August 16 – 18
Our last major day of driving would take us five hours to Wytheville, Virginia, situated at the junction of the I-77 and I-81, about 70 miles east of Bristol, Tennessee, site of that weekends NASCAR race. Bev and Jed would drive down from Baltimore the next day, Friday for the race, which gave us a day to ride one section of the Virginia Creeper Trail, the third or fourth time we’d done so.
We arrived at our home for the next three nights, the Ramada Wytheville early in the afternoon. Because of the race on Saturday, every place of lodging within a hundred miles was booked and this was one of the only reasonably priced options available.
An initial impression wasn’t entirely positive, our ground floor room facing the pool area, the walkway to the parking lot strewn with various pieces of used furniture. We’d later discover mold in our tub and water damaged paint on two interior doors.
For dinner, we decided to take a chance on The Southern Diner and 13 Monks Beer Barn, the in-house restaurant, as it was close and received positive reviews on line. Unfortunately, when we walked through the hotel lobby to its door, a hand-written sign informed us that the restaurant was closed because the air conditioning was out of order.
Undaunted, we returned to the room and a quick search of options presented us with a good choice, the Peking Restaurant, serving Chinese food a short drive away. It wasn’t very crowded when we arrived, but that would change by the time we completed our meal. We started with a couple of very reasonably priced cocktails, a Pina Colada for Joanna and Mai Tai for me.
For our meals, Joanna had the Shrimp with Chinese Vegetable and I the Kung Pao Chicken, both with fried rice (a 50-cent up-charge). Portion sizes were substantial and although we put a big dent in the food, we needed to take a sizable amount with us back to the refrigerator in our room. Along with excellent service, our total tab with tip was $36
We hit the road early the next morning for the hour-long drive to Damascus where we’d park and do our bike ride for the day, a 35-mile round trip to White Top, featuring a gain of 2,000 feet. As a former rail bed, the incline is mild, rarely topping a four percent grade, but the climbing is steady, and one forgets from one ascent to the next just how much effort is required to get to the summit.
It’s a beautiful ride, often adjacent to a number of creeks (Whitetop Laurel, Green Cove, etc.) and under a lush tree canopy, so that even on a hot day, one remains relatively cool. We arrived at the Whitetop Depot at the top of the climb, cooled down with a cold drink and then made the return trip, moving along quickly with the help of gravity.
We rode to the parked car, loaded the bikes, and then drove back to the eastern edge of town to stop in at the Damascus Brewing Restaurant. Housed next to the ice cream shop we often visit, it is an extension of the brewery, which try as we might through multiple visits, have not yet visited. We sat at the bar and asking about the breweries beers, were advised that given licensing restrictions, they couldn’t serve their own brews but had others to select.
This we did also splitting a very good Teriyaki Burger (although not as good as the ones we used to get at Islands), something to replenish our depleted energy stores and hold us over until dinner, chatting with the friendly woman tending bar, watching a steady stream of customers file in and out. We returned to Wytheville and killed time the rest of the afternoon, Bev and Jed not due to arrive until later in the evening.
Around dinner time, have ascertained that the in-house restaurant was open again, decided to give it a go. When we arrived, the place was packed, and it appeared that just one person was tending bar and serving, not a good sign. We sat for a while pondering our chances of getting served and admiring just how hard the woman bartender was working when, just as we were getting up to leave, she made her way to our table.
She took our beer order and advised that the kitchen was closing as they had just about run out of food, but that we could get still get served, a blessing as we didn’t feel like getting back in the car to look for another option. We quickly ordered, for me what would turn out to be a nicely done pork chop accompanied by Mac and Cheese and a tasty vegetable medley.
Bev and Jed arrived later in the evening and we stayed up late getting caught up and arose the next day, Saturday to rainy conditions. There was a good chance it would clear up later for Bev and Jed to attend the race, but for Joanna and me it meant another pass at the Creeper Trail was out of the question.
The four of us went out to grab a bite to eat before their departure, at the Log House 1776 Restaurant, another highly rated place in town.
Joanna and the others ordered sandwiches, for her the Ham and Swiss while I had the Chicken Marengo a boiled boneless breast of chicken smothered in a sauce of tomatoes, fresh mushrooms and green olives and flavored with white wine, billed as Thomas Jefferson’s favorite dish. And I can see why as it was a very interesting blend of favors, worth trying to recreate at home.
After our two NASCAR fans took off for Bristol, Joanna and I spent the early afternoon watching a movie on the laptop using an HDMI cable to connect it to the flat panel in the room. By the end of the movie the skies had cleared and feeling a little stir crazy we went out for a walk, finding a nice greenway nearby and so put in a few miles, burning off some energy.
The big lunch had filled us both up enough so that we were content to finish off the leftovers we’d brought back from Peking Restaurant and knowing that Bev and Jed would be getting late (the race did run but was delayed) hit the sack. We’d agreed to forego the pedestrian free breakfast at the Ramada and with limited choices in town, settled on a Shoney’s nearby as none of us had ever been to one.
All in all, it was an OK meal, a shade better than the one back at the Ramada but with all of the other breakfast choices that are normally available, we likely won’t ever return to this chain. After eating we bade farewell to Bev and Jed and hit the interstate for the two-hour drive home. We’d been gone a little over three months, 98-days to be exact, and traveled almost 11,300 miles, seeing a significant portion of the United States and a bit of Canada. It was as epic as any of the extended trips we’ve made and yet different from each that preceded it. As usual, I’ll follow up with a post that summarizes the journey and provides the logistical details that drive some of you crazy and yet others find rewarding. Until then, happy travels.
Virginia Creeper Trail: https://www.vacreepertrail.org/
Ramada Wytheville: http://www.hotelwytheville.com/
Peking Restaurant: http://188.8.131.52:81/
Damascus Brewing Restaurant: https://www.thedamascusbrewery.com/
The Southern Diner and 13 Monks Beer Bar: https://www.facebook.com/SOUTHERNDINERAND13MONKSBEERBARGRILL/
Log House 1776 Restaurant: http://www.loghouse1776.com/