Blue Ridge Parkway and on to Statesville

This, my final whole day in or rather driving out from Lenoir, I had dedicated to a drive on Blue Ridge Parkway. In my opinion, you can't visit western North Carolina without taking a drive on this scenic road - and the few miles I had driven the day before were not enough. After breakfast at The Rose, I headed south, initially to Morganton, and then west to Marion. From Marion I then headed north on US 226 towards Spruce Pine. Along the way, I did a short stop at the North Carolina Museum of Minerals, which is just where US 226 intersects with Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). It was my second visit to this little museum, and although it is quickly done, it is quite interesting. From the museum I took BRP north past Boone and up to the Northwest Trading Post at milepost 258,6. Along the way, I made some stops, partly to enjoy the view and partly to take some shorter walks in nature. One of the places I stopped was at the Linn Cove Viaduct, where for the first time I took a walk along the path leading beneath the viaduct. So far I had only seen it from above, but now I saw it from below, and got some pictures of it from a new angle. Also some beautiful summer flowers growing along the path were immotalized with my camera. The next stop was at Price Lake, where I also took a short walk; especially to enjoy the rhododendrons, which were still in bloom, though mostly the white variety, but there were a few left of the purple variety as well, and there were also other plants that I could take pictures of.

View from The Lump. The mist makes it look the way I imagine an elven land.

At the Northwest Trading Post, I bought some gifts to take home, and then I headed south again toward Boone. On the way back I made another stop, namely at the look-out point called The Lump. Here I have often taken a break from my driving, both when I have visited alone and with others, because here you find the "famous" sign that aroused my interest in Tom Dooley. This time, however, I did not just look at the sign, but actually chose to walk up on the hilltop that has given the place its name to enjoy the view of the surroundings, although they were partly hidden in the light haze from the summer heat. But that gave me the opportunity to take some pretty pictures that look as if elves and other supernatural beings could be flying around and having fun in mist between the mountains. I countinued south, and when I reached the intersection between BRP and US Highway 421, I took Route 421 east to Wilkesboro. 421 is a wide four-lane road all along this stretch, and the first miles from Boone is downhill as you travel from the High Country to the Foothills, where Wilkesboro is located. On that stretch, there are many so-called Runaway Truck Ramps where trucks that cannot brake, can drive off. Piles of gravel on these ramps then slow the truck, and at one of these Runaway Truck Ramps, I could see a semi-trailer truck lying halfway on its side while rescue workers were were busy setting it upright again. Unfortunately, at the time I drove with some speed, so I did not get a picture, but apparently the ramps work.

From Wilkesboro, I took "my usual route" along NC 268 back to Lenoir, and I was back at The Irish Rose as early as 3.30 pm, so I had time to check the internet to see if the outside world had been overturned while I was absent! It hadn't, so I sent a couple of emails to people at home. In addition, I relaxed with a book that I had brought from home, but which I had not read much until then. Now I managed some pages before I walked down to downtown Lenoir to get some dinner. My plan was to try another new eatery in town that Rose had told me about, The Shake-n-Dog, which, as its name suggests, specializes in hot dogs. American hot dogs are not much like Danish hotogs, and I normally don't really like care much for them, but as there were many variants to choose from on the menu, I had agreed with myself to give the place a try. That is right until I got there and saw the many people who waited in line in the street outside the place, so the place obviously seemed to be extremely popular. I walked past the line and could see that there was certainly no available seating inside either. But there was a sign in the window that said that on Tuesday (and this was Tuesday) they offered "A dog for a Dollar," or at least they did on that occasion, and it had apparently attracted many locals. So I gave up on the "dog", and went across the street to the pub, Side Street Pour House, where I had eaten before, but it turned out when I entered that all the tables were occupied and there was about an hour wait to get a table, so I gave up on that as well, also because the music that day was excessively loud. So I crossed the street again and tried the 1841 Café, where I have also eaten before. A bit more expensive than the first two places, but on the other hand I was able to get a table without having to wait, and I was actually getting a bit hungry at that time as I hadn't had any lunch and it was now almost 7. I had just been seated when Cindy and Jack Day, the people who had been so helpful the previous day, came over to the table. They had come to pick up some take-away, and then we just chatted for a short while and they told me, among other things, that before the cafe opened, the place had been a hardware store and that it was Richmond Bernhardt's grandfather, who originally owned the store, and later it was taken over by his father. Richard was the last participant in the excursion to Twin Poplars the day before, so we agreed that it was a bit unfortunate that he was not present, because he could probably have told us some stories about the place. However, Cindy and Jack were going home while their food was hot, so we said goodbye. Soon after I got my food and it proved to be good (nachos for starters and then chicken with lemon and capers); actually way better than at my first visit. On that occasion all you could say about the food, was that it was "lala"; that is neither good, nor really bad. After dinner I went back to my B&B, where I had a little chat with Rose, and we settled my bill (and I got a discount as on my last visit) so we didn't have to spend time the next morning when I had to set course towards Statesville, where I would also spend some days.

Onwards to Statesville

Oxford Dam on the Catawba River south of Taylorsville.

The next morning I said goodbye to Rose. Since she has put her B&B up for sale, I do not know if I will stay there again and if it is still Rose who runs the place, but hopefully (for me, not for her) it will be. When the place is sold, she wants to buy a caravan and then drive around the US for a year before settling down, probably in Savannah, Georgia with her sister who then moves up from Florida. Otherwise, I was just heading for Statesville, and my next lodging, but since it's only about 40 miles, it's only an hour's drive, so I decided to see something along the way. I initially took US 18 east, and on the outskirts of Lenoir I switched to US 64 heading southeast. I passed Taylorsville, which I had visited on my visit in the spring, but this time I made no stop here; I just turned right on  North Carolina Route 16 south. A little south of town, I passed the Catawba River, and here I made a stop to take a walk and take some pictures of the dam that is found here, the Oxford Dam, and its hydroelectric plant. When I couldn't spend any more time looking at the dam and the river, I continued south to Conover, where I met Interstate Highway 40 (once again), and I took that east to Statesville.

I had arranged with Charlotte and Bill Barnes that we should meet outside the Statesville Historical Collection at noon, and as I was in good time, I drove around and looked at town a bit. Five minutes to 12, I parked in front of the building housing the collection, and two minutes later Charlotte and Bill, who had driven up from their home in Matthews down by Charlotte, arrived. Steve Hill, who runs the place, was not present, but I already knew that as he had told me earlier - he had gone to the beach for a few days with his grandchildren. However, one of his colleagues had opened the place, so we settled down at the long table and chatted for an hour or so before walking across the street to have lunch at Twisted Oak, which I have also visited on several occasions. Lunch should have been on me, but Charlotte and Bill insisted on paying, som next time I will be the one to insist! After lunch we walked up to the 3rd Street Cemetery, which we have previously visited together. Here Bill was going to show me a grave I had not been able to re-find on my last visit in April; Bill knew exactly where it was, so he showed me. After the visit here, Bill and Charlotte drove back to Matthews while I walked back to the car. Then I drove to my B&B, Clichy Inn, and checked in with Lori, where I got a nice room on the 1st floor. I relaxed for a few hours, again with reading and using the internet to read news from home. Later I walked down to the center of town and had dinner at the Broad Street Burger; guess what I had? And accompanied by a local cider! A day without much action, but it is nice just to take it easy from time to timen, and there were enough activities in store for the coming days.

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