Appalachian Mountains – Fall Color, History and Zombies (October 17-26, 2016)

On October 17th we left Tennessee and headed to Asheville, NC. Although the route was almost entirely interstate highway, the highway was very hilly and winding. We spent three nights at the Asheville West KOA in Candler, NC, about 10 miles west of Asheville.

On October 18th we toured the Biltmore estate. Biltmore was one of the homes of George Vanderbilt, grandson of the industrialist and philanthropist Cornelius Vanderbilt. Construction of the Biltmore House, a 250-room French Renaissance chateau, began in 1889 and took over six years to complete. The finished home contains over four acres of floor space, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. We took the self-guided tour that led us through about 30 rooms in the house. After touring the house, we strolled through the huge Biltmore gardens and then enjoyed wine tasting at the Biltmore winery.

Although the KOA was very nice, our site was very shaded and we were unable to get a satellite TV signal. They did provide cable TV but the Cubs playoff game was on FS1, not one of the stations provided by the cable. This made finding a nearby sports bar a critical mission before the NLCS game on October 18th. We ended up watching the game at Buffalo Wild Wings in Asheville. Unfortunately, the Cubs couldn’t score and ended up losing 6-0. The following night, we decided to watch the Presidential debate instead and followed the Cubs’ game on the Internet. That strategy paid off as the Cubs won in a blowout, 10-2.

On October 20th we moved further north to Wytheville, VA. We spent three nights at the Wytheville KOA. The campground has a number of unusual amenities. On our first night, we walked down to the amusement center where they have bowling alleys and batting cages. We ordered a pizza for dinner and it was delivered to our rig. Our campsite had a clear view of the sky so we had no trouble getting a good satellite signal. We watched the Cubs win game five of the NLCS 8-4 and take a series lead of 3 games to 2 against the Dodgers.

On October 22nd we did a scenic byway drive north of Wytheville. We drove to the privately owned Big Walker Mountain lookout with its view of several states. We visited the BW Country Store but, because of the cold weather and strong winds, chose not to climb the 100-foot observation tower. We continued the drive through the hillside and enjoyed the scenic vistas.

After a stop at Wal-Mart, we drove through downtown Wytheville. We noticed that the main street was blocked off so we decided to investigate. It turned out that we had arrived in time for the Zombie Bash. We had a little time before the Zombie Parade was going to begin so we went to Skeeter’s for some hot dogs. We also checked out the childhood home of Edith Bolling Wilson, the wife of Woodrow Wilson.

The Zombie Parade, although it didn’t have a large number of zombies, was quite amusing. Immediately following the parade was zombie flash mob dance to the music of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. We left before the start of the Zombie 5K race. That evening we watched the Cubs clinch the National League championship by beating the Dodgers 5-0 and advance to the World Series for the first time in 71 years. We celebrated and watched the post-game analysis and Cubs fans’ celebration until 1 a.m.

On October 23th we left Wytheville and drove to Charlottesville, VA. We spent three nights at the Charlottesville KOA. It was a small campground deep in the woods but we got a nice level site. The trees blocked our ability to get a satellite signal. Fortunately the campground had decent cable TV that included the Fox channel that was showing the World Series games.

On October 24th we toured Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson. We began by watching a movie dealing with Jefferson’s life. Prior to our scheduled guided tour, we explored the service rooms, known as “dependencies.” Jefferson had designed the dependencies so that they were connected to the house by a cellar-level passageway so that they were close but invisible to the public spaces of the house. The guided tour took us through 10 rooms on the first floor of the house. The house had taken 40 years to complete due to Jefferson’s many years away from the plantation. The time he spent as Minister to France had a great influence on him and the house reflects alot of the things he saw there. Following the house tour, we took the “Slavery at Monticello” tour. Jefferson, following his time in France, did not believe slavery was sustainable but did not see a way it could be ended during his lifetime. He considered himself an “enlightened slaveholder” but his writings clearly show that he saw his slaves as property and not much more than that. We walked through the gardens and took the path back to our car. The path took us past the Jefferson family gravesite.

Later that afternoon we visited the campus of the University of Virginia, which had been founded and built by Thomas Jefferson. We took pictures of the Rotunda and walked on the Green.

On October 25th we drove to the Shenandoah National Park and drove 40 miles of the 105-mile Skyline Drive. Phil was able to get his Lifetime Senior Pass that will get us into all National Parks and Recreation Areas for free.  We stopped at numerous scenic overlooks and took a short hike at one of the stops. The leaves had not yet reached peak color due to the warm weather but the views were still impressive.  That evening we watched the Cubs lose the first World Series game, 6-0.

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