The End of the Road

Mustang in Shenandoah NP
Camera: Panasonic DMC-GH4 | Date: 04-10-2014 09:29 | Resolution: 4608 x 3072 | ISO: 500 | Exp. bias: 0 EV | Exp. Time: 1/200s | Aperture: 8.0 | Focal Length: 93.0mm | Location: Moormans River Overlook | State/Province: Virginia | See map | Lens: LUMIX G VARIO 35-100/F2.8

Day 13

A day of odd contrasts. We awake to fog so thick we can’t see Abbot Lake from our room, a distance of about 30m. It’s still thick by the time we’ve had breakfast and checked out, and the first few miles along the Parkway are at about 20mph hugging the yellow lines.

However it also becomes clear that during the night while the fog effect was on someone also turned the "Fall" switch up to 11: there’s suddenly colour everywhere, with leaves falling like snow and forming a thick carpet across the road in some places.

After over an hour’s careful driving we need a coffee break and get off the Parkway. Buena Vista VA is a classic case of "get the problem out of the way in the title". It is – there’s no kind way to put this – a dump. Despite frequent and friendly-looking "welcome" banners all the way up the high street, nothing appears to be open, at 11 on a Friday morning. The only place serving coffee is a dreadful fast food joint where the collective IQ of the staff is probably still in double digits and suggests unkind jokes about Bulgarian policemen and dangerous intellectuals. We finish coffee and beat a hasty retreat back to the Parkway.

Less than 20 miles up the road we try again. "Vesuvius" is equally poorly named, as it turns out to be a very pretty, quiet rural community. We decide against the long waterfall hike, but get some charming photos and a very nice lunch at the Country Store.

I obviously haven’t read the Parkway guide carefully enough, and assume that a second mention of Crabtree Falls in my notes is a mis-print. However a careful read of the book reveals the note "not to be confused with the other Crabtree Falls in North Carolina". So having done both Lynchburgs we now visit a second Crabtree Falls. Not as impressive as the one further south, but worth a quick visit.

A few more miles brings the end of the Parkway, once again shrouded in fog and with rain threatening. Overall we’re extremely impressed by this long, thin National Park.

One oddity at the end of the day. The floor of the hotel bathroom is not slippery to the touch, or even in socks. My Italian shoes stick like glue to most surfaces. Yet they slide freely on the bathroom floor. Go figure…

Day 14

We drive into Shenandoah National Park, which is effectively just a continuation of the Parkway if you are driving South to North, albeit with an entrance fee and more park facilities. We don’t have time for a long hike, but instead focus on enjoying the steadily intensifying Autumn colour on the road and at many of the viewpoints.

It’s another dry and mainly sunny day, but the temperature has dropped markedly and I have to stop asserting my "right to bare arms" and put on more than a T shirt for the first time. Two days ago Lynchburg was 86°F, now we’re seeing just 50°F.

At the end of the Park we hit the freeway back to Washington. The drive is fairly painless, but we’re surprised how heavy the traffic is for a Saturday afternoon, and finding the Dollar return yard at Reagan airport, separate from all the other companies, is a bit of a magical mystery tour.

The Mustang is feeling desperate for a service, with squealing brakes and an increasingly clunky transmission, but the biggest mystery is the odometer. At various times in the trip I’ve used this to track progress to a waypoint without any problem, but subtracting the initial figure from the final one gives a total for the trip of 115 miles…

The Dupont Circle Hotel is elegant and well equipped, although our room would make more sense with one bed rather than trying to squeeze two in. We have dinner at a little Greek restaurant around the corner. We are at least 30 years too old to be drinking in the hotel’s main bar, and my hearing would never cope, but instead we find a small second bar where we have the charming barman to ourselves and enjoy some cocktails and bourbon samples.

Tomorrow we explore the city.

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