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  1. Default Visit Gettysburg to Smokey Mtns


    We are a couple from the UK, on only our 2nd visit to the US. We are flying in to BWI on 23rd May, have a hire car booked and have 3 nights booked at a nice B & B in Gettysburg.

    From there we want to drive the length of the Skyline Drive, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. We are booked to fly back from BWI on 7th June. What we are after is to get a feel for the culture, the music, history, food and people of the area. We like walking, eating, talking, drinking, listening!

    If we have time, we would move East to the coast to drive back up to BWI, but really want to concentrate on the Drives as above.

    I would greatly welcome any help, suggestions, advice taking in our interests.

    Thank you very much....look forward to seeing you there!!!

    Mike and Jean

  2. #2

    Default Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway

    Hello Mike and Jean, and welcome to the RoadTrip forums!

    Just a quick note here--I'm a CPA (roughly equivalent to a Chartered Accountant in the UK) and today's our filing deadline day, hence the up and at 'em at 4am.

    I must say you've chosen a great time to visit Skyline Drive (SD) and the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). You have lots of time to visit and explore, and after tonight's deadline, I'll sit down and log back in with some specific thoughts. Just a couple of general ones follow:

    There are a number of opportunities to visit Civil War sites, Colonial America sites, and sites relating to more modern American life and culture. Travel on the SD and BRP is very slow, given low posted speed limits and fairly heavy travel volume, especially on weekends. Be aware the farther south you go on the BRP, the more you're getting into fairly remote parts of Virginia and North Carolina, and excepting Boone-Blowing Rock, NC, and Asheville, NC, there's not a lot in the way of nearby towns and villages to enjoy a few pints and a band once you get south of, say, Roanoke, VA. In fact, many counties in far western and southwestern NC are dry. Lastly, for the moment, be thinking about your tastes as to the coastal part of your tentative plans. We have two primary experiences to offer in NC and VA: Heavily developed tourist beaches with lots of high-rise hotels, etc, and more remote beaches, accessed by 2 lane highways and ferries. My suggestions as to the eastern loop will depend on what your particular tastes are between those two categories.

    Well, off to work. I'll check back in tomorrow.


  3. Default Skyline Drive & Blue Ridge Parkway

    Hey Foy

    Thanks for the dedication! I am in Finance too, an offshoot of Marsh Inc in the UK, so know the routines.

    Very good start thanks. I guess my answer to the second part of the trip ties in nicely with the first, ie we much prefer the quiet side, forget the Hotels etc, no way! Where you say the Southern part of the trip will be quiet, that is just what we want really.

    Good luck with the accounts.


  4. #4

    Default Some ideas about your trip

    Hello again Mike,

    Well, yesterday was a bit more exciting than I prefer. But it's over for 9 months, at least.

    Since you have an interest in Southern Appalachian (aaa--puh--LAH--chun) culture, you might be interested in reading Horace Kephart's "Our Southern Highlanders". Published in 1913, it's a classic piece of nonfiction and relates largely to the southwesternmost portion of your trip, down in the Black Mountains and the Smokies. A more recent study of Southern Appalachian Scots-Irish culture is James Webb's "Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America". Senator Webb (D-Virginia) included some not-so-complimentary descriptions of the English, Scottish, and Irish histories, some of which may be looked down upon by the English, and some of which is almost certainly a highly generalized account, but he's got the hardscrabble, independent people who settled along your route pretty well pegged. You might also enjoy "Cold Mountain", the Charles Frazier novel, set in North Carolina and particularly the Smokies. Frazier is my brother-in-law and his exhaustive research into the language and social systems of 1860s North Carolina is regarded by many as a most accurate depiction of life back then.

    You might also enjoy having copies of the DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer for Virginia and North Carolina. They run around $25 each but are invaluable references and would allow for some side-road shortcuts and general exploring. The topographic map base of the Gazetteers is my principal reason for having them along when I travel.

    The Skyline Drive (SD) through Shenandoah National Park (SNP) follows the crest of the Blue Ridge range in a section of the range where the Blue Ridge is actually a large, broad, single ridge. In many places you'll have views of the Virginia Piedmont some 2-3,000' below to the E-SE, followed quickly by views to the W-NW down into Shenandoah Valley. A number of roads and highways cross the range, with US 211 and US 33 being the principal crossings. There are many pullouts for views and historical markers, one of which is in westernmost Madison County at the gap through which a large Confederate force crossed the range in a most difficult and unlikely spot, gaining a significant tactical advantage over the surprised Federal forces they were engaging. Many enjoy the proximity of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and the University of Virginia campus (oops, they prefer "The Grounds" at U-VA) and their location in Charlottesville is only 25 miles or so from the southern terminus of the SD at Rockfish Gap.

    The BRP picks up where the SD ends at Rockfish Gap, and within a few miles, the Blue Ridge range broadens noticibly, with a wide range of foothills to the east and a series of parallel ridges of the Valley and Ridge geological province to the west. Many enjoy a jog over to Natural Bridge and Lexington. Lexington has a quaint downtown and is the home of Virginia Military Institute a state-funded military college, and Washington & Lee University, a small private institution. The BRP is at its lowest points near Lynchburg where the James River cuts through the range and at Roanoke, where the Roanoke River does likewise.

    South of Roanoke, the elevation picks back up considerably and you enter a rather more remote part of Virginia, with fewer towns close by your route. There are a couple of wineries just north of Meadows of Dan, and a little past there you can drop down to Mount Airy, NC, some 20-25 miles to the south, and enjoy a batter-fried pork chop sandwich at Snappy Lunch, the real-life diner made famous in the 1960s TV series "The Andy Griffith Show". Mount Airy is depicted as "Mount Pilot" on the show, and it is the hometown of Andy Griffith. You'd best get to Mount Airy by late morning, as the Snappy Lunch draws a crowd every day, and they close at 2pm and routinely run out of the daily supply of pork chops.

    Near the VA-NC border, there are opportunities for canoe rentals along the New River, a calm but gorgeous stretch of water. Quite a bit further out of your way, at Damascus, VA, is a very popular mountain bike trail known as the Virginia Creeper Trail. The trail is one of many "rails to trails" corridors and follows the roadbed of a Norfolk & Western rail line where the trains were known as Virginia Creepers due to their slow progress up and over the Blue Ridge Mountains. The most popular section is a 17 mile all-downhill run from Whitetop Station back down to Damascus. There are a number of mountain bike liveries in Damascus which offer shuttle service up to the top of the gap at Whitetop Station. I'm told one needn't even pedal until the last 3-4 miles, where the trail follows a mountain stream as it enters the valley floor just outside of Damascus. The trail itself, being on a railroad bed, is not a technical, difficult mountain bike run. Instead, it's an easy downhill glide through forests and farmland, far from the highways for the most part. At Damascus, the Appalachian Trail, a 2,200 mile footpath from northern Georgia all the way to Maine, crosses US 58, and the village is alive with hikers, cyclers, cafes, and Bed and Breakfasts inns. Only 25 miles past Damascus is Abingdon, VA, with a quaint downtown and home to the regionally famous Barter Theater, where thespians were paid in produce, chickens, and sausage back during the Depression. There are a number of slow, curvy routes off of the BRP over to Damascus, one of which is US 58. US 58 does, however, access the Grayson Highlands State Park and Whitetop Mountain, offering commanding views of VA, NC, and Tennessee.

    Back in northwestern NC, the Parkway passes through my favorite part of my home state--the Boone-Blowing Rock area, home to my alma mater, Appalachian State University. Boone is a bustling college town (and, true to my curmudgeon-in-training title, I'll say it's a bit too busting for me these days) and Blowing Rock a small, quaint village with a large park in the village center. Locals and tourists alike enjoy the park benches on cool Spring and Summer afternoons and evenings. The Moses Cone Manor is on the BRP just outside of Blowing Rock and features horseback riding and hiking on some 25 miles of gently sloped carriage trails which textile magnate Moses Cone had built on some 6,000 acres of mountain land he's acquired as a place to beat the summertime heat of his industrial base in Greensboro.

    From Blowing Rock, the BRP skirts the slopes of Grandfather Mountain via the Linn Cove Viaduct, an engineering marvel designed to prevent use of cut and fill mountain roadbuilding. The Grandfather Mountain is a destination in and of itself, with a "mile high swinging bridge" (so called because it's at 5,300') connecting two rocky spurs near its peak. You can drive the paved road all the way to a visitor center and take in the bridge walk. A more rigorous walk to take would be the hiking trail from the visitor center over towards or to Calloway Peak, the highest of several peaks of Grandfather Mountain, at just below 6,000'. The important thing to remember about this hike is the elevation change is "net" 700' or so, but you gain and lose 600-700' three times in the process, and sections of the trail employ ladders over steep rock faces. A jaunt in the city park, it ain't. But the views from Calloway Peak are stupendous.

    A little below Grandfather Mountain, I would certainly recommend the short hike to Linville Falls. If you like caves and caverns, Linville Caverns is an enjoyable place to visit. Just past those locales is Little Switzerland, where on the BRP is the Museum of NC Minerals, a favorite stop for the geologist in me. Not far beyond Little Switzerland is the turnoff to Mount Mitchell, the highest point in North Carolina at +6,600' and featuring a road right to the summit.

    Asheville is just a short drive beyond Mount Mitchell and enjoys a reputation as liberal, artsy college town, with a lively night life in the downtown. The Biltmore Estate, possibly the closest thing to a baronial castle in the States, is just outside of Asheville, and tours are offered daily. I've never been, and don't particularly enjoy that kind of thing, but it draws rave reviews from those who do.

    Below Asheville, the BRP traverses sections of the Balsam Mountains I am not very familiar with, and I'm pretty sure it ends near Bryson City, at Cherokee. Much of Cherokee is devoted to Native American casino and other fairly commercialized attractions, but there's a good museum there.

    Just a bit past Bryson City is the Nantahala (nant-a-HAY-lah) Gorge. The Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) headquarters, at Wesser, is a great place to visit, and you can book a raft trip on the Nantahala River from there. It's about 2 hour float along fast but safe water (and it's COLD, having been drawn from several hundred feet depths of the Nantahala Reservior, right at the put-in.) The take-out is right there at the NOC, and there are locker rooms and hot showers, which you'll appreciate on even the warmest of days. The last time I was there was in late April, and I was sure I was going to die before we got back to Wesser in the rafts, as the temps were in the 50s, the skies overcast, rainy, and windy. That atop of 40 degree F water made for a cold, but fun, day.

    If you're really keen on whitewater rafting, look at going over to the Ocoee (oh-KO-ee) River, around an hour to two hours west of Wesser and Andrews. The NOC runs the Ocoee, as do many other outfitters. The Ocoee is dam-controlled and is best known as the venue for the 1996 Summer Olympics whitewater kayaking events.

    Now, to make the return leg of your trip a coastal tour, you've got yourself a good full day's drive back through the mountains to Asheville, thence all the way across the Piedmont and Coastal Plain to the coast. If small coastal towns and villages please you, I'd travel to I-40 out of the mountains, thence I-40 all the way to here in Raleigh, thence US 264 through Greenville, Washington (which we refer to as Little Washington),and on to the NC Dept of Transportation ferry landing at Swan Quarter. Swan Quarter, by the way, is not at the end of the Earth, but you can see it from there. There, you'take a 2.5 hour ferryboat ride across Pamlico Sound to Ocracoke Island. Reservations are recommended for the ferry. Ocracoke Village, where the ferry lands, is a great little town and is very much a throwback to long-ago coastal NC life. The locals speak with a distinctly Elizabethan brogue and are known to one another as "high tiders", which they pronounce "hoi-toiders". The rest of us are referred to "dit-dotters" by the hoi toiders. Excepting Ocracoke Village, the entire 20 or so mile length of Ocracoke is undeveloped and is within the Cape Hatteras or Cape Lookout National Seashore. You can take a small boat trip across Ocracoke Inlet to Portsmouth Island and Portsmouth, a preserved but uninhabited village on entirely uninhabited Portsmouth Island. Well, uninhabited except for a caretaker who shares the village with the largest and most aggressive mosquitos I've ever encountered.

    If you happen to choose a four wheel drive SUV as your car hire, you are allowed and would be capable of driving on the beach on Ocracoke Island and on much of Hatteras Island, to which you'll need to connect via the Ocracoke-Hatteras Ferry, another NCDOT ride, but of only 45 minutes duration and not needing reservations. On Hatteras Island, at Buxton, is the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. It's just over 200' in height and offers a great view of Cape Point and the beaches to the north and west. From up there you really see what you're on--a sandbar of only a few hundred yards width, and lying some 40 miles from the mainland coast. Much of Hatteras Island is within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and beach driving is allowed in many locations. In the Waves-Salvo-Rodanthe villages area is a museum devoted to the US Lifesaving Service, a Federal agency once charged with the duties of patrolling the storm wracked Outer Banks beaches rescuing shipwrecked sailors and passengers whose vessels had been driven ashore. At the far northern end of Hatteras Island, the Bonner Bridge connects you to Bodie Island and the heavily-developed Nags Head-Kitty Hawk-Kill Devil Hills-Southern Shores oceanfront tourist district. Again, lots of that stuff isn't for me, but I do thoroughly enjoy Awful Arthur's Oyster Bar and Restaurant, just across the beach road from the Avalon Pier. Some fresh seafood, a few beers, and a walk out on the pier and along the beach are a great way to end an evening on the Outer Banks. Also worth seeing right there are the Jockey's Ridge State Park (a 100' high sand dune--tallest on the Atlantic Coast of the US) and First Flight State Park, where Orville and Wilbur Wright first took flight.

    From there, you'll have to turn inland across the Wright Brothers Bridge over Currituck Sound, as continuing north dead-ends near the NC-VA border, with no vehicle access into VA from there. US 158 and NC and VA 168 connect you to I-64 in the very congested Tidewater region of southeast VA. If you're to overnight in that area, I can recommend the hotels on the riverfront in downtown Norfolk, at Waterside, where a large museum (Nauticus), the battleship USS Wisconsin, and a wide variety of restaurants and bars are within safe walking distance from the hotels. Water taxis will take you across the Elizabeth River to attractions in Portsmouth. A longer riverboat cruise will take down the river to its mouth at Hampton Roads and alongside the massive aircraft carriers, cruisers, frigates, and submarine berths of Norfolk Navy Base. For a bit more out of the way, but quieter, overnight accomodations, look to the Virginia Beach Resort and Conference Center, located on Chesapeake Bay well away from the touristy Oceanfront in Virginia Beach. The bay-view rooms get a great view of the commercial and naval shipping transiting the mouth of the Bay to and from Norfolk, some 15 miles west, and recreational and commercial fishing boat traffic in and out of Lynnhaven Inlet, adjacent to the hotel.

    From either Norfolk or Virginia Beach, the fastest way back to Baltimore is likely I-64 to I-95 at Richmond, thence north on I-95 through Washington, DC, to Baltimore. The traffic from about Fredericksburg to DC is such that I'd prefer my fingers in a vise to negotiating it, so I'd consider taking the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel there at Virginia Beach and a far more gentle drive on US 13 up the Eastern Shore of VA and MD to the Bay Bridge at Annapolis, where you'll cross back over to the Baltimore side of the Bay. Along the way, passenger ferries take tourists over to Tangier Island, VA, and the Maryland town of St Michaels is a great place to enjoy waterside dining, pubs, and strolling. Annapolis itself is a rollicking good time town, if a bit congested. I also enjoy the Inner Harbor and Fells Point sections of Baltimore, with more of the wining, dining, and strolling available there.

    Well, Mike, that's about it. I hope you'll get back on the forum with any questions which may come to mind. I enjoyed entering all of this so much I'm going to have to head down to my family's vacation home in the Blue Ridge, near Blowing Rock, where Charles Frazier wrote most of "Cold Mountain", to ride the Virginia Creeper Trail next weekend, and I'm going to our other place, on the Bay near Lynnhaven Inlet, right after that. I've now been freed from the desk!


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default A post that will make our "All Star" list


    Great to hear that tax season is behind you -- we'all must be the beneficiaries of the end of the crazies as evidenced by that great post above. Lots of great local tips!



  6. Default

    Wow Foy, what a Star you are. You evidently have the equivalent skills of your Brother In Law in writing, as well as your undoubted Accounting skills!

    It will take me a while to absorb all of the information, and I think I will probably need the Maps to get it locked in my brain! Am I right then, the Virginia and Nth carolina maps will be sufficient to cover the SD and BMP? I think I can get those on Amazon UK, and presumably the dates of the editions do not matter that much?

    Thanks again Foy....if you are around end May/early June we will buy you a Beer!

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