Sam’s Gap Looking toward Tennessee, Elevation: 3760 feet.
I got up pretty early this morning and went on the computer right away. I checked TNDOT, NCDOT, the local Channel 11 News, our weather radio and dialed 511 for traffic advisories. Everything looked good to go with no traffic closures or special reports released for the immediate time being. The bad weather is coming today and there are Winter Weather advisories for this entire area. The weather is not expected until later toward the afternoon and evening. The entire region is overspread with gray overcast conditions and low clouds.
Last night we had a nice visit from “Skipwil” (Joe) who only lives but a very few miles from the campground in Afton and he came and spent about a half an hour with Colleen and I. Roxy was all over him like a cheap suit. It would seem that Roxy just found her long lost friend and she was extremely pleased to meet Joe. We had a nice talk about what goes on in the vicinity and about the campground that we were in. Joe said that his Good Sam chapter the “OverMountainSams” camps there every year and that they have a great time. There’s an outside pavilion where there are picnic tables and grills and I expect that is one of the amenities that they use here at Baileyton for club activities. One thing that this place has that few other campgrounds have is a golf driving range. I believe that it went out some 500 yards. What one sees here, are wide open spaces and well manicured lawns.
There are a number of Tees where you can kill a few buckets and those appear to be well used. The owners of Baileyton RV Park were pleased to tell Colleen that they were recently rated in the top 35 of all campgrounds in the country.
I ran the car, secured our hookups and Col started the engine, pulled in the slides and brought up the jacks. I walked around 1 last time a checked everything and we were good to go. We departed the campground and made our way out to the Interstate. Revisiting our previous fueling location, we took the opportunity to fill up at the Shell station that we used last Monday. What changed was the price. It was 2.479 today. It went up .14 cents in 5 days! Go figure! Didn’t expect that but gas was about .10 more than that in Kentucky.
We got on the northbound side of the I81 and began making progress toward the northeast. We continued on while listening to the CB and we didn’t hear anything about any problems up at Sam’s Gap from the south bounders. In Kingsport, TN we turned onto the I26 and began the south east bound leg up toward Sam’s Gap. We knew by looking at the oncoming 18 wheeler traffic that it appeared that the Gap was open and that was a good thing.
Enroute the major town in that area is Johnston City, TN. Looking at the town from the highway it appears to be a nice community which is nestled adjacent to the Cherokee National Forest. Moving up the grade through Unicoi County, the highway winds its way up to Sam’s Gap and the North Carolina border. Approaching the crest you are climbing a 6% grade for approximately 3 miles. When we crested the gap, we both saw a long stand of trees on the peaks that were covered with ice but only half of tree from the crown downward was glistening.
It was unusual in appearance to say the least and all together very much in your face about how Mother Nature runs things up here. Colleen and I thought that the clouds descended just enough to coat the trees with moisture that froze on contact. We checked our outside temperature gauge and it was flashing ICE and 35 degrees.
We stopped on the side of the road at the crest of the Gap and after a brief interlude, we continued on having just crossed into North Carolina at Flag Pond Road. The Pisgah National Forest on the Carolina side frames the Interstate with its peaks and valleys. The trees quickly pass by as we approach Interstate speeds while descending the grade.
Our UP Allison Grade Brake was working well and it was holding us back however a 6% grade calls for an occasional stab on the brakes to bring things down to a reasonable speed. The grade was pretty much straight the majority of the time and the turns were well banked. There were 3 truck runaway ramps which didn’t appear to be getting much use thankfully.
The grade proceeds downward toward Radford Gap which crests and continues to descend toward Mars Hill. From that point the highway undulates repeatedly toward Asheville. Motoring south we passed under the Blue Ridge Parkway. Further on, a road sign tells us that we have just crossed the Eastern Continental Divide.
Not too much further south out of Asheville we stopped for lunch. We crossed into South Carolina at Landrum and continuing south we shortly arrived in Spartanburg. On the roadside was a sign indicating the direction toward Cowpens the site of a Revolutionary War Battleground. The balance of our journey continued on I26 as we passed through the Sumter National Forest. One of the largest lakes in South Carolina lies to our west called Lake Murray. This lake covers approximately 50,000 acres.
Approaching Columbia the state capital, we are directed onto the I-20 just north of the city. The I20 proceeds east through portions of the Francis Marion Sumter National Forests. On the way toward Florence the I20 parallels the property of Fort Jackson, the largest US Army facility in South Carolina.
Traveling on South Carolina’s Palmetto Prideway, 2 brand new rest stops, one on each side of the highway, were opened within the past year. Approximately one hour out of Columbia, we merged into the I95 just outside of Florence, SC. We drove north to Exit 170 and came down to SC Route 76 which transitions to SC Route 501 and home. Traveling on the 501 toward Myrtle Beach and while passing through Marion County there is a roadside history marker that commemorates the Revolutionary War Battle of the Blue Savanna.
As we got closer to home we drove past “Sparkys” a local tourist trap and gas station and thereafter we shortly crossed into Horry County. (pronounced: “O-Ree”)
We arrived home just before dusk, backed onto the RV pad and shut down the engine. We clocked off approximately 1420 miles round trip and we were on the road for 6 days.
Let me just backtrack a bit and share with you what I was listening to on the News early this morning in that neck of the woods. At approximately 5:00am, 3 vehicles got into a wreck, one rolled over the other was totally burned up and the third was demolished. All 5 occupants walked away from the disaster with minor injuries.
Earlier in the morning a 27 year old man ran off the road and struck a tree resulting in a single fatality.
Due to a wind condition, a tree fell on a van which was underway on a road near Bristol, TN. The van which contained 2 female occupants, were both killed in this freak accident. One woman was the mother of 10 and the other was the mother of 8 children.
You just can’t believe that these types of incidents happen and it just gives us pause to be thankful for each day that we have that we can get up and go about our business. We are glad to be safe and sound and back home.