Road Trip: Blue Ridge Parkway and Myrtle Beach

I’d been thinking about this trip for a long time, but not quite as far back as our last real adventure.

That had been 30 years ago, when Dad and I went on a canoe trip in Algonquin park.  It was high time for a new father & son adventure and I had a week of vacation left this year.  In September I bought a 2007 Mustang convertible and we began making plans for a week long road trip in October.

There were a number of good reasons for the Mustang as opposed to some other sports car.  For a long trip I wanted something sporty but not punishing, with long legs for Interstate travel.  Most of all I wanted luggage space for our duffel bags and golf clubs, so I turned up with the car on Saturday October 5th.

We took two leisurely days to arrive at the real start point of the trip.  It rained a lot, and the wet looking motorcyclists we passed made us happy to have a top and climate control.  Wherever we stayed Dad always filled his thermos with coffee after breakfast so we could have a hot beverage on the road.

This is where the trip really began, Fancy Gap Virginia at the rustic and fun Grassy Creek Cabooses.  There was only one bed, so I slept on the floor in my sleeping bag but it was a worthwhile sacrifice.  When else are you going to get to sleep in a caboose?

The next morning dawned with thick fog, of course this was to be our day on the Blue Ridge so after a pancake breakfast we felt our way through the fog down to the parkway and headed south.  We soon reached the Blue Ridge Music Center where I had hoped to realize one of my goals for the trip by listening to some live bluegrass music.  We had arrived at 8am, the center didn’t open until 10 and music didn’t start until noon so we pressed on.

Luckily the conditions improved, giving credence to the saying “if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes” but the road was nearly devoid of traffic.  There were no clots of bicycles or screaming sportbikes, no lumbering motorhomes and only once was I held up by a slower car for 10 minutes.  The rest of the day we were free to go as fast as we wanted, although the 45mph posted limit was fast enough to be fun for us.  The Mustang was great on the parkway, I could leave it in either 3rd or 4th gear and the 4 liter V6 would just growl up the hills with no loss of speed or need to shift.

I’d done the entire parkway three times previously on motorcycles, travelling by car was a revelation.  We were able to consult our maps, notes, and brochures to discuss and plan our stops.  I’d had no idea there were so many things to see and do, we’d always blasted straight through on bikes.

Here Dad inspects the underside of the Linn Cove Viaduct, completed in 1983.  He pronounced it sound although we did note the irony of having a visitor center for this man made thing in the middle of beautiful nature.

I had planned to stop at the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center, but it was so socked in with fog when we went past I almost missed it, despite knowing it was just after the tunnel.  We decided on a snack break and within 10 minutes visibility was good on one side of the ridge at least.

We shot some photos and in 10 minutes it was fog again, that’s pretty much how the whole day went.

We spent the next night in Asheville, and although we figured there were a week’s worth of things to do there we did none of them and headed east to Myrtle Beach in the morning.

I took this shot at a rest stop where we had lunch, even for me (a Canadian) it is easy to underestimate just how big America is.  Google Maps said five and a half hours, but with stops it took us about seven.  Also impressive is the amount of dual carriageway, everywhere we went even the minor highways were divided four lanes.

During the longer Interstate drones we had brought a set of Vinyl Cafe CDs for listening, so the late great Stuart McLean was our 3rd occupant in the Mustang.  For you non-Canadians The Vinyl Cafe was our equivalent of A Prairie Home Companion.  If you’ve never heard a Vinyl Cafe story a good place to start is here.

I had been a bit nervous about buying a used car then jumping into it a few weeks later for a major trip, but we had no car trouble all week.  After all day in the seats we still felt great, it was incredibly comfortable.

Once in Myrtle Beach Dad took over as tour guide, we did all the things my parents had enjoyed on their visits over the last twenty years:  Morning walk on the beach, reading books on the balcony.  I went swimming in the ocean.  For dinner the first night we went to K&W Cafeteria, where I brought the average age down and Dad (at 81) may have as well.

We played a couple of rounds of golf at a short 9 hole course.  Here I am sizing up the mighty 105 yard hole 7, which was the only one I got par on.  CC stands for classic clubs, my Walter Hagen Ultradyne irons were probably made in the early 70’s.  Dad even got a birdie on one hole that day, and we drove back to the hotel with the top down in triumph.

My parents usually spent three weeks, but we had just three days in Myrtle Beach and too soon we were back on the beach:

It was a bittersweet goodbye, with a kind thought for Mom before we hit the road.  Myrtle Beach had been one of her favorite places.   There isn’t really a direct route north from Myrtle Beach, but I felt confident that Dad could navigate the different highways required because he’d done it so many times.  Well, turns out that navigation was always Mom’s job so we had to work a bit to find our way and wound up doing scenic tours of a few small towns.

I didn’t completely neglect my CC duties on the trip, here’s a 1960 Ford Fairlane cop car we saw at a gas station / BBQ joint near Mount Airy NC, spiritual home of the Andy Griffith show and epicenter of early 60’s Ford squad cars.

The last morning there was frost on the car in Summersville West Virginia.  Throughout the trip we had always enjoyed having the coolest car in the parking lot but although our car was extra cool with the frost, in this case the 55 Chevy won out.

After about 3400 km we delivered ourselves home safe just in time for Thanksgiving dinner, provided by my sister and Mrs DougD.  We had a great time together, I hadn’t planned it but we each gave something to the other.  I showed Dad the Blue Ridge Parkway, and he showed me Myrtle Beach.

The perfect car for the trip really was a twelve year old black Mustang convertible with a V6 and a 5-speed.    Well done Mustang, and thanks for coming along Dad  🙂