Road Trip to the Tennessee Overhill

Where Melody Hill Began and The Gomorrah Principle Ended: The Tennessee Overhill…

Hiwassee River at Reliance, Tennessee

I’ve been there a few times before over the years, the Tennessee Overhill. It’s a few counties tucked in the farthest corner of Southeast Tennessee. Mountainous, hilly and with some open country, it is the place from where my protagonist characters in Melody Hill and The Gomorrah Principle come. A while back someone asked me if the town of Melody Hill and some of the rivers and creeks are actually as I describe them in the books. Yes, and no. Melody Hill is a fictional town. Some of the locations I describe, as with much good fiction, are based on similar places but don’t actually exist. Take Reliance Gorge as an example. There is a Reliance Creek, and believe me when I say there are many gorges in the Overhill that fit that description, but I intentionally made it fictitious. I do the same thing with my military units in the Vietnam Series, seldom describing them with actual unit designations below the brigade level. This keeps the fiction fictitious, so to speak while making it real enough that I’ve had Vietnam veterans tell me “Yes, I was there. I know the exact battle you described in the book.”

So, my wife and I spent several days riding the backcountry up there again. We road along the Ocoee River from Tennessee into North Carolina, across the Cherohala Skyway and up 411 to Cades Cove and Gatlinburg. The Overhill and the Smokies are magnificent in Autumn. But we came across at least two semi-suicidal groups of thrill seekers in our travels. The first group I admire. Those are the kayakers who test their skills in the Ocoee River. They threaten no one but themselves, and most are so talented that they seldom actually die. The other group, however, well…  They call themselves “bikers.” These are the motorcyclists we found in large numbers on the Cherohala Skyway. Most were okay, many weren’t.

Before I begin my diatribe on these idiots, let me say that I too once rode big bikes all over the eastern US from Northern Pennsylvania down to Florida, Louisianna, Arkansas, Missouri and South Dakota…and across Tennessee and North Carolina. I’ve ridden I-95 in New Jersey and once rode in a foot of snow back to Fort Bragg from Memphis when our unit was placed on alert. And if you’ve never ridden a bike through the Newfound Gap in snow….well. I was always polite, obeyed the law and never had a serious accident.

Newfound Gap in October

So, the big problem was that these idiots seemed to have had no interest in the mountains or the scenery. Their sole intent was to ride over the mountains as fast as they possibly could. They passed us in clots of 3, 4 and sometimes as many as 8 to 10 motorcycles at once, and the double yellow lines on the highway seemed more of an incentive to pass than a safety warning. The major issue was that after passing, the cyclists in the rear were braking hard to avoid their peers in the curve just ahead of them, which in turn led to me having to stomp my brakes to avoid running over these dumbasses. This happened several times. You simply can’t pass someone, dart back over a few feet in front of them and stomp your brakes. I mean, you can, but it’s not conducive to a long and healthy life.

Smoky Mountain Black Bear, which is the way I felt on the Cherohala Skyway.

I told my wife that it likely wouldn’t be long before we came upon some of them standing beside the road and looking down the side of the mountain for one of their peers. Well, sure enough, it happened… not exactly that way. We came up behind a line of traffic at a standstill. Up ahead there was a pickup truck nose down in a ditch on the side of the road. Pinned beneath the truck was a biker. We had to wait until a helicopter came and took him away. Seems he passed the truck then slammed on his brakes to avoid hitting the biker in front of him. I felt sorry for the driver of the pickup.

It put a brief damper on the day because you also can’t help but feel sorry for the developmentally challenged. Otherwise, it was a great road trip. We got these photos of the Hiawassee, a black bear, some whitetail deer bedded under the pines in the rain, and the Newfound Gap in its fall colors. Hope you enjoy them.

Pine Thicket Rain Shelter

The Vietnam Experience, the Domestic Life and More…

The Vietnam Experience, Exploding Clothes Hangers, and…

It’s time to write something. Yes, it’s been a while. Sorry, kind readers. I was busy doing all those macho things ex-paratroopers

Shoulder Patch 82nd Airborne Division

do, like hanging the wife’s laundry. She bought all these fancy high-dollar clothes hangers coated with sticky felt or something. It takes me five minutes just to get a blouse and all its little strings, linings, shoulder pads and other weird accouterments straightened out to go on the hanger. Then there comes that hanger. That precipitates another two or three minutes spent fighting to get past all that clingy felt.

Me, I like the simple white wire hangers that come from the dry cleaner. Slap a shirt on one and shove it in the closet. When you’re ready for it, you grab the shirt and pull. If the hanger comes off the bar, no problem. Bend and reshape it, and put it back. Don’t try that with one of those fancy hangers. It’ll explode. Then you have to hide the remains at the bottom of the trash can in order to maintain marital bliss.

So, you guys are burning through my books faster than I can write them. And to answer the question that’s already been asked several times: No, I haven’t started the next one yet. The problem is deciding which genre to go with. The Vietnam War Series is doing very well, while my first shot at Southern Fiction, Tallahatchie, isn’t exactly lighting up the best-seller lists. All the Tallahatchie reviews have been very positive, so I am hoping in time it will find its audience. With some luck, maybe late next summer I’ll have a new one for you, perhaps two. I do very much appreciate your reviews and say “thank you” many times over to those of you who have taken the time to go on Goodreads.com and Amazon.com to write your comments.

As it is with most writers, your words often serve to validate the hope that I am producing something worthwhile. I hoped to accomplish that with the latest Vietnam War Series novel, Valley of The Purple Hearts, but some readers miss the point that I refuse to write “war” stories simply for entertainment. My intent is to show the entire Vietnam experience as those veterans saw it. This includes some of the life back home and the element of Post-Traumatic Stress and its effects on veterans after the war.

One particularly notable effect of Vietnam on most vets was that of going from an adrenaline-driven high at Mach-II to ZERO inside of a few days. There was no “decompression” time, no buddies to ride home with, just an almost instantaneous return to a world that they could no longer relate to, and one which could not relate to the experiences they had been through. Most compartmentalized their pain. Many couldn’t.

In other news: I have a book-signing at Novel Memphis next Tuesday (10/17) at 6:00 p.m. Please, stop by and say hello. Two more events for next spring are in the works. One is a show for my photography at a local art venue. I’ll let you know more about that after we get through winter. I’ll try to write another post sooner next time.

Rick

 

The $200 Dollar Jeans

Jeans for the Hollywood Elite

I put on my old jeans the other day to go out and work in the yard. As I headed for the door the wife said, “You aren’t going to wear those outside are you?”
“Yeah,” I said, “Why?”
“They look horrible!”
“Who cares?” I said.
“The neighbors might see you.”
I stopped, looked at her and sighed.

“They’re covered with paint, and the knees are ripped,” she added.
“Honey,” I said. “Do you know there are people in San Francisco and Los Angeles who pay hundreds of dollars for jeans like these?”
She rolled her eyes and we lived happily ever after.

I have joined the Hollywood elite. I now wear $200 dollar jeans.

 

 

 

By the way: if you’ve read any of my books and haven’t written a review on Amazon, will you do that for me? Please? Your review is important to me, and it helps other readers determine if my books are worthwhile. Just click on the current number of reviews for the book on www.amazon.com and click on the button “Write a Customer Review.” It doesn’t have to be lengthy or some great literary work, just your honest comments. I will appreciate it.