Livin’ the farm life and the coastal life
I embarked on a “Griswold family vacation” this summer with my parents and brother across the beautiful states of Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. Lots and lots of hours in the car, plus several fun stops and views of beautiful countryside, made for a successful road trip. It’s been a long while since my family has spent this much time together, and perhaps it helps that my brother and I have moved past the arguing, bickering and fighting stages of our sibling relationship, but we all got along pretty swell! My Family = 1 / Disastrous Road Trip = 0. Winning!
For me the road trip began in Louisville, Kentucky where I flew in from Los Angeles to meet my family who had driven from Kansas City. I learned a valuable travel lesson that you should NEVER book a layover during a holiday weekend in Las Vegas. So many flights coming into that airport! My flight was delayed over 2 hours, but I finally arrived in Louisville at 2:30am on Friday (or rather Saturday morning.) Since we had a good 12 hour drive until we reached my mom’s cousin’s home in Virginia, we got up and at ’em on Saturday and started driving East. I planned several stops along the way so we could stretch our legs and explore the country. Our first stop was in Salt Lick, Kentucky at Pop’s Southern Style BBQ about 2 hours from Louisville for lunch. It was some pretty good BBQ eatin’. The decor was hilarious and awesome! And the menu offered lots of fine Southern cuisine choices such as Fried Green Tomatoes, Friend Bologna Sandwich, and Fried Frog Legs. Yum! lol. Actually I ate a BBQ brisket sandwich and it was very good!
We walked off some of our lunch at a nearby antique store and mom bought a platter with cattails on it. Our next stop was about an hour away at Carter Caves State Park. The native Missourian in me loves spelunking and I was excited that Kentucky’s highest concentration of caves (in Carter County) was on our route. Located in Eastern Kentucky, Carter Caves State Park was established in 1946. The limestone cave system there includes more than 20 caverns, four of which are open for tours. There are also several natural bridges in the park. We visited Carter Cave Natural Bridge and it was very impressive! It’s also the only natural bridge in the state that supports a paved road on top.
After visiting Carter Caves, we continued on into West Virginia. Just across the border, outside of Huntington, WV, we hopped off the main highway for Historic Highway 60 (aka The Midland Trail National Scenic Byway).The Midland Trail offers 180-miles of pioneer history and beautiful scenery through West Virginia. The route passes through 41 towns and we stopped at Old Central City for some antique shopping. Old Central City is a historic manufacturing town that was later annexed by the much large city of Huntington. The town features over a dozen antique shops and several museums. Unfortunately we arrived there later than planned so many of the stores were closing, but if you continue on Route 60 (which runs parallel to Highway 64) you will pass through many small, charming towns that offer unique attractions, such as antique shopping, glass blowing, cavern tours, fishing, a ranch, a mill and even the famous tourist trap, the Mystery Hole.
In Old Central City, dad bought a WWII flashlight which was pretty cool, but too soon we were back in the car and continuing our drive. We still had a long way to go! We spent the next four hours driving through gorgeous countryside. The Appalachian Mountains are beautiful and I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen so many trees! Everything was so green and abundant! I wish we had more time to stop at the various state parks and explore, but I will have to save that for another trip. We decided to stop for the night in Lexington, Virginia so that we could get a full night’s rest.
From Lexington we continued on to Charlottesville, Virginia. We stopped for lunch in Charlottesville at Michie Tavern which was established in 1784. After returning home from Valley Forge to Earlysville, Virginia, William Michie was looking for a new mission in his life. Using the land his father bequeathed to him, William decided to open a tavern as a social center for the community and travelers. Michie Tavern was a more elaborate tavern than the typical country inns of the time and it was a popular choice for social gatherings for townspeople and visitors.
Michie Tavern remained a public tavern until the mid-1800s when it became the Michie’s private residence. Stagecoach travel had significantly diminished by this time and Michie Tavern was no longer the social center it once was. The Tavern remained in the Michie family until 1910 when it was sold at an estate auction. In 1927, a local businesswoman, Josephine Henderson, saw the potential in re-purposing Michie Tavern as a museum for her antiques collection. With the growing popularity of visitors touring the nearby Monitcello Estate, Thomas Jefferson’s home, she moved Michie Tavern 17 miles to a more accessible site less than a mile from Monticello. After the tavern was moved and renovated, it reopened to the public in 1928 and Michie Tavern soon became a Virginia historic landmark.
Today Michie Tavern serves as a museum and a restaurant, and continues to welcome travelers to its doors. We ate a delicious Southern meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cole slaw, green beans and lots more sides! Their biscuits were heavenly and the apple cider was so yummy and fresh! http://www.michietavern.com/
With our tummies full, we continued our trek for another three hours until we finally made it to Charles and Debbie’s home! We arrived in the afternoon and after greeting the cousins and playing with Legos and Polly Pockets with my cutest little cousins, we sat down for some delicious grilled chicken and pasta salad! Perfect summer food. And the weather could not have been nicer for us! Sitting out on the deck enjoying good food, good weather and good company! The definition of summer and vacation. After we ate, we jumped in the pool and then capped off the late afternoon with homemade ice cream. Yes, I said homemade ice cream. And it was very delicious and refreshing! That evening Charles drove us around the farm on the golf cart and we took in the beautiful sunset and countryside. It was a wonderfully relaxing Sunday.
On Monday we decided to hit the town! Charles and Debbie showed us the charming town of Smithfield, Virginia which was first colonized in 1634, and is the ham capitol of the world. Smithfield is located along the Pagan River and is near Jamestown. The Jamestown ferry allows locals and tourists to visit Williamsburg, Virginia as well and thus links these historic towns. Smithfield was officially established in 1752 as a seaport and it became a thriving river town. The town saw action from both the Revolutionary and Civil War due to its proximity to the James River.
After taking a nice driving tour through Smithfield and seeing the many beautiful Victorian homes, we hopped on the Jamestown ferry to go explore Colonial Williamsburg! Williamsburg, Virginia is one of America’s oldest cities and was founded in 1632. It was the capitol of the Virginia colony from 1699 to 1780 and was a political center for Virginia leading to the American Revolution. We spent our time in Colonial Williamsburg which is the historic district of the town comprised of original and reconstructed colonial buildings. It’s an historical landmark and a living-history museum representing life in 18th century America. It was a great day for walking around the beautiful architecture. And we also stocked up on peanuts! The area is known as the peanut capitol.
After touring Williamsburg, we headed back to the farm for dinner and relaxing!
The next day, Charles and Debbie took us out on the Pagan River in their pontoon boat! We were blessed with another gorgeous day, so it was perfect to be out on the water and soak up some sun. We got to see Smithfield from the water (as we saw it from the land the day before), and it was pretty to see all the Victorian homes right along the water. I could imagine the Victorian-era woman of these homes waiting in the cupola for their husbands return home from sea. Debbie (the best host!) packed sandwiches and snacks for us to enjoy on the boat. What is it about the water that makes you so hungry? A yummy ham sandwich was the perfect lunch on the boat!
And it’s a good thing we had full tummies from lunch because on the way back our boat broke down! Thankfully there was a strong enough current and wind that we were able to steer the boat to a nearby dock at a restaurant. We received some advice on what the issue could be from the restaurant owner, and it turns out that was the problem. Luckily it was an easy fix and we had Papa Kyle as our hero! With the engine fixed, we made our way back to shore and got on the road back home to our waiting dinner.
That evening I feed the chickens and farm cats one last time before we packed up our car to head to our next stop. Charles and Debbie cooked an amazing pork butt for us to enjoy for dinner. Yum! We then crammed ourselves back into the car and drove to Manteo, North Carolina to see Gregory and Judy! The great family road trip continues!
We were a bit behind schedule, and even though it was late, Greg and Judy had a Cheerwine float waiting for me when we arrived at their home in Manteo! They know me well!
After a great night’s sleep, we had a very relaxing and lazy day. We ate a delicious lunch, and then the girls headed into town and the boys went to the Kitty Hawk to explore the Wright Brothers’ history. Judy, mom and I shopped around Manteo and it’s a very charming little town! There’s a lot of history there with the story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke and the first American-born English child, Virginia Dare.
Manteo is located on the eastern side of Roanoke Island and is part of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The area was settled by the English in 1584, and was later named for a Native American called Manteo of the Croatans tribe. Manteo had returned to England with the original settlers to act as a liaison, and he struck up a favorable relationship with John White. Thus when John White sailed to the Roanoke Colony in 1587 to reestablish the settlement, he hoped his interactions with Manteo would help form a relationship with the Native American tribes. And although White was able to establish a friendly relationship with Manteo’s tribe, he was met with hostility from other tribes. And as the story of the Lost Colony goes, when John White returned to England for supplies he was delayed for three years due to England’s war with the Spanish. In 1590, White eventually returned to his Roanoke Colony to find it deserted. There was no trace of the 150 colonists he left behind, except for the word “Croatoan” carved into a post of the fort. There was no sign of struggle, a battle or a rushed departure, so White took this clue to mean his settlers moved to nearby Croatoan Island, but due to heavy storms he was not able to look for his colony and was forced to abandon his search and return to Plymouth with the ships. White never discovered what happened to his family and the colony, and lived out the rest of his life in Ireland never giving up hope that his family survived.
After we returned from touring downtown Manteo, I spent the rest of the afternoon reading on the porch swing. It was pretty windy, but the weather and view was incredibly lovely. We then had another delicious home cooked dinner followed by a Cheerwine float of course! After dinner we took a beautiful sunset walk along the walkways.
Thursday morning we got up early-ish, and Gregory took dad, Kord and I out on the boat to the Roanoke Sound. It was a beautiful and peaceful morning on the water, and we saw dolphins!! Gregory also took us to the marina where the boats are repaired and where the fisherman bring in their catches for the day.
That afternoon we ventured on a short drive to Bodie Lighthouse. We bought tickets for the tour and Kord and I climbed the 214 stairs all the way to the top. What a view! It was incredibly windy that high up and I was afraid to take my phone out for pictures, but I did brave a couple haha. It was truly amazing to be that high. And the park ranger gave us history trivia about the lighthouse at each landing so there was time for resting on the way up all those stairs.
This is the third Bodie Lighthouse, built in 1872, that has stood on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The first Bodie Lighthouse was constructed in 1847 but was no longer useable by 1859. In order to save money on the construction, an unsupported brick foundation was laid and that whole building on sand thing apparently did cross the engineer’s mind as a future problem. After a few years the lighthouse became an imitation of the leaning tower of Pisa. So in 1859, a second much sturdier lighthouse was erected. But it was destroyed in 1861 during the Civil War by the Confederates who did not want the Union troops to use it as an observation post.
In 1872, a third and final Bodie Lighthouse was constructed and remains standing today. Miraculously the original Fresnel lens was saved by the Confederates and was reinserted into the lighthouse. In the early 1930s the light was then upgraded to an electric lamp. It was again upgraded in 1940 to a fully automated light and the lighthouse no longer needed to be manned. Then in 1953 the lighthouse and its property were given to the National Park Service.
Bodie Lighthouse is still a functional navigational aid and every night you can watch the beacon turn on and provide light across the dark water known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” The park keeps the grounds open, though you can’t go inside any of the buildings, and you can watch the sunset and the light turn on. Unfortunately we did not have time to visit at night but I imagine it is a beautiful setting to watch the sun fall beneath the horizon and watch the lighthouse guide ships safely to shore.
After walking up 214 stairs to the top of Bodie Lighthouse, we returned to Manteo and Gregory took us to where the fisherman bring the fish in and trade with the locals. We watched as fish were thrown into wheelbarrows and people struck deals for fish they wanted. I felt like I was watching some underground drug deal lol. We then drove to a local market to get fish for ourselves for dinner. And I of course had to have a final Cheerwine float afterwards. Sadly the next morning we had to get up early and head out for our long drive back West. We spent about 12 hours driving on Friday and stopped for the night in Lexington, Kentucky to prepare for the next day at Maker’s Mark Distillery! To be continued…