🎶 Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze
Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mama
Take me home, country roads 🎶
Ok, we’re not in West Virginia, yet, but North Carolina, so we’re in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here’s your first history lesson today – the Blue Ridge Mountains were named because of the visible blue haze of the chemical Isoprene that is released from the many oaks and poplars that cover the mountains.
The scenery as we drove from Tennessee through New Found Gap into North Carolina, was stunning. We can only imagine how beautiful it must be in the fall as the leaves are changing colour.
Well, the storm that has been teasing us for the past few days, finally caught us! We selected a campsite in Cherokee, North Carolina, due to its proximity to a fabulous bike path on a historic Rail to Trail, and also the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is supposedly a gorgeous scenic drive. But, with the torrential downpours, thunder and lightening, we had to forgo our plans and do a museum instead.
Since we had toured President Andrew Jackson’s plantation and found out about the Indian Removal Act, the least we could do was pay our respects to the Cherokee Indian Tribe! They have a very interesting museum in town and we spent a few hours reading the information and learning the history.
Happy Mother’s Day! A shoutout to my amazing son, Joseph (and wonderful daughter-in-law, Hannah) – I’m so proud to be your Mom 😘 Thanks for your love and support, and the phone call 💖 We’re sure looking forward to you joining us soon!
We drove about an hour to the Asheville area to spend most of the day at the teeny, tiny summer house of the Vanderbilt’s, The Biltmore Estate! It just happens to be the largest privately owned house in the United States, approximately 180,000 square feet, which is close to 4 acres of living space!
George Washington Vanderbilt II started construction in 1889 and it was completed in 1895. He named his estate Biltmore, from “De Bilt”, Vanderbilt’s ancestors’ place of origin in the Netherlands, and “More”, for open, rolling land. At the time it was built, it included 125,000 acres of land, but over the years the family sold off parcels to pay for upkeep, so it’s a mere 8,000 acres now!
There are 250 rooms in the house, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, 3 kitchens, and comfort advancements that were uncommon for the time, like forced-air heating and electric elevators!
It is hundreds of years newer than the castles and estates of Europe, but impressive nonetheless! The furnishings and decor are original and it’s mind blowing to fathom the cost of such opulence. There were also models in each room of exact replicas of the clothing that would have been worn, copied from old photographs. The designers took several years to copy fabric and techniques that were used in the late 1800’s.
The grounds and gardens were what you would expect and reminded us of Butchart Gardens in Victoria. There were trails for walking, cycling and horseback riding all around the estate. It would have been incredible to be a guest of the Vanderbilt’s!
It was such a special day, but not over yet!! The weather had improved enough that we were able to finally drive the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville back to our campsite in Cherokee. It’s a good thing we left Monty at the campsite, as he wouldn’t have been able to enter 3 of the tunnels 😳Would the drive had been slightly more fun in a sports car or on a motorcycle? You bet! 🤪 But the truck did just fine.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469 mile roadway that literally rides the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and was designed to give everyone easy access to the beautiful views. It also provides access to 360 miles of hiking trails. Such a fabulous way to end a wonderful day!
We headed north out of North Carolina up to the great southern state of Virginia 🤪 We settled in to an adorable little RV park in Fries (pronounced ‘freeze’) which runs along an abandoned railway that was converted in to 57 miles of walking and cycle paths, called New River Trail State Park.
We have met some of the nicest people in Galax (pronounced Gay-lax), which is close by to Fries. The girls at Hair Classics were so much fun and a big thank you to Callie for making Joanne look even younger than she feels 😘 Lunch at Creek Bottom Brewery was excellent!
If you’re a fan of guitars, you may have heard of Wayne Henderson of Henderson Guitars. He’s from this area and often plays at the local music festivals. The waiting list for one of his masterpieces is 10 years, and even Eric Clapton had to wait 7 years for his guitar. Brad Paisley is still waiting for his.
Galax is also famous for the longest running International Old Time Fiddlers Convention, that has been going strong since 1935, and brings in close to 80,000 people each year.
A quick pop over back in to North Carolina for a stop in Mayberry 😀 It’s not actually Mayberry, but Mount Airy, which happens to be the hometown of Andy Griffith, so it’s referred to as Mayberry! It felt like we were on the set of a tv show. Super cute! They even have tours with his police car going up and down the streets. We needed a new bike tire and that was the closest town with a bike shop.
Mount Airy was quite famous before Andy Griffith came along. The world’s largest open faced granite quarry, The North Carolina Granite Corporation, is located here, and it was built in 1889. It is 266 acres and there is enough granite there for another 300 years of supply. Some of the famous buildings that this granite can be found in are Fort Knox, Arlington Memorial Bridge, The Washington Monument and even The Louvre. Apparently, astronauts use the quarry as a reference point from space.
Ahhhhhhh, biking paradise 🚴♂️ The New River Trail State Park is a compacted gravel surface of the old rail bed, and had such beautiful views along the river, with trestles, a steel beam bridge and a tunnel. It was one of the nicest rail trails we’ve ever ridden. We’ll do just about anything for beer, pizza and ice cream, so 40 miles round trip was well worth it 😎 And again, we met some of the nicest people on the Trail.
We are totally destination cyclists, so if the reward is not a pub for beer and pizza, it has to be to see something of interest. Today we did a crazy ride, since we were still feeling yesterday’s mileage but decided to ride out to The Shot Tower. It was completed in 1807 and was the first factory to produce ‘shot’ or ammunition for shotguns, on American soil.
The tower stands 75 feet above the ground and extends in a shaft 75 feet below the ground, for a total of 150 feet. Workers would drop molten lead through a sizing screen from the top of the shaft and it would reach terminal velocity, form a round ball, and drop into the cooling water that was at the bottom of the shaft. The result was perfectly round lead shot. Incredible!
It was a beautiful ride through another tunnel and over lots of trestles. No pub stop this time, but we did have leftover pizza from yesterday, and a lovely bottle of wine and picnic pack! Thanks to Paula and the gang at our bank, Prospera Credit Union, for our fun gift. 😎
It was a long, long day and 43 miles was a bit more than we should have done. Sore butts, a dead battery, plus, we over shot the Shot Tower 😜 which added an extra 3 miles to our ride! At least the scenery was spectacular!
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to North Carolina and Virginia and are especially sad to be leaving Galax.