Monteagle Pass Surprises

I’ve hinted that my 2000 Honda Odyssey is getting a bit long in the tooth. When I was in Cape the summer of 2011, I had to have a rebuilt transmission dropped into the van by LeGrand Bros. Transmissions for $3,498.34. This trip home, I felt an unusual vibration in the front end. Plaza Tire was enriched by $700 to replace the left front axle (I sort of like the idea of my front wheels staying on at 75 mph), new struts and an alignment. It sure made the car ride much better.

About 10 miles south of Manchester, Tenn., on the Friday I headed back to Florida, my Check Engine light came on. That didn’t scare me because my catalytic converter is overdue for replacement. Then the TCS (Traction Control System) light came on. That’s not what you want to see if you are going to have to go over the Eastern Continental Divide, but the car was running fine and I soldiered on to the peak of Monteagle Pass in Tennessee (elevation 1,923 feet).

I pulled into the parking lot of one of my favorite stores, Mountain Outfitters, and called LeGrand for advice (I have an extended warranty). They suggested I take it to one of the shops in their nationwide network. Unfortunately, they didn’t show any in my next big town, Chattanooga. They said it would be a good idea to see if anyone could read the computer error codes that turned the light on to see if the problem was serious. (You can click on the photos to make them larger.)

Monteagle Tire & Auto Service

Fortunately, right across the street was Monteagle Tire and Auto Service. I had stopped in there on an earlier trip when the van was mysteriously blowing fuses that would cause the car not to shift out of park, would keep the cruise control from working and would black out the brake lights.

I walked up to the counter and asked if somebody could read my error codes. A nice guy pulled my car into the bay, hooked up a gizmo under the dash and promptly reported that the only code showing was for the converter. He reset the warning lights and backed the car out. With some trepidation, I asked, “How much do I owe you>”

Let’s put this in perspective. If I had pulled into a Honda dealership, that three-minute process would have cost me $95 plus tax (based on experience). Here I am, on a mountain in Tennessee, miles from a big city and in a vehicle with Florida tags. If that’s not a license to steal, I don’t know what is.

Nice Guy shrugged his shoulders and said, “Have a Happy Thanksgiving.” I slipped him a twenty and felt fortunate.

Looking for lunch

With the car problem out of the way (I hoped), I poked around the Mountain Outfitters. If I lived where it was cold, I’d have walked out with lots of cool stuff, but temptation was averted. I asked the cashier if there was a good place to eat other than the Smoke House, which used to be good but had been disappointing the past couple of stops.

He recommended Dave’s Modern Tavern, just east of the Interstate by about a mile. He liked their fried green tomato BLT, which would have pleased Wife Lila, but isn’t my thing. His second choice was the Oink Moo Burger, a Hereford patty topped with pulled pork, caramelized onions and Gorgonzola cheese. Huge homemade potato chips came as a side. Instead of drenching the pulled pork with BBQ sauce, it was served as a side. The sandwich was WONDERFUL. Juicy without being sloppy. When I’m hungry, I’m more interested in eating than pictures, so I made do with this semi-fuzzy shot with my cellphone.

I ordered a cup of lobster bisque for an appetizer. It’s described as having a “hint” of brandy. If I had ordered a bowl, I’d have probably blown over the legal limit if I’d have been pulled over.

Donna Smith of Monteagle Tire

On the way out of town, I stopped back at Monteagle Tire to tell owner Donna Smith how much I appreciated their great service. She said that she and her husband moved to Monteagle in 1987 and opened the service shop about 10 years ago. When he died, she stopped providing wrecker service, but the store is spotless, well-stocked and her employees are friendly and helpful.

All of the delays cut into the time I would usually have spent stopping at Larry’s Army / Navy at the next exit down. There are plenty of excuses to pull your car over to let it cool down after the long climb through the Pass.


18 Replies to “Monteagle Pass Surprises”

  1. Woosh. You have a lot more faith than I do.

    The only indicator lights I ignore are the ones that tell me how much tire pressure I have and only because I’ve put pressure gauges on the tires.

    When it comes to rebuilding the front end of a 12-year-old van, I say fine as long as your are collecting it and you keep it in an air condition garage somewhere hoping for a payback when it turns 50.

    I have a 1999 Honda Valkyrie that I have mostly rebuilt. But I’m not taking it to Sturgis. It isn’t perfect yet. And it didn’t have a problem in the first place.

    Time for a new one, Ken. New technology. You don’t save money or time waiting for something else to break.

    1. I looked at what new vans cost compared to a $3K trannie repair in 2011 and decided that I don’t like car payments. When I had the front end issue this month, I asked the repair guy if he thought it was time to trade. “I have customers with that model who come in with 300K miles on them. If it’s running good, keep on keeping on.”

      That’s why I’ve been pitching Amazon link sales, though.

  2. Ken I have been through that pass at least 100 times and about to travel through again after Christmas. It’s always an adventure. I recall in the 60s when the road was only two lane and much less friendly. Glad to here you auto troubles were minor and you made it through ok. I will have to plan a stop there and try out Dave’s Modern Tavern.

  3. I like fuzzy food pictures. Keep ’em coming. That Oink Moo burger sounds like a heart attack on a plate, but is enticing. I’m just not hungry enough, maybe.

  4. Hey Dave’s is a great place to stop for lunch or what ever…Dad and stopped in there the last time. We had a beer and a great bar burger! One half pound of grill fried meat on bun with frys…the world is great place!

    1. I figured I was the only guy who would have blundered in there.

      I have to admit that the dining area is a whole lot more up-scale than the name “tavern” would imply. It’s definitely going to be on my preferred stops list.

  5. I remember vividly driving through Mt Eagle pass one rainy night many years ago with Bill Joiner! He was driving our van and I don’t know when I have been more terrified! I huddled under a blanket in the back with our 3 children and prayed. Still here to tell about it! Just re-read this and it sounds like the 3 children were mine and Bills….not the case at all!! Your tavern sounds great so if we are ever in the area again will give it a try. Thanks for all your entertaining stories and pictures.

  6. Regarding Mt. Eagle-I never was so “scared” one night about 10:00 during one night in December. We were going to Fl. to Disney World. Going up Mt. Eagle it was so foggy that I could not see the road. I had to put my head out the window and followed the middle white line up the mountain. When we got to the top, we pulled over and took a break. It was clear with the stars shining. I talked to a service station attendant and he indicated they normally have one eigthteen wheeler’s brakes go out once a week. When traveling in that area, I have determined I will not go up that mountain at night.

  7. Ken, Get a Code reader that will scan your auto for error codes. I have used CarMD for years. Put my BMW 635 down with 330,000 miles and in the later years it was pretty handy. But there is a whole range of products, and they can be pretty handy.

    I was wandering why you take the Atlanta route rather than a southern route thru the panhandle?

    1. I thought code readers were a couple hundred bucks. I may have to look into that, though. It would make me feel more comfortable while I’m trying to stretch as many miles out of the van as I can.

      I alternate between going though Atlanta and taking the western route through Birmingham and Montgomery. I came up the western route, but I needed to go through Nashville and make time on the way south. On my summer trip, I wanted to see an old colleague in North Carolina, so I went down the coast for the first time in years.

  8. I can’t believe it! We came through Monteagle yesterday and stopped for lunch at the Smokehouse. The food was okay but the turnip greens were superb! We’ve always wanted to stop there. Now we have to try Dave’s Modern Tavern. When we got back in the car, the dash readout said “Change oil soon.” We just had that done in September but I pulled into a gas station and Jerry checked the oil. All was fine so I reset the dash readout and we came on home. One trip on a Sunday afternoon we stopped at the rest area there and when we came out, the radiator was blowing. We called a wrecker and they towed us to a gas station where the mechanic (who came in the next morning!) fixed it for us after sleeping in the car. That was in the early 1980s. We’ve had all the weather conditions mentioned plus snow one time. Always an adventure.

    1. I used to try to time my arrival at Monteagle so I could eat at the Smokehouse, but the last two times I ate there I was disappointed. That’s what led me to my search for Dave’s Modern Tavern.

  9. This is our family business,,, I appreciate your wonderful comments,,, my Dad bilut in it 1992 ,, he passed away in May 2012,,, he would be tickled to death to know you were happy and pleased. Please stop again and visit our lil piece of paradise. i move here 15 years ago from Chattanooga and decided after 6 months that i would NEVER live anywhere else on the planet! Have a great Christmas,,,

    1. I’m glad you saw this. I told Donna I was going to call her when it ran, but have been busy. I hope some of my friends who pass through that area will stop if they need your help.

  10. I remember Monteagle well. Several years ago we were on our way to FL on Christmas Day and our aleternator went out and we had to recharge it every few hundred miles. It was hard to find places open on a holiday.Made it into Tampa about 11pm that night with out turning the car off from Monteagle on.

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