Thursday, August 20, 2015

Chapter 45 - Marietta to Fancy Gap, Virginia

Wednesday, August 19th:
The drive from Marietta, Ohio down to Fancy Gap, Virginia took us almost six hours despite the fact that we were on I-77 the entire way.  It was a longer drive than we had become accustomed plus an accident on the interstate cost us about 20 minutes. Despite the duration of the drive through the mountainous terrain of West Virginia, the scenery was gorgeous and memorable.  Once we arrived at our Fancy Gap KOA located about one mile from one of the entrances to the Blue Ridge Parkway in southeastern Virginia, all of our dissatisfactions about the long drive were quickly forgotten.

One of the more interesting parts of the drive were our passages through two quite long tunnels under the mountains.  We have driven through tunnels in the past but never pulling a travel trailer on a highway that suddenly seemed to shrink in front of us.  I think that I slowed down to around 40 mph in the tunnels probably annoying the drivers behind us to no end.

The Fancy Gap KOA was a very pleasant surprise and it is perhaps in the top ten percent of our best campsites so far on this trip.  We chose this campground by looking through our Good Sams guidebook since we did not have the benefit of looking at their webpage or studying photographs of the campground online. The campground was built on a woody and hilly site. Most sites were fairly large and well shaded plus they were landscaped between the spaces to afford at least some privacy. Our campsite was near the top of the hill so that sitting outside we had the benefit of looking down at trailers below us although somewhat surprisingly, the campground was no more than half full.  The location of the campground was perhaps the most wonderful surprise of all as it sat almost alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway. I cannot believe that I overlooked this important feature; obviously someone is looking out for us, or perhaps just trying to make out for our horrible experience of the previous two nights.  We finished the afternoon by driving eight miles to the nearest grocery store.  It was raining by that point but we did not care.  We were just looking forward to driving some of the Blue Ridge Parkway the following morning, rain or shine.

Thursday, August 20th:
We were out of the "house" by 8:15 am.  Sounds early perhaps, but not when you rise at 5:30 am and then enjoy a good breakfast while reading the Wall Street Journal courtesy of the best campground WiFi system in weeks of traveling. After this, 8:15 am feels like the middle of the morning.  Besides, we figured that it is best to get onto the Blue Ridge Parkway as early as possible as we had no idea as to how crowded it might be.  As it turns out to our benefit, the Parkway was very quiet. Our plan was to drive up the Parkway about 30 miles north, stopping at whatever sights we might see, and then backtrack down the same path.  At that point we planned to see what the small hamlet of Fancy Gap is all about.  Our first stop was at a small cabin that the historic marker identified as the Puckett Cabin.  The cabin was occupied by one Orelena Puckett up until her death in 1939 at the age of 102.  I guess this proves that not everyone lived in the mansions like we have seen in Marietta and other cities.

Unfortunately along most of the Parkway that we traveled the road was only two lanes wide and there was no room to pull off and take photos.  Our memory of the beautiful scenery will have to suffice. Our second stop of the morning was at a lookout tower that appeared to have been built in the 1800s although Cabo has some serous doubts about the age of the tower and he offered his leg and part of himself to the wood foundations to express his skepticism. The view from the tower was very pretty and the area around the tower was primary a large picnic ground which when we visited was completely empty.  Perhaps later in the day visitors will arrive.

Some of the scenery along the parkway was quite surprising in that what we thought would be all Federal lands was not at all the case.  There were farmlands that closely abutted the highway and in some cases the farms had direct access to the Parkway.  We particularly enjoyed this view of some cows grazing alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Their food, the grass, was so much greener than what we had become accustomed to seeing in the western states.

One of the primary destinations along this trip up the Blue Ridge Parkway was a visit to old Mabry Mill that was built and put in use in 1910 and operated as a corn grinder and saw mill until 1936.  In 1945 the National Park Service restored and landscaped the mill and according to the historic marker, the mill is the most photographed feature on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We can see why. Kathy has complained that she is in all of the photographs in our blog, so for our photo of the mill, I agreed to let her be the photographer.  Here is the result - not bad, except for the old guy in the photo.  Despite the fact that the man with the keys dangling from his neck was partially blocking the view of the mill, the importance of the mill justified this enlarged photograph.

The end of our journey north up the Blue Ridge Parkway concluded with this wonderful view of Kathy and Cabo with a backdrop of what truly justifies the name of the Smokey Mountains.  This photograph as well deserves to be enlarged.

We returned back to the Fancy Gap KOA about noon after a few gift store stops. The rest of the afternoon was spent in my case writing two blog chapters and in Kathy's case doing the laundry and finishing a good book. 

Tomorrow we are ready for another long drive down to Wilmington, North Carolina which is the home of Kathy's sister and her sister's daughter and her family.  We have never been there so we very much look forward to our visit.

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