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In July I decided to take a road trip in August to the South in “My 7 year old Ford Focus”. This was our first real road trip and I was worried that these two older ladies, the car and I, were not going to make it. I had my wheels, oil and brakes checked before we left and they said we were good to go.
Since I did not have any friends that accepted my invitation I decided “Books on Tape” would have to do. The library saw this lady walk out with 12 books …my road companion.
Why do you ask did I go, well, because it was there and for some reason I felt in the mood to discover. There were about 20 people I could visit on my journey but when I started to map the trip I saw that it was impossible to hit more than a couple. There were also two cities I had heard people were moving to and those were my secondary targets but my main object was hitting the longest flea market in the world. During the first week in August on a north/ south road that starts in Alabama and ends in Ohio there is the longest flea market in the world. Route 127 is home to thousands of antique dealers, not antiques with a capital A but lots of people that just clean house once a year…. a very long garage sale.
I also went for the “road food”. I imagined the south had to offer but I was quite disappointed in that department. Visions of fried chicken, grits, and corn bread danced in my head only to be a vision and not a reality.
I only wanted to travel county roads, if I could, as I did want to see the natives but there were many hops that I had to take the interstates just for the time restrictions. I had picked out B&B’ s for my route before I left so some times I could not dawdle in a cute town that I had found. This was how I planned my way south but on the way home I had no reservations and found that my choices from the road were not as pleasant as my B&B’s going south.
I started out on Sunday morning for Leesburg, Va. I thought I would be driving about 6 hours but 6 turned into 10, as the weather did not cooperate. It started to rain in sheets and according to the local radio in NJ I was quite near a tornado. I could not drive on the Turnpike so I pulled over for almost an hour till it let up a little. It did seem I was the only car that felt that way. It was a pretty bland drive…. all highways until I got to Virginia on the outskirts of Leesburg. I arrived in time for a stiff drink, dinner and bed.
The next morning I checked out of The Holiday Inn and looked for town. Leesburg is adorable. The main street,So King Street,of antique buildings is filled with beautiful restaurants, coffee places (pictured) and antique shops. I hit all the shops except one that was only opened on the weekends that looked really good but it was not to be. I was very sad to leave the town as it was so special. I think it is called a suburb of Washington DC and could be commuted each day; definitely a place to revisit.
On to Charlottesville, Va., where I was to meet up with friends from Paris that were house guests for the month there. The trip was on local roads and a scenic drive was proposed. There is a famous road, Skyline Drive through the Shenandoah National Park, which is a state park that I had seen on the map and decided to go out of my way to take. Big mistake! You pay a $15 charge to enter and when I asked the ranger if I should do this as I would not be trekking or camping or picnicking he said a definite yes. I now say a definite no. There is a 30 mile speed limit through the park and if you get the bad luck to get behind a camper it goes down to 20 miles an hour and all I wanted to do was get to my next destination. I was supposed to go the whole 100 miles but saw a turnoff at 30 miles out of the park and left. It was so very scenic but one “look out” is like the next and just what I was expecting. Lunch was on the road but not memorable. Arrived late afternoon in this much talk about town. It is a university town, The University of Virginia, and horse farms so it is known as a town for the rich. Speaking of universities we have a whole lot of them it seems I saw 100’s over my six day trip.
My inn was just what I dreamed it would be….200 South Street Inn(434 979 0200). Front porch, canopy beds, and a delicious breakfast. Most inns that I visited have a cocktail hour where they give out wine and cheese. I did partake and always had an interesting conversation with the other guests. My friends were not free for dinner so I walked to the downtown area which they had turned into a mall. Dinner was out doors at a well known sort of diner type restaurant on the mall… still not the meal I thought I would be having. The next day I met up with my friends and we toured Monticello, the house of Jefferson. It was delightful and then off to a small mall that sort of served the rich suburb of the town, sort of like Greenwich, Ct. After lunch I was off again to Roanoke, VA..
No scenic drives this time; I learned my lesson but took a combination of local roads and highways. So far the only road I had to pay for was in New Jersey…it figures. I also want to note hear our highways are fabulous and I saw lots of road work being done. I think some of the stimulus money has reached these states. I also saw a road gang cleaning up a road…that was a little unsettling.
Roanoke is a larger city that I was used to on this journey. I stayed downtown in the Hotel Roanoke(540 985 5900). It was built a very long time ago and is huge. It is now a Hilton hotel with lots of meetings and conventions taking place there. It is on the outskirts of downtown and has an overpass to the downtown area…over the railroad tracks. Most of these downtowns always have a railroad nearby and it seems that this town was once dominated by the railroad. They have revitalized this area and one thing that stands out is the Taubman Modern Art Museum, sort of a mini Bilbao and all the restaurants that have opened. I chose an over ambitious restaurant but it was my fault.
The next day I was on to Asheville, NC, and another town that there is a buzz about. Even though the most well known hotel in town is the Grove Park Inn, I chose to stay at The Albemarle Inn(800 621 7435) ,Located in the grand style home area but a short drive to downtown.. The Grove was very expensive and bigger than I like but it is a must to see. Dinner or lunch on the terrace overlooking mountains is breathtaking. Every President has stayed at this incredible place. My Inn was wonderful where each room was someone’s fantasy of what a Victorian room would look like (pictured). The downtown was redone and fun to walk though and see all of the old redone buildings. Lunch at Tupelo Honey Café and I finally found my southern food. I stuffed myself. Shopping and antiquing completed the day. This is a great town or city and I definitely can understand why Northerners are moving here.
Crossville, Tn. was the next stop. I picked a town that was on Route 127 so I could start the next morning, the official opening of the Longest Flea Market in the world. I tried to find a down home place to dine but no one knew what I was talking about.
World’s Longest Yard Sale- www.127sale.com- starts the first Thursday in August thru Sunday- starts in Alabama and goes through Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio.I was prepared with lots of cash and comfy old clothes to pursue my antiques. I think I stopped about 20 times and then said to myself enough is enough. I found a roadside barbecue trailer and I and the workman had a fabulous lunch. Mine was all of $5 bucks. After lunch I thought I should drive as far as I could homeward and pull over and find a hotel when it got dark. I made it all through Kentucky and slept in Ashland, Ohio. A worker’s type town but there was an antique car show going on so that was the night’s activity.
When I got in the car the next morning I did not want to sleep in another hotel so I was determined to make it home. I stopped to eat and pee and gas up and was in my own bed at 9:30PM. I did it!
I had a wonderful trip. I loved seeing new parts of the U.S. and getting out of NY. By the way I did not meet an unpleasant person the whole week. The south is welcoming and everyone is friendly and nice. Books on tape did not disappoint either.