After spending a few days in cities we were looking forward to getting out to the Great Smoky Mountains. The mountain range there is something else. the huge contrast between the cities and nature was amazing and we really enjoyed just driving through, admiring the scenery and breathing in the fresh air. We did spend a day hiking and through the first part of the hike we were talking and laughing, trying to make as much noise as possible to scare away any bears that may be nearby. It started to rain towards the half way point and didn’t seem like it was going to stop. On the way back it was a lot harder to talk as we were hiking on an incline most of the time. So because I was unable to talk as much while walking up hill we clapped a lot. At the beginning Mark was doing most of the clapping but then I took over. It was probably a good 15 minutes of solid clapping before Mark turned around and said “You know you probably only have to clap as we are approaching corners or coming up to blind spots in the path” ohhh thanks for that late bit of information. Definitely could have saved my solid clapping skills instead of wasting them on a solid 15 minute performance. The hike became more difficult because of the amount of rain that had come down as there was big puddles of mud, and any rocks we had to walk over had become slick with rain. I started to get excited once the rain stopped and I noticed we were getting close to the end without seeing a bear. Pretty sure it was all thanks to my brilliant clapping.
Leaving the Great Smoky Mountains wasn’t too bad because the weather had started to bother us already – where was the sun? As we were driving we noticed that the van wasn’t doing great uphills but we just figured that was because of how many hills there were but while Mark was driving the ‘check engine light’ came on so once we got to the next town we pulled into the first mechanics we saw and asked the guy there to check it out. He checked it using the diagnostic tool he had and told us that it was showing a “solenoid b” issue. He wasn’t sure exactly what that meant but told us it had to do with the transmission. That was not something we wanted to hear but we had places to be so we said thanks and continued driving. We were aiming to get to our friend’s parent’s house in North Carolina which at this stage was 2 hours away. Mark continued driving while I googled what the issue could be. We established that best case scenario it needed the solenoids in the transmission replaced, which would take a few hours to fix but wasn’t as bas as a whole new transmission. We called a transmission specialist workshop near our destination and they told us to stop by if we made it before they closed at 5pm. We got there at 4.30pm and told the mechanic there what was going on. He thought it sounded strange so drove the van up the road to see for himself. His first thought was that it was our clutch because of the issues we were having with the van struggling in reverse. It was probably our bad luck that all of these issues were happening on a Friday afternoon but after chatting with him for a while we booked in to drop it off the next day so that he could look at over the weekend or on Monday morning. We did just that and while we didn’t have our van to get us around it wasn’t a problem because we spent the weekend hanging out with our friend Chris’ family. Mark shot BB guns with Chris’ brother and went fishing. On Sunday morning we were up early to go to church with them. The church itself was so big and the amount of people was something else. Over 2000 people were there and that was small because it was summer and most people were away, the usual attendance rate was around 4000. Mark and I sat there through the service and then sat in on a bible studies group which meets weekly after the service. We were introduced to the group and so many people came to welcome us. Neither of us had ever experienced anything like it and it was very interesting to sit and listen to people talk about how their beliefs help them through their day to day lives. Sunday night after dinner we went on our own private plane ride where Mark even got to fly for a bit. Chris’ dad is a pilot and he was generous enough to organise a small flight for us which was something neither of us had done before. It was the perfect night for it as well. Monday afternoon I was sitting on the bed folding our washing when Mark came in and sat at the end of the bed. “We need a new transmission” he said. He had such a serious face that I thought he was trying to trick me. “You’re joking right?” “No” So I laughed at how well he was keeping a serious face, he normally isn’t that good, but a few seconds later I remembered that, yes normally he wasn’t that good at tricking me so he must be telling the truth. “You’re serious aren’t you?” He just nodded. “How much is it?” “$3500… US.” and at that point I just cried. That was so much money and there was simply nothing we could do about it. After sorting out a few things Mark called the mechanic back and told him to go ahead with it. We had to get on with it. So the rest of Monday was a bit of a downer but everything picked up again on Tuesday, we both did something we love to do – Mark played golf and I read. We really enjoyed staying with Chris’ family and were sad to be leaving but we had places to be once again.
Next stop – Charleston!