Washington to Kissimmee Road Trip, part one – to Boone
We had a late flight out of Heathrow, meaning that by the time we landed at Washington Dulles Airport, it was already dark and raining heavily. We stayed the night in the Dulles Marriott hotel, – nothing wrong with it per se, but certainly nothing to justify the price when all you are doing is laying your head on a pillow for a few hours.
There was also no sign of the promised 24 hr Starbucks coffee either, which was a bit strange given that guests are up at all hours to go to the airport! As were we, catching an early shuttle back to the airport to get on another shuttle to collect our rental car.
We had chosen a 7 seat people carrier from Budget for the 4 of us, we prefer the room and higher seating position, and we were given a car with Florida plates to return to the “Sunshine State”. We left Dulles still in the dark and the rain. Our first stop was a Bob Evans restaurant on the outskirts of Washington somewhere. We got the impression that not many tourists stopped by here, but we were truly made to feel welcome and had the usual good start to the day. Breakfast was followed by a quick trip to Target to stock up on refreshments, a Tracfone and bits and bobs for the journey. The strangest thing about that was the weird sensation of walking into a box store and being grateful for the heat being circulated as opposed to the cool air we are used to in Florida!
We drove out of the suburbs as the day turned from dark grey to slightly lighter grey – due to the rain, and headed towards Shenandoah Park taking I 66 and then US 29. The landscape was hilly and rocky compared to Florida, and the architecture of homes and offices was completely different to the Southern states. Houses with two or three stories instead of single story villas, and built from brick rather than breeze blocks and stucco. There was a French feel too, with the homes built in the centre of the plot, often with a French style shed or barn off to the side. As we began to climb towards the park entrance, we were reminded of ski resorts near Austria. Tall, dark trees, chalets & roadside eateries built of wood, the ever climbing, winding road with rain changing to sleet and finally to snow as the elevation increased.
By the time we reached the entrance the snow was laying on the ground and we were greeted by a cheery park attendant who informed us that our decision to turn around was for the best, the Skyline Drive was being closed due to the snow! Disappointed, we headed on over the mountain and down the other side, back through snow, sleet and finally rain. We were amused and slightly concerned by the runaway truck signs on the side of the mountain, and then by the sight of enormous gravel traps with large humps of earth in them to stop said runaway trucks. Fortunately we did not meet any, but the speed of the ones we did see on what would be called narrow roads for America, was rather heart stopping!
We continued on towards our destination of Boone in North Carolina, our route taking us along Interstate 81, right next to the Blue Ridge Mountains. For a good portion of the journey we were clearly high up again, and although the road was perfectly clear, there was snow in the air and around two inches of snow on the ground. It all felt rather Christmassy really. As we got closer to Boone, the weather cleared up and when we finally arrived in the ski resort it was a beautiful sunny afternoon – until you opened the car door when the cold wind whipped your legs off!
We stayed in the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in the centre of Boone. This was a very welcoming hotel, nicely appointed with an indoor pool for a warm up! Tim had selected a few restaurants for us to choose from, and we opted for Bandana’s BBQ. Thinking it was a bit further away and mindful of the wind, we drove, but it really was just around the corner, and with appropriate clothing it would have been a pleasant walk. We were greeted by a young lady in fetching red wellies, aged about 5 or 6 years. She very seriously showed us to our table and later helped out with delivering food and drink to us too. As a BBQ place the food was pretty simple, but very good and the restaurant was very clean and attractively decorated. This was also the first time we tried ‘hush puppies’, a fried corn snack of some sort – very tasty…
Pretty tired after a very full day, we headed back to the Marriott for an early night. Our next leg will be the too long journey from Boone to Savannah in Georgia.