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  < Back to Table Of Contents  < Back to Topic: Adventure, Discovery, Scenic & Interesting

article number 158
article date 08-30-2012
copyright 2012 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
A Blue Ridge Parkway Tour Plus Nice Towns of Lexington and Charlottesville Virginia
by Averon Katch
   

We flew into Raleigh Durham and were looking forward to a trip along the historic Blue Ridge Parkway that stretches 470-miles through the old Appalachian Mountains from near Asheville NC to around Charlottesville VA, but first had to check out the Duke Campus in Durham N.C. The old cathedral was really impressive. It’s huge.

   
Old Cathedral at Duke University Campus, Durham North Carolina Picture 1.
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Inside the Cathedral at Duke University Campus, Durham North Carolina Picture 2.
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Old Cathedral at Duke University Campus, Durham North Carolina Picture 3.
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We then went through Greensboro and Winston Salem and finally onto 2-lane Highway 52 and into the big hills. Soon we were at Pilot Mountain, a huge 2700 ft. tall piece of granite. We drove to the top and got some good views of the countryside, though it was a rather gray and drizzly day. This whole area is the home of Andy Griffith and the old TV show was based on many of the little towns and features of the area. Mt. Pilot was a town on the show (named after Pilot Mountain), and Mayberry was supposedly patterned around the town of Mt. Airy.

We drove up Highway 52 with local names of “Andy Griffith Parkway” and “Fancy Gap Highway”, then finally onto the Blue Ridge Parkway at Fancy Gap. We headed. It was quite foggy, but occasionally we got some good views, especially off the top of Pilot Mountain.

   
At the top of Pilot Mountain.
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Map of Pilot Mountain.
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There is lots of granite on and near Pilot Mountain.
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A watchtower like wooden structure along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
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Closer View of a watchtower like wooden structure along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
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Here we are near Mount Airy. The Mayberry connection is obvious.

   
Nice view near Mount Airy.
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We followed the parkway all the way to Route 60 and headed through Buena Vista and into Lexington Virginia to stay a few days and do some sightseeing. Lexington is a very historic town. Washington and Lee University was founded by George Washington, and its president was once Robert E. Lee. The University has that same colonial architecture with orange/brown brick, and many of the buildings would look right at home at many Universities. Robert E. Lee is worshiped around this area and many buildings and landmarks are named after him. Their newspaper though is called “The News Gazette”.

   
Cool architecture at Lexington Virginia.
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Downtown Lexington Virginia.
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Lexington Virginia has charm.
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There was a movie filmed in this town staring Richard Gere. It was supposed to be in a French town so they painted a French name on the side of this building. They left it there.
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Robert E Lee Building, Lexington Virginia.
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News Gazette Building, Lexington Virginia.
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Overlooking Lexington Virginia.
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Now we’re at Washington and Lee University.
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A campus building style at Washington and Lee University.
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Washington and Lee University photo 3.
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Interior of one of the buildings with portrait of George Washington.
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Colonial interior architecture at Washington and Lee University … with a pre-colonial pterodactyl.
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There is a chapel at the university. This plaque names civil war soldiers of the Stonewall Brigade at the chapel where Lee was buried.
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We took a day and went to Charlottesville then visited Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello just south of town on Route 53 – the Thomas Jefferson Pkwy. It was pretty touristy, but Thomas Jefferson’s farms and house and all of his scientific endeavors were amazing and fascinating.

   
Garden at Jefferson’s Monticello. Not just flowers but vegetables too.
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Thomas Jefferson home.
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They had two rooms in this cellar, one full of beer, the other full of wine.
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Appears to be orders for wine … a long time ago.
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A look at the vineyards at Monticello.
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Vegetable garden at Monticello.
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Thomas Jefferson’s grave.
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Closer view of Thomas Jefferson’s grave.
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Charlottesville was a nice little town. Home to the University of Virginia founded by Thomas Jefferson, it’s a really bustling place and seems larger than its 45,000 population. They have a very nice center-city pedestrian mall with shops, theaters and cafes. And of course, more red/orange brick architecture. Very nice.

   
Downtown Charlottesville, Virginia.
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Nice pedestrian mall in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia … Nice place to take a walk ... or grab a bite to eat.
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Another view of the mall in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia.
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We finally had to head back to Raleigh North Carolina to catch our flight home, but took a faster route than the winding Blue Ridge Pkwy, Route 501. The weather was finally starting to break and we got much better views of the Appalachians - - ones we missed on the Blue Ridge Pkwy over-looks due to the fog.

There were breathtaking views of the rapids below, and of course many fine rock formations. The second image below shows a good example of anticline in the ancient stratified rock layers - - where layers bend downward in opposite directions from the crest. I found the Appalachians to be totally different than the Rockies and geologically newer ranges in the southwest. You could tell that this was once a huge mountain range hundreds of millions of years ago, but erosion has worn it down to where the peaks are very rounded, the altitudes are diminished, and the only big mountains standing are of erosion resistant solid granite.

   
Beautiful mountain lake near Virginia/North Carolina Route 501.
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Example of anticline in the ancient stratified rock layers of Appalachian Mountains.
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Close-up of our Virginia/North Carolina mountain lake.
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Lots of granite.
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Beautiful North Carolina mountain stream.
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Back to the highway. Down to Raleigh Durham to catch a flight.

Definitely a nice trip with a variety which will satisfy nature lovers or historians.

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