Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Blue Ridge Parkway: Blowing Rock, NC to Roanoke, VA

View of Bass Lake from the front porch of the Moses H. Cone home.
     With the approach of the long holiday weekend, we came up with the idea for a spontaneous road trip to Blowing Rock to visit Tess. It's a fun area to explore now that we've discovered it. As we drove the two hundred miles southwest, we could see the thermometer reading in the car drop from the upper 80's to a final temperature of 67 degrees. What was a welcome relief from the heat and humidity we've had to live with for weeks on end! I like this sub-climate in the North Carolina mountains. It's always much cooler than Roanoke and I understand why all the travelers flock to these mountains in the summer.
     Blowing Rock was bustling with activity. With some effort, we found a place to park and made our way to a little cigar shop tucked on a side path in town. Steve and the clerk, a psychology senior at App. State, got chatting and we all sat in the leather upholstered chairs and visited for about an hour while the guys smoked and we waited for Tess to finish her shift at work. After a bit, we headed over to The Speckled Trout and enjoyed a pleasant dinner with Tess on the front porch of the restaurant. Tess and I had almond crusted trout and Steve had a bison steak. Afterward, (but not before stopping for an excellent ice cream cone at the ice cream and fudge shop) we made our way to Tess' apartment and visited for the evening. She led us on a shortcut that consisted of switchbacks and drop-offs. I could not take my eyes off the road for one second so, Steve fed me spoonfuls of my one scoop of pistachio and one scoop of caramel sea salt ice cream while I kept both eyes glued to the road. That night we slept with all the windows open, breathing in the fresh mountain air and listening to nothing but the stillness of the woods at the base of Grandfather Mountain.

Moses H. Cone house built in 1901.

Tess took a lot of posed pictures of us but this is the one I like best. It represents Steve's tolerance (and secret inner joy) for my goofiness.
     The next morning Tess suggested a short drive onto the Blue Ridge Parkway to visit the Moses H.Cone house and memorial park. We popped into the supermarket for some lunch items to take along for a simple picnic. Again, with a little patience, we secured a parking spot amid the crowds who were all on a similar outing as ourselves. The Moses H. Cone park features a gorgeous home built in 1901 by Cone. There are twenty-five miles of carriage roads for hiking and horseback riding, and views that were absolutely spectacular. I could have stayed and sat all day with that view. It is unfortunate that the house is used as a gift shop only. I would have liked to tour it as a furnished home/museum and seen it kept in better condition even if it meant paying a fee. The beautiful windowed sun porch is used as a sewing room for a crafts person and the paneled dining room contains modern benches with a big screen TV. The second floor is off limits. We explored and walked a path for a little bit and then drove to another picnic site a few miles away. Again, there were crowds and crowds of people but it was still pleasant and relaxing to be outdoors and on a picnic.

     We found a patch of grass with a boulder or two for seating and set up our cooler as a table. Lunch was one of our favorites, cheeses, thinly sliced salami, apples and grapes, and crackers. We even threw in a box of Entennemen's little apple pies for dessert. The park was crowded with families and couples picnicking for the day. There was a little stream running through where children played. Outdoor grills were smoking and the air was filled with good smells of grilling food and campfires. It all reminded me of our many annual picnics at Thatcher State Park in New York when my parents were still alive. Every Labor Day we packed up our little family, along with lots of good food, and met my sisters and parents, and sometimes friends for a day of picnicking and hiking the Indian Ladder Trail. Our little picnic of three was enough to bring back all those good memories.

Our impromptu picnic was delicious!

Parkway Views
     In the afternoon, we dropped Tess off and said goodbye. We decided to drive all the way home on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Part of this decision was to avoid the heavy traffic we expected to encounter on I-77 and I-81 and the other part was our curiosity and desire to try something out of the norm. At a maximum allowed speed limit of forty-five miles per hour with no commercial vehicles or trucks, the drive was most relaxing. The Parkway is well maintained with mowed grass easements and not a speck of litter in sight. Of course, the views are stunning and there are lots of places to stop and walk around. We made one stop at a tiny cabin built in 1876 by the Brinegars. I enjoyed this homestead just as much as the Cone mansion. I told Steve I thought I could live here, even without electricity, as long as we had strong oil lamps for reading, etc. It was beautiful.
Brinegar cabin built around 1876

I imagine having a little chair on this porch. A place to rest.

The cabin's view

     All-in-all, what normally would have taken us three hours to drive from Blowing Rock to Roanoke, took us five. We did stop for a good spell at the cabin which added some time. Traffic was practically nil. We encountered a few cars and as many motorcycles. It was cool enough in the mountains and our speed was slow enough that we drove with the windows open for a little while. We returned home to a very happy little dog and hot and humid weather. It was worth the miles to see Tess and to spend some time in the cooler outdoors. I love taking drives and picnics so the Blue Ridge Parkway is the perfect outlet for such activities.


  1. What a wonderful little trip! I love all the windows in the Cone house. How wonderful it would be to restore a home like that. But I too could find a cozy little cabin a lovely place to call home.

  2. I enjoyed reading this post, Lee, and it reminded us of our visit to Blowing Rock, NC and driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway several years ago. We also had ice cream in town and visited the Moses Gunn house and I believe a museum in the area. And, yes there were many curvy roads in that area as I recall.

  3. I've always wanted to go to Blowing Rock. And lovely that you drove the Blue Ridge Parkway - I did that with my parents once. It's a gorgeous drive.