Sunday, September 8, 2013

road trip recap: charlottesville, blue ridge parkway, great smoky mountains

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We left Shenandoah nice and early so that we would arrive at my friend Bonnie's house before noon.  Buuuuut we got lost.  Really lost.  We ended up turning the wrong way down some random road (which we thought was 250E), eventually realized our mistake, turned northward, and wound up driving through a mountaintop construction zone on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which just kept going and going, endlessly, without an exit for far too long. When we finally arrived in Charlottesville around 12:30, we took a quick tour of Bonnie's adorable little house and then went for amazing beer and pizza at the Blue Mountain Brewery outside of town. After lunch we dropped the car off at the house and walked downtown for a tour and some cocktails at Sky Bar (I had "Your Grandmother's Garden").  It was incredibly hot and I was starting to feel a little bit worse for wear but didn't think much of it... at first. We continued on our way through town, stopping again at a tapas place in for sangria before it started threatening to rain and we hurried home (K had run across the street for ziploc bags to protect his camera from the impending thunderstorm, and I ended up pouring the leftover sangria into a ziploc and escorting it from the premises in my purse).  As soon as we got back to Bonnie's I started feeling really sick, and that's all that I'll say about that except that the remainder of the evening was a bit of a wash.  The next morning I felt better, and we walked to a bakery in Bonnie's neighborhood where I had the most DIVINE apricot danish imaginable before we hit the road again.  It was so wonderful to see Bonnie and the place she's been living all of this time!

Our first stop (we thought) was Natural Bridge, VA, but when we got there we refused to pay the $20 entrance fee and instead had a lengthy conversation about the disgraceful monetization of our national landmarks.  We stopped for lunch at an unassuming little bakery/store along our way and were surprised to see that everyone working at and patronizing the place was in full Amish dress.  We had delicious sandwiches there and then took the Blue Ridge Parkway from Floyd to Linville Springs, marveling at the landscape (seriously a spectacular drive--highly recommended). I wanted to take the BRP all the way to Great Smoky Mountains because I was sure I would regret it otherwise, but it certainly took a lot longer than the highway would have.  We ended up driving 14 hours that day over winding mountain roads with weak brakes in wild wind, and the last hour or so was spent spiraling down into Cherokee country along a two-lane road with no road signs in a night that was dark as death. Terrifying.  We arrive in Great Smoky around 11 PM and settled into our tent just in time to beat the epic rainstorm that came through that night. We didn't get up until around 11 AM the next morning, when the rain started to let up.  We went to the Visitor's Center and saw some historic structures there, then went up to Mingus Mill (I promise that graffiti wasn't carved by our hands--it was just too perfect to pass up the picture). It was a lazy afternoon at the campground, culminating in popcorn popped over the fire and much wine.

The next day ended up being another adventure in mountain driving.  We did the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, which was a disappointment because it was practically bumper-to-bumper traffic and we couldn't really enjoy the scenery.  We left the park for a while, and drove through Gatlinburg, TN (very touristy, with faux Chalets and little wedding chapels reminiscent of Vegas), had a quiet, calming lunch at Cosby campground, and continued on a loop outside the park hoping to avoid the curving roads but ending up on even curvier ones that lead nowhere, forcing us to backtrack.  We went to Cherokee for ice cream on the river before heading back to Smokemont for our last night in the frigid cold.

Next up, Asheville!

1 comment:

  1. Great to see you posting again! Sounds like an epic road trip, like that you conserved the sangria like that, genius!