For all of you who know me, you know that my historical romance heart goes pitter-patter at the thought of a love story woven in the midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This region has been a passion of mine for quite some time, but the only problem was, all my research has never gone beyond books, computer screens, and the woods that are my own back yard here in the mountains of CA. So after years of dreaming,and with my mom as a travel companion, we journeyed to the glorious hills and woodlands of North Carolina and Virginia last week. Below are some pictures from our trip, would you like to tag along? :)
Day one had us landing in Raleigh, North Carolina, and it just so happened that my mom’s step brother was in town so we got to have a nice dinner and catch up. Then it was off to our hotel for the evening to prepare for a busy day of sightseeing. The next morning found us at the North Carolina Museum of History and it was glorious.
So many exhibits to see from Spanish explorers to the early settlers and colonists and then into the Civil War era and beyond. It was a feast for the eyes and imagination as I wrote down pages and pages of notes in my journal. So much savoring to be done, and budding were ideas and inspirations for stories to come!
After this, we hit the highway and drove toward our next destination: The Pilot Knob Inn B&B. My mom and I had chosen this spot not only because it’s a hop, skip, and a jump from some of the places we would visit later in the week, but it’s a sprawling bed and breakfast within the woods of North Carolina. Fall color was all around us and instead of rooms, the property was dotted with restored tobacco barns, some well over two hundred years old. It was magnificent and to make it even more special, our hostesses Jenn and Kathy were dears as they fixed us breakfast each morning and made sure we were comfy and cozy. It was country hospitality at it’s BEST.
While staying here, my mom and I drove up into the Blue Ridge Mountains. While we ended up getting much more than we ever bargained for, this is what inspired the whole trip – to get to see the places I’ve written about on the Blue Ridge, and to discover new treasures along the way. We drove the parkway for a few hours, stopping at little shops and enjoyed lunch at a quaint cafe (us California girls could not get over the prices! Everything was about half the cost from where we live, so we did us some shopping! ;) ) We met so many sweet people along the way. Friendly faces and polite folk that made us out-of-towners feel right at home. The hospitality and graciousness is what really stood out to me as something that makes this part of the country so very special.
One thing on my bucket list for the week was to visit Mabry Mill. It’s an iconic historical landmark along the Blue Ridge Parkway and got a little cameo in the Cadence of Grace series. In Though My Heart is Torn, this is the mill where Lonnie and Gideon stopped along the way when Gideon stepped inside, looking for help. Mabry Mill was a few years shy of being built during the book, but I wanted to have it a part of the story, so used this mill as the inspiration, but named it “Cover Mill” to stay historically accurate. To get to walk the grounds, see the still pond and the quiet wheel, was truly a special moment…
Both of those reasons had us eager to visit it but a reason above even those, is that my seven-year-old daughter is named after this very place. For those of you who know Miss Mabry Jane Bischof, now you know where her very historical little name came from. ;) As soon as my mom and I arrived, I pulled up my phone and dialed the kids and with my camera phone, was able to take them on a tour with me. We all had so much fun!
After this, we reluctantly drove off, but turning back the way we had come, led us past another historical landmark that I was eager to see – Puckett Cabin. This is the home of “Aunt” Orlean Puckett, the midwife who delivered babies in this region during the late 1800’s. I had the privileged of reading her biography while writing the Cadence of Grace series, and this is the midwife that came to deliver Lonnie’s baby in Be Still My Soul. Not wanting to tamper in any way with the true woman, I renamed her Aunt Orla as a character, but she was the heart and soul of the midwife in the novel through and through.
My mom told me afterwards that our visit to this beautiful, old cabin was her favorite stop. It was truly so special!
After our day driving a bit along the Blue Ridge, we stayed one more night at our lovely B&B in the woods where my mom and I enjoyed roaring fires, lots of chocolate, and even a chick flick or two. Such a magical and restful time for us both! After this, we headed off to our next, and final stop – Old Salem, North Carolina. One moment, we were driving along the freeway and the next, we had stepped into an 18th and 19th century town that has been preserved and is now open to visitors. We had a room booked at the Augustus T. Zevely Inn, dating from around 1844 and oooh….we were excited!
Upon arriving, we spent the day walking the sidewalks, poking in and out of shops and homes that are now open as exhibits. Historians and workers mill about, dressed in era-costumes, and not only explain some of the practices and daily life that went on within the community, but were a true and active part of it – embroidering, cooking and even gardening on the spot. It was truly a rich, rich time of exploring and discovering more about the people of this time. While I don’t write fiction quite this early on the American timeline, the people from this day would have been the grandparents or parents of my characters, and it made for some special study on who those people would have been. After lots of history-hunting, we stopped and had tea at a place called “The Flour Box” and it was delicious!
Then we had the adventure of checking into our hotel. The hotel was so quaint and cozy, and once again, our hostesses were lovely. My mom and I settled right in for the evening and I even took the small bed…good daughter that I am, lol. Below are a few pictures and a few of you might have spotted this key on Instagram. :) There was so much charm to this building that it made it all the more special…each and every part of our trip was not only chock full of fun and R&R, but there was history in every nook and cranny. We couldn’t have dreamed up a more perfect trip.
That evening, we strode across the street and had dinner in the old tavern there. The bread basket won my heart, but what changed my life was the discovery of beer-cheese soup. :D Oh, it was amazing! As was everything on the menu…this day…this trip.
I am so thankful to have had this most memorable trip not only for the history and all the bookish wonders that were to be discovered, but because my mom and I really savored a once-in-a-lifetime adventure where we made so many sweet memories. A trip to remember always! I hope you had as much fun as we did. :D