A Loaf of Bread, a Tank of Hi Octane, and Thou

Road Trips, the Ultimate Motoring Experience

Yes, putting the power to the pavement at track events is great fun.  And yes, the admiration and envy of the crowds at car shows warms the heart.  But there is something about the call of the open road that cannot be denied.  The sun in your face, the wind in your hair, the subtle shifts in scent and temperature readily apparent. Unimpeded by tops, windows, climate control, and electronic distractions, you are at once intertwined with the world you are passing through, not a spectator but a participant. Add to this the grace in the curves, the power to create passing zones that traffic engineers cannot begin to imagine, and the striking beauty that draws a crowd every time you stop.  And of course a delightful companion. These are the ingredients for the highest form of motoring experience - The Road Trip.
This is the story of a two day road trip through the mountains of North Carolina during the spectacular fall foliage.  We hope you enjoy it.  We did. 

Maybe next year we will gather a crowd and do it again.

Mike and Pat Stenhouse

Vermont is noted for its magnificent fall displays.  But the mountains of North Carolina take a back seat to no one is this regard.
The twisties started with the exit from I-26 onto US 64 West.  The fun really started on US 276 through Pisgah National Forest.  The sign at the entrance warned:


Wow! What an invitation!

There is much to see. Looking Glass Falls. And Sliding Rock, where you slide a long way down the slippery rock on your back side into a pool of "refreshing" mountain water.
A late lunch at the The Jarrett House in Dillsboro.  They have been serving fine meals since 1884.  Still do.  Dillsboro is an artsy - craftsy shopping mecca.  It is also a station on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, which provides steam and diesel excursions through the mountains.
From Dillsboro, it was on to Cherokee, the tribal home of the Cherokees.  The Blue Ridge Parkway begins is 469 journey there. 

The Blue Ridge parkway is widely recognized as the best open car / motorcycle touring road in the country. The winding curves, elevation changes, and stunning vistas make its reputation well deserved.

The section from Cherokee to Asheville is the highest and most rugged. Many tunnels are required.  It is absolutely necessary to slow down when entering the tunnel, then accelerate briskly out. You never know when there will be a bear in the tunnel.  The thunderous exhaust scares the bears off. Really. A Park Ranger said so. Really.

What do Hondas do about bears in tunnels, I wonder?

The sign reads:

6053 FT.

It grew chilly, but warm clothes proved adequate.  The bomber helmet acquired in a trade with Jim Levenson at SSR worked well indeed. Geeky perhaps, but certainly warm.

At these altitudes, the entire earth lies below, and stretches far beyond the imagination.
Waterfalls along the road became crystalline cascades, silent witnesses frozen in time.
But the sheer beauty of the moment made putting the top up out of the question.
Late in the fall afternoon, the sun began its long way down.
A spectacular sunset, then dark.  We exited the Blue Ridge Parkway at Asheville and headed east on US 74-A.  The road approaching Bat Cave is certainly one of the most serpentine in the country.  It is better in daylight, but lingering over sunset at altitude was the better choice.
There is nothing like a fire and a hot cup of coffee after a long and exhilarating day on the autumn mountain  roads.  Luckily, the Esmeralda Inn in Chimney Rock had both.  And a room.

The Esmeralda was originally built in 1890 and rebuilt after a fire in 1997.  The new 14 room inn preserves the character of the original, but everything works. The best of both old and new.

The inn is owned and operated with gracious hospitality by Jo Anne and Ackie Okpych.  Their son Michael is the chef, and a fine one at that.

The oak floor of the new inn was salvaged from the Lake Lure Lodge, where it gained fame as the dance floor in "Dirty Dancing". Do we hear footsteps. Is it Patrick and Jennifer?

Morning breaks. The search for the perfect leaf begins anew.
Lunch in Chimney Rock on the back porch of Genny's overlooking the Broad River. Rising above are the cliffs that were the setting for the dramatic conclusion of "The Last Mohican".
Altogether almost 400 miles, many winding back roads, a car so perfectly suited to the task, beautiful sights, good food, good company with old friends and new. Life can be sweet at times.