Bessie swung around the twisties of the Blue Ridge Parkway and stopped at some fun places along the way including… Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Mabry Mill, the Mellow Mushroom, The North Carolina Arboretum, Clingman’s Dome, The Funnel Cake Company, lots of waterfalls and more! Here’s a recap of the 8-day trip…
Day 1 – We headed to Columbus, Ohio, to pick up the third member of our band. There we stopped at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. It certainly lived up to its name! The shop was wonderfully designed and the ice cream was an amazing treat not to be missed. This isn’t your normal ice cream shop. With flavors like Salty Caramel, Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet and Wild Berry Lavender, your only regret will be not being able to try each flavor – and they do give samples.
Day 2 – Onward and downward to Harrisonburg, Virginia. After a long drive, we toured the downtown area and decided to enjoy the wonderful weather atop Dave’s Downtown Taverna. There I had a wonderful little pizza, just the right size to satisfy my hunger. Afterwards, we drove over to Kline’s Dairy Bar for ice cream. It was a delicious treat and apparently is the best in the area.
Day 3 – With the lowlands heating up, it was time to head into the Mountains. It stayed a wonderful 70-ish degrees in the Mountains while the rest of country was swept with a heat wave. Our first leg of the journey was through the Shenandoah Valley. It was a lovely drive, but much like the Blue Ridge Parkway. I’m sure we didn’t get to experience its full depth on our drive through it. The peaceful drive dropped us right at the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Our first destination was the Humpback Rocks. We chatted with the locals in the tiny frontier homestead and then headed up the trail to see the view from the top of the rocks. The walk was not for the faint of heart. A walking stick is recommended by me. Many people brought their lunches to enjoy at the top. The view is spectacular.
Afterwards, we lunched at McAllister’s Deli because it was there and how glad we were! Oh how I wish I could have their french dip and sweet tea again. Don’t miss it if you pass one. Leaving civilization again, we followed the parkway south to the Falling Water Cascades. Two long walks in one day was a bit tiring, but we did get some good photos out of it.
For the evening, we went to Roanoke for dinner, a trip up Mill Mountain to see the city and off to bed. We needed the sleep that night!
Day 4 – We didn’t spend much time in Roanoke, but we couldn’t miss Black Dog Salvage. If you like old stuff and oddities, you’ll love this place! When I got out of my car, I saw this black lab walking straight over to greet us. Sally was her name and she protects some amazing treasures you’ll have to see to believe.
Journeying again down the Blue Ridge Parkway, we stopped at the scenic Mabry Mill for lunch and sightseeing. The mill still functions and is surrounded by more primitive houses and engaging park rangers who showed us the art of whittling and carving. Lunch was fantastic. Get the pot roast – perfect meat, just right carrots and baby red potatoes. PERFECT.
As we crossed into North Carolina, we had to make a stop in Mount Airy. The town was the inspiration for “The Andy Griffith Show” and they certainly won’t let you forget! From Floyd’s Barber Shop, to Opie’s Candy store, you can’t escape it. After much deliberation, we ended up in Barney’s Cafe for ice cream. The Hersey’s ice cream recharged us while we soaked up the Don Knott’s atmosphere. (Never thought I’d ever have to write that!)
That night we stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Elkin. I think that was my favorite place. It was a nice place to hang out in, complimentary salad, pizza and cookies in the evening wonderful pool and hot tub. It was difficult to pick a favorite, but this place was great.
Day 5 – Our morning led us to the original Mast General Store in Valle Crusis, North Carolina. The highlight had to be playing with Crybaby the cat. Unfortunately, being the collector of old stuff I am, Mast General Store intrigues me but makes me annoyed that I can’t buy some of those delightful old things and add them to my collection of old stuff collecting dust.
The afternoon entailed a visit to the grandiose Moses H. Cone House, kayaking at Price Park and a hike to Linville Falls. These Falls are an easy walk to the first set of falls. You get right up close to hear the roar of the water and see the wonderful erosion in the rocks surrounding the area. They flow all around you and then drop off further down the mountain. There’s another trail up the mountain to see more of the falls.
We unwinded in the evening with a round of Mini Golf at apparently one of the most fun and challenging courses in the U.S. according to our friend Jenni. If you’re in Black Mountain, you won’t miss it with its Blue Raspberry water.
Day 6 – The Folk Art Center started out our day with amazing handy work by Appalachian artists. We weren’t supposed to take photos, so you’ll just have to experience it for yourself. The rest of the morning we spent checking out downtown Asheville where I picked up a piece of folk art – a soap dispenser.
For lunch, we dined at the Mellow Mushroom. Delicious food from a truly unique place. Sure, there’s 100 franchises, but I bet they’re all different. The decor is certainly its own brand of folk art. Even without the decor, the pizza is wonderful and the crust is fantastic like a bread stick with parmesan cheese on it. You won’t find uneaten crusts here!
In the hot, hot afternoon sun, we soaked up the beauty at the North Carolina Arboretum. I only wish I had a horticulturalist along to say “Will this grow in Wisconsin?” Everything was so pretty I wanted to take it back with me. The bonsais were especially amazing. I only wish I had more time to savor them, but we had to keep running back into air conditioned buildings. The heat certainly made us miss the cool mountains and so to the parkway to find Mount Pisgah. At the top of the world it seemed, we had a afternoon dessert in the comfort of an air-conditioned restaurant. The view was spectacular.
Day 7 – Our first stop was Mingo Falls in Cherokee, North Carolina. This was the easiest waterfall to get to and it was a nice tall waterfall. There weren’t many visitors, so it was nice and peaceful.
Our journey on the Blue Ridge Parkway hit mile number 469. We were done following the parkway through the Appalachians. It was a wonderfully kept and planned road, but it’s more than just a paved surface. Mapping out the mountains to find the best path for maximum enjoyment by all would have to be a labor of love. Considering all the treacherous work that went into creating roads and tunnels that cut into mountains miles and miles away from civilization is astounding. It’s a treasure preserved for us and I hope it continues to be experience for many, many generations. Go! Enjoy it!
Into the Smokey Mountains we go! Whether it was the upcoming weekend combined with the heat wave or what, the Smokey Mountains were PACKED. We were generally following at least a few other cars, the popular turn offs were packed and the roads were not as well kept as the Blue Ridge Parkway. We stopped at the visitors center for pamplets and to visit another rustic homestead. Just down the road, we visited another mill. Onward and upwards we continued to visit Clingman’s dome. Up, up, up it continued forever and ever. Pushing past my limits of lack of exercise and fear of heights, I scaled to the top of the mountain and to the top of the “dome” to see for miles in all directions.
On our way back down, we had bee encounter number six. The cool mountain air, though better than any air conditioning, seemed to let in an extraordinary number of bugs. Some survived, some didn’t. This time, he survived and we vacated the car ASAP. In the mountains, this takes about 5 minutes since there’s no place to pull over. Aren’t you glad we survived? We took some time out at McAllister’s Deli again to recover. Sweet tea and french dip makes everything better.
Our final hike followed a narrow winding path up to Laurel Falls. The mossy pavement was a bit damp, so I nearly fell off a cliff. Well, not really, but still, I did nearly fall. This waterfall was PACKED. I managed to get a good shot of the falls without people, but it took some time. Everyone seemed to come to wade in the water and some brave/stupid souls tried climbing up the rocks to the summit of the waterfall.
Our final evening we spent wandering around Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The town is basically one big tourist trap, seemingly owned by Ripley’s. Tucked into a small corner was The Funnel Cake Company. They claim to have the best funnel cakes in the world. Though I don’t have evidence to back up this claim, they did have a very enjoyable funnel cake. Jenny and I split a powdered sugar version and managed to get through most of it. I only stopped eating because I was full. If you can’t get to their store, you can always order their mix online!
Day 8 – The most uneventful of our days. Drop Jenni off at the airport and wind our way back to Wisconsin on the hottest day of the year. Oh Blue Ridge Parkway, how we miss you! Especially during Chicago rush hour…