From 20 to 85

This, the first "real" vacation day, I had set aside for sightseeing, I hadnít planned to see anything new, but there were some well-known places that I would like to revisit. In addition, I should mke appointments about my the activities for the next few days. I started the day having breakfast at my B&B and it was, as usual, excellent. That day, I was alone for breakfast as the couple who had been staying in one of the other rooms had already left when I came down for breakfast which I had ordered for 8 am. After breakfast, I took off and the only definite goal I had for the day, was to visit a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Hickory to get a couple of books that Dorte had asked me to buy.

White-tailed deer on Blue Ridge Parkway

Initially, I headed for Morganton. Not because I had anything to do there, but from there I could go north on NC Highway 181 and that was my plan. From Lenoir to Morganton, I drove on US Highway 64, and it is not a particularly exciting route, though passing through small settlements that are actually parts of Lenoir and Morganton respectively. From Morganton, as planned, I took NC 181 northwest past the city's natural landmark, Table Rock, but there is actually only one place along this route from where you can see the rock at the angle where it appears flat and which has given it its name. I continued up the mountains towards Linville and although I was passing the Brown Moutain Overlook along the way, which I have mentioned in several articles from previous years, I did not stop there but continued to Linville. Here I bought a cup of coffee at a gas station and then continued on to Blue Ridge Parkway, which I think you should always visit for a shorter or longer drive when in Western North Carolina. On my way up the NC 181, I had watched my (or rather the carís) gas consumption, and it was interesting to see that while all the way from Washington to Lenoir it had been around 38 miles per gallon, it was now down to 16 miles per gallon, when it went uphill.

Here, on the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, there was not much spring to admire; up here nothing was light green as in spring color, and nothing was blossoming, except for a few flowers at the roadside. But I had to stop for a group of white-tailed deer that stood at the roadside and looked like they wanted to cross the road, which they finally did, thus I used the waiting time to take some pictures. While waiting I also wanted to have a sip of the coffee that I had bought in Linville, but it appeared that I had not put the lid on the cup properly, because I managed to pour most of the coffee down the front of my shirt. I was lucky that the coffee had cooled a little, but it was still rather hot and the yellow shirt I was wearing didn't look good. When I got to Cone Manor, once a summer house for a wealthy New York family, now a Visitor Center with a small gift shop and an exhibition, I made a stop, put on my jacket to camouflage the coffee spot and visited the gift shop. Here I bought a T-shirt as a temporary replacement for the shirt. Along the way I had a chat with the lady behind the counter, and we talked about the fact that it was actually quite cold. The thermometer in my car showed 20 degrees Fahrenheit, corresponding to -6 degrees Celsius, and the lady told me that when she had arrived a few hours earlier, it had actually been snowing. However, there was no visible snow when I arrived, so it cannot have been much. Despite the cold, I changed into to the newly purchased T-shirt in the parking lot, and then I could continue.

I followed BRP until I reached one of the two exits to US Highway 421 near Boone. I then took this highway in the direction of Wilkesboro, and on the way I made a stop at another gas station, to get some more coffee Ė to drink this time, not to pour down my shirt, so this time I made sure the lid stuck, and while I was drinking coffee, I called Charltte and Bill (my friends from Matthews) and arranged that we should meet Wednesday in Statesville and then Thursday in Davidson where we were going to a concert with Rob McHale and friends. After the phone call and the coffee, I continued to Wilkesboro, or rather, I stayed on the highway, as I had no errand in town; at least not that day. Instead, I took the small North Carolina Road 115. The road is also known as Statesville Road - perhaps because it leads to Statesville. At the other end, the road is called Wilkesboro Highway, because it leads to Wilkesboro! Neither did I stop at Statesville, because when I reached I-40, I changed to the interstate and headed for Hickory.

Down from the mountains spring colors became abundant.

As I gradually got down to the lowlands, the temperature rose considerably, and here a little after noon, temperature was 75, and at the same time there were spring colors everywhere. They had probably been there all the time, but I just hadn't been in the area :-). After crossing the Catawba River, around the town of Claremont, I left the highway at the only rest area between Statesville and Hickory, partly to "use the little potty room", partly to enjoy nature, with light green leaves and pink flowers on trees, surrounding the rest area, and white flowers on the clearly planted shrubs around the building. While I was here, I called another of my acquaintances, Margaret Martine, and we agreed that she, her husband and I were going to have dinner that evening at a restaurant called 1841 Cafe in Lenoir. After the conversation, I continued to Hickory, where I bought the books I had planned - and took a short walk around the store to see if there was anything else I could not do without, but that was not the case, so I could leave the bookstore with no further ado.

From Hickory I returned to my B&B in Lenoir, and after a very short talk with Rose, I went on the tour's first "exercise walk". I had seen on the internet that in the town there was something called TH Broyhill Walking Park, and as it sounded like a place where you could take a walk ... TH Broyhill was one of the many wealthy furniture manufacturers who previously had their business in Lenoir, which at one time was considered the center of America's furniture production, but today there are not that many furniture factories left. Broyhill had financed the construction of the park, hence the name. When it turned out that there was only about 2 miles from my B&B down to the park, I chose to walk back and forth, and it was probably a good idea, because the walk around the park itself is not very long, only a little less than half a mile so even though I had walked it twice, it had not been much exercise. The park proved to be nive, with fine trees and shrubs, and a small lake with both ducks and turtles swimming around. After walking around the lake and seeing what was to be seen in the park, I walked back to The Irish Rose. I noticed that I didnít keep my usual walking speed for which I blame nature! It was much hillier that Iím used on my daily walks at home. The temperature might also have played a role, as at this time it had reached 85 - an increase of 65 degrees since it was coldest in the morning.

Back at the B&B, I relaxed in the room a few hours before taking a shower and then I headed down to the center of town (once more just walking) to meet Margaret and Dick, and they actually arrived just as I did. Unfortunately, it turned out that the restaurant was closed - many American restaurants are on Mondays (except the chain restaurants). As I hadn't brought my car, we used Margaret and Dick's car and drove out to a Mexican restaurant a bit away from downtown, and it turned out that the food here was excellent - if you like Mexican food, which I certainly do. While we were dining we chatted, and I gave Margaret some copies of my novella for which she and her sister had allowed me to use one of their mother's paintings as a cover illustration. In addition, I had made a book with "old" pictures from 10 years of photo calendars that I also gave her. When we had completed the meal, we had also agreed that we should meet again later in the week, and at least Saturday, when the Whippoorwill Academy and Village, the open-air museum which Margaret runs after her mother's passing, was open.

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