After sending Carolyn off to Birmingham with a nice breakfast, chores and errands to accomplish Monday morning kept us from hitting the road for Blacksburg until early afternoon. It took us just about four hours to make the drive and we arrived on campus at Virginia Tech to pick up my registration packet with a few moments to spare. From there we drove about ten miles to the nearby town of Christiansburg to our home for the next two nights, the Fairfield Inn and Suites.
Part of the Marriott chain, our suite-like room was reminiscent of a Springhill Suites unit we’d stayed at in Baltimore some years back. Our property was a bit down at the heels, showing the effects of years of use impacted by what appeared to be inadequate ongoing maintenance. But maybe I was just being overly critical since I would be attending a facilities management conference. I would discover later that night that the electrical outlet on the desk lamp (used for plugging a computer or phone charger into) was unusable, as someone had broken off a part of a plug in one side of the receptacle. Checking with the desk it turned out they had no replacements.
After our busy weekend and the week leading up to it, we weren’t interested in a big meal or a long drive to eat, so after perusing local options on Trip Advisor, we settled on a local joint called Dude’s Drive-In. Just ten minutes away from the Fairfield, it was close and convenient. Here is my review for Trip Advisor:
Stopped in here due to positive reviews on Trip Advisor seeking solid food and a good price. And that is exactly what we got. One Chili Slaw Dog with onions and mustard, One Grilled Cheese (comes with lettuce tomato, unique and strangely good), one order of great onion rings, a chocolate shake and a diet Pepsi. Total tab came to under $9.87. Gourmet food? No. Good solid food at a great price? Yep. You drive in and park, turn on your lights and they come out to take your order. Did I say old school? Be sure to have a spare towel in the car to catch the chili drops
Joanna dropped me off at Virginia Tech the next morning and spent time walking around the campus and doing some shopping in the adjacent area near the intersection of College Avenue and Main Street while attended to my conference duties. I made my two presentations in the afternoon, back-to-back sessions totaling about three hours. Not having done a workshop in some time let alone two left me a bit worn out at the end of the day and certainly in need of an adult beverage. Joanna met me and we decided to skip the conference dinner and instead grab a bite nearby, walking the couple of blocks from the parking lot in front of the Student Union up to Main Street to check out our options.
I’d scoped out a few choices on Trip Advisory and we settled on Ceritano’s, a family run Italian place. We were greeted by a young man who would also be our server, welcoming us and making us feel well taken care of throughout the meal. I ordered a Bell’s Summer Lager, similar to their Oberon and Joanna a Paulaner to drink and we started with a Portabella Tomato as an appetizer, essentially bruschetta using a mushroom as a base instead of bread. The large Portabella mushroom was topped with chopped fresh tomato; extra virgin olive oil and basil baked the brick oven, a unique and delicious start to the meal.
The brick oven made pizza an appealing choice and we decided to split the Calore Dolce, with barbeque sauce, red peppers, onions, speck (a type of German Pork Belly), portabella mushrooms, and fontina. One of our favorite pizza haunts in Charlotte, Revolution, has a similar pie served instead with a ground pork sausage and finished with balsamic vinegar. This one was even better, the crust thin and crisp and yet substantial enough to stand up to the ingredients piled on top. The red peppers and bar-be-que sauce had a hint of sweetness to offset the bite of the pork, leaving you wanting more after each mouthful.
For desert we split a piece of Limoncello Mascarpone Cake, a no brainer for us given the addiction we acquired for the liquor while in Italy. It was a delight, dense lemon cake with a cream cheese like lemon tinged icing. It was just right for the moment, a perfect way to end a long day. I’d ordered a second beer, a Green Flash IPA and it brought our tab to $47.40, a reasonable amount to pay for a very good dining experience.
With a six hour drive in front of us on Wednesday we didn’t dawdle in the morning, packing by now an efficient routine for us, loading the car and then grabbing breakfast at the Fairfield before we hit the road. As we approached Norfolk the rain that had been predicted started to come down and would stay with us almost all of the way to Bodie Island, the northernmost of the islands that comprise the Outer Banks and home to our campground, Oregon Inlet Campground.
This is part of the Hatteras Island National Seashore, the nation’s first, established in 1937 to preserve segments of unspoiled barrier islands along North Carolina’s stretch of the Atlantic Coast. We arrived at camp after cruising south on the island through the communities of Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head. By now the rain had let up and the cool temperatures we’d encountered in Blacksburg were but a memory; we checked in at camp and found a spot to put the tent up, large sand dunes separating us from the ocean you could hear in the background.
The winds that had pushed the rain out of the area continued to blow strongly which made for a challenging time getting the tent set up, but we ultimately prevailed pitching it tautly to counter the effects of the constant breeze. As we’d stopped at a McDonald’s near Norfolk for a bit to eat earlier (I had one of those Sweet Chili Chicken McWraps I favor) we didn’t feel the need to cook that evening, instead opting to eat some of the snacks we’d brought with us, the primary entrée being a 10 oz. tub of Trader Joe’s Cilantro Jalapeno Hummus. Scooped up with pita chips and washed down with cold beer, along with some nuts and other goodies it makes for a mighty fine dinner.
Prior to eating we’d walked over the dunes to the ocean, watching a number of folks flying kites, a mother and her young boy playing in the sand, simply taking in the majestic beauty of the ocean. We were off to a good start and with a full round of sightseeing planned for the next day, eager to get back into tourist mode. It was good to be back on the road.
Oregon Inlet Campground: http://www.nps.gov/caha/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm
Hatteras Island National Seashore: http://www.nps.gov/caha/index.htm
TJ’s Cilantro Jalapeno Hummus: http://www.traderjoes.com/fearless-flyer/article/576