Road Tripping Roanoke to Asheville

If you haven’t read the first part of our road trip story, check it out here. We left off in Roanoke, VA heading down the Blue Ridge Parkway at the end of day one. On the second day of vacation, Kyle and I woke up early to drive south on the BRP to our first hiking destination, Smart View.

We threw some snacks and water in our packs and suited up for the moderate 3 mile loop that promised an amazing view at the end of the climb. We were surprised to find three separate mountain vistas along the way to reward us for our hard work. There was also an old cabin built in the 1890’s to explore while resting at one of the overlooks. The trail was well-maintained with benches along the way for taking in the scenery. With temperatures hovering around 65 degrees F, we had a very nice trip up the mountain, over the creeks and back to our car.

After completing our hike and scarfing down some granola bars and fresh fruit, we got back on the parkway to drive to North Carolina. Our goal was to make it to Asheville, NC by the end of the day, driving over 250 miles in an afternoon along the winding mountain roads on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We saw some interesting sights along the way, like a treble clef made out of shrubbery…

Mabry Mill, an iconic landmark along the parkway…

And the North Carolina state line! The National Parks Service had actually painted a line across the road to signal our arrival in the beautiful state of NC.

We soon arrived in the adorable town of Boone, NC for a 3:00 lunch.

Boone is the home of Appalachian State University. Remember when I told you to seek out college towns for vegetarian dining while traveling? Boone did not disappoint. We found a very veggie-friendly dining scene with several options for us to try.

We settled on Black Cat Burrito, which makes all of their enormous burritos meatless upon request. We could substitute tofu for meat on anything, and they even offer a separate vegetarian grill to ensure that none of the components of your burrito touch residual meat grease on the main grill. Black Cat Burrito also has amazing salsa that is packed with delicious fresh cilantro. Along with my “Don’t Be A Jerk Burrito,” I enjoyed my fist Magic Hat Vinyl of the season. Man do I love this beer. I was happy to embrace the fact that Kyle would be taking a turn with the driving soon.

After lunch, Kyle and I walked around the town and picked up a few souvenirs from the Mast General Store. I brought home a coffee mug (you can never have too many), a jar of local concord grape jam, and a bumper sticker that reminded us of canoeing on our summer 2010 trip to the Shenandoah Valley: “Paddle faster, I think I hear banjo music.”

We left Boone, NC and continued our journey along the BRP, passing several beautiful overlooks along the way. We stopped at a few to stretch our legs and take some pictures, but the third leg of our journey on the second travel day was a little more rushed than the first two in the morning. I wanted to get off the parkway at milepost 385 before it got dark, because the mountain roads can be dangerous to drive, especially while tired and driving with limited visibility. As the sun started to set and we hit milepost 350, we stepped out of the car to take a few more pictures, knowing that our drive on the BRP was almost over.

And then our trip took a crazy turn. As we prepared to complete the last 35 miles of our drive, with about a quarter tank of gas (4-5 gallons in my SUV), we did a few quick calculations and determined that we would get off the parkway in Asheville in less than an hour, with enough gas to get us to the hotel for the night. I started daydreaming of Asheville vegetarian eateries and planning our dinner as I drove.

As we came upon milepost 350, the parkway was barricaded with a sign that said “Parkway closed.” There was a nearby entrance to state park that closed at 8:00 PM. It was 7:45. We had no choice but to turn back. We couldn’t get a signal on the GPS and the next major road was about 12 miles behind us. As the sky grew darker, I drove back to the last sign for a major road that I had seen, passing the overlook that was the site of our last photo op, and praying for some guidance to get us off the mountain without running out of gas.

We got a signal on the GPS when I exited the parkway and it instructed us to take the exit road 10.5 miles down the mountain before we hit the next intersection. It got very dark and the road snaked its way down the mountain, as our ears popped, my fuel gauge came dangerously close to “E” and the constant braking sent a strong burning smell into the air vents. I remember telling Kyle “if I get you off this mountain alive, you better never let me go.”

Panic and threats. Qué romantica.

We passed shacks of homes, broken down trucks and, surprisingly, several “trout farms”. Hm. All I could think of was passing black bears, shotguns and locals who had little appreciation for my high beams streaming into their living rooms. I made Kyle count down the miles left until we hit the main road. When my low fuel light had not come on yet, the brakes had not failed yet, and we had just one mile to go, a huge wave of relief washed over me. Of course when we got to the “main road” it was several more miles before we saw houses, businesses, and a gas station that didn’t take cards at the pump. Thank goodness there was a friendly attendant inside who helped us out.

We made it to our hotel in Asheville, with a little assistance from the GPS, in about 45 minutes to an hour. Kyle and I dragged all of our stuff into the chic, modern lobby of the Courtyard by Marriott, still dressed in our hiking clothes. After throwing all of our stuff into the room and changing into clean clothes, we realized it was a few minutes til 10:00. All of my daydreams of vegetarian havens in downtown Asheville went out the window with our plans to drive the last 30 miles of our journey on the BRP. We slipped on our flip flops and walked a quarter mile to the closest sports bar for some grilled cheese sandwiches, dragged ourselves back to the hotel, and got a good night’s sleep.

The next day held all the creative vegetarian food our little hearts desired, along with beautiful scenery and relaxing activities for the whole day.

Spring Road Trip

Kyle and I celebrated our 5th anniversary and his 26th birthday last week with a road trip to Asheville, North Carolina. It was quite an adventure, filled with moments of happiness, suspense, hilarity, sheer terror, and natural beauty. We indulged in gorgeous mountain vistas and delicious creative food while driving and hiking our way through Virginia and North Carolina. I’m thrilled that we drove 1108 miles together and made it back alive and more in love than ever (awwww…). It was an unforgettable weekend and it all started just steps from our front door.

Spring has sprung in Richmond!

We headed out late on Wednesday morning with a goal of making it to Roanoke, VA before dark. We drove past Charlottesville, VA (one of our favorite places to visit on the weekend) and made our first stop in Afton, VA at Blue Mountain Brewery. Afton is about fifteen miles away from Humpback Rocks, the site of our very first hike together which we completed exactly one year (to the day) before this trip. Kyle requested a beer tasting and lunch for his birthday and I obliged.

At Blue Mountain, the beers are always delicious and the veggie pizza is heavenly. The pizza usually features seasonal and local ingredients. Blue Mountain often tops the veggie pizza with greens or herbs from the greenhouse across the street – it doesn’t get much more local than that!

After BMB, we looked at the time and realized we were ahead of schedule. Great news – we had time for another tasting! I drove down the road to Devils Backbone Brewing Company and we sat down to enjoy a tasting of 12 beers at their beautiful copper bar, with views of the brewery through the glass windows directly in front of us.

We didn’t like the beers here as much as the brews at Blue Mountain, but what DB lacked in taste and complexity, they more than made up for in the scenery. When you overlook the prevalent use of taxidermy in the decor, you realize the brew pub is quite cozy. While it isn’t our favorite, I have a feeling we’ll be back. We did have a great bartender and some good beers.

Side note: I feel that it would be irresponsible of me to leave out the following information about this trip. I had very small sips of the beers that I tasted and was careful to remain sober so that I could be an alert and responsible designated driver. I do not recommend that you take on these tasting flights in their entirety if you plan on driving. Kyle got more than his fair share so we could safely get to our destination and he could catch a birthday buzz. 🙂

After the second brewery, we made our way to the beginning of the Blue Ridge Parkway and drove 112 miles, stopping to snap photos along the way.

The weather was a perfectly sunny 70 degrees F and we cruised with the sunroof open, listening to our favorite songs, and enjoying the breathtaking views. After two or three hours (I don’t remember), we arrived in Roanoke, VA, where we checked into our hotel and drove downtown for some vegetarian sushi and small town scenery.

We rolled back to the hotel after dinner, making one final stop at Cold Stone Creamery on the way. Cold Stone is a very rare treat for us; I don’t think we’ve had their ice cream since last July. I felt that Kyle deserved a birthday cake, but baking or buying a cake for just the two of us wasn’t really feasible, so I treated him to a Birthday Cake Remix at Cold Stone. We didn’t really worry about the impact of the indulgent day on our waistlines because we were in for a mountain hike early the next morning. Plus, we were celebrating!

The second day of our road trip was a long and adventurous one. I’ll just say that parkway closures with no marked detours are never fun. But the hike was beautiful and I can’t wait to share pictures with you in my next post!