Katie and I took advantage of the holiday weekend to take a quick trip to Roanoke, Virginia, which neither of us had visited before. Roanoke is the economic hub of southwest Virginia and less than three hours from Chapel Hill by car.
We drove up Friday after work/school and arrived in time for dinner. Upon arrival, we checked into the Hotel Roanoke, which we found to be quite charming, despite the fact that it sure looked like it could have been in The Shining!
After settling in we met a friend of mine from high school and his wife (She grew up in the area and they were visiting family for Labor Day weekend.) at Local Roots. Local Roots was a bit overpriced but offered good, inventive fare sourced from local farms.
Saturday morning we went for a morning jog along Roanoke’s greenway (along the Roanoke River). It was a lovely way to start the day and we were impressed that Roanoke had so much protection for bikes and pedestrians throughout the city. We stopped by the farmers market on our way back to the hotel and grabbed a southern breakfast at Thelma’s Chicken and Waffles.
It was a very nice day so we once again met up with my friend and his wife to hike along the Appalachian Trail up to McAfee Knob. Early into our hike we stumbled upon a swarm of bees. I’m not sure how many there were but I wound up with 11 stings before we finally gave them the slip. The girls were smarter than I was and, noticing the swarm in advance, circumvented it. Ask anyone who ever knew me in my football-playing days and there will be a consensus that I prefer to go through obstacles rather than around them – this time I paid for it, though!
Other than the bee incident, the rest of the hike was marvelous. We encountered friendly hikers on the trail, including many dogs, and reached our destination in two hours. The view of the Catawba Valley was amazing and seemingly went on forever in all directions – very worth the hike!
After a much faster descent (go figure), Katie and I enjoyed a pint and some lunch at Fork in the Market. I don’t think this place was quite as locavore-oriented as it claimed to be but the food was fine and the beer was just what we needed after our hike.
Saturday evening we dined at Lucky, a gastropub very near our hotel. We loved it. It was an excellent mix of interesting food and good cocktails. The only downside is that the waitress never mentioned that the kitchen was closing so that, by the time we were ready for dessert (After a run and a long hike, we thought it was justified!), it was no longer available. #1stWorldProblems
On the advice of some passersby on the street, we ducked into Metro, where they gladly served us dessert – and we gladly ate it! It was really delicious, actually; not so sweet that you couldn’t taste the flavors.
Sunday morning we met a different high school friend of mine and a Rice friend, both of whom now work at the same Roanoke law firm, for brunch. They brought along their growing broods too so it was nice to meet their families. We hadn’t seen either of them for many years but we easily just picked up where we left off.
On our way out of town we detoured through nearby Blacksburg to see a former Rice colleague (and coincidentally also a TJ grad!) who had recently been hired by Virginia Tech. It was good to catch up with him and he also gave us a tour around Tech’s lovely grounds on another lovely day.
It was a very short trip to Roanoke, but we had a great time. As we were with Abingdon, we were quite impressed by Roanoke, its friendly culture, and its excellent dining. Southwest Virginia is rapidly becoming a place to which we love traveling – and it’s much more accessible to us now than it was when we were in Texas!