The Discover Small Town America Tour Has Been “Detoured”

Detour

Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans…

After more than 2,000 miles on the road (having completed 25% of the Discover Small Town America Tour), we’ve got to go back home due to an urgent family medical matter. We’ll keep you updated on our plans to return to the road. Thanks to all of our local hosts and community sponsors around the Country – and members of our virtual road crew – for your understanding.

Stay tuned…

T’was a Lazy Day in the Hood

Day 7 – Morrisville, NC Steps* (B) 7,207; (R) 5,608
*
We’re committed to exercising while on the road (some days are better than others).

Before getting on the road yesterday to start Day 7 of the Tour, Rorie needed to work off the full-sized Milky Way she was given – and inhaled – when we checked into our hotel. She went to the gym where she met a nice couple that told her about their hometown of Martinsville, VA (population 13,559). Rorie loved their enthusiasm for the community and its downtown revitalization program, and they suggested we visit Martinsville during the second annual Discover Small Town America Tour.

We went on a walk through the beautiful Sarah Duke Gardens in Durham. Our daughter Sara and the Discover Small Town America Tour mascot “Mama Bear” joined us for our stroll in this amazing public garden. What a beautiful place.

images

Your DSTA Tour “guides” seen here (well, at least part of them)…

RorBar at Duke Garden

Here’s the other side of your “guides” with the DSTA Tour mascot Mama Bear…

RorBar w:Mama Bear

More SD Garden shots…

Duke Gardens1

Can’t fish in this pond, but we’re pretty sure koi don’t make good eatin’

Koi Pond

A wonderful, lazy day that ended with, yup, more food. Rorie’s sister Darcy met us at our favorite “deli-on the-road”.

Parkway deli

Dinner was Darcy’s treat (“Thanks Darc”) because it’s Rorie’s birthday. And, what better way to celebrate your birthday, Rorie asked, than with a good ol’ Reuben sandwich (oh yeah, with tons of full-sour pickles)…

reuben-sandwich

Darcy’s motto is “There’s only one way to wash down a Reuben sandwich” and that’s, of course, with bites of several decadent cupcakes she brought us…

cupcakes

All in all, Day 7 was a wonderful, lazy day shared with family, seeing beautiful gardens and eating lots of good chow. Stay tuned…

Gone Fishin’…and Eatin’ of Course

Day 6 – From Woodfin, NC to Boone, NC (population 17189) and Beyond; Miles: 318; Steps* (B) 13,444; (R) 11,003
* We’re committed to exercising while on the road. Look who won today. Just sayin’…

We had a great walk yesterday morning on an awesome trail along Beaver Lake, which we discovered near where we stayed last night.

Beaver Lake

Trail

Aside from getting some great exercise in a beautiful park-like setting, we saw some memorable scenes, including a beautiful bird sanctuary and a dad teaching his little girl how to fish.

Pretty in pink girk fishing

We said “goodbye” to Woodfin, NC and the Asheville region and headed out to discover today’s first destination: the Town of Boone, NC. Boone is nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. It’s named for famous American pioneer and explorer Daniel Boone, and every summer since 1952 has hosted an outdoor amphitheater portrayal of the life and times of its namesake.

blue-ridge-mtns

The drive to this college town and artist community took us on some extraordinary back roads and gave us some amazing “rural America” views. Took us about 3 hours to get to Boone, which is home to Appalachian State University. Our route to Boone’s historic downtown took us right through the middle of ASU’s campus. We were surprised at how big it was (has a huge football stadium) for such a small community.

ASU

We parked and walked along Boone’s main street (King Street). It had lots of shops, public art, galleries specializing in pottery and glass and eateries. Hmm…”eateries”.

Boone

This may come as a shock but once again we were a little hungry, so we decided to have a mid afternoon “snack”. We randomly chose Our Daily Bread Café and what a wonderful choice!

Daily Bread

The place was hoppin’, even though it was 2:30. Rorie ordered a bowl of homemade vegetable chili, loaded with fresh from the farm everything. Bart ordered the smoky white bean and ham soup. Lord have mercy, this stuff tasted so good. The Cafe makes it owns breads and desserts. Here’s a picture of what The Discover Small Town America Tour’s “Sugar Mama” was drooling over but decided to forgo.

Dessert

Reenergized, we continued our tour of the downtown area. “Met” Doc Watson, a world famous blue grass and country musician (guitarist, banjo and fiddle player, songwriter and singer).

Doc 1

Doc’s sculpture is located on the corner of King and Depot streets. He’s another of the Town’s favorite sons. The statue was the brainchild of a well-known local merchant who said at its 2009 dedication “Doc Watson got his start in downtown Boone as a blind musician.” Doc was said to be modest and very humble. He reluctantly agreed to having his statue commissioned and displayed, but with one condition. The inscription on the statue’s plaque must read “Doc Watson – just one of the people.”

Coincidentally, a music festival honoring Doc Watson was scheduled for tonight on the grounds of the Jones House, a historic downtown mansion (now community center) donated to the town by one of its residents.

Jones House

We walked back to the public parking lot where our car was located, NOT worried about having gotten a parking ticket even though our time on the meter had expired. Boone’s warm hospitality extends to its parking lots. If you do get a parking ticket, but have a receipt from a local merchant, all you have to do is bring the ticket back to the store/restaurant and they “validate” it. How neighborly is that!

We left Boone for the second and last stop of the day – Morrisville (population 19,185). The town is near Durham, where our daughter Sara lives. Had a very cool experience as we headed toward the Durham area. One of your “blog mates” saw us and the Discover Small Town America “Tour-mobile” on the road, and posted a note on this blog saying “Just saw you guys on I-40 E in North Carolina. Enjoy your adventure!”

Tour mobile

We had a wonderful, though short visit with Sara, who treated Rorie to an early birthday dinner at the Baby Moon Café. And in case you think Rorie made it through the entire day without anything sweet, ask her about the large Milky Way candy bar she inhaled after dinner!

Next stop? Stay tuned…

Take Me Home Country Road

Day 5 – From Christianburg, VA to Woodfin, NC (population 6,196); Miles: 238; Steps* (B) 11,301; (R) 7,843 

*We’re committed to exercising while on the road and both wear pedometers to log our daily results. The competitive spouse wants everyone to know that, even though a loser in today’s “steps count”, the exercise done with resistance bands translates into enough steps to be considered the winner today – again – by 1 step. Guess who’s who.

Road trip through the mountains

We began today’s road trip at around 9:00 am. Knew we’d have about a 4 hour drive to today’s destination and wanted to leave a good amount of time to explore the Asheville area. Our route took us from VA though northern TN into NC and gave us a chance to see the awesome Great Smokey Mountains. Even though it was a cloudy day, the views were still “wow”! It was an ear-popping, mountain high and valley low kind of drive (that sounds like a song by the Supremes!). Here’s a shot of the view from our car.

Windshield shot

Once in Asheville, we settled into the fabulous condo we found through the rental site http://www.airbnb.com. Check this site out if you like alternatives to hotels. The place is located in a gem of an area that combines business and retail space with the condos in a New Urbanism style. The owners of the condo, Deb and Tony, are world travelers and a really interesting couple. Deb owns a 100% organic and Ayurvedic skin care company in Asheville where she manufactures her products. You can find her natural products at http://www.tevaskincare.com, Amazon and eBay. Tony is a pilot with American Airlines and primarily flies non-stop to Asia and Europe. If you’re thinking of coming to the Asheville area, see if you can reserve this condo!

As we walked around the neighborhood where we were staying, we came upon a beautiful B&B called the Reynolds Mansion. This iconic NC landmark was built in 1847 by Daniel Reynolds and sits high on a hill with spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Haven’t been in it yet but we heard they serve a mean breakfast! Here’s a view of the place.

Mansion

Just a little way down the road we found a furniture and home accessory consignment shop called More Decor and met the wonderful owner Cheryl, a Florida transplant. As we’ve found with most everyone we’ve met throughout our trip, she was generous with her time and her recommendations for where to visit while in town.

Home Decor owner

Before making our way into downtown Asheville, we needed a little energy which always translates into food. First stop – The Potato Wedge for our favorite “breakfast for lunch”. We had a homey meal of an omelet, impossibly fluffy biscuit and egg sandwich with a thick slab of ham. If you’ve never had a real honest to goodness fresh egg before, find one and try it! After a lunch like that, we literally rolled into Asheville.

What a bustling, eclectic, bohemian place – not at all what we expected! One reviewer said “for travelers who love the energy of a big city but the comfort and charm of small-town life, Asheville provides a happy medium”. Indeed it does. We wandered the streets all afternoon and passed by tons of restaurants, bars, boutiques, antique and book stores, tattoo parlors, street musicians, little in-city parks, historic buildings, college students, young families, baby boomers and seniors all vying for space and attention!

Asheville

After racking up a few thousand “urban steps” on our pedometers, we decided to grab a bite to eat and randomly chose a little Latin restaurant called Chorizo. What a find! We relaxed with wine, a pineapple mojito, homemade tortilla chips and 3 fresh and smokey to-die-for salsas. Excellent stuff.

Now we had the fuel we needed to continue our exploration. Although it was too late in the day to tour the Biltmore Mansion, the summer “home” of the Vanderbilt family, we did drive to the estate and neighboring Biltmore village. From what we could see, the grounds are spectacular and easily take an entire day to see it all. The nearby village is quaint, European looking and filled with shops and restaurants. So much to see, so little time.

After a casual dinner of salad and one slice of pizza (yes just one slice for each of us!) it was back to the condo for a little R&R. We would like to point out to everyone who is reading this post that neither of us consumed any cookies, candy, cake, brownies, ice cream, or excessive sugar today. And since we didn’t have BBQ either, we had no pork that was smoked, chopped or pulled while we were in Asheville! However, tomorrow is another day! Stay tuned…

Day 4 – From Christianburg, VA to Mt. Airy, NC…and Back; Miles: 128; Steps* (B) 15,722; (R) 12,301
*We’re committed to exercising while on the road and both wear pedometers to log our daily results.

Mayberry RFD Here We Come

The day had a little slower pace than our previous days on the road. We slept in a little later than usual (8:00 a.m.) and then headed out to take a power walk – needed to burn off extra calories from last night’s pulled pork, smoked chicken, fried green tomatoes and…

We walked 4 plus miles on a trail in Coal Mining Heritage Park, which is located in the middle of the Huckleberry Trail between the towns of Blacksburg and Christiansburg. It was a beautiful trail with informative markers explaining the history of the coal industry.

Huckleberry Trail1

We decided to pay a visit to Mt. Airy, NC – home of Andy Griffith and the inspiration for mythical Mayberry in the long running television series “The Andy Griffith Show”. Sometimes the journey can be as interesting as the destination, and today’s 128 mile side trip was no exception. We traveled unbelievably beautiful back roads and the Blue Ridge Parkway on our way to “Andy’s town”. Gorgeous farms, rolling hills and picturesque mountains.

BlueRidgeParkwayVa2

Mt. Airy was a wonderful, non-touristy town with genuinely friendly residents who not only love their little slice of heaven, but also the connection to their beloved Andy.

Andy & Aunt Bea

After a tour of the Andy Griffith Museum, we ambled through the downtown on Main Street reminiscing about Sheriff Taylor, Floyd the Barber, Aunt Bea, Barney Fife, Goober and Gomer Pyle, Otis and of course Opie. Floyd’s Barber Shop and the Snappy Lunch, the diner where our hardworking sheriff and his faithful sidekick took a break from a day of fighting crime to eat lunch, are still Main St. fixtures.

Barney

After a hard day of reliving one of our favorite TV shows, we ducked into Miss Angels Heavenly Pie Shop AND Walkers old time soda fountain for a little “sugar” break. Can you say sugar high? Miss Angel and her husband Randy don’t just make heavenly baked goods (and Rorie knows how heavenly they are from the gooey chocolately brownie she consumed). They also own the 52 acre farm where they grow their own fruit and berries for their delicious sweets and they are huge supporters of local charities and fundraising efforts. They will be featured on either July 4 or 11 on the AMC TV channel’s Show “Showville”. Sheriff Taylor would be proud! You can order your own slice of heaven on their website: http://www.missangelsheavenlypiesinc.com.

Pastry shop

Next stop, an amazing vintage soda fountain owned by David Jones and his wife. At this community gathering place, which has been on Main Street since the 1800’s, Bart and Rorie sidled up to the formica counter, hopped on stools and ordered a gigantic, homemade, over the top banana split. We figured we could cover most of our food groups with this unbelievable culinary treat. We watched an artist at work as David created our masterpiece. Three scoops of ice cream and fresh whipped cream (dairy), fresh ripe bananas, pineapple and strawberry sauces (fruit), wet walnuts (protein), chocolate sauce (not a food group but necessary for daily living), and of course the cherry on top. Please don’t tell our dentists! Here’s to another day of avoiding the scale.

Your tour guides at the counter

David Ice Cream Shopppe

Davey & Our Sundae

All and all, we had a pleasant, heartwarming and sugar-filled day in Mayberry RFD. On our way back to the hotel we took an auto tour of VA Tech University in Blacksburg. Unfortunately, we got hit by a torrential thunderstorm, so walking the campus was not in the cards. Headed back for a bite to eat and turned in for the evening. Next stop: Ashevile, NC. Stay tuned…

Day 3: From Columbia, MD to Christianburg, VA
 318 miles; Steps*: 8,392 (B) 7,089 (R)
*
We’re committed to exercising while on the road and both wear pedometers to log our daily results. NOTE: Rorie wants everybody to know that, although Bart had more steps today, she worked out with weights this AM while he was sleeping. She believes this should count for 1,304 steps, giving her a total of 1 more step than Bart. (Apologies if you got multiple posts)

Heading South from Maryland, through West Virginia to Christianburg, VA

Before getting started today, we wanted to give a shout-out to the nice young woman who greeted and checked us in to our hotel near Ellicott City. She lives in the small town of Pasadena, MD. After learning about and signing on to the DSTA Tour, she gushed about an ice cream shop in her hometown – The Daily Scoop – and asked us to spotlight the place here. Even though we love it when folks speak with passion about their communities and awesome places there, we always check them out independently to see what others have to say. The Daily Scoop (http://bit.ly/11VboP7) is the real deal. It gets 4.5 out of 5 on the popular food review site Yelp. Here’s a representative review out of dozens: “Im in love with this place!! Love Love Love. Stopped here on the way home from a local park and had the taste for something sweet. This MAY BE the absolute best ice cream I’ve ever had outside of this childhood place I would go when we visited New York”. The next time we’re in the area The Daily Scoop will definitely get our business!

Ice Cream

New Market, MD: A Surprise Jewel in the Countryside

We knew we had a fairly long drive to get to our hotel in Southern VA and decided to make just one town our “spotlight” destination on the way: historic Harpers Ferry, WV. Well, that plan was short-lived. About 40 miles down the road toward HF, we saw a highway sign for “Historic New Market” and made a spontaneous decision to check the town (population 666) out. And, we’re so glad we did.

We came upon the New Market Town Hall after driving just a few miles down a country road.

New Market Town Hall

When we walked in, two very friendly women greeted us – Karen and Rita. Rorie explained to them that we were on the Discover Small Town America Tour and wanted to get some information about their community. Theses two townsfolk couldn’t have been more friendly or helpful. They looked around the office for a brochure and realized the “cupboards were bare”. Rita told us she had some extra pamphlets at her house and would make a quick trip home to get some more. Bart asked how far she had to go and she told him to jump in her truck for the quick trip there, which would allow her to show him her home – a converted historic Grange Hall.

Historic Grange

Wow. What a great house and what a great story Rita had to tell. She told Bart she moved to New Market from outside Baltimore over 20 years ago when, like us, she stumbled upon the town and fell in love with the place. Rita has an antiques and collectibles business (much of which is done online or at shows) and has never looked back. She’s also a member of the New Market Town Council. After driving Bart back to Town Hall, Rita invited Bart and Rorie to come see the inside of her house. It’s incredible – fabulous old wood floors and ceilings with a warm vintage look and feel! Plus, she recently installed dozens of solar panels on the roof of the old Grange Hall which she hopes pays big energy savings dividends next winter.

Grange Hall  interior

This is our new friend Rita…

Rita New Market

And this is from an email Rita sent us after our visit:

“Dear Bart & Rorie. What a pleasure to have met you. I feel that this was “God given”. There are a few of those moments in my life and this is one of them. What are the odds. That window of opportunity was as small as a pin hole. I’ve just looked over your website. Very exciting! Your website link will be sent to all my friends. I will make sure to check back and follow you wherever it takes you. I was delighted that you took the time to stop in at our humble home. The Old Grange is quite a great place to live. We enjoyed every day of the last 21 years here.”

We look forward to staying in touch with Rita down the road and in the months and years ahead.

Next stop: Harpers Ferry, W. VA. (population 286)

We took a step back in time as we experienced this beautiful “living” museum. The town, where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers come together, has been the backdrop for remarkable events including the creation of the first successful American railroad, John Brown’s attack on slavery and the largest surrender of Federal troops during the Civil War.

Looking down on the Potomac

We loved the history, the restored 19th century buildings and Rorie’s favorite establishment, the Confectionary Shoppe. Here she discovered the history of her addiction – candy! We learned about the creation in the early 1800’s of the ancestors of some of her favorite sweets – marshmallows and chocolate. Now she understands the genesis of her beloved Peeps and any and all milk chocolate!

Candy

We set off from Harpers Ferry an set our sights on the day’s final stop: Christiansburg, VA (population 21,041). Christiansburg, county seat of Montgomery County, was the one-time home of American folk hero, frontiersman, soldier and politician Davy Crockett. We arrived at our hotel at 6:30 and, after checking in, set off on a search for some good grub.

BBQ: Bring It On!



Our road trips are never complete until we find the best local BBQ joints and today was no exception. South Carolina transplants Marie and Jared, along with their friendly efficient staff, know how to do it right at their Due South Pit Cooked BBQ restaurant.

bbq sign

Smokey pulled pork, fall off the bone chicken and amazing home-made sides like crispy fried green tomatoes, crunchy hush puppies, thick baked beans, zippy taters and a sweet potato casserole that should be on the dessert menu. Yes, we tried them all and no we aren’t getting on the scale until we log another 10,000 steps on our pedometers.

This guy was looking down at us from above our booth but, no matter how long he stared, Rorie & Bart would not share their vittles.

Our dinner companion

Another day filled with unexpected surprises, amazing people devoted to their neighbors and towns, and a whole lot of history. Thanks for joining us on today’s journey.Tomorrow we’ll spend another day looking for more wonderful people doing great things in off-the-beaten path places. Stay tuned…

Ellicott City rocks!

Day 2: From Columbia to Ellicott City and on to the big city of Baltimore
0 miles; Steps*: 13,180 (B) 10,385 (R)
* We’re committed to exercising while on the road and both wear pedometers to log our daily results.

Our day began with a visit to the Howard County Chamber of Commerce in Columbia, MD to get the lay of the land before beginning our first Discover Small Town America Tour excursion. Columbia, which consists of ten self-contained villages, isn’t a small town in the traditional sense of the word. But, as a successful “planned community”, it feels like one. It’s got a pretty cool history and development story, which Wikipedia captures well (http://bit.ly/c5abH5). We want to give a big “thanks” to Marlys, who warmly welcomed us to the Howard County Chamber office this morning and gave us some great tips and contacts with whom to connect during the day.

columbia

Our first, and highly anticipated stop, was in Ellicott City (EC) and we weren’t disappointed. We parked on historic Main Street in the village. To Bart’s great happiness, our parking spot was just a few doors from an awesome, lively cafe named Bean Hollow.

Bean Hollow

The folks at Bean Hollow make amazing espresso drinks and we highly recommend you stop by when (not if) you visit EC. Based on the the number of regulars and newbies there, I’d say the enthusiasm for this java joint is “espressoly” high (this is Rorie’s phraseology)!

Walking up and down the streets lined with gorgeous historic buildings housing shops, restaurants, a railroad, museums and stone houses, was like stepping back into the 1800’s. And if you happen to be an antique lover, this is the town for you!

Ellicott City Country Store

Bart Clock

We came across a beautiful public garden on the banks of the Patapsco River and had a great conversation with Paul, a Master Gardener who along with other volunteers maintains this lovely space and is also active in the nonprofit organization, Patapsco Heritage Greenway.

Rorie & Paul

Paul directed us to Howard County Visitor’s Center, which was once a funeral parlor, where we learned even more about the people and heritage of Elicott City. The folks who work there couldn’t have been any friendlier or more helpful. Thank you Paul and everyone else we met for your warm welcome, sharing of your time and information, and for your pride and stewardship in maintaining Elicott City’s rich history for all of us to enjoy.

“Got nothing against a big town”

When John Mellencamp wrote his song “Small Town”, he told us he’s “Got nothing against a big town”, and neither do we. Even though this is The Discover Small Town America Tour, we took in the sights and tastes of nearby Baltimore after leaving Ellicott City.

BMore

Urban neighborhoods can be a lot like small towns in scale and neighborliness, and the Federal Hill section of Baltimore – our second and last stop of the day – proved this point. Bart loves GOOD crab cakes, which are hard to find. He found them at Regi’s in the Federal Hill neighborhood, just a few blocks away from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor (http://bit.ly/JHCByh). The restaurant review site Urban Spoon gave the place a 4.5 rating. Bart loves good “lump crab” crab cakes and this place exceeded his high standards. Yum!

Crab cake

Rorie’s a BIG fan of sweets and that could only mean one thing in B-More: Little Italy. After lunch we wandered over to this iconic neighborhood and wandered its streets until we found Piedigrotta Italian Bakery, which gets 4.5 on the food review site Yelp (http://bit.ly/vV6JlZ). Normally Rorie is all over the Italian pastries but today – because temperatures were a little toasty – we decided on some amazing pistachio gelato. It really hit the spot!

Tomorrow we’re off to Harpers Ferry, WV, Staunton, VA and other amazing small towns. Stay tuned…