No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Exploring Carolina

July 22, 2006

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Wally & Marta

We have been busy the past few days, exploring North Carolina and trying to experience as much of this wonderful area as possible. We made a nice day trip to the "High Country", where we visited the mountain cities of Boone and Blowing Rock. A mere 8 miles apart each nestled high in the Appalachian Mountains, the two places are totally different. Boone, home to Appalachian State University, has the feel of a cool college, hippie town. There are people along the street playing banjos for change, a plethora of vegetarian restaurants (we loved Melanie's), and lots of shops geared toward a more youthful, active crowd. Over in Blowing Rock, the crowd looked as if they had just stepped off the back nine, yuppies everywhere and shops filled with expensive "mountainy gifts". We preferred Boone.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Boone

We also took the opportunity to drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway through the mountains, visiting the Cone Manor House visitor center and passing along the route purportedly used by Daniel Boone. The Cone Manor is the estate and summer home of the textile magnate, Moses H. Cone and is very similar to the mansions we saw in Bar Harbor complete with a set of carriage roads that serve as trails through the mountains.

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The next day we were back in a more urban setting, helping Marta purchase a television at Circuit City for her new home, then deciding to look around Winston Salem after we delivered it. Winston Salem is a small, but rapidly growing little city. It is clean and nice and has a cool arts district. We visited Old Salem, which is the restored area of the original Moravian settlement from the 1800s which includes Salem College. There are many examples of early American houses including a delightful Moravian bakery which still functions making bread and delightful Moravian cookies.

As a nightcap, we joined Marta, Marika & Brain and their good friends, George & Susan Edmonds for dinner at the Foothills Brewery then a Winston-Salem Warthogs game. The Warthogs, a class A Carolina League farm team was playing a double header against the evil Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Minor league baseball is quite a treat, they put on all sorts of special promotions (tonight was Fireworks Friday), the tickets were only $8 each for box seats and it is really, really fun. We got to witness Wally the Warthog dancing in the aisles, the nightly "Eyeball Race" in which huge eyeballs race to determine who gets a gift certificate from a local optometrist and we each got a free loaf of bread on our way out. The Warthogs split the games, as if anyone really cared, the real joy was just seeing another fun slice of Americana in action.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting front:Brian & Marika back: Marta, Michael, Susan & George
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Blue by an eyelash!

One more note, if you ever find yourself in Madison, NC, try Bob's restaurant for some tasty and inexpensive treats. Not only did we get the fun of sitting in the Dale Jr. room, but a full delicious home style dinner for four complete with drinks and dessert came in at a whopping $21.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting In the Dale, Jr. Room

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mayberry, North Carolina

July 20, 2006

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If you look on a state map of North Carolina, you will not find a town called Mayberry. Though many people try to locate it, the town where Andy, Barney, Aunt Bea, Opie, Gomer and the gang lived doesn’t exactly exist. What does exist is the small town of Mount Airy, which is the hometown of Andy Griffith and was the inspiration for the idealized American small town that was Mayberry.

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We visited Mount Airy and found it much like the Mayberry depicted in the show, with many of the same businesses that were the actual places of the show still going strong. Floyd’s barbershop, Wally’s Garage, the Snapppy Diner, Weaver’s Department Store are all still there and to that mix the town has created some additional attractions such as the Mayberry Courthouse, an Andy Griffith Museum, and a statue of Andy & Opie at the Andy Griffith playhouse. You can stay the night in Andy’s childhood home which is now a Bed & Breakfast or tour the town in a squad car from the show. It is quite an immersion into the Andy mystique.

Despite the obvious attempts to generate tourism, at its heart, Mount Airy is still the sleepy mountain town that the show portrayed. It is a genuine pleasure to visit. Everyone we met was as nice as you could imagine. The highlight for me was getting my haircut at Floyd’s. Russell Hiatt, the actual inspiration for Floyd, has owned and operated Floyd’s for over 50 years and is still at it cutting hair to locals and tourists alike. He was busy when my turn came so I got my hair cut by Keith Hargett. It was an experienced because the barber shop still serves as a social center for the town and locals drop by and chat with Russell & Keith about the day’s events as they cut hair and you get to be hear it all. I now am privy to all sorts of local gossip.

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In addition to all the Mayberry-related offerings, the town has even more to offer, a nice selection of shopping and a quaint little Winery, The Old North State Winery, where we sampled the local wine selection. This region of North Carolina, The Yadkin Valley, ranks among the top 5 wine destinations in the country.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Old North State Winery

Yesterday, we returned to Hanging Rock State Park for some more hiking, despite the 90+ degree heat, we hiked up to Hanging Rock which gives the park it’s name. At 2,150 ft., the hike was somewhat easier than our previous excursion. The hanging rock is a granite face of the mountain that hangs out over a ledge, the views from there are spectacular and well worth the effort required to get there. Kathy has hiking on the brain now, so chances are we have more hiking in our near future. This is a great area for hiking, lots of scenery, wildlife and hardly any other people around.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting View from Hanging Rock

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

North Carolina

July 18, 2006

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Photobucket - Video and Image HostingTwo Views from the Guest House

My sister Marika & her husband Brian live on a huge spread of land in the foothills of Stokes County, North Carolina. Their 90 acres includes two small lakes and a large beautiful guest house where Kathy & I are staying during our stay. My mother Marta and sister Michele are staying in the main house, which is across a lake from us.

We all drove the 45 minutes down to Winston Salem on our first day here to take a look at Marta’s new condominium home in Tar Branch Towers just on the south side of downtown. It is a brand new, and I mean just completed this week new, but wonderful space that she is thrilled to be in. She is so excited. The movers with her furniture are due to arrive soon, until then she will be staying with Marika. Sadly Michele had to return to Indianapolis after a brief two day stay.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Marta's New Home

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After exploring the condo, we got a tour of Winston Salem, which is a nice small city dominated by the Reynolds Tobacco name which basically created the city. We then toured nearby Wake Forest University before heading home for a nice family dinner and some lounging by the pool.

Our second full day here was dominated for us by our afternoon hike to the highest peak in nearby Hanging Rock State Park. Stokes County is the only county in the US with a self-contained Mountain Range, the Sauratown Mountains and hanging Rock State Park is only 4 miles away. Brian, Kathy & myself headed over for an afternoon hike. I was outvoted 2-1 on which trail to take, so we of course choose the most strenuous, longest trek to the highest peak, Moore’s Knob via the Moore’s Wall Loop Trail. The 4.2 mile trail up the mountain to the peak at 2,572 feet, small by many standards but tough nonetheless. I somehow survived as we climbed the observation tower atop the peak for an amazing view of the area. I must admit the pool never felt so good as after returning from that hike.
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For Michele’s final dinner, before departing, we all headed to the local barbeque joint, Fuzzy’s for some more authentic regional cuisine. It may seem like a hole in the wall, but the place was packed with locals munching barbeque and enjoying lime flips. We plan to do as many authentic down home North Carolina things as we can during our stay.
Photobucket - Video and Image HostingMichael, Brian, Marika, Michele, Marta & Kathy

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Fuzzy's

Monday, July 17, 2006


July 17, 2006

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Shenandoah National Park is situated at the eastern end of the Blue Ridge section of the Appalachian Mountains just east of the Shenandoah River in Virginia. The highlight of the park is the beautiful 105 mile skyline drive which follows the ridge of the mountains offering spectacular views of the Shenandoah Valley and the Piedmont. We got onto Skyline Drive at the far Northern end at Front Royal and drove about a quarter of the way before finding a campsite at the Mathews Arm campsite.
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The drive is great, there is a 35 mph speed limit throughout and numerous overlooks, pullouts and trail heads which make it one of the more scenic of the many roads we have traveled. We assumed that the place would be really busy in the summer, with the beautiful weather and its proximity to Washington DC, but it was not crowded at all and there were tons of campsites to choose from. It proved to be a perfect stopover. We had hoped to see a bear, but had to settle for the numerous deer that inhabit the place. Deer in fact, walked nonchalantly right through our campsite, hardly taking notice of us at all. We exited the park and drove into the Shenandoah Valley near Elkton, Virginia, a small mountain town where we stopped for gas and lunch.

Our lunch was really special and was an example of the sort of experience you can have by simply avoiding the fast food type places that are found along most highways. We selected a little place called, “The Good O’ Boys Diner”. The diner is run by Greg & Shannon Mowbray who opened it about 7 months ago after the tragic death of Greg’s brother Derrick when he was hit by a car while assisting a stranded motorist. Wanting to do something that would at once take his mind off of the tragedy as well as honor his brother, Greg bought the dilapidated structure and turned it into a diner decorated with a collection of items that his brother had collected. The walls are lined with photos from both brothers, who just happen to be world class bluegrass musicians who have played all around the world with many of the best bluegrass musicians. The place is awesome and the prices unbelievable, the most expensive dinner on the menu is all of $5.50. The food was great and the people we met were as nice folk as you will find anywhere.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Shannon & Greg Mowbray, Evelyn Breeden & Cassandra Dean at Good O Boys Diner

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Good O Boys Diner

Our drive next took us to Sandy Ridge, North Carolina to the home of my sister Marika Blades & her husband Brian Martin. This will serve as our base of operations for the next leg of our journey. We arrived a full 10 minutes ahead of my other sister, Michele Noel who was bringing my mother Marta to her new home in nearby Winston Salem. After living for 50 years in the same home in Indianapolis, Marta is moving to a sparkly new condo in downtown Winston Salem. We had thought we’d be farther along and would have missed this momentous occasion, but fate had us arrive at almost the exact moment.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingRoadside Attraction

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Monocacy, Antietam & Harpers Ferry

July 15, 2006

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Upon our departure from Washington, we drove the short distance to the town of Frederick, Maryland to spend the night. We selected Frederick due to its proximity to the 3 Historic areas we next visited, Monocacy National Battlfield, Antietam National Battlefield and the town of Harpers Ferry.

After a stop at the Frederick Visitor Center, we had the lay of the land and drove over to the nearby Monocacy Battlefield. A small but significant site, it was here in 1864 where Union General Lew Wallace (who later wrote the novel Ben Hur), defeated the Confederates led by General Jubal Early, stopping the potential capture of Washington DC. It was a very small site certainly compared to the massive and impressive display at our next stop, Antietam.

Antietam , located in the small town of Sharpsburg, Maryland, is an impressive and solemn place. It was here on September 17, 1862 where the bloodiest battle in American military history was staged. The Union troops led by General George McClellan battled Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia to a technical stalemate, but the Confederate withdrawal after the fight gave President Lincoln the impetus to issue The Emancipation Proclamation which freed the slaves.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Dunker Church

We visited the immense Visitor Center, where we watched a one hour documentary about the battle, then took the driving tour through the key battlefield sites. The Dunker church served as Lee’s headquarters, the sunken road where over 5000 men were killed in 4 hours and Burnside’s Bridge where 450 Georgia troops held the Union army at bay for most of the day, allowing time for Confederate Union forces to arrive and preventing a Union victory.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingBurnside's Bridge

Our tour through history continued when we drove to the nearby town of Harpers Ferry West Virginia. Located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah River, Harpers
Ferry has a rich history. The site of abolitionist John Brown’s uprising in 1859, which helped precipitate the Cival War, the town is full of historic buildings. The Lower Town, right on the two rivers has flooded so many times there is a marker on the side of one building marking the high water level of the various years floods, some over 30 feet.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Flood Levels

We explored the city, hiking a short distance on the Appalachian Trail, which passes right though Lower Town, stopping at the headquarters of The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the non-profit which helps maintain the 2000 mile trail which stretches from Georgia to Maine. After a long day of seeing history we drove into Shenandoah National Park and found a campsite.