The Rattlesnake

By aaron.axvig, Thu, 09/12/2013 - 23:00

This morning I woke up in spider paradise, but at least they were all outside my tent. The campground provided coffee so I didn't have to drink mediocre instant coffee, and I did some laundry. On the road by 10:30, my destination was Oak Ridge. Yes I drove through there yesterday, but I had priorities then!

In Oak Ridge I spent about 3 hours in the American Museum of Science and Energy. A lot of it was about how the whole city of 75,000 people then was constructed to support the workers refining uranium for the Manhattan Project--pretty cool stuff. The rest was well put together exhibits about atomic energy and atoms but I cruised through that since I already knew it all. :)

Just down the road I found some Mexican food (very similar to El Sombrero in Dickinson actually) and left at 3:00 to make some progress towards Charlotte. It was 240 miles away and I only had 5 hours of daylight so I hopped on the interstate. This interstate was not like others. It was an exciting ride through the mountains, with trucks thankfully banished from the left lane.

Then I saw an exit "Lake Junaluska Hot Springs" and thought that a nice warm soak would feel pretty good. So I pulled into the gas station at the exit and found that Hot Springs was a town about 30 miles away. I found a campground there that looked pretty legitimate so I headed north.

It turns out that the road leading there has a nickname too--The Rattlesnake. There was a sign bragging 200+ turns in 24 miles. Compared to Tail of the Dragon, it has wider turns, is over twice as long, and had a glorious 55 mph speed limit (your own fear of death will limit you to an average of probably 35 but having the headroom is nice) versus the Dragon's 30 mph. It was a beautiful drive carving down the side of one mountain and up the side of another. In the last two days it seems like any road I take is amazing. I guess that's what happens when your land isn't flat and isn't divided up into square-mile blocks.

In Hot Springs I setup my tent and then figured out the hot spring deal for later tonight. Since everything is within walking distance I parked the bike and am now chilling in a bar with some live guitar music. This is the first time I have had working Wi-Fi so I got to type this on my Surface instead of the phone. Simple luxuries! I tried some golden lager from nearby Asheville and a Yuengling (some people will appreciate that I tried different beer since I usually just turn to trusty defaults).


I sat in a hot tub filled with hot spring water in a private shack with a rushing river in the background for an hour. It was very romantic. Pretty sure 99% of the people that go there do it with their significant other and get all cuddly in their shacks so I was definitely raising the weird level but I enjoyed it and have no regrets.