Photo: Along The Parkway, Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia.
We left Maryland via Highway 29 and then turned south on 211 to hookup with the Skyline Road that snakes along the Appalachian Trail atop the ridges of the Shenandoah Mountains. The road afforded us views for miles on both sides and would have been even more spectacular had the leaves been willing to display their fall colours but, alas, they seem to be late this year. Near the end of the mountain range we dropped down into the little town of Stanardsville and the nearby Heavenly Acres Campgrounds. From there it’s a short jaunt to Charlottesville and Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.
Photo: We entered Virginia from Maryland, driving southwest into North Carolina.
We left Stanardsville under sunny skies and forecasts for temperatures in the mid to high 80’s. After setting up camp at the KOA just south of town, we took the short drive to historic, and hip, Charlottesville. We walked around the downtown, a very appealing assortment of red brick, white pillared buildings. The main street, which is blocked to vehicular traffic for about eight blocks, is chock full of ethnic restaurants and unique, funky and upscale shops, apparently much revitalized since an infusion of capital from native son, Dave Matthews.
It was the middle of the day and uncomfortably hot downtown so we decided to head for Monticello.
Photo: The main street at Charlottesville.
Just before Monticello is a place called Carver’s Apple Orchard. Located a mile or so up a dusty road, the mountaintop location provides excellent views in all directions. There you can pick your own apples or you can buy just about anything that has any relation to apples. We sampled the cider and a warm apple donut before departing with a couple of different varieties of apples and some hot apple salsa.
Photo: A view from Carver’s Apple Orchard.
Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, is both beautiful and fascinating, but a little over-priced, and overrun. It costs $22 per head and a tour of twenty people leaves every ten minutes. Janice quickly deduced that the site is taking in $440 every ten minutes. Not bad.
Jefferson first became the US envoy to France before becoming Vice President, and then the third President of the United States, where he served two terms. Besides holding those lofty positions, he was also the main author of the Declaration of Independence, a lawyer, an architect, a musician, a farmer and an inventor. This all took place in the 1700’s so he would have, as the US envoy to France, been sailing back and forth to Europe on a clipper ship and, to get to Washington, would have had to cross three major rivers, all on horseback. He also penned, and copied, (with his own invention) over 90,000 letters in his lifetime.
The home itself is a brilliant design but we were disappointed to discover that we weren’t allowed into the upstairs, (the dome) which was his main working and thinking space, nor were we shown the basement, which housed the kitchen, wine cellar, etc. We found out later that we could have toured the basement ourselves, but our tour guide never mentioned that to us. We did tour the enormous grounds, his experimental gardens, and his gravesite, on the way back to the parking lot.
Photo: Jefferson’s house at Monticello.
Photo: One tree hugging another on the grounds of Monticello.
Later, camping at the KOA, we met four couples from California who had known each other since high school. When they saw our BC plates they stopped by to compare notes. All four couples had been married for forty-or-so years and were blogging their sixty-six-day travels together, as The Class of ‘68. The most gregarious of them kept showing up at our campsite, with a refilled glass of wine, because he couldn’t believe we were on the road for a year, “A Year!?”
Photo: The pond behind our campsite at the KOA outside Charlottesville.
The next day we drove The Parkway through the Blue Ridge Mountains, detouring through Lexington for an oil change. Along the way we enjoyed lunch at a picturesque rest stop on the river. As we got out of the truck I noticed a crew cutting up dead wood near the river. I was scrounging for firewood so I approached to find that they were a prison crew on work detail. They wanted to bum some smokes, which I couldn’t help them with, but I did get some nice dry wood.
It turned out to be a long day driving because there were no campsites at our original target, Roanoke, but we did take a long hot hike along Otter Creek to help break up the trip.
Photo: Tim and Janice reflected in Otter Creek.
Photo: A view of some farms, from The Parkway, in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
At about 7:00pm we ended up in some back hills near a little place called Sydnorsville, on Highway 220. The most memorable thing there was this dog that made an immediate impression because, although he looked full grown and his muzzle was grey, he kept running around and playing like a puppy, all on his own. He was about the happiest and most friendly mutt we’d ever met. I was playing with him while we set up and, in the morning, I found him sleeping under our trailer, so I got him to wake Janice with his furry face. It turned out his name was Maybe, as in maybe we’ll keep him and maybe we won’t. We thought maybe we’d steal him, but we didn’t.
Photo: Maybe. I never said he was cute, or photogenic. To be fair, the goofy expression could be due to a scratch behind the ear.
Photo: The Kudzu Vine, originally imported from Japan, which now covers vast amounts of forest in Virginia.
The day was already hot when we pulled out of camp, headed for North Carolina, just an inch or so away on our map…