Ever since our Tennessee trip we have been wanting to drive the rest of the Blue Ridge Parkway. And since we are not quitters on roadtrips, we decided to do the entire thing from beginning to end. Well, we already did the end piece so we wanted to finish the rest and go from its start in Charlottesville, VA all the way to Asheville, NC.
After a nice, fattening, delicious Thanksgiving in Maryland with the Baugher clan we headed out Friday afternoon to spend the night in Charlottesville so we could get a nice early start on the parkway in the morning. About an hour outside of Charlottesville we started to look up hotel rooms and found quickly that there were no hotels available... It's Thanksgiving, not Christmas; there should be some room at the Inn!
Turns out there was a UVA vs Virginia Tech game going on that night which we discovered right about the time we hit dead-stop traffic heading into the city. Charlottesville was still a little ways from the start of the parkway so we pulled an audible and headed towards a neighboring town called Afton, which is really where the parkway started. We will have to explore Charlottesville on another adventure.
By the time we got out of traffic and landed in Afton it was well past Beer O' Clock. We stopped at a local brewery which boasted the best pizza around. I'll be the judge of that!
Who makes square pizza!? That right there is enough to make it not 'the best pizza around.' It takes extra effort to roll out the already round pizza dough into a square and it just makes it that much harder to eat. How do you even hold a center piece? Then the corner pieces are 3/4 crust. Where's the fun? I have some strong opinions on pizza... When our server told me the pizza was pretty big and had 16 slices in it I thought it was going to be a challenge. It was, but really the biggest challenge was eating the center "slices" without having them droop over and lose all their toppings while keeping your fingers clean. The flavor was actually good so if they just keep it simple and circular they might have a shot at actually being the best pizza around.
Filled up on pizza and beer (the beer was good and had a better shot at being called the 'best around') we headed back to the hotel to get some rest for our big day in the morning.
We left the hotel a little after 6am and got to the entrance of the Parkway right at sunrise. Some of the most beautiful views I have ever seen! We stayed and watched in awe as the mountains woke. Pictures can't do it justice by any means.
Now, I know it takes us around 7 hours to complete the 480 mile journey from Maryland to Charlotte. We were planning on 380 miles on the Parkway. I know the speed limit on the Parkway is lower than the highway so I figured we should be able to make it to Asheville in maybe 8 or 9 hours. Sounds reasonable right?
We enjoyed over 11 hours of wonderful, scenic, beautiful, repetitive, exhausting, slow-moving mountain views. I really do mean enjoyed. I would suggest to anyone to take the Parkway if they get the opportunity; though that's not to say we weren't cursing some of the slower moving traffic in front of us about 8 hours in... But by that point we were committed and had to finish what we had started.
We got some great photos. Every couple miles there would be an overlook or an exhibit. There was definitely no shortage of stuff to look at. The Peaks of Otter (or POO as it says on their t-shirts...) was one of the highlights. Great mountain views with a nice little cabin on a lake open to travelers.
Okay... Time to be honest. We didn't actually finish the Parkway... We made it to the last 20 miles to Asheville and there was a road closure. They wouldn't allow any traffic through our finish line! We even toyed with the idea of going through anyways just to see what closed the road and if my mean X-Terra could get over it. We didn't, but I'm sure it would have been a much different blog if we did... The road we had to take as a detour was plenty fun.
After 11 hours of curvy roads and climbing mountains we had earned our beer. Asheville is a big-time beer capital around here. Most of our favorite NC beers come out of Asheville. We checked out a few of our favorite breweries, got some real circular pizza, and called it a night. All-in-all a good day, and a good trip.
He likes pizza.