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







You may also enjoy: Melody Hill: A Vietnam War Novel and The Vietnam Experience, Domestic Life & More

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