To the Big Sandy River
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Today started with a disappointment. Rain and mist had descended on our part of South Carolina and the flight in my friend's plane that I had been looking forward to wasn't possible. It would have added another dimension to this tour to have been able to post aerial photographs but it was not to be.
I had wrestled in the early hours with planning the next stages, sadly concluding that I couldn't spare the time to divert East a little to visit another old friend from my Eastern Europe days, now living in Charlotte, NC.
So I set off with a heavy heart. The time pressures are building and sacrifice after sacrifice has to be made. On the bright side, Speranza is performing well and the time saved from the hoped-for flight could be expended visiting the Biltmore Estate - a lavish Vanderbilt home. It is a rather good rendition of a French Chateau on the outside and an English stately home on the inside, the gardens and the estate. Ironically it ended up, by marriage, in the hands of English aristocrats; the Cecils.
The third disappointment of the day was that photography is prohibited inside Biltmore. The management has inflicted a collective punishment on customers for the misconduct of a few amateur photographers too stupid to know how to turn off their built-in flash. If you go to football matches, you know those people well. They are the idiots pointlessly firing their little flashes into the blaze of the floodlghts.
So I had carried my enormous bag of gear from the distant car parks to the house in vain. In disgust, I didn't bother to go inside but took a walk in the gardens instead. I was cheered up by one of the best lunches of the trip in the cafe there - a selection of Carolina specialities, including my first (delicious!) grits. During my visit, the sun came out and I was able to drive through the estate with my roof down. That was a great way to experience it.
When I resumed my journey however I was soon forced to pull over and raise the roof again, I then made slow progress towards Kentucky in the intermittently heavy rain. I shall never complain about rain in England again. Such feeble sprinkles as we have are scarcely worthy of the name. When it rained on me in San Antonio, it was as if God were emptying an enormous bath on my head. I was driving through a wall of water. It was not quite that bad today, but my visibility was severely restricted. At Speranza's ride height, I am directly in spray from the wheels of bigger vehicles. I could only jockey for a position where I could maintain a safe speed wthout being rendered blind the the spray.
I took a break at the Tennessee Welcome Center just to recover my powers of concentration before returning to the ordeal. As the afternoon progressed, however, the weather cleared and I was able to enjoy the countryside of Tennessee and Kentucky. I arrived in Pikeville in bright sunshine, parked my luggage and Speranza and set off in search of good local food. I found it too, at the desrvedy fashionable Blue Raven. Set in a converted car repair shop, it seemed an appropriate place for a travelling motorist to refresh himself.