Friday, December 31, 2010

A Snowy Adventure from Roanoke to Asheville-The 2nd and Final Leg

We woke up the day after Christmas in Marion, VA, and there were at least 3 inches of snow on the ground and more steadily falling from the sky. We were already a little bummed that we didn't make it to Asheville on Christmas day, and we were not thrilled at the prospect of spending another night in Marion. We decided to check out the roads and DOT cameras. The road (not roads) in Marion was clear and the new falling snow was not sticking. The Virginia DOT cameras showed clear roads as well.

We decided to head south around noon. Our original plan was to go as far as Johnson City, Tennessee, and get another room there. The thought process was, at least there would be options in Johnson City. While the Yummy Yummy Japanese Steakhouse was nice, we were not excited to eat lunch and dinner there again. We felt that at least there would be multiple restaurants in Johnson City and maybe even a mall to occupy our time. Johnson City is only about an hour from Asheville, but there is a serious mountain range and increased elevation to cover between the two, and I was worried about that stretch of highway (thus our plan to stop in Johnson City).

We hit the road and I was shocked at how clear I-81 was even with the continuous snow. The roads were 100x better than the night before, but I was still worried about I-26 over the mountain. We successfully made it to Bristol and the Tennessee line. We made it to I-26 and the roads were still clear. We made it to Johnson City with no problems, and we make the decision to…keep driving.
The truck's window is filthy with snow and salt
Everything was fine until we got outside of Erwin, TN, at the base of the mountain pass. There was no warning; the roads did not get gradually worse; the snow did not begin to fall more heavily. There were no signs/omens/warnings that the road was about to become completely covered in snow. BAM! The road was covered. And BAM! I was freaking out. 

We stopped to get gas and decide to look for a hotel (at the request of my anxiety). We realize that we are literally in the middle of nowhere (more so than Marion), and that the only hotel is 3 miles further down I-26. We have no choice but trudge ahead. We hop back on the interstate and literally 2 miles later the road was clear again.

The hotel in Erwin, TN, is the last hotel before going over the mountain. Once we passed Erwin, there would be no turning back. We…kept…driving. I was a disaster. I spent most of the remaining miles with my hoodie up, sunglasses on, and my head buried in my lap. I was scared beyond belief, but mostly it was my own mind/imagination as the roads were actually very clear. Timothy did a great job driving, and we were lucky that all the other drivers on the road were cautious as well.

I'm not sure why I was so stressed, when it could have been worse...
this guy was hauling a boat over the mountain in the snow!

A little before 3 o'clock we arrived in Asheville! I wish we had a picture of Timothy Dad's expression when he realized we had just pulled up. Mark was out shoveling snow when we got there and was shocked to see us. It was a crazy adventure and not exactly how we had planned to spend our first Christmas together, but now we have a great memory and story to tell.
 This face pretty much sums up my anxiety.
The dogs, however, were not phased.
Kelly Anne

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Snowy Adventure from Roanoke to Asheville - The First Leg

Once again, Timothy and I decided to try and celebrate Christmas together this year. Our original plan was to see both my family in Roanoke(VA) and his family in Asheville(NC) on Christmas day. The plan was to spend Christmas morning/early afternoon in Roanoke, and then make the 3.5 hour drive to spend the evening in Asheville. We thought we would definitely be in NC for a late dinner. Well…thanks to the snowstorm that crushed the east coast, our plans were altered just a little.

We spent the days leading up to Christmas checking the weather and storm prediction. As late as Christmas Eve/Morning at 1:00 am, the forecast was just calling for a light "slush" between Roanoke and Asheville. We woke up Christmas morning to a few inches on the ground, but all roads were clear. It did snow most of the day, but when we got ready to head south the roads were clear and all the DOT cameras on I-81 showed clear traffic conditions. We decided to head out.

We did not make it very far. We logged roughly 100 miles when my anxiety was more than either of us could handle. It was getting increasingly darker, colder and snowier the further south we went. Tim is an excellent driver, but I just didn't trust the worsening conditions on the roads. We ended up stopping in Marion, VA, and getting a room at the Econo Lodge. There isn't much in Marion, and it is safe to say that we were in the middle of mountain nowhere. This was definitely not the way we had envisioned spending our first Christmas together; we were both disappointed.

On a quick side note, the Econo Lodge in Marion was a nice place to stay for one or two nights: clean rooms; nice/helpful staff; cable; hot breakfast. The price was a little steep for a no-frills motel, but we were happy with the conditions there.

Once we got settled and each had our own little-minor pity party we decided to venture out into the grand metropolis that is Marion. The snow was coming down pretty heavily, but the one main road in Marion was fairly clear (all 5 miles we traveled), so we felt pretty safe going out for a short trip. Like a scene from A Christmas Story, we ended up eating Christmas dinner at a Japanese steakhouse, the Yummy Yummy Jampanese Steakhouse to be exact. It was actually pretty good. We did not try the side of tater-tots, but we did enjoy fired rice (see photo below). We were lucky to find Yummy Yummy, otherwise we would have raided the beanie-weenie shelf at the only other establishment open, the gas station.

After dinner we settled back in at the motel and decided we would reassess the roads in the morning.
Downtown Marion, Virginia

Did I mention that the dogs loved having their own bed?!
Kelly Anne

Christmas in Virginia (take 2)

Before I get into our Christmas details, I just have to say that this post resulted in my first blogger meltdown! I spent most of the evening (Tuesday) working on a great post about our time in VA. I posted it to my blog, and then created a 2nd post about our stockings (which you can see successfully stuck around). Apparently the Word program I use over-wrote the first post when I created the second. I was SO upset! I stayed up way to late trying to find a way to recover the former post to no avail. So this is my second attempt documenting our time in the Commonwealth. (Be on the lookout for post about our snowy adventure and our time in NC).

This was the first year Timothy and I tried to celebrate Christmas together. The plan was to spend a few days before and Christmas morning in VA, and then spend Christmas evening and a few days after in NC. We kicked off our VA holiday with the Hollett (aka: Traynham/Pitt) family. Angela and Chris hosted a fabulous lunch at their home in Bedford on Christmas Eve-Eve. This was our first time out at their house, and it is beautiful. I am envious of all their closet space! We missed Brian, Jim and Justin (Jackson too), but we loved spoiling the babies – Lola, Zoe and Cade. There is just something so special about kids on Christmas. I love it. Mom, Tim and I stayed late and watched Transformers on Blu-Ray. Chris has a nice set-up in terms of video/surround sound/etc; it was pretty awesome. I can't wait to rent Transformers 2; I can't believe I didn't want to see these in the theaters.

On Christmas Eve we spent most of the day/evening at D's house hanging out with his Dad (Mark). Devon is of course in Uganda and we missed his being there, but it wouldn't have been Christmas Eve without spending a little time with a Murphy. We laughed, cooked and drank a few beers; all of which are definite in any Murphy house visit. We helped make cranberry sauce and homemade tortillas. 

The tortillas were made to soak up a stellar pot of posole made by D's Mom. Devon's family is from New Mexico, and posole (a pork-based soup with hominy and red chili sauce) is a Christmas Eve tradition for many New Mexican families including D's. I am so thankful that this tradition found its way to Virginia, because it is definitely one of my favorites. Yummy!
 Before                                                          After   
After posole and drinks with Becky, Wes and Co. we headed to 10 o'clock mass. I am not catholic, but this particular service at this particular church is my absolute favorite. It was a beautiful mass and was filled with the Christmas spirit; everything from the music to the homily.

Tim's family's Christmas Eve tradition is to go and buy stocking stuffers for one another. He and I decided to go shopping for stuffers after mass and ended up at Wal-Greens because they were the only place open; even Wal-Mart was closed. We enjoyed shopping for one another. Since Wal-Greens is considerably smaller than Wal-Mart we had to get creative with our sneakiness, making sure the we didn't see our goodies in the other person's cart. I would call our stocking-stuffer mission a success. We exchanged stockings on Christmas morning before we even got out of bed. Toothpaste, gum, and candy were in abundance.

Timothy and I started our own tradition last year. Since we are just starting our lives together, we don't have a ton of "personal" ornaments. My favorite part of decorating a tree is revisiting all the memories in each ornament; we don't have this yet. We decided last year to exchange one ornament each to begin our personal collection. This year we waited until the last minute, and did our ornament search at Wal-Greens as well.
                   Snowman for me           Perry the Platypus from Phineas & Ferb
(Our nephew loves the show Phineas and Ferb & we spent a good part of Oct. watching it with him)

Christmas morning was filled with a traditional Hambrick breakfast. My Mom out-did herself once again: eggs, biscuits, gravy, country ham, sausage, hash, fried apples, grits and more! We were super surprised to see my Uncle Wes's truck out front when we pulled up; he decided to surprise everyone (especially Gail) and drove all the way from Kentucky early Christmas morning! We were so excited to have him there. After breakfast, we Skype-ed with Justin, Sara and Jackson in Alabama; we really missed having them with us, but we were thankful for technology. We exchanged gifts and laughed together the rest of the morning.

With our bellies stuffed and full of breakfast, we headed to my MaMa and Granddaddy's to celebrate Christmas with them and Dad. We had a wonderful visit together. We exchanged gifts, chatted and munched on homemade chex-mix. 
I love spending a relaxing Christmas afternoon in my grandparent's living room; especially when we can watch the snow fall out their front window too! 
Did I mention our Christmas was white?!?! Updates coming soon about our snowy adventure and our Christmas in NC.
Kelly Anne