Day 12 – I Call Shenanigans on Shenandoah

Day 12 – I Call Shenanigans on Shenandoah

Roanoke to Washington DC

So, time for the last leg of the road trip phase of this trip, the final drive back to Washington DC. Of course we cannot take the direct route, we are determined to go via the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, which is reckoned to be the most spectacular section of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Oh, the anticipation!

Oh, the reality!

Not really the best weather today and so this is the magnificent view from one of the scenic overlooks…

Viewless

It’s there, no really, it is.

I can’t imagine why Ethan didn’t want to get out of the car to see this.

So the views were pretty limited, although it was quite an interesting drive through the thick fog and there were some good spooky forest scenes.

We spotted a few critters but unfortunately still no bears

Where are the bears at?

Have you seen any bears?

The gift shop was superb though so all was well. From this to rush hour DC was something of a culture shock and we spent a horrifying hour circulating around Union Station looking for the secret, un-signposted entrance to the hidden car park above the train station that concealed the location of the Budget drop off point.

So that was that. Something like 2700 miles and, by my reckoning, 11 states and one non-state (District of Columbia is not a State according to Ethan – he is a veritable gold mine of American facts and quite the guide to DC). Checked in at the hotel and straight out to explore via the capitol, Washington monument, and a brief hello to Mr. Lincoln.

Evening Abe

Evening Abe!

Ethan is like a kid in a political sweet shop. Should be an interesting last week!

Day 11 – On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine

Day 11 – On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine

Pigeon Forge to Roanoke

Time for the return leg back to DC. Goodbye to the South and thanks y’all!

An epic drive today. Could have been more epic as we had intended to do the entire route via the Blue Ridge Parkway but, once it became apparent that this would cause us to miss our homeward flight in a week’s time, we diverted onto interstates for part of the route.

The Blue Ridge Parkway itself is as scenic as you might expect, but dangerously so. Not only is it distracting, but there is an urge to stop at every overlook, which would extend the journey time beyond the end of the universe. To be honest, it all looks very similar and, although it is quite spectacular with layers of mountains gradually fading into the distance, I don’t think that the camera will do it justice. Still, this country has far too much space and too much scenery!

Blue Ridge Mountains

Mighty fine view!

I couldn’t help thinking about the Waltons and Laurel & Hardy as we drove through. Just looked it up and we are not far from the Walton’s museum – I think they have the original farmhouse used in the TV series. Little too close to Charlottesville for comfort though and Ethan has no idea what the Walton’s was all about.

We have probably seen more of rural America today than on any of our other trips. Lots of it looks very pleasant and patriotic (I can’t imagine seeing that sort of concentration of flags outside houses in the UK). Other parts look a little more sinister with menacing looking shacks and imagined sheds full of meat hooks. We were both a little concerned when the sat nav threw a wobbly in Arse End, Virginia.

There are of course some great place names. I was somewhat disappointed, given that I know there is a theme park containing a full-size replica of Noah’s Ark, that is wasn’t on Mount Ararat Hill as we drove through.

We resisted (well mostly) the urge for juvenile humour at Rocky Knob and by the time we passed through Back Creek after almost 10 hours of driving, it sounded oddly prophetic.

A lightweight 7 hour scenic drive tomorrow…

Day 2 – Drive until you drop

Day 2 – Drive until you drop

Three States in a Day – Washington to Winchester, KY

Not much sleep last night due to what sounded like a cricket ball rattling around the air-conditioning duct. Still, not a bad thing to be up early as the car hire company was already getting pretty busy before 7am … and of course we do have some distance to cover today.

I am Ethan’s bad books on 2 fronts with the hire car. Firstly, turning down the offer of a free upgrade to a Mustang on the basis that the cases wouldn’t fit (wouldn’t look so cool with the boot wedged open and a stream of stray underwear flying behind the car) and being assigned a car with New York plates, which I’m assured will not go down well in the South. Could be a long day…

Not much to see today as we blasted across Virginia (both the basic and West varieties), beyond some nice scenery and distant mountains which bode well for the return journey via the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline. We have had to amuse ourselves by admiring the custom registration plates passing us by. We have had

Giga TB, Dr Bytes, (presumably IT), Sparx (electrician?),  Go Kart (a small Fiat with an encouragingly amusing bumper sticker stating, “* Actual Size”) and our favourite XStacey I. We wondered whether this was deliberate or just that someone called Stacey was convinced that this was the closet she could get to a custom plate, much to the amusement of the people selling it.

Also encountered a rather strange toll road in West Virginia. We were charged twice along the stange stretch of road, without any opportunity to leave between the two sets of toll booths? Why didn’t they just charge double at the first one I hear you ask. Good question. We could only surmise that it was some sort of job creation scheme. For the record, the toll road was the worst maintained road we have been on.

By mid-afternoon it became apparent that after the earlier hold ups on the I81, reaching the Buffalo Trace distillery was but a pipe dream and pulled over at a Bob Evans restaurant for some refreshment. The manager who came over bore a striking resemblance to the pictures of the founder and I couldn’t help but wonder whether every branch of the franchise had a similar looking, middle aged genial manager called Bob. You don’t mess with a winning brand! You can tell we are back in the States though . What’s not to like about deserts with bacon?

Onwards to Kentucky and a hotel in Winchester. Switched on the TV and seem to have slipped into a time warp…

but at least Ethan can watch the baseball. Go Braves!

We have been researching drinking laws and been bewildered by the wet, dry, and moist (I have no idea) counties – some of the dry counties being the home to famous distilleries. Apparently even in wet counties, selling drink on Sundays is not allowed, nor between 29th December and 2nd Jan. That must have been some New Year’s celebration.

We thought we would go out and source a bottle of the local delicacy, but the local general store did not seem to stock spirits. It did, however, have plenty of stereotypes, so we beat a hasty retreat.

As ever in the US, everyone has been remarkably friendly and 500 miles in the first day means we can take it easy for the next couple. Weather forecast for Monday seems to be improving (fingers crossed) so, all looking good.

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