Today we were treated to another great breakfast, complements of our hostess — Shirley. We devoured the freshly made biscuits, vegetarian country gravy and cheese-scrambled eggs she had made with little prompting. It was delicious and another tangible reminder that we are in the south and receiving full-on 1st class southern hospitality!
We reluctantly began taking our things down from the loft and stowing them in our car and trailer. It’s still raining, but we must answer the call of the tumbleweeds we are and head east once again. The long-range forecast calls for sunshine starting on Saturday, and we want to get to the beach and see if the prediction is accurate.
Before we left, David dropped by and gave us directions to a place Shirley had told us about last night: Burke’s Garden. We’ll include it on today’s itinerary.
After much handshaking, hugging and kissing, we finally drove away from the Breaks. It was hard. We had such a good time, enjoyed every minute, and deeply appreciate all the time and attention we received. We also realize how precious this time has been and how lucky we are to have shared a few days in the presence of such wonderful folks. We are, once again, blest!
We followed Highway 460 as David recommended, topped off the gas tank in Richlands, and turned off on Highway 61 at Tazewell for our side trip to Burke’s Garden. In the 1700’s James Burke was part of a survey party which entered the area. He threw away some potato peelings on the trip and when he returned the following year he found that the peelings he had dug into the rich soil near their campfire had grown into a “fine crop of potatoes.” Hence the name for this intriguing little valley. If you take a look at Burke’s Garden, Virginia on the Google Maps satellite view, you will see a very regular oval shaped valley which looks like a meteor crater; locally it is known as the “fingerprint of God.” There is only one road in and out, and the land until recently has been closely held by local residents. It is a perfect valley. John Wayne even owned part of it. Amish families built lovely homes and lived there until they wanted more Amish company and moved north recently. There is no place to stay, no restaurants or glaring gas stations. It is made up of farms with cows, sheep and horses backing up to the Appalachian Trail and bike path.
In fact, George Washington Vanderbilt came there in the 1880’s wanting to purchase the valley to build his mansion. No one would sell this southern “Shangri La” to him, so he had to put the Biltmore house on land which was his second choice, near Asheville, NC.
Google it — it’s interesting reading!
Diana and I drove up and over the lip of the valley and down into it with growing anticipation. David had told us we might see a Bald Eagle’s nest if we were lucky. We stopped at the Burke’s Garden General Store to wet our whistles and learned more about the valley and the eagles from the woman behind the counter. She told us to drive closer to the trees where the nest was, but it looked like a private road, and we chickened out. We did continue driving around the valley and enjoyed looking at the houses, farms and livestock nestled in this lush location.
Finally we drove back up and over, hopped back onto Route 460 and continued our eastward journey with the road carrying us through a small corner of West Virginia before returning us to Virginia.
In between rain showers we actually caught sight of some blue sky, a promising omen of the days ahead.
We stopped for dinner in Blacksburg, the proud home of Virginia Tech, before driving on to Salem where we stopped for the night.
Tomorrow we will try to get all the way to the Atlantic ocean. If we’re lucky, we’ll see you there!