Thursday, October 01, 2009

Knoxville Gothic

Boy, this place is weird... We are staying at the Maplehurst Inn, which is probably the roughest place I've ever stayed without actually using a tent. They look like they might have been struggling, then recently changed hands and are now in the middle of renovations -- our room is great, but we peeked into other rooms that look completely derelict, and there seem to be several handyman types hanging about, mostly smoking and BS'ing out back. The girl who acted as receptionist (there's no lobby, natch, just a sort of hallway where she was sitting in a chair), was young and pretty, and dressed in an upscale young-and-pretty-girl way, but when she asked us what we wanted for breakfast, you could tell she did not know what "rye toast" was.

The main front door was unlocked, and we were waiting for Emmi to stop by so it was no surprise when we heard a knock on our room's door, but it was a street person, attempting to impersonate a college student, giving a spiel and asking questions from some sort of script, like a cross between a panhandler and a telemarketer. Mind you, this is in the hallway of the B&B...

Emmi came by just then and rescued us, and we hit a place called Tomato Head for dinner, very nice. Some brews and hanging out, then we went back to our base camp, where there were all sorts of weird noises, music etc like there may have been a party on the roof or something (I even heard a puppy barking), but eventually the noise died down and we fell asleep -- to be awakened this morning by the most disgusting, hacking smoker's cough, probably the cook making breakfast.

By the way, we are not alone in our views of this place, check out these reviews -- and the strangest part is that the Maplehurst is rated second best B&B in Knoxville! In terms of location, the place can't be beat, and it looks like the renovations (which seem to have started this year) are creating a really nice space -- and their wi-fi is the fastest connection, and the only encrypted one, we've seen in our travels; the infrastructure is beautiful if currently decrepit, it's just that the place really needs a lot of work.

"The infrastructure is beautiful if currently decrepit." That seems to sum up the crunchier parts of town, which is what we've explored so far. (We only got as far as the first coffee shop -- Old City Java -- but still.) Lots of ancient space reconfigured but not fully renovated, ancient brickwork in need of re-pointing, facades in need of repainting, woodwork on the verge of decay, iron railing on balconies over the street...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Southern Tour So Far

Whelp, here we are at the Folkstone Inn, just outside Bryson City NC. In a few minutes we're goin in for breakfast, and then we're off to ride the Tsali trail system.

The ride here was long spectacularly beautiful -- we were thinking of taking the uber-scenic Blue Ridge Parkway from Afton, our first stop, but that would have been too long, and the views from I-81 (and I-40) were good enough... Once we got off the interstates, things got way more interesting: windy roads, tacky roadside attractions -- we were on the southern side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and it looked like the road was a poor man's Gaitlinburg, with a Cherokee Reservation casino smack in the middle of it all. Finally, following the Google Maps directions, we ended up some tiny dirt road -- literally no room for two cars to pass, and cliffs on the side -- through the park and out the back of Bryson City. Our B&B is about a half mile, on good roads, from the center of town, but well, Google Maps... Bit we're here.

Upt until yesterday's travel day, we were literally in Waltons country, maybe 20 miles from where the real writer (the fictional John-Boy Walton grew up). The most amazing scenery, beautiful farmland, and our place (the Afton Mountain Bed and Breakfast) was amazing.

We got there late in the afternoon/evening, in the fog, and all we had time for was dinner (at one of the two brewpubs within a few miles of the place); Sunday we did our road ride, Afton Mountain Road past the Cookie Lady's house -- not home? hiding from us? -- and then down the Blue Ridge Parkway and back on regular roads. We were going to add some more to the ride, but the roads I wanted, when we got far enough away from the main roads, turned to dirt so we turned around. Still, we got in a good 40 miles. Dinner that night was at the other brewpub. (Wine people would have even more luck: there are maybe four vinyards within two miles of the Afton Mtn B&B.)

Anyway, next order of business is to find my camera. It's in the car but I have taken no pictures yet, but today's the day...