US Road Trip Epilog: 23rd June 2005

The Days Inn in Asheville really is a dump - non-working aircon (in both rooms), carpets with holes and wallpaper falling off, indifferent staff and a coffee machine that hadn't been cleaned since the last person used the room. How exactly they can claim this place is 'newly-renovated' is beyond me, unless the previous version had caves for rooms. It's a bit of a relief to get out and on the road again.

As if Asheville hadn't been enough of a surprise so far, on the way out of town we come across a roundabout. In all the miles I've done in the US I think this is the third one I've seen. Needless to say it keeps the traffic moving much better than one of those 4-way Stop sign affairs.

The plan was to rejoin the Blue Ridge Parkway west of town but a sign as we join informs us that the road is closed 28 miles ahead, and that all traffic will have to return to this point. Time then for - a hastily cobbled-together - Plan B. We'll join Interstate 40 east for a bit then use Highway 221 to take us northeast.

Highway 221
Highway 221, at this point a fast dual carriageway.

Highway 221 is nicer than I was expecting. The Blue Ridge Parkway was very scenic but, as there are no villages or towns along it, the drive was a little lacking in variety. The 221 varies a lot, from fairly fast single lane to twisting and winding through the trees like the Blue Ridge to fast dual carriageway. More interesting for the driver and passenger as there's more to see through the villages and towns, with the changes of road type keep the interest going, and also much easier on the car as there aren't miles of downhill turns and braking to get anything too hot and bothered.

I've been surprised so far by what I've seen traveling along the edge of the Appalachian Mountains. The area seems fairly prosperous, with farms of both crops and livestock. In fact, in places it's similar to driving through Somerset back in the UK. The houses are nice and large - in some cases spectacular wooden affairs like a giant ski chalet - and there's obviously plenty of money around. Other parts of the Appalachians may well be different but that's how this part looks.

Our destination for today is Galax, for the simple reason that it's one of the few places along the way big enough to have a motel or two. The guy running the desk at the Super 8 is friendly, informative (Galax hosts the world's largest fiddlers convention later in the summer, which I'm secretly glad we've avoided) and he tells us where the restaurants and bars are in town.

After some BBQ burgers and some pints at one of the few bars, tonight is all about the basketball. Another tight game, number 7 of 7 so it really is all on the line tonight, which sees the players who under-performed for San Antonio suddenly come to life in the final 20 minutes to take the game. Not the result I wanted, but fascinating to watch.

US Road Trip Epilog: 24th June 2005 >