Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring Break Road Trip

We had big plans for Spring Break this year but after they all fell through (mostly due to high airfare costs which we weren't willing to pay) we decided to take a spontaneous road trip. We set out with no specific plan and not a single reservation. Liz was a little nervous about this as she's an organized planner by nature but other than a smelly hotel room the first night everything turned out great. Roxy came along as she's an excellent car rider and we had very few issues finding hotels she was welcomed at (note, we stayed at a Comfort Inn and a Country Inn and Suites but we found La Quinta to be the best value overall and stayed at a couple along the way).

Here are some pictures and notes of our week-long journey.

First Stop: Washington, D.C. where we toured the mall and then had dinner at a great Thai restaurant in Georgetown with friend Rob who recently moved there to work in the admissions office at the University.
We stayed that first night after leaving D.C. in northern Virginia and then drove down through Virginia Beach (a lot like Seaside, OR but bigger) and Norfolk. We found Norfolk very interesting and toured the USS Wisconsin and a fascinating memorial to Douglas McArthur in the old city hall (also now his tomb).
From there we drove down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. If you're not familiar with this area it's a thin strip of land just off shore with miles of beaches, beach houses and little shops and restaurants. We stayed near Kitty Hawk where we walked on the beach and then toured the Wright Bros. museum the next morning.
Add ImageAbove is a picture of the marker where the Wright Flier first took off. You can see the markers in the background showing how far each of their first four attempts reached. The fourth is quite a ways in the distance. Below is the nearby hilltop memorial.
There is even a full size metal replica you can climb aboard to get a sense of what it might have been like.
After leaving the Outer Banks we drove all the way across North Carolina, stopping at Duke University to tour the gardens and Cathedral and then staying the night near Winston-Salem. Our destination was Asheville where we toured the largest house in America. The Biltmore estate was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II (grandson of "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt) and is 175,000 square feet (250 rooms).

One of the highlights of the estate and grounds were the extensive greenhouses. There were several enormous spaces all connected together and each distinguished by a different temperature range or humidity level. Though not much was blooming in the Frederick Law Olmsted designed gardens the greenhouses were full of life and color.

Before leaving Asheville we stopped at the Tupelo Honey Cafe for fried green tomatoes and grits, catfish and fried chicken. After leaving Biltmore we stopped at a couple wineries, our favorite of which was called Veritas and was located in Virginia. Of course we brought quite a few bottles back with us (another advantage of not traveling by air). Also in Virginia we stopped at another of America's great estates, Monticello. It took Thomas Jefferson 40 years to complete and the thought and ingenuity that went into the house is still evident today.

Also on our way back North we drove 63 miles of the Skyline Parkway Drive in Shenandoah. It's slow driving as the speed limit is 35 and you're constantly stopping or slowing down for deer near, or often in, the roadway. We counted 25 deer while on this road.

Though Roxy probably spent more time in the car than she'd like I hope she had fun too. Here she is trying to smell the early spring mountain air.

Happy as a clam.


  1. I can't believe I've missed reading your life posts for this long! Life gets busy when the sun begins to peek out here, eh? Beautiful trip it sounds like, one I'd love to take.... Hope all's well. Sad your folks just lost a house sale, I think they'd be happy to see this all finished. Hi to Roxie, oh yes, and Jason! Hah.

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