Having traversed these paths dozens and dozens of times over the preceding +35 years, I hardly felt as though this evening's drive was the beginning of a RoadTrip----until I loaded the new Chevy Equinox with my lovely wife's "lite-travel" gear. OK, Diana Ross is aboard, time to set sail--the volume and mass of her gear makes it a RoadTrip --not that there's anything wrong with that.
Tonight's drive was from Raleigh, NC to Watauga County, NC, some 200 miles, where we are fortunate to have a family-owned vacation home in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Over the decades since I matriculated at Appalachian State University, 4-laning and widening have made what used to be a 5 hour drive in a 1967 International Harvester Scout 800 into a 3.25 hour drive at 74 to 82 mph in a modern "crossover". The V6 was not in our original "green" plans, but the little I-4s were scarcer than hen's teeth during the short, dramatic Cash for Clunkers program, so we grabbed the AWD model which was available, a V6-powered unit with an embarrasment of options and gadgets. But let's face it: The Government was certain my 1990 four-wheel drive Suburban with 200,000 miles, running on 6 or 7 cylinders (out of 8 available), and with BOTH the front and rear driveshafts about to fall out from under it, was worth $4,500, and given that they own the very manufacturer of that venerable old truck, who am I to argue with them? For now, at least, I'm excited about the 3.0 liter V6, 6-speed Equinox. She's a little hot-rod when pushed, and when lugged down in 6th gear, she's a very modest little girl in terms of fuel consumption.
We picked up around 3,500' of elevation along the way and it's in the low 40s here at 4,000' as of 0100 hrs. Sweet.
Traffic was fairly light along I-40, US 421, NC 105, and the secondary roads leading up to our lair. I still pine for an FM radio frequency transmitter/receiver rig which will force left lane idlers into the middle or right lane, but it looks as though that will have to wait "until I'm King". Some say I'm a bit impatient.
Today's sunrise (0715 or so) will see us departing for Damascus, VA, where the Virginia Creeper Trail, all 35 miles of it this time, awaits us. Rick at Blue Blaze has us booked for a pair of nice Trek cycles, high handlebar stem, well-padded saddle, 21 gears, and big, fat tires--everything mid-50s cyclists might want, and for the low, low rental fee of $12 (how's that for a plug?). If the approaching cold front and the showers it's vanguard will allow, we'll blow down from Whitetop Station back to Damascus in < 2 hours and will have some 3-3.5 to thoroughly explore and photograph the Damascus-Abingdon segment (virgin territory for Terry and I), arriving there in advance of the showers with any luck.
Hot showers, pasta, wine, and a fire in the fireplace will fill the evening hours later tonight. No sunset likely, given the anticipated rains, but wait for Saturday and Sunday. The forecast is for awesome.
An assault on Grandfather Mountain, followed by Art In The Park in Blowing Rock, a crystal-clear early autumn sunset from the deck, and perhaps more wine, are all on Saturday's agenda. Wish us luck.