Now that you’ve gotten more comfortable with Rogue Trip’s haphazard second half schedule, we feel a lot better exposing you to the remainder of our journey in a manner that makes little geographical sense.
For instance, this blog post will touch on some of our North Carolina travels, but not all of them. No, that’d be too easy. From here on out, we’re going to stick with the method of narrating Rogue Trip as the van flies (and as the Pit Stop cards fly), rather than covering the states themselves. It’s a strain, we know.
Granted, it means this blog’s title is a bit misleading… but the good news is, this is all a result of our good fortune in being able to see about a third more of the US than we’d originally planned. Ergo, hitting some states twice. With that said, we begin this leg in the gem of Western NC.
Asheville, North Carolina is perceived by many to be the Woodstock of the South, and as such, it is today a city of transplants seeking their very own granola-laced mountain paradise. We’re just here for the beer.
Downtown Asheville offers a self-guided, 30-stop Urban Trail, which is where we found this turkey. We don’t recall the historical significance, but we can say it’s not the last time in this blog post that you’ll spot America’s runner up for national bird (Ben Franklin is probably spinning in his grave to this day.)
More from the Urban Trail:
It’s a city that punches above its 90,000-resident weight when it comes to food, culture, nature… even architecture. That last one is thanks in large part to a slew of Art Deco buildings downtown, the most prominent of which overlooks Pack Square Park and houses the Mayor.
An African drum circle began forming here in the afternoon, followed later in the evening by a hundred-person drum circle in Pritchard Park. Roughly 93 of those 100 evening drummers appeared to be local Liberal Arts professors, but hey, who’s gonna complain about two drum circles in one day?
Another memorable slice of architecturabilia is the Basilica Of Saint Lawrence — our nation’s largest free-standing oval dome. Qualifiers aside, it’s certainly impressive and inspiring.
Architecture not pictured and not visited: The Biltmore. Arguably the grandest mansion home in the U.S. (gonna disagree with the brochure there and say Hearst Castle holds that honor in spirit), its tour is priced at an equally grand $65. No thanks; we’ve seen enough rage-inducing Vanderbilt homes in our travels already.
Hailey received inbound suggestions from a few friends, one of whom recommended we dine at The Market Place on Wall St. All advice should be this good.
All fun aside, judging by the path of Hurricane Maria, it seemed like ASAP was the best time to hightail it out of Western North Carolina.
We woke up early the following day to head north through the Blue Ridge Mountains (of which the Smokies are a part)… and that trademark blue smoke was in full effect. Morning breath never smelled so good.
Blue Ridge Parkway is a unique National Park, in that it’s a road, not a park — and it’s your best bet for taking in the scenery of the surrounding mountain range. Note Hailey studying up for her latest Junior Ranger Badge, which the Park Ranger was more than happy to bestow upon her after a very public verbal pledge in the Visitor’s Center.
Also, these turkeys were holding up traffic. It’s always the turkeys, isn’t it?
That’s all for North Carolina this round; more to come on our home stretch several posts from now.
Uh, yeah… while our home stretch will take us through Virginia Beach and a few nearby towns, this leg consisted of a single overnight at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. There’s a lot going on in VA, and it’s our fault for missing it. But again, by this point Rogue Trip has already covered a lot more ground than originally planned, so some of this is just gratuitous stat-padding.
We rolled into town as an immense line of opposing traffic was making its way out. What the heck? Is there a contagion or something? Oh right, it’s football season. Here are your VT frosh celebrating the win at a passable Mexican restaurant.
Not the most inspiring pic, eh? Well, we posted it because that’s all we have. Sorry Virginia! We’ll do a little better next time.
Did you know West Virginia is a beautiful state? Here are some reminders:
Mitch spent enough time living in Pennsylvania to know the Mid-Atlantic region does not look kindly upon the people of West Virginia. Let’s say this in defense: most of what puts West Virginia in the basement of America’s state lists for education, employment, health, and drug addiction can be directly attributed to the coal industry’s fleeting 20th century boom. And that coal was for us, the rest of America. So if WV is Frankenstein’s monster, we are all Dr. Frankenstein.
Now, that said… at 10:23am during the drive, our radio dial landed on what sounded like a caller ranting on someone’s show. We began listening. The rant continued. There was no stopping for response, no interruption, no commercials. It kept going. It went on for 37 more minutes like that until it simply got cut off by the 11am radio program. THIS IS ACTUALLY A PROGRAM.
We eventually poked around Charleston, WV for some food and a really nice Planet Fitness gym, then rode on to Kentucky.
This is America’s worst state line. Welcome to the Catlettsburg Refinery, I mean, Kentucky.
Thankfully, things took a turn for the better rather quickly. Grazing the tip of Daniel Boone National Forest via 1-64 as night fell, we reached Lexington: home to the University Of Kentucky. We made our second Planet Fitness stop in twelve hours, this one just as fancy, and toting a bible verse at the entrance lest you forget what part of the country you’re in.
The next morning warranted a stroll around UK campus, including the arboretum. It’s hard to pick a favorite among America’s college campuses! They all serve as a useful reminder that, in an age where you can learn more on YouTube for free, there is still some undeniable value in the physical learning environment.
Friends of ours in Cincinnati were generously promising a Pit Stop in our future, with the caveat that they weren’t yet home from vacation. So, we had some time to kill and decided to weave through Kentucky for a bit. What’s this, a scale model of Noah’s Ark with a museum inside? Yes, that’s going to happen.
You guys, The Ark Encounter is a legitimate ship-sized ship… no camera tricks here. Inside are interpretive exhibits showing and telling how the animals were boarded and stowed, how food was prepared, how climate change isn’t real, and even how other Ark stories from previous cultures were easily falsified once you put their boat designs to the test:
It is of course a wildly expensive tour, but worth going once. Some more of the Ark’s insides:
Our next stop was Bardstown, the local entry from this 50 Charming Small Towns list we’ve utilized heavily. It was nice. It wasn’t “we’ve got pictures to show you” nice, but nice enough.
Louisville, here’s hoping you can bring it on home for the bluegrass state?
Louisville immediately delivered.
Pictured above is the friendly greeter at the front door of Proof On Main — definitely one of the best bars Rogue Trip has patronized this year. It helps that the art-riddled decor flows into the lobby and gallery of the 21c Museum Hotel, which itself is pretty hard to miss thanks to the outdoor exhibits:
In case all those cues escape you, it’s still pretty easy to find Proof On Main. Just look for the 30-foot-tall gold-painted Statue Of David.
Down the street, of course, is the world’s biggest (baseball) bat adorning the Louisville Slugger Factory. Thanks to this stranger for providing scale:
Further down the street is also the world’s biggest bat. Vampire, that is.
Further down is a painted horse, which is unrelated to bats but still worth a gander.
Down towards the Ohio River, there were even more statues of David and friends, most of them incomplete and/or discarded. Good enough for parking lot art! From here we walked across the street to eat at the local outpost of Joe’s Crab Shack, wherein we sat next to a woman who claimed to have a shellfish allergy. It begs the question: what do you do when a customer walks in and basically says, “I’m here to drum up a lawsuit”?
Fun fact (well… certainly not fun for any of its residents): Louisville has an infamous history of flooding, which is a story you can read all about on the Riverwalk as you traverse its substantial fortifications.
And no trip to Louisville would be complete without a visit to the extremely gorgeous Cave Hill Cemetery. Why? Because Colonel Sanders, that’s why.
On to our next horribly neglected state, and the last of this leg.
There are so many Planet Fitnesses (Fitnessi?) in Indiana that we were able to check into five within a 24-hour period. Surely that counts for something. Mostly, it’s what we did on our way to Indianapolis.
On short notice, we managed to catch up with a friend of a friend, Holly, who was a veteran of the city and gave us a great walking tour, along with some advice on things to do. One of those things: 100 Acres at Virginia Fairbanks Art & Nature Park. It is, as described, one hundred acres of nature walks peppered with art exhibits. And free! A first-class urban amenity to be sure. The first pic may look familiar to those who’ve seen the flick The Fault In Our Stars.
Holly also tipped us off to the Teeny Statue of Liberty Museum, which is also exactly as described. Indiana definitely doesn’t want to mislead you.
A ton of Lady Liberty paraphernalia for the teeny admission cost of fifty cents, which the proprietor didn’t even charge us. Quite the literal sliver of Americana.
Does everyone here know who Tameka Catchings is? She was a college basketball phenom who had similar success in the WBNA, and is now an entrepreneur. She owns Tea’s Me Cafe. We ate there. She was sitting right next to us.
Come on, now that’s cool! That deserves a Tameka Catchings highlight reel.
Thanks for reading, and forgiving the incongruences of our blog and our Instagram feed, the latter of which is up-to-date with where we are now. Eager to see what Ohio has to offer? Everyone usually is. Well then, stay tuned!