Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Wednesday, October 10 The Long Trek Home

We wake up to yet another rather dreary morning, but there is no rain. We are on the road by 9AM and have a 9 hour 590+ mile drive ahead of us according to the GPS. This is the second of the two long driving days we knew we would have on the trip. We take I-20 west out of Meridian. This long straight interstate takes us across the middle of Mississippi and Louisiana and into East Texas. About 2 PM we leave the interstate and go to Tyler where we get a healthy serving of TexMex for our main meal. It tastes so good; especially after not having any for almost 2 months! The rest of the way is through the small towns of East Texas.

We arrive home about 6PM after driving 2,800 miles. It is always so good to get home after a long trip and this time is no exception! It has been a great trip with just a couple of BUMPS! The weather has been the worst we have had on a trip in a long time and, of course, there was the Paris/London nightmare! Even so we have seen lots of interesting things and checked off some more things on our bucket list items.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 9 Following the Color Across the Great Smoky Mountains

The sky seems to be clearing with patches of blue appearing this morning. Last night the weather man said the sun should come out and burn off the mist so we take a chance and get back on the Parkway about 9AM heading to the Great Smoky Mountains and Newfound Gap. This section is the highest part of the road with a long stretch between 5000 and 5500 feet,

right along the ridge line....there are some spectacular views! The last part goes through the Cherokee Indian Reservation and was opened in the late 50's. There is also one of three Park Lodges, lovely Mt. Pisgah, with breath-taking views ...on clear days of course...in this section.

The sun does come out and for the next four hours we pass in and out of the clouds and fabulous fall foliage.

At times, it is like being in an airplane and looking down only to see a blanket of white with just the mountain peaks showing.

It is a great drive.

We get to the Smoky Mountain Visitors Center about 1PM and take a little break before climbing up and over the pass.

There are lots of leaf peepers out now. Traffic is a little heavy, but moving smoothly on the two lane road. The colors are wonderful, but at times it is hard to find a space at the overlooks.

Carolyn reminds Dick that as a kid, coming through here, traffic was bumper to bumper, stop and go, due to people stopping their cars in the road and rolling down their windows to feed the black bears! The park rangers finally got that stopped in the early 60's! There were many unfortunate incidents between the bears and the tourist with the bears winning! Actually there are many neat places to visit on the TN side of the Smoky’s and we are a little tempted to visit some again, like Cades Cove

We stop in Gattlinburg, TN at the foot of the pass for some lunch. It is a cute little town but has gotten way too touristy during the "season". Loading home into the GPS, we see it is a 16 hour drive! No way can we do that starting now, so we decide to try to get to Meridian, MS tonight.
From there we know we can get home tomorrow night. About Chattanooga, Dick remembers that we gain an hour so Carolyn calls ahead to the Meridian Hampton Inn she has stayed at many times on her trips to NC and we are set for the night. We stop at a Cracker Barrel for a heavy bit of home cooking in Tuscaloosa and get to the hotel around 8PM.

Monday, October 8 Following the Color on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville, NC

Unfortunately it is still very ove cast this morning with rain in the forecast. We are on the road by 9:30AM, but no rain so far. Our plan is to head down to the North Carolina border and pick up the BlueRridge Parkway as it heads into North Carolina at Fancy Gap, VA. We toy with the idea of going over to Mount Airy....Maybury, USA, but even though it is not raining, the sky still looks iffy.

The Parkway is one of Carolyn’s life long all time favorite drives, especially the part in North Carolina. There are no towns, signal lights, stop signs or trucks just a good road with exits leading to near-b, very small towns, lovely over looks and great picnic areas, nice walks and a few mountain craft centers. The Parkway is really beautiful any time of year...in the sunshine and rather spiritual...in the mist, but no fun...in the rain! The park service does close the road during the winter months for snow.

At first, we have heavy overcast, but we can see the valleys and other mountains with all the color.

As we approach Grandfather Mountain, where the last section of the Parkway was completed in 1987, the mist settles in. The Parkway was built in the early 1930's as a works project, but there was a long battle to get everyone to agree on the best way to build the highway around the unique mountain. When Dick first drove the parkway with Carolyn, this section was a torturous route though the busy resort town of Boone and the quaint college town of Blowing Rock. A road cantilevered into the mountainside, Linn Cove Viaduct,

was finally built to connect the part north to VA with the rest of the road bypassing the two towns.

We get off at Blowing Rock and get some lunch. It has turned really cold and we are getting patches of misty rain. Back on the Parkway, we stop at the Moses Cone visitors center which is located in a beautiful old home with an outstanding view and carriage and hiking trails.

The house has a local artisan showing off his wood carving skill and many, many, quality mountain crafts by locals for sale. Carolyn loves this type of place and as usual finds some nice items.

Back on the Parkway, driving in and out of the mist, and by lakes

past Linville Falls, another really nice mountain hike to a beautiful falls, we reach the turn off for Spruce Pine about 4PM. The next section which is about an hour and half drive past a very nice resort called Little Switzerland and on into Asheville where we plan to spend the night is beautiful if it is nice weather. It goes around M.t Mitchell and gets quite high with great views. In weather like this, it can get very fogy. Carolyn knows from many summers spent here growing up that if it is fogy at Little Switzerland, the road becomes a nightmare to drive and there is no real way to get off for the next 50 miles.

We drive out to Little Switzerland and it is pea soup! So we back track and go down the mountain to Marion and take the low road into Asheville where we have reservations at a Homewood Suites. We eat at the hotel and call it a night.

Sunday, October 7 Following the Color to Roanoke, VA

It looks like rain again this morning and is cool. Our plan is to try to find and follow the color along the Virginia/West Virginia border. So we head back over to Gettysburg and then across northern Maryland until we see a visitors center. The man at the desk suggests a route weaving back and forth across the Virginia/West Virginia border for the best chance of color. We do find color and it is a nice, but slow drive down US Hwy 221. We get into rain off and on and it is cold.

At some point we both get a craving for a hot dog with chili, cheese and onions! There really isn’t much in eastern West Virginia, but we finally find a Dairy Queen in a small town and chow down on a chili cheese dog with all the trimmings including fried onion rings! Oh, can you spell heart burn! We are ready to stop by the time we are about to Roanoke. Calling ahead gets us a room at the Hampton Inn where we crash with another take out pizza, just what we need! It is a wonder either one of us sleep at all!

Saturday, October 6 The Amish and Annapolis, MD

It is overcast but dry and cool this morning. After a leisurely breakfast, we drive over to Bird-in-Hand in the Amish Country. There is a quilt shop where Carolyn has bought several quilts over the years.

We are looking for a special baby quilt. The shop has maybe six that are suitable so Dick takes pictures of each one with his cell phone and sends them to our daughter. By texting we narrow it down to three and finally a phone call between mother and daughter gives us a winner.

Quilt in hand we drive on to Intercourse. It is Saturday and that is a normal market day for the area. Since it October, it is a special Fall market with stalls lining the road. Traffic is bumper to bumper,
but we finally get into town and parked.
Carolyn is in hog heaven with the temporary stands and the cute shops. There are some beautiful quilts and other hand crafts. Dick finds a place to sit down and Carolyn shops! What Fun! After scratching that itch, we head out into the countryside to explore some of the area. The land is dotted with charming farm homes and green pastures full of cows.

It is now only about 1PM so we decide Maryland crab cakes might make a wonderful diner. We head to Annapolis to check it out and find a good meal. It isn’t really that far mileage wise, but a definite case of you can’t get there from here. We twist and turn along and across rivers and finally arrive about 3:30PM. The idea was to visit the Naval Academy

and then find some dinner. However there is a big in the water boat show and not a parking space anywhere near the Academy entrance. So on to plan "B". We find a Chart House right on the water across from the Boat Show area and the Academy with private parking. The parking problem solved, we watch the sail boats in the bay for awhile until the restaurant opens at 4:30PM.

We have a wonderful chopped spinach salad with crab cakes and a molten chocolate cake....a really great meal.
We do a fast drive around the cute town

and head into the setting sun.

Fortunately, it is only a 60 minute straight shot up the interstate to our hotel. It has been another great day. But the forecast is going south again so we decide that we will start toward home tomorrow since we are getting very tired of the rainy overcast days.