Day 5: Knoxville (TN) – Wytheville (VA) ~190 miles
After a quick breakfast I drove to the Mabry-Hazen House, a beautiful historic house in Knoxville built in 1858. Its location on a hilltop, with views to all sides, made it an important strategic stronghold for whoever occupied it during the Civil War. It was heavily fought over and changed hands multiple times. For $10 you can take a 40-minute tour of the house. The guide was very friendly and showed to be extremely knowledgeable about the particularities of the house, its place in history, and its historic owners and keepers. What makes the house worth a visit is that it is still in the style of a century ago and that almost all of the items at display are originals. This allows you to have a unique peek into American history.
Next on my route were the Virginia towns of Bristol and Damascus. I drove into Bristol and walked around for a few minutes noticing in particular the abundance of so-called antique shops. I walked into a particularly big one on State Street. I browsed the place for over 10 minutes, never crossing my path or meeting someone else – doesn’t that sound like an awesome shopping experience?! I found out that it was an enormous warehouse that is used as a permanent antique market. Individuals can rent a number of square meters and put their stuff on display. They need not be there all the time as on old guy would handle the transactions for all stalls. I stumbled on a bargain (I think…): $20 for a near-perfect dark-wooden weather display, including a thermometer, barometer, and hygrometer that would be perfect for our little balcony.
Next: Damascus. I had planned a route via windy roads, crossing the South Holston Lake, through the Appalachian Mountains and the Shady Valley. Right when I was about to enter the mountains, a massive thunderstorm broke loose. Within minutes water was gushing on and off the streets, with visibility at points limited to less than 25 meters. Unfamiliar with the area, I decided to go around the mountains.
I arrived in Damascus, where I did some quick grocery shopping, getting soaked running from the car to the supermarket and back. When I arrived at the Old Mill Inn, the sun broke through. The old mill that stood here a while ago has been turned into a beautifully scenic restaurant and hotel. I got a seat at the waterfront patio and ordered a pot of coffee. With the sun in my back I read my book for an hour or two, listening to the rumbling of the waterfalls in the Laurel Creek a few feet away and below.
After an hour in the hotel gym, I spent some time writing this very blog post before going to bed.
Day 6: Wytheville (VA) – Washington, D.C., ~320 miles
I had saved most kilometers for the last day, when I would be driving home. I had only planned to have lunch in historic Staunton. When I had driven for a little over an hour I saw signs pointing in the direction of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway stretches for 469 miles through the Blue Ridge Mountains and is designed in such a way that those driving it can enjoy the scenic beauty of the Appalachian Mountains to the fullest extent. The roads are amazingly well done and give stunning views of mountains, valleys, rivers, creeks, and lakes. Whenever there is something that is specifically worth seeing, there are always nice areas to park your car so that you are not obstructing other traffic.
I got back on I-64 and drove to Staunton, one of the older cities in the U.S. For our wedding in September we have made arrangements for our guests at a hotel here, so I thought it be nice to have a look around. I walked along the main street, West Beverley St. I had lunch (French onion soup, yummy!) at Clocktower Restaurant and Bar. While eating, I listened on the radio to the football match between the Netherlands and Latvia, a crucial match for us! As we won 0-2, I got back on the road with a full tummy and in a good mood.
Approaching Washington, D.C. dark clouds appeared. It was only minutes before I drove into one of Washington, D.C.’s famous afternoon thunderstorms. Within minutes I was driving through inches of water, with minimal visibility. Quite scary! I nevertheless got home safe, albeit a bit later than expected. I plopped down on the couch and concluded that I’d had the most wonderful first American road trip.