Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, Part 2

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, Part 2

Yesterday we came back from our drive through the Virginia Section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Day One was to the Blue Ridge Music Center just beyond the North Carolina-Virginia border, the Meadows of Dan and its charming stores, the historic Puckett Cabin, the famously beautiful  Mabry Mill (above), and the bustling mountain city of Roanoke, Virgnina, where we stayed overnight.  

Right after the Blue Ridge Music Center, where there is music playing every day, we found the Peaceful Hearts Alpacas, an alpaca farm with a new one-month old baby alpaca.  At the gift store Bill bought for me an alpaca hat for winter days.  I had always wanted one because, though lighter than wool, it is as warm!   They told us to not miss the Nancy Candy Store at the Meadows of Dan and there we sampled some of the 40 flavors of fudge! 

Aside from tasting good, they had some witty packaging! We bought one that had the word ‘LUSTY’ boldly printed on a bright red wrapping and an explanation that reads …’3.5 oz of impure thoughts disguised as deliciously luscious, all-natural premium dark chocolate.’ Another one that is headlined as ‘No Weight Gain Chocolate’ had  this warning: ‘Manufacturer guarantee is void if packaging has been tampered with, opened or torn.  No consumer serviceable parts inside.  May cause weight gain if incorrectly used.’

On the way to Mabry Mill, we chanced upon the Puckett Cabin.  Olena Puckett was a famous midwife in the area in the late 1800s.  Legend has it that she assisted in giving birth to about a thousand babies in fifty years (she lived to be102) for which services she was paid about a $1 each. It is said that she would travel on foot to miles away when called.  But the interesting twist to her story is that, although she gave birth to twenty-four children herself, none of them survived beyond infancy.

Mabry Mill is the most photographed (and painted) scene in the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The picture at the top of this post is enough justification.  It does not need words. The Mabrys were jacks of all trade so the property had a blacksmith shop etc. The small place depicts to this day the way subsistence farmers lived during those days, especially in how water was managed.

Roanoke is a charming city of 300,000.  I was extremely delighted to discover that their cathedral is colored yellow!  The Central Square is always a beehive of activities, it seems.  The night we were there, it was cordoned off for a private party and the band could be heard and seen from all the restaurants around.  So we had live music from the Tavern where we had some local pizza and wine for dinner. 

And when we went back to our motel, a big star shone from atop the mountains around the city.  I found out the next day that it was the Roanoke Star, always all lit up at night! It is the world's largest freestanding illuminated man-made star, constructed in 1949 at the top of Mill Mountain. It stands 88.5 feet tall with 2,000 feet of neon tubing that requires 17,500 watts of power.

After construction of the star, Roanoke was nicknamed "Star City of the South".  The city changes the colors of the star to symbolize certain events.  It started out as all-white.  It became red, white, and blue for six years after the Twin Towers Attack and all white again after the Virginia Tech massacre. Now it turns red when there is a traffic fatality in the city.

Next Stops:  Day Two with Peaks of Otter, Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, the Natural Bridge, Stonewall Jackson’s home, the Virginia Military Institute, and more of the walls of rhodies, Virginia's state flower, along the way..