Day 1 of the inaugural Ramble has been a success. 350 miles traveled, two very cool towns discovered (Boone and Blowing Rock) and one sight seen (The Blowing Rock).
The day started on time when I met fellow Rambler Darryl at his house around 8:15. By 8:20 we were in "The Truck" and on the road - amazing the speed that can be obtained by the unconstrained (re: no wives or children) male with a goal. We hit the NC/VA border about 10:00 am and hit the first NC rest stop. A coffee removal exercise and a pamphlet heist from the Chamber of Commerce office later we were back on the road. The Chamber of Commerce office is very nice and offers pamphlets organized by areas of the state and we hit it hard. We also managed to procure a NC road map from the lovely ladies manning the office. We rambled through the state for the rest of the morning before Hance demanded a food stop (breakfast actually) at the Henderson Chick-fil-A. I know they have issues with gay marriage but the people are so polite and the establishments always clean. Chicken strips, coffee and a chicken biscuit to go and we were back on the road. Again, the speed and efficiency were stunning in their beauty. We continue our unimpeded rambled until the gas light lit up before the gas gauge hit "E" at about mile 300. Anyone that has been in "The Truck" knows a gas light is not a trivial matter especially in hilly country so a brief backtrack was in order to the last gas station seen. It is about this time we saw the first memorable sight of the day.
I am sure God is in everything but didn't know he was a soul food fan.
The Ramble rolled into Boone, NC about 1:30pm which was close to what Garmin said it would be. How does she know that?? Boone was bigger than imagined having visualized a quaint little hamlet with the ASU campus and very little else. While ASU is clearly there and very pretty, the town proper is larger than I ever imagined, very prosperous looking with a certain crunchy granola vibe that is to be expected in a mountain college town with tons of outdoor activities all around. As always I check local real estate when traveling (nothing says how things stack up more than the price of a 3 bed, 2 bath abode). In short, Boone ain't cheap. Chic is winning over granola I guess. We ate stupendous sandwiches at a place called Our Daily Bread and ambled about the town getting an early feel before departing for Blowing Rock.
Blowing Rock is the NC equivalent of Tiburon/Sausilito. Alpine village feel and architecture, strict guidelines for building, charming little "shoppy" downtowns and high price real estate (though less high than it formerly was based on the "now marked down to.... lines on the listing sheets in real estate firm windows). We walked around and took a self guided tour of this charming church (Episcopal of course)
before moving on to the actual Blowing Rock.
While The Blowing Rock entrance is a little annoying - through a gift shop and $6 later the views don't disappoint nor does the wind at that level. Here is the sight of Grandfather Mountain in the distance.
Here is a picture of your intrepid Ramblers at The Blowing Rock
We finally left to find and check into our hotel. The Smoketree Lodge near Banner Elk. It is an older place with amenities and "character" that always make trips memorable but it has the two essentials for any Ramble - good air conditioning and decent cable TV. We got settled in, downloaded the days pictures and set out to find an eating establishment. (Earlier in the day we established the first rule of the trip - No eating at chain establishments unless absolutely necessary). We made it into Newland and hit up San Dee's Cafe for a burger and hamburger steak (ummm - nutrition). We also visited the local grocer for room essentials --water, beer, donuts, beef jerky and other snacks. All in all a very good start to the week.
Tomorrow we are off to Maggie Valley.
Until then....Keep Rambling!