Ok I really needed to get out of town! Yes we should still be staying home. But what if you are traveling in your own home? Doing your own cooking, taking your own bathroom with you? In 2014 Michael and I bought a Pleasure Way Sprinter RV and we had a lot of adventures in it. I was always the driver, I think he may have put 100 miles on it. The reason? I’m a terrible backseat driver and it just made us both more comfortable if I did the driving. Since he’s been gone I have continued to travel in it. From Florida to Maine to Michigan to Arkansas and all along the Gulf coast, I continue to have adventures, just wish he was here to share them with me. I’d love to take it to the west coast but obviously that won’t be for a while.
We always used to name our vehicles but haven’t the last couple including this one. Our 69 VW Bus was Poke. When we lived in Aspen and would drive to Denver by the time we got to the tunnel at the top of Loveland Pass we would be going 25 and be nice and warm. Once we exited the tunnel we could be going 70 but freezing. So this RV is just called the Sprinter.
I had plans to go to Maine and Nova Scotia this summer then over to see family in Michigan. When states started shutting down due to Covid 19 I changed it to just Michigan. Now cases of Covid are surging everywhere so I decided to stay closer to home. For some it’s no fun to travel if things aren’t open. For me I’m content to look at the outside of buildings (more interested in the architecture than the contents), walk a neighborhood, look at a vista, and just have a pleasant drive.
I have never been to Floyd or ridden the Virginia Creeper so decided this was a good time to do it. Of course if I AM around other people I always wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart, and wash my hands until they are raw. Floyd is 5 hours from New Bern.
This was my first trip carrying my new bike with me. I got TerraTrike (made in Michigan) that folds up so it would fit inside my RV. Yes I could hang it on the outside, I did not worry about someone steeling my old bike, I think I only paid $150 for it and it was well used. This one, would be more tempting to someone so I wanted to be able to put it inside.
Floyd is SSW of Roanoke, VA, a small town of only 428 but is definitely a tourist destination with cute shops, a distillery, vineyards, and in a beautiful location. Floyd County is situated on a high plateau of the Blue Ridge Mountains which divides the eastward flowing from the westward flowing waters. It is said that no water flows into Floyd County. My Dad would say this was “the height of land.” I always thought that was a phrase he made up but it’s not. Here is the definition I found “Height of land is used to mean a local high point on a trail, road, or along a ridge where you stop going up and start going down. It’s basically used to describe a high-point that’s not a summit.”
I stayed at Chantilly Farms, a beautiful event space and campground. If you just need electricity and water they place you way away from everyone else, it was beautiful. And at dusk I saw this deer on the ridge above me.
On my way out of town I spotted her…..
I’m always intrigued by grindstones. Partly because we went more than once to Grindstone City at the tip of the thumb in Michigan when I was growing up. We had a grindstone for a front step at our house and one by the back door. In those days you could just pick them up now I’m told the only ones left there are giant.
I ran across the Claw of the Dragon, a motor cycle route going up Virginia Route 16. I had heard of the Tail of the Dragon, which is a famous motor cycle route in western NC. But I didn’t realize there is the Back of the Dragon, Claw of the Dragon, etc. I tried to track down a map of the whole dragon but could not! I guess they are just motorcycle routes that don’t necessarily connect to one another. Here is a website that shows the different Dragon routes. I drove on a part of Hwy 8 in my RV that could be some part of the dragon!
I left Floyd and headed west to Damascus, VA. Another first visit.
On the way I spotted a lot of LOVE in Virginia!
Damascus is known as Trail Town USA due to the convergence of four scenic trails in the town, including the Appalachian Trail, U.S. Bicycle Route 76, The Iron Mountain Trail, and the Virginia Creeper Trail. Damascus also is on the route of the Daniel Boone Heritage Trail and the Crooked Road Music Heritage Trail. The Trail Days festival is held around the middle of May each year and draws in 20,000 tourists, making it the largest single gathering of Appalachian Trail hikers anywhere.
Like I said I was there to ride the Virginia Creeper Trail which is part of the Rails to Trails a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors. This program and other trail programs have been an economic boon to towns along them. I wish our town would get with the program! We have the perfect topography for it since it is so flat in eastern North Carolina.
A shuttle service carried my bike and I to Whitetop Station – The elevation at Whitetop Station is 3500 feet, dropping down to about 1900 feet in Damascus. This is a 17 mile downhill ride. You can ride an additional 17 miles up to Abingdon with an elevation of 2087 feet which I did not do. Can’t say the ride was much exercise but the view was spectacular! At times the Trail runs along Whitetop Laurel Creek through a deep narrow gorge with views of both whitewater rapids and swimming holes.
A little history – The Virginia Creeper Trail Began as a Native American footpath. Later the European pioneers, as well as early explorer Daniel Boone, used the trail.
Shortly before 1900, W.E. Mingea constructed the Virginia- Carolina Railroad from Abingdon to Damascus. Its nickname, Virginia Creeper, came from the early steam locomotives that struggled slowly up the railroads steep grades.
The Virginia Creeper engine and tinder are now on display at the Abingdon trailhead.
Virginia Creeper is also the name of a vine that grows prolifically in the area.
It’s a pretty plant with berries the birds like but it’s kind of like poison ivy so it’s nothing you want in your yard. Plus if you don’t keep it in check it would cover your entire home.
The Creeper ran its last train March 31, 1977.
Between Abingdon and Damascus, the trail right-of-way belongs to the two towns. Although the public legally has the right to use the trail, most of the actual land between Abingdon and the iron bridge East of Damascus is privately owned. The 15.9 miles of trail between iron bridge ( mile 18.4 ) to the state line are part of the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area in the Jefferson National Forest. Except for a short stretch through Taylor’s Valley, the public owns both the right-of-way and the actual property. Taylors Valley is a cute little town with a restaurant.
The trail is well traveled so I was assured by a female friend that it would be safe to ride by myself. Some trails that are more remote I probably would not ride by myself unless there were a lot of people on it. There were no issues whatsoever. Lots of people on the trail and I saw the same people over and over so felt perfectly safe.
My dream is to have some dedicated bike trails in and around New Bern. The closest thing we have is the Riverwalk that goes out to Lawson Creek park. I ride it at least once a week, but it is only a mile and a half or so long. The rails to trails, or any bike trails in the country have been an economic boon to the communities they go through. This would be especially true right now because bike sales have soared, to the point most bike shops can’t get any and in some cases can’t even get parts. I’ve joined a club of people with recumbent trikes and ride with them occasionally (retirement is wonderful)!
Here are some shots around Damascus.
I was camped in the middle of town, a perfect spot. This was my view.
A friend of a friend picked me up and we went to Abingdon for lunch then went to Backbone Rock Tunnel. We climbed up these amazing stone steps to walk across the top of it. Glad I had him with me because I never would have made it on my own. Boy I need to do a lot more bike riding, I’m so out of shape! It was beautiful and worth the huffing and puffing! It doesn’t look like it but it’s 75 feet to the top of the rocks. It is known as the shortest tunnel in the world.
Backbone Tunnel is just a few miles out of Damascus. I then drove to Abingdon. I’ve visited here many times picking up pottery from Mary Curtin. Through the years I’ve seen it go up and down in prosperity. Sometimes I’ve gone and found it bustling with lots of neat shops, other times it’s pretty quiet. It looks like it is thriving right now, even with the Virus.
This is the Abingdon end of the Creeper Trail and one of the original steam engines.
Things Abingdon is known for is the Barter Theatre, the trails of course, The Martha Washington Inn, its 20-square block Historic District with homes and buildings dating from the 1860s, the Virginia Highlands Festival, lots of hiking including the Great Channels. I love the idea of seeing the Great Channels but would never do it by myself, and don’t think I’m up to hiking that far. Of course when I was in Rome and Amsterdam I had no trouble walking just as far but both cities are on flat ground, with lots of people to pick up up if I tripped and fell. Which I did do in Amsterdam, in the street, right in front of the train station. And people came from all around to pick me up!
Obviously this is not my photo of the Great Channels because I did not go, it looks like it would be really neat to see.
I understand the Barter Theatre is doing performances at a drive in theatre. They have a stage then the performance is projected onto the movie screen.
I love the architecture here.
After leaving Abingdon I stopped in Blowing Rock. Always love the flowers there, I didn’t mind it was raining because it was nice and cool.
I then drove to see a friend that started and owned Craft Company Number 6 in Rochester, NY, a great gardener and woodworker.
We visited Collene Karcher at her studio Stone Crossing Studio and Gallery. She does contemporary folk artist carving free-standing and bas relief sculpture in marble, slate, and limestone, as well as hand-carved letters in stone. There are only a handful of people in the country that are still doing this type of work by hand.
I was particularly interested in the garden pieces that she casts in concrete from her molds she has made from her sculptures. I loved it ALL and of course came home with a few pieces. I don’t really need to be still collecting but I can’t help myself when I see such beautiful things.
All in all it was a great week and I will certainly return to the area. Where to next? Franklin, TN to a painting workshop in October.
4 thoughts on “Road Trip – Floyd Damascus Abingdon Travel During a Pandemic”
Jan, I love your blog’s and photos! I feel like I have been on a mini vacation!
Thank you Karen! It’s not that far to go and just driving through the countryside was beautiful! I love the fact that so many of the roads in Virginia are built as parkways. Now I’ve got to get to work because I put people off on their orders so I could go. But I also needed to go so I could do their pieces. I hope you get to travel again soon. xo
Aunt Jan this is a beautiful article and stunningly beautiful photos. Thank you for sharing-I definitely miss traveling this year!!! Hope to see you soon.
Thank you Renee! I was bummed that things didn’t look good for Michigan so glad I could go SOMEWHERE. Hope you are doing well. Looking forward to seeing your house!