Fall Road Trip, Another Pair of Socks

In October Wayne and I went on a two week road trip to Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Virginia, putting 4000 miles on our Honda CRV. Our fifth wheel trailer sat in the driveway while we were gone, as we had family to stay with for 11 of the 14 nights we were away. We have not used our RV since we came back from Arizona last spring :(. Summer is nice on the lake where we live, and we are busy with guests coming and going at our house and the extended family cabin, so we are not inclined to go on a trip during that time. We had talked about taking the RV west in late summer to visit Wayne’s aunts in Coeur d’Alene, ID, and then continuing on to Glacier National Park. By the time we started researching camp site options, they were all booked. The trip southeast was a good alternative for viewing fall colors while also visiting with cousins. Maybe we’ll do the RV trip next year now that we know how early to start making arrangements.

Preparation for the trip included deciding on a knitting project to bring along. It needed to be portable and keep me busy for the entire trip. SOCKS of course! I decided on some Schachenmayr Regia 6-ply yarn I had on hand, for a toe up sock with a Fleegle heel. I liked knitting this heel pattern one other time, but that sock did not have quite enough stitches around for my foot, so I wanted to try it again with the right number of stitches. I used my ball winder and scale to divide the yarn into two balls of equal weight for two at a time knitting. The label suggested needle size of 3 to 5 which appealed to me because that means fewer stitches than a typical sock yarn that uses a size 1 needle. After knitting up a swatch I realized I had to go down to a size 2 in order to get the right density for socks.

Dividing the sock yarn into two equal size balls

On the first day of this road trip we drove 180 miles from our house to Minneapolis. There are always errands to run in “the cities” that we can’t do at home, so we took care of a few things and then dropped our dog off at my friend’s house before arriving at my sister’s house for dinner and overnight. We appreciate that the door is always open there for family or friends.

The next day we drove to Chicago, arriving at our son James and daughter-in-law Kelsey’s condo in time for dinner on Saturday (10/8/2022). They had just returned from a two week trip to Croatia so were still getting over jet lag. We offered to provide take out dinner, but they were already in the process of making some homemade soup that was very delicious. It turned out that the next morning was the Chicago Marathon. The route goes a few blocks from their condo in the Pilsen neighborhood, so streets were blocked off making it difficult to venture out that day. Instead we watched the runners for a little while which was a new experience for us, and then had a relaxing afternoon watching football, or knitting in my case.

We left first thing the next morning (Monday 10/10/2022) so as not to interfere with James and Kelsey working from home, but also because we had a long drive all the way to my cousin Dan’s house near Knoxville, TN. Their house is on the Tennessee River and also about 45 minutes from Great Smokey Mountain National Park. Tuesday we went on a boat ride.

Wayne, my uncle Jim, and my cousin Dan
On my cousin’s boat

I worked on my knitting, and we all watched pretty scenery and admired the properties along the shore while we lounged on the boat and had snacks for lunch.

I worked on my sock knitting project while we were on the boat

The next two days we drove, explored and hiked in and near Great Smokey Mountain National Park. That is the most visited national park because there is no admission fee, and also because it is a reasonable driving distance for so many people. The following photos were taken from Look Rock Tower on the Foothills Parkway, and at one of many scenic overlooks along the road.

Smokey Mountain National Park from Look Rock Tower
Scenic overlook

My cousin Dan and his wife Liz both served as pilots in the Air National Guard for many years, and now they are both UPS pilots. Dan owns a Cessna 310 airplane. He had told us that they wanted to take us on an outing flying to Asheville, NC, for brunch. Sure, why not? We did not really know what that entailed but it turned out to be quite an adventure. The conditions were right for flying on our last day there (Friday 10/14/2022) which started out very early in order to get to the airport, fly to Asheville, and Uber to Grove Park Inn in time for brunch.

Early morning airplane ride

The Grove Park Inn in Asheville was built in 1913 with granite boulders that were hauled to the site using mules, wagons and ropes. It is a popular place today with lodging and dining, a golf course, and a spa. There are two ginormous fireplaces in the lobby with rocking chairs where anyone can sit and relax whether or not you have reserved a room. We had a fabulous brunch with a view out the back of the building.

The historic Grove Park Inn
One of two massive fireplaces in the lobby of the hotel
The view from the back of the Grove Park Inn

After we were done with our meal and had walked around the hotel, it was time for the plane ride back to Tennessee. Honestly I was a little nervous about flying in a small plane, but Dan is about the most conscientious pilot there could be. The return flight was a little bumpy but all in all it was a wonderful experience.

My cousin’s airplane

Our car was waiting for us at the airport when we got back from brunch. We drove directly from there to Birmingham, AL, where cousin Ross (Dan’s brother) lives, again arriving in time for dinner (do you see a pattern here?). We were not there very long and it was kind of out of the way, but we wanted to see where Ross and his wife Kim live, and visit with them a bit. Kim and I spent Saturday afternoon (10/15/2022) at the Kentuck Festival of the Arts about an hour away, while Wayne and Ross watched the Tennessee versus Alabama college football game. Even though Ross lives in Alabama he was rooting for Tennessee, where he is from and went to graduate school. It was a very exciting game and they were happy that Tennessee won. We did not see any of Birmingham other than their neighborhood, so I guess we’ll have to go back another time.

We left Ross and Kim’s house late the next morning and drove east to Murphy, NC, which is near John C Campbell Folk School, one of my bucket list items. I have dreamed of taking a class there for years. It has not worked out yet, but at least I got to see the place on this trip. We had enough time to check out a short river walk and stroll around the small main drag area of Murphy in the late afternoon (Sunday 10/16) before it got dark out. All the shops were closed, but we lucked out with dinner. First we tried to eat at a place that had good reviews, outdoor seating, and a guy playing live music on the patio. The hostess informed us that even though there were many empty tables, they only had enough staff to serve customers with a reservation. We were allowed to sit at the bar outside for a few minutes and listen to the music. After that we walked to a local brew pub and had a super delicious meal. We had talked about celebrating our anniversary with a nice dinner during the trip. Even though this meal was fairly low budget, and our anniversary was in September, we had such a nice time that we decided to call this the anniversary dinner.

“Anniversary” dinner at a local brew pub in Murphy, NC

The next day we went to check out John C Campbell Folk School, a place where you can take week or weekend long classes in many traditional crafts, music, and cooking. I loved it there and took many photos, but it is hard to get a sense of the place based on any particular couple of pictures. It was very peaceful and beautiful there. They have multiple craft studios, and buildings for lodging, meals, community activities, gardening equipment, and a gift shop and history center. Each building was unique. The property has both wooded and open meadow areas. Due to covid, the only buildings that were open to the public were the gift shop and history center. After checking those out, we walked around and saw all the other various buildings. There were classes going on in some of the studios including shoe making, spinning, weaving, and pottery. Technically we were not supposed to go inside the studios, but we peeked in the doors, and in some cases the people inside said to come on in, or they were working outside where we could interact with them for a few minutes.

Part of the John C Campbell property, with the garden in the background

After we had walked around for awhile, it was lunch time for the instructors and people taking classes. We came upon this group who were using part of their lunch time for a music session.

Students at the folk school playing music during their lunch break

Our next destination after John C Campbell Folk School was McLeansville, North Carolina, the location of Replacements, LTD. Replacements is a business that buys and sells previously owned china, crystal, sterling silver, jewelry and collectibles. It started in 1981 with one guy buying a few things at garage sales, and over the years has expanded to include a massive warehouse and distribution center. If you break a piece of your china or crystal, this is where you can find a replacement. Depending on current supply and demand of specific patterns, they will pay you for your items. Most of their business is conducted online and by mail. They have a big showroom for sales in person, and in certain cases you can get an appointment to do an in person drop off of stuff that they have already agreed to buy. My sister and I had quite a few things to sell of our mom’s and our own, and since we were going that way anyway, we arranged to drop off our five boxes of stuff in person rather than mail them. It was difficult to part with some of the things that we sold, but it is part of a long process of sorting, offering to our kids and other young adults, and purging, so that we each will have only one household of things that we love, will use, and have a place for. Following are photos of a display at Replacements with one dinner plate each from hundreds of different china patterns, and then a photo of one of many long aisles of shelves going to the ceiling with inventory.

Display of china patterns at Replacements, LTD
One of many aisles of shelving for inventory at Replacements, LTD

Our next planned activity after dropping off the dishes was to visit Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home in Charlottesville, Virginia. I had wanted to do the full guided tour that includes all the rooms and floors of the house, but we messed up and by the time we tried to get tickets online a couple of days ahead they were sold out for that option. Instead we reserved tickets for a self-guided tour.

We were done at Replacements by noon on Tuesday (10/18/2022), but our Monticello visit did not start until 3:00 pm on Wednesday. Wayne’s cousin and his wife live in Arlington, VA, near Washington D.C, so we left him messages to call us and started driving in that direction, which was on the way to Monticello. We were prepared to stay in a hotel and hoped they could meet us for dinner. As it turned out they invited us to their home for dinner and overnight. We had a good visit before leaving early the next morning to drive west back to Monticello.

On the way, we had a funny incident with GPS navigation. We were on an interstate highway, but for some reason the GPS told us to get off the interstate and go on to a narrow windy side road. We could see the highway on our left. Big trucks carrying logs kept coming from the other direction, with barely enough room to pass us while we edged way over as far as we could without going in the ditch. Then we noticed signs over on the highway for a toll station and realized what had happened. Wayne had set the GPS to avoid tolls! Haha we got quite an adventure on that side road, but avoided the toll! Shortly after that we were routed back on to the highway.

The self guided tour at Monticello included audio content available by smart phone instead of a live person, so it worked out OK. We were able to walk around the grounds, see the rooms underneath the house that included areas for making beer, storing wine, cooking meals, etc, and get a 45 minute presentation of Slavery at the plantation.

Thomas Jefferson was an intelligent and complicated person who made important contributions as one of the founding fathers. He has been described as a polymath, someone who is knowledgeable or skilled in many subjects. He was a self taught architect, a lawyer, a scientist, an inventor, a musician, a writer. He was also a typical plantation owner with slaves. He believed that slavery is wrong and made efforts to abolish it, but eventually realized that future generations would have to make that happen. The Monticello organization is now doing a good job of addressing the topic of enslaved people on the planation, telling it like it was rather than sweeping it under the rug. I don’t think it is right to judge people from the past using todays standards, but it is a difficult topic for another day.

There were some qwerky things inside the house I found interesting. The staircase to the second floor was very steep and narrow, located in the center of the house. Thomas Jefferson believed that grand staircases were a waste of space. There was a dumbwaiter to bring wine up to the dining room from the storage area under the house. The dining room had multiple small tables for more intimate conversations rather than one large dining table.

Steep narrow staircase at Monticello

When Thomas Jefferson died, he was in debt and most of his belongings and assets were sold. There has been an effort to find and purchase back his things. The actual boots he wore are on display in the bedroom. Apparently they are both the same, there is not a left and a right.

Thomas Jefferson’s actual boots

There is a professional actor that plays Thomas Jefferson for the Monticello organization. He gives talks for tourists and is featured in educational videos that are available to watch on the Monticello.org site and on Youtube. He does an amazing job being in character.

Thomas Jefferson played by a professional actor at Monticello

I really enjoyed our time at Monticello, other than that we did not get to see the upper floors of the house, and that it was cold and windy outside. It was the last thing on our itinerary other than driving all the way back to Minnesota. We were done there at about 5:30, so we decided to drive a few hours towards home before stopping for the night. We got to a town that had all the usual road trip hotels, but they were all full. Oh no! We found one place off the main area with availability. When I was growing up, on the few road trips we took as a family, we would either stay with relatives or friends on the way, or at a budget motel. My mom would have always ask to see a room before booking to make sure it did not smell funny and to make sure the bed was tolerable. At this sketchy motel we followed her lead. The proprietor showed us two rooms, and one did smell funny, so we took the other one and I am glad we asked!

Getting those extra hours of driving in allowed us to make it all the way to Chicago the next day (Thursday 10/20/2022) where we stayed overnight at our son’s condo. We arrived in time for dinner again, but this time we paid for some take out Chicago Deep Dish style pizza.

We got up early the next morning (Friday 10/21/2022) and left before our son and daughter-in-law were even up. We made it all the way home to Fergus Falls after stopping in Minneapolis to pick up things we had left at my sister’s house, eat some just made apple crisp, and pick up the dog at my friend’s house. It was a long day, but by that time we just wanted to get home.

I got a lot of knitting done over many hours of driving, but the socks were not finished yet when we arrived home. The toe and foot part of each sock was complete, and one heel was done. I thought I took a photo, but I guess not.

The fall colors were at their peak at home before we left, and in the areas we traveled to. By the time we got home, the leaves were all down and it was starting to look like early winter. Actually, it snowed once while we were gone, but thankfully did not stick.

I plugged away on the socks at home, and in the following photos they are almost done, and then finished.

Almost done with the socks

The cast off is Jeni’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off. I purposely made it very loose, so they are nice and stretchy. The toes are a little too pointy, so noting that for future hand knit socks. Otherwise I like how they turned out.

Completed socks

Published by Meg Hanson

Hello. I am a recently retired empty nester. My husband and I moved to Jewett Lake in Otter Tail County, Minnesota, after living most of our lives in the Minneapolis area. I have no trouble keeping busy with knitting and spinning of wool, selling yarn and handmade goods, reading, walking, watching movies, surfing on the internet, traveling, doing bookkeeping for our family cabin, and spending time with family.

5 thoughts on “Fall Road Trip, Another Pair of Socks

  1. What a fabulous trip, Meg! I loved seeing your photos – especially of the fall colors, and I bet they were beautiful from Dan’s plane. As a collector of plates, I have bought many things from Replacements, and I had no idea that they had a store you could walk into! See, I learned something today, and I will definitely visit them if I ever get to North Carolina. The socks turned out great too, by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, we were blessed this year to have beautiful fall colors at home, and on this road trip. Now it is winter…it snowed. You can do a tour at Replacements too. We just missed one and did not have time to wait around for the next one, but the sales lady gave me a mini tour and let me peek in the warehouse area. So interesting! You should for sure go there some time. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great trip! I’ve always wanted to explore the Smokey Mountain area, and yet we never seem to get around to it. (Although we did spend the night in Ashville once.) It’s so pretty and there’s so much history. And I’m glad that the tours of the plantations are including more about slavery, which was horrible. We need to face our whole past, I think, not just the pleasant parts. But I also agree that there’s no point in blaming people for what happened long ago. The trick is simply to understand it, so it’s not ever repeated, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

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