This past week, my wife had a work conference at the Harrah’s Cherokee Resort and Casino in Cherokee, North Carolina. Seeing that I haven’t had a week’s vacation in almost eighteen months, I decided to accompany her on the trip and make some memories.
The vacation technically began on Saturday the 13th, but my wife had a twelve hour color guard practice so teach, so I spent the day picking up snacks, cleaning the house, doing errands, and packing. It was a terrible day where everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. The less said about that day the better.
Sunday was the four and a half hour drive up to the mountains. This is my first time in the Bryson City area, as well as my first time on a Reservation. After spending a week in the various mountain towns of Sylva, Bryson City, and Cherokee, I gotta say it’s quite economically depressed. Sure, the scenery is beautiful once you look past all the abandoned buildings, hotels, restaurants, and so forth. I was surprised to see that TV shows like Longmire, actually do a good job at accurately portraying reservation life. There are some really nice signs and tons of social services available, but everything else is quite run down and sketchy. Almost all of the billboards are anti-drug messaging, anti-alcohol, or anti-domestic violence.
The Harrah’s Resort, however, is amazing. It’s beautiful and modern and is the cleanest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. As part of the conference, we were given $70 in credit to use on the slot machines and I walked away with $260 and I didn’t spend a dime.
That was my first time in a casino and probably my last, but I had a good time. I can see how it could become addicting.
I also took advantage of the arcade on site as well as the bowling alley where I bowled two games.
The food choices were terrible though, and after one night of trying to find places to eat within the resort that were worthwhile, we spent all our time eating out, mostly at one of the best food trucks I’ve ever eaten at the: The Rice Wagon. The Rice Wagon specializes in Hawaiian food and it was incredible and not something I’d expect to run across in the mountains of western North Carolina.
One of my goals was to see the train and bus from The Fugitive, which was left in the woods after they filmed the break out scene in the film starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize there was no access unless you approached it from the river in a tube or a raft. It’s on private property and can also be viewed during a train ride, but that particular path was not being used during my week’s vacation. And the one vantage point where you can see it from the city, is only viewable during the fall when the leaves are gone. So, that was a swing and miss for me.
However, two other things I’ve wanted to do for some time did come to fruition. First, I visited The Road to Nowhere.
If you’ve never heard of it you can read all about it here. The gist of it is, when Fontana Dam was built in the 1940’s, a mountain community was flooded. The Federal government offered to build a road around the dam so families could get to cemeteries and after six miles of construction they stopped. Environmental issues causes the stoppage, and for years legal battles lingered until finally the Department of Interior agreed to pay a $52 million dollar consolation prize. Of course, the county ended up having to sue to get the money but they finally did in 2018. Now, you can visit this six miles that runs through the Smokey Mountain National Park until it ends with a tunnel.
When I visited The Road to No Where they were two elderly couples chatting along the road. That gave me some uninterrupted time to check it out and I took some pictures as well as some video.
I decided to stop after a bit when I just got an uneasy feeling. I’ve seen way too many horror movies to know not to ignore those feelings. I had no idea what or who was on the other side of that tunnel and people could have been standing against the walls and I would have never seen them. With the two elderly couples way beyond yelling distance, I decided to not complete my trip and instead to head back to my car and head onto the next site.