Since we left Maryland, we have passed through West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and we are now in Tennessee, where we will remain for a few days. We are heading to Nashville on Saturday and then Memphis.
As a child of the late 60s and early 70s I have had a long-held love of The Waltons. I was, therefore, very excited to be coming to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, home to John Boy, Mary Ellen and the rest (and oh yes I can name them all). The first thing I discovered is that the series was filmed in California, but that did not deter me from seeking the perfect Waltons locations. More on that later.
We really are in the south now and my impressions are as follows
- People are super friendly.
- They really do say “you’all”.
- Every house has a porch with rocking chairs.
- The countryside is unspoiled and plentiful and not that different in appearance to England or parts of Wales.
- The corn on the cob is not as good here as the East coast, even though it grows everywhere.
- There are a lot of churches.
Our first encounter with a local on entering the mountain area was a friendly black guy on the supermarket car park who bounded up and shouted “where d’you bring that thing from?” pointing at the bike and then engaged us in conversation about where we are from and how we got the bike here. We have since met many friendly people who call us honey, and sweetheart and want to know about us and our trip. They all think it is as exciting as we do. The lovely young guy who checked me in to the motel today, asked if he could look through my passport as he had never seen one before and asked how it worked and if I got it stamped in every country I visited.
On the first night in the mountains, we stayed at the Shenandoah National Park campground on the top of Loft Mountain. For once we had grass to camp on which was very welcome. Here in the US, it is quite standard to expect campers to pitch their tent on gravel.
They take bears very seriously on this campground. We were told not to rinse tiny grains of food down the pug hole as it attracts them. In the ladies toilet there was a sign that said “ do not leave food trash in this garbage-bears will enter and become trapped in restroom.” The next morning, after a fitful sleep, I tentatively pushed open the bathroom door and peered inside before going in-no bears thankfully.
One lasting impression of the past few days is the rural churches we have passed and the messages they display outside. They keep me entertained as I sit with my own thoughts for hours. A few that stick in my mind are
- The Lord is like tennis-serve well and you will seldom fail.
- The best cure for sin burn is son screen.
- Bikers welcome-ride through the Lord.
We came here to ride the Blueridge Parkway and while that was enjoyable, the 45 mph speed limit means that you have to learn the pleasure of cruising rather than blasting, which is pretty alien to us Brit bikers. The views in places were beautiful. However, I think we have enjoyed the riding that we have done off the Parkway more as there are more homes and other things to look at. One morning, riding back from the campsite to pick up the Parkway, I finally found Waltons mountain. There were so many houses just like the Walton family’s and other smaller homes with white peeling paint and ancient rocking chairs out front. We passed a lumbar yard and then, at last, a general store that could easily have been Ike’s.
We had been searching for the perfect campsite to take a day off from riding. It needed to have grass and either Wifi or a mobile phone service. Yesterday, we rode towards the Great Smoky Mountains, through North Carolina and into Tennessee and we found the ideal place. Stunningly located on a river with views to the mountains. It reminded me of Tatopani in Nepal, where there are hot springs. The weather was hot but we had a big shady tree and picnic bench, right on the riverbank for $20. We could even overlook the fact that the toilets had no doors, only curtains (!), so idyllic was it.
We settled back to read and chill. The clouds came over and wind picked up and an hour later we were in the middle of a heavy, tropical-like storm. We were able to take shelter on a porch and watch the show.
It was unnerving at times but the tent held up and the only stuff that got wet was that left in the tent porches. As the forecast was the same for tonight, we have treated ourselves to a motel for the night. After 18 nights of camping, a private shower, free Wifi and electric sockets is a real treat that we intend to make the most of.