After the race and another night, we caught the train to Washington, DC (which will be covered in another trip report) and took a week's break there before returning to Charlotte. Now, we have 8 more days, no plans, no reservations, nothing in mind but we do have a rental car for the duration. We check in to a La Quinta Inn and press on.
We pull out a map and look for somewhere to go. We see that the town of Hickory is within a couple of hours drive so off we go.
We pull off to take a look at this historic grist mill. We later learn that the state is dotted with such mills. The banks of the placid mill pond with it's rushing waterfall are too much to resist picnicking at.
At this point, may I just say that the people in the state are also top-notch. You hear about Southern Hospitality but it's something else to experience it first hand. The people here are very friendly and are a pleasure to deal with.
Arriving at Hickory near dinner time, we find another charming little Mayberry-like town that the state is full of. Now Mayberry is, of course, an unobtainable fiction and all towns have problems. But the towns we've seen are beautiful examples of small town America populated by some very friendly folks.
We pull in for dinner at the Hickory Station, a nice dinner and steak house set in the restored railroad depot. As my wife dines on some savory shrimp, Tim on a nice juicy burger, and me on a tender rib-eye, we enjoy the wonderful view of the twinkling lights of downtown and the hills beyond. After dinner, the host invites us into the kitchen to meet the chef and after a nice chat we head on back to Charlotte.
The next day, we head over to the hometown of Elizabeth Dole, Salisbury. Here, we ride on the historic restored steam train at the railroad museum. The coal fired locomotive gives us a clue as to why it's not used as a fuel on modern trains anymore. Our skin, hair, and even teeth are filled with a fine, gritty soot as the smoke from the burning coal settles over the entire train.
The town offers a self guided tour of its magnificent old homes, some dating back to the 17th century. We marvel at these grand old buildings and head back for another night in the big city.
The only place open (and for only a few minutes more) is a barbecue place just outside of town on the road to nearby Spindale. I'm sorry to say that North Carolina barbecue and me just don't get along...just way to vinegary. The food was atrocious but luckily, it's the worst we would have to endure.
The Pinebrae is a antebellum style mansion situated on 15 acres of prime western North Carolina countryside with woods to wander through, great expanses of lawn, and many wild furry visitors popping through.
The owners, Alan and Charlotte, tell us it used to be a home for troubled youths back in the depression years. Now it's a beautiful home with four guest rooms for travelers. And fellow travelers here tend to be nice and quiet since most of their guests are visiting doctors working at the hospital down the road.
Travelling through the countryside towards nearby Asheville, we stop at roadside stands to pick up home made jams, jellies, and preserves to take back with us.
We travel over to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and hike up to the top of Clingman's Dome, the second highest point in the state and the highest point of neighboring Tennessee (the state line bisects the peak).
We did make it after much effort and the view into neighboring Tennessee is astonishing. After a hair-raising walk 'n roll back down to the parking lot, we head over to Dillsborough to board the Great Smokey Mountain Railroad.
The train makes it back to Dillsborough at 6:00pm and after browsing through the few shops still open at that time, we have dinner at the unpretentious Dillsborough Steak and Seafood house for a delicious dinner before heading back over to Rutherfordton.
We spend our last full day here shopping for souvenirs in town and taking one last drive through the countryside. The next day, after having one last hot southern breakfast we say goodbye to our hosts and take that 2 hour drive back to Charlotte for the most regretable part of our trip...going home.
Copyright 2000 - Darryl Musick