as yesterday as well as fully open. As to the day I'll let the pictures tell the story below.

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The first Overlook we pulled into was the Grandview Overlook so I'll dedicate that to Grandma and Granddad Bransgrove (Normie's parents) their property was called 'Grandview' and now the sign off their home has been refurbished and Michael and Karen are the proud custodians of it.

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We called into the Moses H Cone Memorial Park which is a massive Manor House on 3,600 acres which was  deeded to the State in 1950. The ground floor is used as a raft centre but the exterior is sadly deteriorating. This is a side entrance.

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We headed off the road to have a look at the Linville Falls but not knowing how long our day was going to take we only walked as far as the Upper Falls Overlook. By the end of the day we were glad that's all the time we took.

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The Linn Cove Viaduct, very impressive.

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View from the Craggy Gardens Overlook and that big black cloud chased us for the rest of the day.

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Devils Courthouse on the left, we had ridden through a tunnel under this in fact we traveled through a huge number of tunnels today.

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We did a U Turn to park in front of the Parkway sign.

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And the final milepost. Yay, we did it!

Bits and Bobs:

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We pulled off the Parkway at Little Switzerland to find a coffee and stopped at 'Big Lynns Lodge' but unfortunately she didn't serve coffee just breakfast and dinner with accommodation but she did point us in the right direction. She kindly allowed me to take a photo of her sign which appealed to me. We ultimately had coffee and fueled up at Grassy Creek after passing an 'Inmate Working' sign with the inmates and police with rifles in view. A bit daunting but probably very efficient.

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Also at 'Big Lynns Lodge'.

Last Night's Accommodation:

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Was the Best Western when we booked months ago but now the Quality Inn, Blue Ridge Plaza, 840 E King Street, Boone NC 28607
A lovely comfortable spot to retreat to last night. Room lovely, bathroom big enough to turn around in, everything nice and comfortable. Staff friendly and helpful and since it was raining when we arrived we asked if there was any undercover parking and were told to park under the front portico. By the time we went to dinner there were eight bikes in total parked there and there was still room to drive through. No restaurant but across the road from an awesome Mexican Restaurant.


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