Sad News

Jasmine the Dachshund

Forever in our hearts

For those of you who have followed this blog, I know that you’ve come to know and love Jasmine and Juliet, our miniature Dachshunds.

I’m sorry to say that we lost our beloved Jasmine on February 16, 2018.

To read more, please go to:

Thank you to all of you who have expressed their condolences. We are heartbroken.

Leaf Peeping in the White Mountains

Fall in New Hampshire is magical. While it’s a sign that winter is coming (BOO), the grace and beauty of this season makes me almost grateful for winter.  Fall days are wonderful. Indian Summer often springs days in the high 70’s, while the evenings are crisp.

When I first visited New England, Tom took me on a trip up to the Kancamagus Highway to see the fall foliage. Ever since then, this drive, spanning from Lincoln, NH to Conway, NH, has been my very favorite byway in New Hampshire. The road, NH Route 112, is a 56.39-mile-long east–west state highway in northern New Hampshire. This scenic byway skirts the Southern end of the White Mountain National Forest and reaches a peak elevation of around 2900 feet.

The day started out a bit grey, but it didn’t matter. The colors (while not quite at peak) were vibrant and lovely and the day was mild.

Kancamagus Highway Lincoln NH

The beginning of the Kancamagus Highway

There were a surprising number of visitors on the highway and in the parking areas for a weekday. However, we got in a groove and didn’t see much traffic.

Kancamagus Highway

Kancamagus Highway – Alive with color

Kancamagus Highway

Today’s open road

Even though the vista points were mobbed, we had to stop for the lovely views. Surprisingly, some of the area had already peaked, and many of the trees were bare. Others hadn’t peaked yet and were still green. Still, there was vibrant color everywhere, and the day really was a bit of food for the soul.

Kancamagus Highway

Panoramic Vista (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

After coming to the end of the highway, we continued meandering across New Hampshire, pointing the front of the car somewhat towards home. All in all, we drove over 250 miles over the course of six hours. A lovely way to spend the day.

Fall leaf

Souvenir from our drive

And yes, Jasmine and Juliet enjoyed the ride too.

Birthday Extravaganza Part II: Mid-Coast Maine

The day after we came back from my birthday celebration in Portsmouth, we headed back out on the road. This time, we headed up to mid-coast Maine. We had vacationed up there around the same time last year, and we loved it. Tom’s sister and brother-in-law own a house up in Northport, and they were gracious enough to let us stay again.

The main attraction for us to visit the area again was for the 10th Annual Belfast Wienerfest! For the last 9 years, Dachshunds of all shapes, sizes and colors have been gathering to celebrate their wiener-ness. We had happened upon the fest (thanks to Tom’s brother-in-law) last year, and we made it a point to attend again this year.

It’s a lot of fun. All the proceeds go to help fund the lovely dog park in Belfast. There were Wiener Dog Races, a costume contest (see below), a parade and more. Last year, I just put some purchased costumes on the girls. This year, I went all out and made them Geisha costumes.

Jasmine and Juliet Geisha Girls

Aren’t my Geisha Girls sweet?

We didn’t win the contest, but came in the top five (out of over 30 entries). If you want to read more about our time at the Wienerfest, check out the post on the Jasmine and Juliet blog!

We ate at all our favorite places and really enjoyed the area. Suzuki, a sushi restaurant in Rockland, Maine, has the freshest sushi I’ve had on the East coast. Of course, we had to visit!

Suzuki Rockland Omakase

Mmmm! Sushi!

We mainly hung out in our favorite town up there, Belfast. Relatively un-touristy, Belfast was once a town of ill repute. Chicken processing plants befouled the waters with ‘extra’ parts. Which is probably why the lobsters are so plentiful and good in Penobscott Bay! We really enjoyed the views and the lazy days.

Camden Maine

Camden Harbor

Northport Bayside Penobscott

Penobscott Bay view from Northport Bayside (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

We also explored new areas that we had not visited last year, including Deer Island and Castine. We really enjoyed Castine’s small shops and charm. This small harbor teems with tourists in the summer, so we were glad to miss the crowds!

Castine Maritime Academy

Maine Maritime Academy in Castine

As usual, the dogs were perfect travel companions. Hey, they’re pros at it by now! Of course, they were both glad to get back home.


Jasmine is happy to be home!

New England is a lovely area to explore. I’ll post more of our adventures soon!

The Adventure Continues: Birthday Extravaganza (Part I)

Even though the official ‘Lost in America’ trip is now over, it doesn’t mean that we haven’t stopped wandering. We love to discover new places and just wander through small towns across backroads. It’s no wonder that we’ve driven most of the major backroads in Southern New Hampshire since our move here, and we have continued that passion since our return from the ‘big’ trip. I have decided to continue blogging our travels, if only to give John Howell more trips to follow for his flight simulator!

One such adventure started on my birthday. Tom surprised me with a trip out of town. The whole day was a big surprise. I had no idea where we were going or what we were doing. We got on the highway and headed East towards the Seacoast. However, when we didn’t take the exit for the expressway North, I thought we were going to Hampton Beach. Nope. We drove up through Hampton, but drove on. It was an absolutely crisp and lovely day, and we were driving along the shore. Lovely!

We approached Porstmouth, NH (that was my other guess as to our destination), but we just drove through and across the river to Maine. Hm. We drove around Kittery, did some shopping and then headed back down to Portsmouth. It did turn out that my guess was right, but sneaky Mr. Tom…he tried to hide it from me! We checked into our hotel and then headed out to walk around town with the dogs.

I love Portsmouth. It’s downtown area is filled with great restaurants, shops and galleries. The buildings are old andfunky, and I think the food is the best in New Hampshire. We ended up eating dinner at Mombo, an absolutely stellar casual fine dining restaurant (more props to Tom for picking this place!). The food was fabulous and the night was warm enough to dine on their patio.

Mombo Watermelon Feta Salad

Mombo – Watermelon and Whipped Feta Salad w/Balsamic Glaze and Pop Rocks!

Mombo Charcuterie

Mombo – Charcuterie Plate


Mombo Steak

Mombo – Wagu Kobe Hanger Steak

Given the number of drinks we both had, we staggered back to the hotel. It was a fine way to celebrate my birthday!

The next morning, we had a great breakfast at a local cafe and then headed up the coast. Once again, we just wanted to wander and decided to drive as far as we wanted. The drive up coastal Maine is spectacular. The houses are incredible, and the bright sunny day made the drive even more pleasant. We stopped at my very favorite lighthouse–the Nubble Lighthouse on Cape Neddick. This picturesque lighthouse is the epitome of Maine lighthouses…quaint and beautiful.

Nubble Lighthouse

Nubble Lighthouse – Cape Neddick Maine

We continued up the coast and finally stopped for lunch at a wonderful little seafood shack.

After a few more hours, we turned back for home. It was a great couple of days, and just the beginning of a week and a half of travel! Stay tuned for Part II! (P.S. Will add pics here soon! Check back!)

Did We Really Do All This?

RecapI went back over our entire trip, and there’s just SO much that we saw and did…it’s really unbelievable. I also noticed that I mis-counted the number of days we were on the road. We actually spent 53 days on the road. I had mis-counted early on in the trip!

People have asked what I liked the most out of this trip. Here are my favorites:

  • Favorite National Park(s): Zion, Grand Tetons
  • Favorite Food/Meal(s): Southwestern Cuisine in Santa Fe and Taos
  • Favorite Hotel: Cowboy Village Resort, Jackson, WY
  • Best Surprise: Dinosaur Tracks, Tuba City
  • Favorite Road: Tie between Blue Ridge Parkway and High Road to Taos
  • Favorite Person Met on the Road: Gary Turner, Gay Parita Sinclair Station
  • Friendliest People: On Route 66
  • Cheesiest Stop(s): Trading Posts along Route 66
  • Favorite Memory: All of them

Here’s a recap of everything we did. I’m combing through the 703 photos I printed from the trip in preparation for the creation of my Scrapbook. Check with me several years from now to see how much I’ve accomplished…

Date Day Start End  Driven  Total  Activities/Visited
Mon 4/29 1 Amherst, NH Painted Post, NY 405 405 Travel to Duncannon through Catskills, Margaretville
Tue 4/30 2 Corning, NY Duncannon, PA 157 562 Corning Museum, Travel to Duncannon
Wed 5/1 3 Duncannon, PA Duncannon, PA  – 562 Amish Country (Intercourse, PA)
Thu 5/2 4 Duncannon, PA Duncannon, PA  – 562 Cobra ride, Waggoners Gap
Fri 5/3 5 Duncannon, PA Burlington, KY 504 1,066 Travel to KY (via PA, WV, OH, KY), Buckeye Lake
Sat 5/4 6 Burlington, KY Burlington, KY 40 1,106 Villa Hills (Mrs. Egan, Mrs. Wilson), Skyline Chili, Derby Day Party
Sun 5/5 7 Burlington, KY Burlington, KY  – 1,106 Heather Visit, Montgomery Inn Ribs
Mon 5/6 8 Burlington, KY Corydon, IN 159 1,265 Anderson Ferry, Ohio Scenic River Byway
Tue 5/7 9 Corydon, IN Evansville, IN 157 1,422 Indiana: Marengo Cave (Corydon), George Rogers Clark Trail, Hoosier National Forest,
Wed 5/8 10 Evansville, IN Poplar Bluff, MO 267 1,689 Shawneetown Bridge (KY to IL), Shawnee National Forest (IL), Cave-In-Rock State Park, Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge into Cape Giradeau MO, (Indiana, KY, Illinois, Missouri)
Thu 5/9 11 Poplar Bluff, MO Cuba, MO 208 1,897 Ozark National Scenic Byways(Current River, Jacks Fork River), Mark Twain National Forest, Ozarks, Route 66 Cuba, Wagon Wheel Motel, Cuba Mural City,
Fri 5/10 12 Cuba, MO Springfield, MO 139 2,036 Route 66: Shelly’s Route 66 Café (Slinger), World’s Largest Rocking Chair (Fanning Trading Post), Mule Trading Post, Hooker Cut, Devil’s Elbow, Redmond’s “World’s Largest Gift Shop”
Sat 5/11 13 Springfield, MO Joplin, MO 82 2,118 Route 66: Gay Parita Sinclair Station (Paris Springs, MO), Red Oak, Carthage MO
Su 5/12 14 Joplin, MO Tulsa, OK 166 2,284 Route 66: Galena Kansas, Rainbow Curve Bridge, Oklahoma State Line, Afton Station and Route 66 Packard Museum, Totem Pole Park (Foyil), Blue Whale
Mon 5/13 15 Tulsa, OK Oklahoma City, OK 140 2,424 Route 66: Oklahoma City Quilt Shops (Quilt Sampler, Cotton Patch), McJerry’s Route 66 Gallery in Chandler, OK (Jerry McClanahan), Arcadia Round Barn (Mr. Sam),
Tue 5/14 16 Oklahoma City, OK Elk City, OK 116 2,540 Route 66: Fort Reno (El Reno), Cherokee Trading Post (bison, longhorn), Route 66 National Museum (Elk City),
Wed 5/15 17 Elk City, OK Amarillo, TX 196 2,736 Route 66: Oklahoma (Will Rodger Hwy Sign), Texas, Devil’s Rope/Old Route 66 Museum (Barbed Wire Museum in McLean, TX), Bug Ranch (Conway, TX), Amarillo, The Big Texan Steak Ranch
Thu 5/16 18 Amarillo, TX Tucumcari, NM 116 2,852 Route 66: Amarillo Antique Road, Lile Art Gallery (Bob “Crocodile” Lile), Cadillac Ranch, Sunflower Station Gift Shop (Adiran TX), New Mexico, Russell’s Truck Stop auto museum, Tucumcari Mountain, Tucumcari
Fri 5/17 19 Tucamcari, NM Santa Fe, NM 201 3,053 Route 66: To Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Old Pecos Trail, Santa Fe Trail, ThreadBear Quilt Shop, Pecos National Historic Forest (Puebo), Eldorado Hotel and Spa, Blue Corn Café
Sat 5/18 20 Santa Fe, NM Santa Fe, NM  – 3,053 Santa Fe Art Day: Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe Museum of Art, Guadalupe’s Fun Rubber Stamps,
Su 5/19 21 Santa Fe, NM Santa Fe, NM  – 3,053 Santa Fe: Canyon Road, Nidah Spa, Tia Sophia’s, Agave Lounge
Mon 5/20 22 Santa Fe, NM Taos, NM 91 3,144 High Road to Taos, Carson National Forest, Santuario de Chimayo, Taos, Downtown Bistro
Tue 5/21 23 Taos, NM Taos, NM 159 3,303 Taos: Taos Pueblo, Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, Earthships, Abiquiu, Lake Abiquiu, Downtown Bistro
Wed 5/22 24 Taos, NM Taos, NM 53 3,356 Taos: Michael’s Kitchen, Taos Valley Ski Area (Carson National Forest), Arroyo Seco, Old Town Taos, Ranchos Plaza Grill
Thu 5/23 25 Taos, NM Albuquerque, NM 183 3,539 Bandeleir National Monument, Albuquerque
Fri 5/24 26 Albuquerque, NM Albuquerque, NM 49 3,588 Old Town Albuquerque, Back Street Grill, Sandia Peak, High Finance Restaurant,
Sat 5/25 27 Albuquerque, NM Albuquerque, NM 178 3,766 Acoma Sky City, Academy Kennel, Hip Stitch, County Line BBQ
Su 5/26 28 Albuquerque, NM Albuquerque, NM 32 3,798 Albuquerque (down day)
Mon 5/27 29 Albuquerque, NM Flagstaff, AZ 333 4,131 Road to Flagstaff, To’hajilltee, Fort Courage, El Rancho Hotel (Gallup), Meteor Crater (Winslow),
Tue 5/28 30 Flagstaff, AZ Flagstaff, AZ 156 4,287 Grand Canyon, Aloha BBQ (Flagstaff)
Wed 5/29 31 Flagstaff, AZ Springdale, UT 263 4,550 To Zion: Dinosaur Tracks (near Tuba City), Glen Canyon, Kanab (Best Friends), Zion
Thu 5/30 32 Springdale, UT Springdale, UT  – 4,550 Zion, Doggy Dude Ranch, MeMe’s Café (crepes)
Fri 5/31 33 Springdale, UT Bryce City, UT 187 4,737 Zion, Checkerboard Mesa, Dixie national Forest, Cedar Breaks, Red Canyon, Bryce City
Sat 6/1 34 Bryce City, UT Bryce City, UT 40 4,777 Bryce Canyon
Sun 6/2 35 Bryce City, UT Richfield, UT 215 4,992 Escalante Grand Staircase, Kodachrome State Park, Escalante National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park,
Mon 6/3 36 Richfield, UT Jackson, WY 418 5,410 Bridger National Forest, Targhee National Forest, Afton Wyoming, Jackson, WY (Cowboy Village Resort)
Tue 6/4 37 Jackson, WY Jackson, WY 94 5,504 Grand Teton National Park, Downtown Jackson, Shoot Out Show,
Wed 6/5 38 Jackson, WY Jackson, WY 259 5,763 Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone Lake, wild bison
Thu 6/6 39 Jackson, WY Jackson, WY  – 5,763 Jacskon ‘down’ day
Fri 6/7 40 Jackson, WY Ft. Collins, CO 466 6,229 Medicine Bow National Forest, Ft. Collins, CO
Sat 6/8 41 Ft. Collins, CO Colorado Springs, CO 343 6,572 Rocky Mountain National Park, Arapaho National Forest, Top of the Rockies Scenib Byway, Pike National Forest, San Isabel National Forest, Pike’s Peak, Forissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Sun 6/9 42 Colorado Springs, CO Independence, MO 580 7,152 Colorado, Kansas, Missouri
Mon 6/10 43 Independence, MO Louisville, KY 501 7,653 Illinios, Indiana, to Louisville
Tue 6/11 44 Louisville, KY Burlington, KY 94 7,747 Burlington, KY
Wed 6/12 45 Burlington, KY Burlington, KY  – 7,747 Burlington, KY
Thu 6/13 46 Burlington, KY Burlington, KY  – 7,747 Burlington, KY
Fri 6/14 47 Burlington, KY Sevierville, TN 331 8,078 Bourbon Trail, Cumberland Gap
Sat 6/15 48 Sevierville, TN Asheville, NC 140 8,218 Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway (Asheville), Little Pigs BBQ
Sun 6/16 49 Asheville, NC Wilkesboro, NC 156 8,374 Blue Ridge Parkway: Folk Art Center (Asheville), Little Switzerland, Emerald Mines,
Mon 6/17 50 Wilkesboro, NC Salem, VA 176 8,550 Blue Ridge Parkway: Blue Ridge Music Center, Buck Mountain Band, Mabry Mill,
Tue 6/18 51 Salem, VA Winchester, VA 237 8,787 Blue Ridge Parkway (end)
Wed 6/19 52 Winchester, VA Duncannon, PA 141 8,928 Moose Apple Christmas Tree Farm, Duncannon, PA
Thu 6/20 53 Duncannon, PA Amherst, NH 450 9,378 Home!

Home Again, Home Again

Day 52: Thursday, June 20, 2013
Start: Duncannon, PA
End: Amherst, NH
Miles Driven Today: 450
Total Miles: 9,378

It’s over. I’m sitting here in my easy chair, getting used to home again. There’s a huge pile of mail to sort through. Bags to unpack. Laundry to be done. But that’s for tomorrow.

We had another lovely visit with Bob and Sharon yesterday. Sitting around the kitchen table, we caught up on the trip and the happenings in the almost two months since we last saw them. It was a nice respite before the final sprint home, and visiting with good friends was a fit way to start and end this grand adventure.

Of course, Jasmine felt right at home and climbed up onto the kitchen table. Perhaps she wanted to get in on the conversation. Or perhaps, she was just a little thirsty!

Singha! Jasmine's favorite brand!

Singha! Jasmine’s favorite brand!

Juliet spent the evening searching for food. She sniffed (and snarfed) every inch of the house, looking for tidbits of food that the resident dog, Lily, had dropped on the floor, under furniture, etc. She was driving us nuts! I think we’ve created a monster… 🙂



We have marveled at how much both dogs have changed throughout this journey. Jasmine is much quicker to acclimate to a new situation. She co-existed with Lily after a few minutes. Perhaps it’s because she had met Lily on the way out. But climbing on the table, accepting treats from everyone, and running around the house without her tail between her legs…such progress. Juliet is so much more curious, confident and STUBBORN. True Dachshund traits are coming out. But what’s really great is to see the two dogs finally bonding.

Our final leg of open road

Our final leg of open road

We’ve had a great run. NOTHING bad happened to us. No flat tires. No pickpockets. No items stolen from our room. No car trouble. Rarely any crowds. No tornadoes. No forest fires. We’ve had an incredible experience and the trip of a lifetime. I’ll summarize it all this weekend, after a bit of sleep and settling in!

Today’s travels were long, but relatively easy. There had been an accident on the bridge through Harrisburg a few weeks ago, so we decided to skip going through Harrisburg and went some backroads to reach the Interstate. So, once again, we had some picturesque travels across open roads.

But we were soon motoring our way back to New Hampshire. We flowed through New York, retracing some of our route on the Turnpike to the East of the Catskills and then through Mass and up home to New Hampshire. We hit very little heavy traffic except for areas with road work. Even then, we made it home in around 8 hours.

Back to New York

Back to New York

Massachusetts - We skipped it on the way out

Massachusetts – We skipped it on the way out

Close to home

Close to home

Waiting for us when we got home was a huge pile of mail, some packages we sent home, and Tom’s prized piece of Acoma pottery that we purchased in Albuquerque. It was a great welcome home, along with an in-tact house (thanks Sam!).

Acoma Pottery by Michael & Robin Romero

Acoma Pottery by Michael & Robin Romero

All is well. We’re a bit sad that the trip is over. But there’s really no place like home. As we were driving the last few minutes until we reached our house, I looked at the lush landscape that we call home. We’ve seen a lot of beautiful places and driven some wonderful open road. But seeing our town…the road home rivals any of the picturesque and quaint backroads we took.

It’s good to be back.

Back in Pennsylvania

Day 51: Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Start: Winchester, VA
End: Duncannon, PA
Miles Driven Today: 141
Total Miles: 8,928

Today was a day to visit friends. We started out in Winchester and headed just 30 minutes East to visit one of Tom’s former colleagues, Paris Resnick. Paris now owns and runs the Moose Apple Christmas Tree Farm in Berryville, VA.

It was a short but lovely drive to the farm. Our open road was quite nice.

Today's open road - Berryville, VA

Today’s open road – Berryville, VA

We were soon at the farm. Perfectly manicured Christmas trees greeted us at the foot of the driveway.

Arriving at Moose Apple Christmas Tree Farm

Arriving at Moose Apple Christmas Tree Farm

As we pulled up the driveway, we saw a fabulous log cabin. There was a huge wrap-around porch (which we later found out wrapped ALL the way around the large house).

Moose Apple Christmas Tree Farm - Log Cabin

Moose Apple Christmas Tree Farm – Log Cabin

We got a tour of the place. They have a nice variety of trees. What was great was that it was quiet…but not. Tons of birds were chirping and darting amongst the trees; sweet voices surrounded us. We spotted a bunny in the blueberry patch. There were nests all around the rafters. A little paradise!

The farm does (not surprisingly) almost all of their business between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but many people come out in October to pick and tag their trees. The farm will also be hosting a wine tasting in October with a local winery. Taste a bit of vino, pick out a tree…come back and cut it down. Sweet!

Tom and Paris

Tom and Paris

The inside of the house was even more spectacular than the outside! And the handmade crafts were fabulous! Kathy, Paris’ wife, paints and their daughter makes stained glass and fused glass (we bought an ornament). The farm also has jams, jellies and syrups made specifically for them. I picked up a jug or two of Brandy Vanilla Syrup. YUM!

We said goodbye to the Resnicks and motored on to Duncannon, PA to visit Bob and Sharon. Our route took us through an unusual part of the area where we were in three states in a matter of five minutes. We traveled from West Virginia to Virginia and into Maryland in a short spell! What travelers we are!

Hello there Maryland!

Hello there Maryland!

We were soon in Pennsylvania and headed for our final destination.

Hello again, Pennsylvania!

Hello again, Pennsylvania!

It was good to be in familiar territory! We started out our journey here; it was fitting that this be our last stop! Jasmine was looking forward to the visit!

Checkin' out the scenery

Checkin’ out the scenery

Perhaps Jasmine likes it here because she gets away with a lot. She climbed onto the kitchen table from my lap. Sharon’s response? “She’s allowed to do that HERE!” 🙂

Dogs are allowed on the kitchen table here!

Dogs are allowed on the kitchen table here!

We’ll stay the night here, and then we’re heading HOME. Yes, our journey is coming to an end.

Of course, before we left for home, we had to see one more thing…

First there was Margaretville, then...

First there was Margaretville, then…

Don’t Rain on My Parade

Day 50: Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Start: Salem, VA
End: Winchester, VA
Miles Driven Today: 237
Total Miles: 8,787

Today, we finished driving the Blue Ridge Parkway. Unfortunately, we hardly saw any of it! It rained today. Or I should say, it POURED today. The area had a nasty swath of thunderstorms. To make matters worse, the Parkway was also fogged in. So, prior to the torrential downpour, the fog was so thick that we could barely see 50 feet in front of us.

Luckily, we found another tanker truck full of coffee. (Nah!)

Coffee Tanker!

Coffee Tanker!

Today’s open road was…not so great. But one rainy day out of fifty…I can live with that!

Today's rainy and foggy open road - Blue Ridge Parkway

Today’s rainy and foggy open road – Blue Ridge Parkway

After we finished the Blue Ridge Parkway, we were going to drive Skyline Drive across Shenandoah National Park. The entrance is just past the end of the Parkway. However, when we got there, the ranger told us that it was completely fogged in the entire way. So, we decided to just motor along the valley floor and get over to Winchester. We took a local route rather than the highway. It snaked through small towns all along the way.

Tomorrow, we head to see Bob and Sharon, and then we’ll sprint home on Thursday. I’m sad to see this adventure end, but I’ll be glad to be home and to NOT live out of a suitcase.

Of course, Jasmine is none too happy at the prospect of seeing Lily, the very large and enthusiastic Labrador mix tomorrow. I’m hoping that her experiences on the road have made her a little less…fragile than the last time we visited!

I have to co-exist with a big dog? I am morose!

I have to co-exist with a big dog? I am morose!

Blue Ridge Parkway Into Virginia

Day 49: Monday, June 17, 2013
Start: Wilkesboro, NC
End: Salem, VA
Miles Driven Today: 176
Total Miles: 8,550

Today’s adventure continued our trek up the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway. Thankfully, I had picked up a book at the Asheville visitor’s center – Guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway. This book not only gives a history of the Parkway, but mile-by-mile info on the best sights and stops. The descriptions of each of the overlooks, views and historic buildings also come with the origins of the names and any historic significance. Like the Route 66 Guide we used, this has been a little treasure that has greatly enhanced our trip on the Parkway.

Today's open road - Blue Ridge Parkway

Today’s open road – Blue Ridge Parkway

Welcome to Virginia

Welcome to Virginia

Stone Bridge - Blue Ridge Parkway

Stone Bridge – Blue Ridge Parkway

One of the more delightful stops was at the Blue Ridge Music Center. Often hosting summer concerts at their outdoor amphitheater in the summer, the center also has a nice museum that showcases the roots of American music. We stopped to have a nice break from the road; we didn’t expect that there would be any performances on a Monday afternoon. We were wrong. We were treated to the music of the Buck Mountain Band. Banjo, fiddle, guitar, stand-up bass and some traditional Bluegrass music…they got our toes tapping! Of course, the girls enjoyed the music too!

Buck Mountain Band at the Blue Ridge Music Center

Buck Mountain Band at the Blue Ridge Music Center

Everyone's paws were tappin' - Buck Mountain Band

Everyone’s paws were tappin’

We stayed for a little while and then decided to move on down the road. We’ve had nearly perfect weather since we started this trip. We had three rainy days since the start–two while we were staying in Kentucky and one on the road when we were motoring from Colorado to Kentucky. Of course, in the span of the five minutes that it took to get the car, the skies opened up. As we drove down the road, the rain caused poor visibility and fog banks steaming off the ground. This didn’t make sense to us…it was 65 degrees out!

Instant fog - Blue Ridge Parkway

Instant fog – Blue Ridge Parkway

Where are we? Pea soup land!

Where are we? Pea soup land!

We were headed to the historic Mabry Mil, and I was concerned that we’d be rained out. The mill is one of the most photographed areas on the Parkway…I didn’t want to miss my photo op! Well, I was not disappointed. By the time we reached the Mabry Mill a few minutes later, the skies had cleared and the sun was peeking through. Stellar!

The mill was beautiful. While it’s not a working mill anymore, there was a craftsman demonstrating the creation of handmade chairs (historically correct, using the same tools as those used during the mill’s operation). The grounds were very beautiful, and the air was clean and cool.

Mabry Mill - Blue Ridge Parkway

Mabry Mill – Blue Ridge Parkway (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Mabry Mill - Blue Ridge Parkway

Mabry Mill – Blue Ridge Parkway. The clouds parted just for us! (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Moonshine exhibit - Mabry Mill

Moonshine exhibit – Mabry Mill

There were more vistas along the way, but much of it was rained out for us. However, we did stop at Devil’s Backbone (mainly for the great name).

Devil's Backbone - Blue Ridge Parkway

Devil’s Backbone – Blue Ridge Parkway (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Once again, the girls have been great. However, Juliet learned a new trick–jump from the back seat on TOP of the luggage in the back cargo area. Bad monkey! She’s getting bolder every day!

Little angels? Not that cherub on the left!

Little angels? Not that cherub on the left!

Tonight, we’re hunkered down at the La Quinta in Salem, VA (suburb of Roanoke)–a free night due to our frequent traveler points accumulated during this trip! Tomorrow, we’ll finish the Blue Ridge Parkway and traverse Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park (thanks John…we were planning this but your suggestion cemented our plans). We’ll then settle for the night in Winchester, VA and then head to Central PA to visit our friends Bob and Sharon for a night and regale them with our travel stories.

We began this trip visiting Bob and Sharon and the Michels family. It’s so nice that we are able to start and end a great trip with good friends.

North Carolina on My Mind

Day 48: Sunday, June 16
Start: Asheville, NC
End: Wilkesboro, NC
Miles Driven Today: 156
Total Miles: 8,374 

Our second day on the Blue Ridge Parkway was as scenic and pleasant as our first. Leaving the hustle and bustle of Asheville, we were on the Parkway in just a few minutes. Our first stop was at the Folk Art Center. A cooperative effort between the National Park Service and the Southern Highland Handcraft Guild, this center showcases the fine handicraft of artisans in the region. The Guild also runs several other shops in the area and on the Parkway (including the center at the Moses H. Cone house). It’s worth the stop!

Of course, the moment we got there, two young women approached us asking for a jump-start. This is the second time we’ve helped stranded travelers. Ladies and gents, just throw a set of jumper cables in your trunk. Really.

Anyway, we were on our way in no time. Today’s roads were less windy and challenging than yesterday, but still meandering through forest and mountainous terrain. There were so many lookouts and so many beautiful vistas…I’ve included just a few.

Another Blue Ridge view

Another Blue Ridge view

Blue Ridge Parkway Panorama

Blue Ridge Parkway Panorama (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Smoky blue mountains and a beautiful vista

Smoky blue mountains and a beautiful vista

Roadside Rhododendrons

Roadside Rhododendrons

We stopped at the Craggy Gardens visitor’s center and met the same ranger that we spoke to at the Asheville center yesterday evening. At least they get to move around and have a bit of variety in their job! We stopped to ‘smell the roses’–or, in this case, the Rhododendrons, and spied the next tunnel around the bend:

One of the many tunnels on the Blue Ridge Parkway

One of the many tunnels on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Craggy Gardens

As we made our way North, we decided to stop to find another deli to get a picnic lunch. Little Switzerland stood out on the map, with a cafe and an attraction called the Emerald Mines. Bingo! We got off the Parkway and were immediately in the town. Of course, the bright sign advertising the Emerald Mines (tours, panning, gift shop, etc.) beckoned us. So off we went!

There were two areas–a mine museum and self-guided tour, and a little mining area. The mining area looked like a fun place to take the kids. You get a bucket (various sizes/costs) and a sifting box. You shovel your ‘raw’ materials (sand, some gemstones, some rocks) and wash away the sand to find your treasures. It looks like a fun place to take kids.

Barn quilt on the way to the Emerald Mines

Barn quilt on the way to the Emerald Mines

Mine shaft opening at Emerald Mines

Mine shaft opening at Emerald Mines

We then stopped at the Switzerland Cafe and had lunch. They had outside seating, so we just ate outside. While we were pulling in, Juliet started barking at a Jack Russell terrier walking down the street. Our little non-barking dog has turned into a Barky McBarkster!

After lunch, we went on to the Linn Cove Viaduct. This viaduct was the last bit of the Blue Ridge Parkway to be built. It hugs the face of Grandfather Mountain and was built specifically to lessen the impact on the ecology of the area. Each part of the roadway was constructed off site, and each piece was installed in place. Here’s a video of us driving across the viaduct! Oh so thrilling! 🙂

Towards the end of the day, we stopped at the Moses H. Cone summer house and Craft center. Wonderful house (forgot to get a picture…duh), the same art as the first Folk Art Center. But still a nice stop!

The 'summer house' of Moses H. Cone

The ‘summer house’ of Moses H. Cone

We’re staying in Wilkesboro tonight. Unfortunately, the smaller towns along the Parkway didn’t have dog-friendly accommodations. Wilkesboro is about 20 miles off the Parkway, down a HUGE hill and into a valley. The Holiday Inn Express that we’re staying at…well, let’s just say that they are dog tolerant, if that. They tried to ream me with an additional fee on TOP of the ridiculous dog fee that I’m paying. Uh, NO. Then, you can’t have the dog in the lobby; yet the doors that they told us to use have a no dogs allowed sign. Holiday Inn Express, you stink!!!

However, we’re in for the night after a lovely dinner at the Mason Jar Grill. Yummy food, inexpensive…and hush puppies. What could be better? Their homemade banana pudding! YAY!!

Tomorrow, we’re back on the Parkway to Roanoke, Virginia. However, the good weather we’ve experienced throughout this trip is coming to an end. We’re going to have a wet week, especially as we get closer to home.

Jasmine says, "What's for dinner?"

Jasmine says, “What’s for dinner?”

Chillaxin' at the Holiday Inn Express in Wilkesboro. Dog unfriendly. Don't stay here.

Chillaxin’ at the Holiday Inn Express in Wilkesboro. Dog unfriendly. Don’t stay here.