Monthly Archives: March 2013

Day 250 – What’s an itinerary?

We’re often asked by people we meet on the road if we have an itinerary for our journey.  I thought I’d give you a sample of a few days journeying to answer that question.

Thursday:  Spend the day driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, with a plan to arrive Friday in Shenandoah National Park, spend a few days there, then drive on to Washington, DC.

Thursday night:  Consult the NPS website and learn that Shenandoah is still closed for the season.  Decide to bypass the park and head to DC.

Friday morning:  Review the Virginia map and realize that DC is much further north than Williamsburg, so decide to head east instead of north.  Find Appomattox National Historical Park on our route and decide to check it out.

Friday afternoon:  Realize that I can’t pronounce Appomattox.  Meet a family and volunteer at Appomattox who highly recommend a stop at Battle of the Crater in Petersburg.  Consult map in search of a state park to camp before we continue on to Petersburg.

Friday evening:  Arrive at Twin Lakes State Park.  Learn about a cool rail-trail with a giant bridge and decide to stay an extra night.

Saturday afternoon:  Ride our bikes over the incredibly cool High Bridge.  Meet a park ranger at the bridge who recommends the High Bridge Museum in Farmville (pronounced Farmvull).  Decide to continue our ride into Farmville.  Fortify ourselves with frozen yogurt.

The High Bridge

The High Bridge

On the High Bridge

On the High Bridge

Saturday night:  Plan to visit Petersburg National Battlefield, then drive to Williamsburg.

Sunday:  Visit Petersburg National Battlefield, then drive to Williamsburg.  Sometimes things actually go according to plan!

Dressing up at Petersburg

Dressing up at Petersburg

Sunday night:  Snow.  Again.  Sigh.

View from the Twinkie

View from the Twinkie

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Day 248 – We’ve been kissed by an alpaca. Have you?

We’ve spent the last 3 days driving through Blue Ridge Parkway National Park.  The 2-lane road runs 450 miles through North Carolina and Virginia, and there isn’t a single stop sign or stop light!  Since the road is all NPS land, there are also no billboards or really anything ugly along the drive.

Bad thing about driving the parkway in March:  almost nothing is open.  No campgrounds, no bathrooms, no rangers, no visitor centers.  Even RV parks were hard to come by.

Good thing about driving the parkway in March:  we had the road to ourselves.  We only encountered oncoming cars a few times every hour.  And the bare trees afforded spectacular views, though this picture doesn’t capture the beauty.

Spectacular view.  Take my word for it.

Spectacular view. Take my word for it.

The first day we did a short hike to a waterfall that carved a 180-degree curve through solid granite before plunging to the river below.

Linville Falls

Linville Falls

The second day we pulled out at an overlook and noticed a sign across the highway for an alpaca farm and store.  Much to our surprise, it was open!  So we decided to investigate.  Robbie and C tried on all sorts of goods made from alpaca wool, while I gazed longingly at the yarns spun from the owner’s animals.  I’ve never actually met the animal from whom my yarn was made, so I was forced to buy two beautiful skeins as a birthday present to myself.  Then the owner took us down to the barn where we got to meet the alpacas.  One very friendly animal came right over.  The owner encouraged me to put my face up to it for a kiss.  I approached tentatively with visions of alpaca slobber dripping from my face.  But I was greeted with an alpaca version of an Eskimo kiss.  So sweet!

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C bonds with Max

The third day we were once again greeted by snow!  After consulting the NOAA weather radio (no cell service here), we decided to head back up to the higher elevation of the parkway.   But due to the sub-freezing temperatures and gusty winds, we opted to spend the day admiring views from the tropical warmth of the truck.  I’ve learned that below 30 degrees my intrepid spirit falters.

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Day 247 – The big four-oh

Just wanted to send out a big thanks to everyone who texted, called and e-mailed me on my 40th birthday! Each message made me smile, especially since I don’t usually make a big deal of my birthday.

I have to say that I can’t imagine a better 40th birthday party (or 10th anniversary!!) than spending it on the road with my two favorite people. It would have been nice to share it with the rest of you, though!

If the next forty years are half as good as the last forty, I’m going to enjoy the ride down the backside of the hill!

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Day 245 – We’re moving to Asheville!!!

We’ve fallen in love with Asheville, NC, and we found a great house we’re going to try to buy!  It isn’t currently on the market, but we think the owners will be motivated to sell if we offer them a cool 200K.  Do you like it?

The Biltmore mansion

The Biltmore mansion

Mom, you can breath now.

Seriously, though… Ashville is a really cool city!  I have to respect a city that offers more than 10 options within 5 miles when I search for “vegetarian restaurant.”  Tonight we ate at a place called “Nine Mile” that served veg-friendly Caribbean food.  Words cannot describe the depth of my joy in consuming four courses of culinary happiness.

Jerk tofu with asparagus, black beans and pineapple salsa

Jerk tofu with asparagus, black beans and pineapple salsa

Last week we stopped at a local bike shop to get the lowdown on the local mountain bike scene.  While there, we realized that C *finally* fits a 24” bike.  So she is now the proud owner of a black and green, front-suspension, properly geared mountain bike!  We took her out to the local trails, and she immediately started tearin’ up the hills.

On the Pine Tree trail

On the Pine Tree trail

If you’d like to see a 5 second clip of her riding, click below.  Make sure you turn your monitor 90 degrees to the right, as I am physically incapable of remembering to orient the camera horizontally for video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TbNchMgbpE&feature=youtu.be

Of course, now that C had a new bike, we needed to get rid of the old one.  Since it’s a really good bike, we decided to send it to my sister for her kids.  We had the bike shop box it up, and we took it to the post office.  The clerk put it on the scale and informed us that shipping would be $35, but we had to pay an oversize surcharge of $71!  Wha-huh?!  We learned that our box was 9” too big, so armed with a leatherman tool and 25 feet of overpriced strapping tape, we set about down-sizing the box in the post office lobby.  We hacked mercilessly at it and couldn’t make a single straight bend, but we succeeded!  Let’s just hope the bike makes it there in one piece.

We briefly detoured from our stay in Asheville to return to Robbie’s sister’s house in Charlotte.  We got to watch my nephew’s robotics team take second place in a lego-robot competition.  Then we buzzed over to my niece’s volleyball tournament to watch her team win first place.  We have some seriously talented kids in our family!  We don’t get to see them very often, so it was really special to us to be part of these events.

Astute readers will note that I have not yet mentioned the cold weather.  That’s because we’ve had THREE WHOLE DAYS of sunshine and above freezing nighttime temperatures!  I even wore a short sleeve shirt for a few hours.  Of course, our ride this morning was in 40 degree mist, but I’ve got a sunshine hangover, and I think I’ll be good for at least a few more days.

One last thing…I have to give a quick shout-out to my dad who sent us a care package containing….paper towels!!!  Good one, Dad.

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Day 238 – Baking in Smoky

Pigeon Forge sounds like the name of some colonial-era town, doesn’t it?  It’s not.  You know the area around Disneyland that’s filled with hotels, motels, chain restaurants, tourist traps, and stores that compete to sell the tackiest tchotchkes imaginable?  That’s what it’s like on the 20-mile northern approach to Great Smoky Mountains National Park!  Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park in the whole system with 9-10 million visitors each year.  Contrast that with Yellowstone’s average of 3.5 million visitors each year.  We arrived in the off season assuming we’d have a nice quiet visit.  Not so much.

Interesting fact:  The chemical that made the Smoky Mountains smoky was produced by a tree that has all but vanished here.  Maybe we should call this The Great Mountains Formerly Known as Smoky National Park.

Our first day here, we hit the visitor center (our usual MO) to find out what ranger-led programs would be available.  We were shocked that they had NOTHING on the calendar!  We were so sad!  As we shared our disappointment with the sympathetic volunteer at the desk, a nearby ranger took pity on us and promised to take us on a hike if we returned the next day at 11.  So we returned as instructed and had our own personalized, 2-hour, ranger-led hike.  Fantastic!

For some reason we’ve completely forgotten to take our camera on all of our hikes, so please enjoy this mediocre cell-phone photo of me emerging from a hillside natural bridge:

Hiking to Alum Cave Bluff

Hiking to Alum Cave Bluff

After 2 days at an RV park due to continued sub-freezing temperatures, the weather warmed up to tolerable, and we moved into the national park campground.  The weather was so nice (65 glorious degrees!) that we decided to cook outside like real campers.  A few weeks back we happened upon the Lodge Cast Iron factory outlet and picked up a proper camp oven.  I’ve wanted one for a while, but we didn’t have room in the pop-up.  Last night we used it for the first time!

Camp oven with a view

Camp oven with a view

I improvised biscuits using the ingredients I had on hand.  They turned out pretty well considering I didn’t have a recipe.  But I need to buy some baking powder…

Biscuits!!

Biscuits!!

C has spent every free moment playing in the creek next to our campsite.  Even the current rainstorm wouldn’t keep her inside!

Nature girl

Nature girl

You’ll be sad to know that we were unable to visit nearby Dollywood as it hasn’t yet opened for the 2013 season.  Moment of silence…

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