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Following the Foggy Blue Ridge Parkway

June 26, 2021

Another way for week of June 18, 2021

Following the Foggy Blue Ridge Parkway

James River in southern Virginia.

My husband was able to (mostly) check one item off his bucket list over our recent 45th anniversary weekend. He has long talked about driving the Blue Ridge Parkway from end to end. It runs 469 miles from Waynesboro, Virginia (not far from us) to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.

He had an aunt and uncle who married late in life who made the trip on their honeymoon and reported it as “something you need to do sometime.” It was so local and under our noses that it always got overlooked in favor of maybe more exciting adventures. Like the Atlantic Coast beaches or the Rockies or California and eventually Alaska. My parents had the travel bug and so do I and I’m happy to say it also resides in my husband.

So, even though the thought of driving some 380 miles (we didn’t drive all the way to the Smokys, where we’ve been before) at or below 45 miles per hour sounded a little tiring, it was fascinating! There were splendid views and enough interesting stops and side adventures to placate my pandemic-starved (read: homebody) self. Yes, we’d made several trips to Indiana during the last 15 months but they were necessitated by two falls my Mom had, one in early 2020 and also 2021.

This latest trek had some bumps and less than ideal traveling along the way: two detours that we knew nothing about that took us off the Parkway for about 40 miles into Roanoke city traffic at one stretch, and another for 10ish miles in rural backroads. (He thinks we should go back and do those 50 miles sometime. Would you?)

But the worst conditions were the first two hours when morning rain, mist, fog and clouds made driving extremely precarious. The lights on vehicles or motorcycles in front of us were very hard to see and it took all four of our eyes doing their best to stay alert. The rain itself was not such a big deal. We reminded ourselves that it rained on our wedding day too, and we had to change plans at the last minute and have an indoor ceremony. But the fog and mist on the Parkway for miles on end made us nervous and a bit stressed.

Foggy morning blues.

Along the way there were more than enough parks, visitor centers, waterfalls, trading posts, overlook knobs, and cultural stops (recalling the mountain culture of the past) to keep us more than entertained. We were grateful we’d ventured out, rain and mist or not.

Delighted that the sun came out for our stop at Mabry Mill!

My favorite stops were walking down to the James River which threads through much of Virginia—a delightful place to stretch; the old Mabry Mill with waterwheel for power to grind wheat and make flour—which is one of the most photographed spots along the Parkway, they say. The water still flows but no grinding is currently done although in full summer tourist mode, you might see some demonstrations of old timey work.

Peaks of Otter, a beautiful spot especially in fall, boasts lovely lodgings and a rustic restaurant where we were able to look out over the small dammed up lake.

Resting and waiting to order a delicious lunch at Peaks of Otter Lodge.

And finally, in North Carolina we enjoyed, Mt. Mitchell, because you can drive almost to the top. We hiked the final short quarter of a mile to the summit. In spite of the mostly rainy morning, at each of these spots the fog and rain lifted enough for us to enjoy some views and snap photos. You see a lot of scenery, flowers, and mountains without exerting a lot of energy (perfect for some less-mobile senior citizens) but there were also children with families out enjoying the sights and small hikes. It’s all free (except for gas) and you can get on and off whenever you wish. We were also able to finally visit a cousin and his wife again near Gastonia, NC.

No, we didn’t climb to the top, but enjoyed walking the last section on a chilly Sunday.

When my daughters were younger, after a trip or outing, I would usually ask, “What was your favorite part?” I suppose they got tired of that question but it helps to cement in our minds a special memory or happening that we hang on to. Whatever you get to do this summer, find a way to savor the experience.


What are places you would love to go back to?

Where have you been that you don’t really need or want to return to?

Best vacation ever?


Comment here or send stories to or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. Melodie, you are scratching my item to travel again. Yes, we have traveled the Blue Ridge Parkway and enjoyed the views. It looks like you had some foggy days, but at least the sun came out for your stop at the mill.

    We are looking forward to exploring the Ozark in Missouri when we visit my second cousin next month.

    I would like to return to Italy, but at a leisurely pace; a week in Tuscany would be wonderful. On our first visit, we tried to see everything and the weather was hot. Now that we are retired, I’d choose spring or fall–NOT summer and concentrate on 1 or 2 spots instead of being on the move every day. Great post!

  2. Did you mean “itch” or item in your first sentence. I’m NOT picking on you, trying to figure out if you are using an idiom I haven’t heard before. At any rate, thanks for checking in.

    We’ve traveled through the Ozarks but never spent much time there–although my parents almost moved us all to Missouri when Dad had the itch to move. 🙂 He got over that one, and I think I’m glad! The Ozarks will be a lovely change of pace for you.

    I’ll take a week in Tuscany too! Ha. The only parts of Italy I’ve seen are Rome and a night time train ride from the Alps down through Italy to meet my parents when I was a junior in college. That’s another story. (Have you read my Spain book?? I call it a memoir now. I think you’d enjoy it.) I’d be happy to send you a copy totally free for all your faithfulness in commenting! Bless you! (And let me know.)

  3. samjsteiner permalink

    Sue and I stayed at Peaks of Otter at least three times over the years, once in spring when trees were in bloom. Your column brings back such good memories.

  4. Thanks Sam, glad those are good memories! I would like to go again maybe in spring or fall. This was pretty much straight up summer!

    Blessings & thanks for commenting.

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