Roanoke and Abingdon
From Peaks of Otter, we set off down the Blue Ridge Parkway again to Roanoke. It took all morning to do about 30 miles because we stopped so often – at overlooks, at Virginia’s Explore Park (a collection of historic buildings and riverside trails) and at Roanoke and Mill Mountains. The latter mountain has a huge neon star which can be seen from the town – we wished we were staying overnight so that we could see it properly. After lunch and an all too brief walk round Roanoke itself it was onto the interstate and a straight road down to Abingdon for our next three nights.
Our guidebook described Abingdon as a “show-stopping town” and it was indeed very beautiful. We stayed in a self catering apartment this time, Creeper’s End Lodging, though we didn’t use the small kitchen for anything but breakfast. On the first day, we followed the self-guided walking tour of Abingdon’s Downtown Historic District highlighting buildings which were established on the map of 1880. One of these was the Barter Theatre where we rounded off the day with dinner and a show. The theatre was set up by unemployed actors in the 1930s when they would accept produce, livestock or other goods in exchange for tickets, hence the name, but now houses the State Theater of Virginia. Apparently, they also paid playwrights in kind and George Bernard Shaw, a vegetarian, was obliged to return a Virginia ham and request spinach instead (which he got). There was also a wolf trail around the town (“Who’s afraid of Virginia’s wolves?”) which was originally called Wolf Hill in the days of Daniel Boone. My favourite was Material Girl.
The second day, we cycled part of the Virginian Creeper Trail, 34 miles of an old railroad bed. The term creeper in this case comes from the slow speed of the trains which had to crawl up White Top mountain – the lower end was just across from our cottage which explains its name. We did the trail the easy way – hired bikes from a company which took you to the top and let you cycle all the way or half way back. We chose the latter and opted to be picked up in Damascus. Given that I hadn’t been on a bike for 20 years or so, I was just grateful to survive! Along the way, we dropped into the old Green Cove station, now a Forest Service information post decked out as an old shop. The two volunteers running it were about to go on vacation to Scotland for three weeks! Much discussion and swapping of travel tips took place.
On our last evening, there was a massive thunderstorm and tornado warning with sirens going off in the town and high-pitched noises emitted from our mobile phones which gave us quite a shock! Fortunately, it was short-lived and we got on with our preparations for the next day’s journey back into West Virginia.