road trip travel Uncategorized

Pandemic Road Trip: Day 3

Pandemic Road Trip, Covid-19 Road Trip, Coronavirus Road trip, rona road trip

Day 3 of our Pandemic Road Trip had us waking up only miles from Georgia in the worst Days Inn hotel I have ever stayed in. It might have even been the worst hotel I have ever stayed at. I might have been better off sleeping in my car that night in a Walmart parking lot. But that is now in the past and we were getting ready for today’s adventures.

We woke up, packed the car, double checked the room, turned in the room key and headed off to Rock City. I was talking to a friend of mine so I just followed the signs to Ruby Falls since I thought our ticket covered all three attractions.

Good news. Ruby Falls was only about 10 minutes from the hotel. Bad news. My ticket wasn’t a combo ticket and was only good for Rock City. At 07:30 am there was already a sign out front of Ruby Falls that tickets were sold out for the day. So off we went to Rock City for our 08:30 am entry time.

Rock City

roam like a gnome at rock city

Rock City is made up of a 4,100-foot walking trail that offers amazing views of Georgia and Tennessee. At one point you could see a total of seven different states. Today it would be very difficult to see them with the dirty air. It’s still amazing to look out as far as you can.

Following the walking trail and stopping off to see lover’s leap, the waterfall, Fat Man’s Squeeze (it’s tight), Fairyland Caverns, Mother Goose Village, and Swing-A-Long Bridge. Each spot had some pretty cool elements.

beautiful pathway in rock city gardens

We started off on the Rock City Gardens walking trail. It’s a lot of walking up and down hills and stairs but it is not bad at all. Flowers and trees dot the path as you walk. My daughter even wore her hoodie this morning because she found it cold. It was around 70.

At no point on our coronavirus road trip have I found it to be cold. Everyday she has. It’s a good thing I packed a hoodie.

But hey she didn’t take her hoodie off the entire time we visited. We spent about 2 hours exploring and not once did she say she was hot with that on.

Now like I was saying we continued on the walking trail passing some pretty flowers and interesting rock formations. Some spots would get a little tight. I’m a bit of a wide guy and I had to go sideways through a couple of the areas. It made for a fun experience and not once did I get stuck. It did come close a time or two. I just had to take my backpack off to make it through.

At one point there is was a fork in the road. We had to make a decision. Do you cross the gap on a steady stone bridge or do you take the chance and walk the rope bridge (Swing-A-Long).

Of course we took the rope bridge. Boy did I make that thing sway from side to side as I walked across. Good thing for social distancing right now otherwise I could see kids making it sway. Let’s just say it wouldn’t be great for me.

Once we got across the bridge it was just a short walk to the thing I wanted to see the most here. I wanted to try and see seven states. So far on our Pandemic Road Trip we traveled through six (PA, MD, WV, KY, TN, GA). Little did I know that by the end of the day we would travel through our seventh state for the trip.

See seven states from lover's leap at Rock City Gardens

However, I wanted to see seven states from one point. I wanted to stand in one spot and look out into the distance. At Lover’s Leap you can do that.

Now the view from Lover’s Leap is incredible. However, I do suggest visiting here in the afternoon. The sun will ruin most of your shots since you will be facing east. You can still get some amazing photos but the sun is too bright. Plus just taking a look around is breathtaking.

I think we spent around 15 or 20 minutes in this area. At this spot they also have a food location and a small gift shop. However, the main draw has got to be that wonderful view.

We followed the path down and around the side of the mountain. There was plenty of areas to stop and take photos or selfies. There’s even a great spot to stop and look over at Lover’s Leap and see the 90ft waterfall.

Storybook scene at Rock City Gardens

At this point on the trail, we were walking through mini caverns that were lit up with neon lights. It made for a pretty cool experience and we didn’t know what was coming next. Fairyland caverns (which was next) was an interesting and had an unique set up along the way.

It was one thing I didn’t expect to see. My daughter even enjoyed looking and trying to figure out what each scene was from. I guess she didn’t see the signs within each scene that told you what you were looking at. She did get many of them right however.

As with most tourist places you exit at the gift shop. Normally this is my daughter’s favorite spot anywhere we go. Did she love the gift shop. Of course she did. But she really enjoyed all of Rock City. The couple of places we visited so far on our coronavirus road trip have been a lot of fun.

As we exited Rock City we headed to the car not sure where we would be going next. Gatlinburg, Tennessee was where we are spending the night. However, I wasn’t sure what to see next. Which route we would take. Do we just want to get there as quick as possible or spot at places and look around.

All of a sudden it hit me while I was looking at Google Maps. I’m so close to the Smokey Mountains that we should stop.

Great Smokey Mountains

view from road of the Great Smoky Mountains

From atop Lookout Mountains in Georgia, the drive to the Smokey Mountains was about 3 and a half hours. If the drive was over flat or even somewhat hilly land it would only be about 2 hours. However, you are gonna be driving up and down and around mountains.

The Great Smokey Mountains are the most visited national park in the US. I can tell you it seemed like a lot of people had the same idea as we did. Parking lots were full and cars were parked everywhere along the roads.

We headed to Clingmans Dome. I wasn’t too sure where to go and that place stuck out at me plus it looked close to Gatlinburg. Miles wise it is close. Driving time is about an hour way.

On our way to Clingmans Dome we found ourselves driving through North Carolina (our seventh state). The amount of amazing overlooks was incredible. So many places to pull over and get a wonderful view of the Smokey Mountains.

Great Smokey mountain view

I stopped once or twice along the way to just take in the view but I continued on so we could get to Clingmans Dome. When we finally made it to the area and made our way up the mountain you started to see a lot of cars parked on the side of the road. They must of been about a half a mile down from the parking lot.

Cars and trucks parked off the road right on the side of the mountain. When we got to the parking lot area (which is pretty big) there were no parking spots to be found. Now we didn’t drive this far just to turn around and head towards our hotel. We just found a spot on the side of the mountain like everyone else.

Clingmans dome visitor center in North Carolina

Now once we parked and started walking up the mountain wouldn’t you know that we found at least 10 other spots that would have been closer. Of course, they weren’t in the parking lot but along the mountain side. I don’t feel too bad though. On our way back to the car I heard another guy say the same thing.

Now this place was packed. However, many people were wearing mask and almost ever group was practicing social distancing. It can be a little tough to maintain a safe distance from others but I think we did a decent job at it. If you have kids I think you can agree how hard it can be to maintain distance.

Now the views we had here were amazing too. I didn’t think I would see better views today than what I saw at Lover’s Leap. I was wrong. We were so high we could touch the clouds. It made me wonder if this would be the best views I would see on my entire covid-19 road trip.

View from clingmans dome parking lot

Now the walk to Clingmans Dome was a half a mile from the parking lot and all up hill. We walked a little way to it but I was totally out of breath and she was tired too. We decided that it wasn’t worth the walk and headed back down to check out the gift shop and climb on some rocks.

Even though we didn’t get to go to Clingmans Dome the surrounding area was beautiful. It was still worth the stop. I will have to put this back on the list when I get in a little better shape and hopefully not on another pandemic road trip.

Once we got back in the car it was off to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The first and only place on this road trip that we would be spending more than one night.

Gatlinburg

Light 5 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

On day three we ended up in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I booked a hotel a week or two ago at Baymont by Wyndham Gatlinburg on the River. My daughter and I couldn’t be happier.

While the location to everything in town isn’t the closest. It is located right on the river made this the perfect spot to sit back and relax on the balcony. That’s right. We have a balcony overlooking the river.

balcony view of the Great Smokey Mountains from the baymont by Wyndham Gatlinburg.

The hotel was everything we could’ve asked for. It had an indoor pool, a fitness center, game room and like we said a fantastic balcony. It was perfect in every way. This place blew away that horrible Days Inn we stayed at in Lookout Mountain Tennessee. I just couldn’t wait to sit back and relax on the balcony.

Before we could sit back and relax to the sounds of rushing water we needed to find something to eat. Much to my surprise there are no fast food locations in Gatlinburg other than a subway. At least not within a mile or two of our hotel. For places like Taco Bell, Burger King, or even Bojangles’ you needed to go about 15 minutes (because of traffic) up the road to Pigeon Forge.

Since the traffic on the main strip was busy. I mean like bumper to bumper traffic. We decided to walk and find something to eat. It helped give me an idea of what all was around and helped start my training so I can get up that mountain the next time I am out this way.

Most of the places we passed had long lines with 45 minute or longer waits. I ended up finally getting a little bit of service on my phone and found out there was a Johnny Rockets in Gatlinburg. So we walked to get a burger and a shake.

When we arrived to Johnny Rockets we were welcomed by a sweet older lady who took our temps and walked us to our seats. All the wait staff had mask on and you had to wear your mask from the door to your table. Once you were seated you could remove the mask.

soda at Johnny Rockets in Gatlinburg Tennessee

Pretty much every employee we saw had a mask on. Sure some had it just below the nose but I can understand it while you are walking back and forth from the hot kitchen. However, when they came to our table the mask was on correctly. I ordered a burger and my daughter ordered chicken fingers and a chocolate shake. The food came out pretty fast and was sooooooooo good. It was so good that my daughter ate all of her chicken fingers. That’s not something that happens often.

My burger was delicious. Hot, juicy, tasty, and fresh. I was so hunger I took a bite before I remembered to snap a picture. The shake too was very good and refreshing. We had a long day out hiking mountains and sightseeing. It felt good to sit down other than in a car, park bench, or hotel chair.

If you’ve never been to a Johnny Rockets before I suggest you give them a try. Most of them have a 50’s vibe to them which I kind of like. I always remembered going to the one in AC (Atlantic City, NJ). I have always had good food and great service. The one in Gatlinburg was no different.

After our dinner we checked out a few shops and checked out the area to see what else we may like to do. So many ideas are flying around our head for tomorrow. Only problem is cost. Traveling cost money and when you don’t really plan. You are not sure how much to put aside.

No matter what we do tomorrow we know it will be fun. First stop tomorrow is the TITANIC Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge. It was the main reason we headed down south instead of heading up and exploring the New England States. It was the one that my daughter requested after watching a few YouTube videos. Hopefully it is as good as it looks.

That pretty much sums up day three of our Pandemic Road Trip. Come back tomorrow to see how we made out on day four of exploring Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Tennessee. No trip to Dollywood for us this time. With social distancing and mask requirements I decided to skip it on this trip. We might do it on our next trip to this area.

Are you enjoying following along on our adventure? Leave us a comment below. As always, please remember to follow us on our different social media accounts. It helps you so you know when our next post goes live. You never know what the next guide might be about. Don’t forget to follow our travel board on Pinterest for all your travel needs.

Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five

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