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We got up at around 8:30, and decided to skip the free breakfast offered in the lobby, opting instead, for Robert's treat at Tupelo Honey Cafe.

We sat at the counter to avoid a 20-30 minute wait, and it turned out to be a real good decision. We got to watch the handsome cooks doing their stuff right in front of us, and cooking, too. :-)

A new person was learning the waffle and pancake station, and we think we saw him try his first pancake.

I had an Havarti cheese omelet, with an order of home fries, and wheat toast substituted for the biscuit. Robert had the French Toast. It was all delicious.



Robert waited for me in front of the hotel while I went to get the car, which I'd parked in a parking garage very close to the hotel. This garage didn't charge by the amount of time you parked in it. You just paid $2.00 every time you exited.


So, I get to a machine in which to deposit the money, because of course it's an unattended garage. The "documentation" on the machine says that it takes 1s, 5s, 10s, or 20s, and it has a picture showing me which way the dead presidents' heads should face.

I take 4 one-dollar bills out of my car console where I keep spare change, hoping it's not going to be a "fussy" machine, and put the first one up to the slot.

It doesn't just "suck it in," so I hold the bill with my thumbs on the bottom and my fingers on the top, and start just inching (well, actually, centimetering) it in, until all of a sudden it sucks on it.

Just like a safe man, though, it doesn't swallow, but proceeds to spit it back out.

I try the three other bills, all with the same result. I try two of the four over again, just for good measure.

Now there's a car behind me, and this is the only exit gate.

Frustrated, I push the "Call" button, which makes a sound like a telephone is ringing at the other end.

"Can I help you?" a man asks.

"Yes, this machine is not taking my bills."

He asks, "Where are you, sir?"

"I'm in Asheville. I don't know where this place is, I'm from out of town." As I'm finishing this sentence I see street signs at an intersection just outside the garage.

Before I can say the street names, he says, "I'll find you."

"I'm at the corner of..." I say, but I'm not sure if he hears me.

Now, I'm thinking, "Okay, where in the hell are you coming from? There is a car behind me, and too close to me for me to back up and let him try the thing."

Not more than 30 seconds later, this little golf-cart like policeman/security-type vehicle, with two wheels in the back and one in the front, and plastic, zipper doors, comes driving up to the machine.

A plus-sized, older man gets out, and comes and stands beside my car window between me and the machine.

"Let me show you how you're supposed to do this," he says.

I'm thinking, "Don't make me SHIFT INTO UPPERCASE, Mary."

He takes the bill out of my hand and says, "You have to fold it this way (indicating the long way), and put a crease down the middle. Then you put it in the slot and just rest your finger on the end of it. Don't push it," he finishes.

I am looking at him incredulously at this point, trying not to explode from number one, his condescending tone, and number two, the inanity of the idea that anyone would know this.

I said, "And I'm supposed to know this how? You need to type those instructions up and paste them up here on the machine."

He put in his "demo bill," and sure enough, it sucked it right up, and swallowed it.

With a smirk, which I probably imagined, he repeated the action with the second bill, and I thought I'd die when it spit it back out. "Oh," he said.

Oh, indeed.



I returned to the hotel, and Robert loaded our stuff while I went inside to check out, and get my $2.00 refund from the parking. They pay for it as a courtesy, since they don't, themselves, have enough parking for their guests.

Leaving the hotel, Robert wanted to show me the Old Europe Coffee House on Battery Park Avenue, and in doing so, we passed by the garage. Sure enough, there was someone else there, stuck at the gate, having no clue about how you're supposed to put in the bills. Ridiculous.



We drove the 5-mile route back to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and hopped back on where we'd gotten off yesterday.

Our first stop today was at the French Broad overlook at mile post 393.9, elevation 2100'. There wasn't much color in the trees here, but the river was beautiful.





We went through several more tunnels today, and I wanted a picture or two from within a tunnel.

In the Pine Mountain Tunnel, 1320-feet long, at mile post 399.3, elevation 3340', Robert graciously stood up in the car, and stuck his head and arms out of the sunroof, and snapped these two pics.

I call this first one "Lady Di's Last Image." No she dih-ent.



And this one, "There is light at the end of the tunnel. See? See?"





Our next stop was at the Bad Fork Valley overlook at mile post 399.7, elevation 3350'.

After that we stopped at the Funnel Top overlook at milepost 409.3, elevation 4925'. You can see a 360° view at this website, as it's better than the picture we took.

What you can't see in that 360-view is me standing in front of the sign.



At this point, we decided that most of the overlooks from here on out were going to offer pretty much the same type of scenery. To that end, we decided that we'd only stop at one if there was something really unusual about it that caught our eye.



It wasn't long before we came upon a stop with a ton of cars at it. This is always a sign that something interesting is amiss.

We pulled into the Graveyard Fields overlook at mile post 418.8, elevation approximately 5115'.

This area was quite interesting as it not only had colors in the trees, but also on the ground. There were a lot of people hiking through this area, too, as there was a trail here.



There is no actual graveyard here; the name is explained on a sign at the beginning of the Graveyard Fields Trail.

Red berries on a tree caught my eye, and I went for one of those artistic shots that rarely look artistic in the end. I was trying to get the red berries juxtaposed with the very green trees in the background. Emphasis on the word trying.





We left this area, and in about three miles or so, we saw this huge billowing trail of totally black smoke coming out of the trees around the bend. We turned the corner, and saw this ahead:



We immediately looked to see if it looked like anyone was trapped in the car, but knew that if there was, it wouldn't have mattered. It made me wonder if there had been, would I have had the courage to run up to the car to try and save them.

I immediately dialed 9-1-1 on my cell phone, while we rolled down the windows to listen for any signs of impending explosions. Every once in a while, there was a crack, then a pop.

9-1-1 said they had already been notified and said, "If you listen real carefully, you'll probably here sirens approaching the area."

We did not, and it took too long, in my opinion, for someone to finally get there.

Meanwhile, in intervals, the flames would roar up again, as the car was being consumed.



While waiting for the emergency folks, several cars coming from the direction opposite from us got impatient and drove right by the thing - while it was popping, and small explosions took place!

Then three guys on motorcycles, and a car behind them, pulled in front of us, since we were the first car, but had no intention of driving by "the burning bush."

The first motorcyclist went ahead, and then this louder-than-the-other explosions happened. At this point, I'm thinking, What a bunch of fucking idiots.

The other two motorcyclists decided to stay put.

The fire engine finally arrived, and they doused and doused and doused that car. It used to be a Volkswagen Jetta, and it just didn't want to go out.





It was at about this point that Robert and I got obsessed with the total hunk of a fireman parked right next to us, and we started a photo shoot of him.



The fire consumed the car, and the incident consumed about an hour of our time. We never did see, or hear anything about, the owners of the car.



Once again, we passed several overlooks, but couldn't resist stopping at Rough Butt Bald at mile post 425.4, elevation 5300', where Robert did a demo:





Our final stop, and picture, was at the Richland Balsam overlook at mile post 431.4, elevation 6053'.





We exited the Parkway at Balsam Gap mile post 443.1, elevation 3370', where we picked up U.S. 23 toward Asheville. Just before Asheville, we hopped on I-40 and took it all the way home.

Our total trip was about 652 miles. Roughly, we traveled 160 miles to the start, drove 226 miles along the Parkway, and drove 275 miles home.



This is something Robert and I have both always wanted to do, and I'm happy for the memories of doing it together. It was a great birthday gift. Thank you so much, Rough Butt!

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