Never Rely on a GPS in an RV. A Big Mishap in the Smokies!
Rule #1 when traveling in the mountains in a 37 foot RV towing a car is to NEVER trust your GPS alone. Always double check your route against real maps. Unfortunately I forgot this rule as we made our way into the National Park. The drive down through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee was spectacular. The roads were wide, free of traffic and very scenic. A lot better than our normal first few days battling the interstate madness of I 70 and I 80. We were relaxed and at ease on the road enjoying the 70 degree temperatures and sun as we passed through the Shenandoah Valley and into the Great Smokey Mountains. As we made our way through Gatlinburg Tennessee, the camper traffic started to build and it was clear we were getting closer to the National Park, but when everyone else stayed straight, the GPS loudly commanded me to go right.
Not being one for an argument, I hesitantly complied. I did ask Hunter to check the route against the one that I had printed from google maps. They matched up so we continued on into ever narrowing roads and increasingly frequent hairpin turns. Then the omnipotent GPS Jane commanded another turn into an even smaller looking road. Luckily there was a general store on the corner selling park souvenirs and other junk. Needing a second opinion on this route, I pulled over and and asked if we were going the right way. The nice lady behind the counter told me that many people ask the same question because there are no official entrances to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. They have no guard booth, collect no fees, and many public roads run though the park. She told me that we were only about 6 miles from our destination and just keep on going the way the GPS is sending us. This is where critical error #2 took place. I neglected to tell her that I was driving a motorhome. As it turns out, we were in fact just 6 miles from our destination. Unfortunately we were not driving a Yugo therefor the 10-minute trip turned into a 3 hour debacle. As we left the General Store the road climbed harder than ever, got so narrow we could barely pass through and the situation quickly became very bad. I knew we were in trouble but there was nowhere to turn around. All I could do was motor on and hope for the best. Well, the best never came! About 4 miles in we came to a wooden bridge crossing a big stream. The bridge was clearly marked as not intended for truck traffic of any sort.
We were stuck in Deliverance country with no way out!! To make matters worse every other technology-addicted fool in the area was routed this way as well. They however simply drove across the bridge to freedom as they pointed and laughed at us. After 20 minutes or so of contemplative pondering I came up with a brilliant idea. It came to me something like this….. F*#K This!! I am crossing that damn bridge. Now what I have not as of yet mentioned was that the approach to the bridge was the same narrow road that we were on terminated in a sharp right hand turn onto the bridge. Here is where it got even worse. Swinging as wide as I could and throwing caution to the wind I went for it only to quickly realize that I was going to come up 2 inches short of being able to make it onto the bridge without running into the giant wooden guard rails on either side. With Hunter and Kristi yelling in horror as they spotted me from outside. I came to find my self not just stuck in Deliverance country. Not just stuck on a dirt road in Deliverance country. But stuck half on a wooden bridge and half on a dirt road in Deliverance country!! The best part was that there were tourists on either end of me and traffic was building fast. At this point there were two equally appealing options. Number one was to let Colby go free and join my other spotters before I gun it forward and drive to my death over the guardrail and into the River. Or I could reverse ever so slowly and attempt to get back to my spot on the side of the road where I came up with this brilliant plan.
I wisely choose decision number one. But as the RV launched forward the looks of horror on my kid’s faces was too much to bare. With the suicide attempt derailed, I slowly began the process of backing up. Luckily I was able to make my way back to where it was safe and traffic could now pass, point, and laugh without restriction. After about another 20 minutes of contemplative thought it became clear that unless I crane wandered through to pick me up and turn me around, there was only one way outta here. I was going to have to manage a 78 point turn with a 37 foot motor home on a road that was 35 feet wide. Impossible you say??? I thought so too but you have not taken into account 2 factors. One is that the road was bordering a river bank and two is that the RV has a 8 foot overhang past the rear axle. So if my calculations were correct …on turn 38 of my 78 point turn, 8 feet of the RV would be out over the river as the wheels reached the top of the river’s bank. It sounded like a viable plan even if I am not very good at math. With the help of Hunter, Kristi, two way radios and a blessing from baby Jesus we turned the old girl around without incident. And so began our first day at Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s adventure. There is bound to be one.