High Country Roads
On a cool October morning as I leave my home in Mayodan, the place where the Mayo and the Dan rivers converge, my hometown in the northern Piedmont of North Carolina seems a long way from the Carolina high country. I'm excited though because I know that in a few fun-filled hours I'll be standing on a mountain gazing at a fantastic view that takes in the corners of three states.
I travel Business 220 to SR 704 west. My Kawasaki ZR-7S hums along as I roll into the country. Heading to a restaurant in Danbury to meet a friend for breakfast, I turn left onto Delta Church Road, which runs into Sheppard Mill Road. I pass one the area's favorite landmarks. Still in operation, Priddy's General Store was established in 1888. Most notably in this century, scenes from the horror/comedy Cabin Fever were filmed here. As I arrive in Danbury, I pass the Moratock Iron Furnace. Built in 1843, the forge supplied iron for the Confederacy until General George Stoneman's Union calvary shut it down in 1865.
Charles is waiting at the Dan River Family Restaurant on his new Suzuki Bandit 1200S. After enjoying a hearty breakfast, we leave for a spirited ride in the mountains. We head west on SR 89 riding the portion known as the Hanging Rock Scenic Byway. The road winds around Hanging Rock State Park and takes us to the city of Mount Airy where we visit the Andy Griffith Museum and the Mount Airy Visitors Center. Reminders of the town's favorite son are everywhere, and a walk down Main Street is as close as one can get to a stroll in Mayberry. The Visitor Center exhibits publicize the many musical, mountain, and historical attractions in the area. For example: Eng and Chang Bunker, the original Siamese twins, lived around here in the 1800s and their gravesite is nearby in White Plains. As the site of the world's largest open-face granite quarry, Mount Airy is also known as "The Granite City."
We leave this friendly city and continue west on 89. Crossing under I-77, we roll past beautiful farmland and enjoy the views of the mountains around us. We gain elevation and notice the leaves are much more colorful than they are in the Piedmont region. We turn left onto SR 18, ride under the Blue Ridge Parkway and cross the Eastern Continental Divide. We are now in Christmas tree country and evergreens cover many of the hillsides in perfect rows like soldiers in formation.
At Sparta we turn right onto US 21, head north for a few miles, then swing left onto US 221 south. This highway has many twists and turns with awesome scenery around every bend. Until now the roads have been generally smooth with few patches, but when we cross into Ashe County, the highway takes on a slight change in personality. The views are still spectacular and the roller coaster ride continues, but the road is much rougher and there are many more patches. Our suspensions handle it well, however, and the joy of the ride continues. We cross the New River, believed to be the second oldest in the world, and run by the New River State Park.