Visiting “Camel City” and a brush with Andy Griffith

It sure is amazing how therapeutic it can feel to admit my imperfections. As much pressure as I put onto myself ((for whatever reason)) to make everyone happy and to enjoy every minute of this little adventure, it is not without hiccups, moments of sadness, tricky maneuvering & balancing. After writing my last post, I woke up the next morning already feeling like a weight had been lifted. Thanks to all of YOU for standing by and supporting me while I navigate this amazing life experience. Now, on with the show…

After a week and a half with my oldest sister and her family near Wilmington, we drove to western North Carolina to spend some exceptional days with my mom. She moved to a suburb just outside downtown Winston-Salem in January ((called “Winston” by the locals)), and whenever we chat, she’s repeatedly professed how much she loves it there. It was time to see exactly what the love fest was all about.

The area of Winston-Salem is best known for its rich tobacco history with the RJ Reynolds company, hence the “Camel City” nickname, as well as current company headquarters of brands like Krispy Kreme and HanesBrands, Inc. There are lots of beautiful historic mansions, including the Reynolda Estate & Museum owned by the Reynolds family. We didn’t get the chance to check it out this time around, but the estate and gardens will definitely be on the itinerary for our next visit.

I have to mention that I have seen some remarkable sunsets along this USA road trip. Not sure if it was the time of year or we just got really lucky, but boy oh boy have they been special. From the Oregon coast to Malibu to North Carolina, the sun has been putting on show after show as it repeatedly bids farewell to each day.

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Being in the southern states always feels like vacation to me, and Winston followed suit. When I was a kid, we always took family trips to Florida and Virginia Beach and one of the things I remember most about those places are the warm evenings. It meant being outside late into the night, playing mini golf or sitting out on a porch. Those warm nights beckon you to soak up every bit of your waking hours outdoors. The first evening at my mom’s new home, we ate dinner on her back deck and then sat around a fire pit. The fire wasn’t even necessary to keep warm that evening; it just felt right to relax by a mesmerizing fire because that’s what we are all used to in the Pacific Northwest and Central NY this time of year. Old habits die hard!

A day or so leading up to our visit to Winston-Salem, my mom mentioned that she would be meeting up with an old high school friend and that Andrew & I should tag along. She mentioned her classmate’s name, which wasn’t anyone I recognized, but we decided to go along anyway and check out this quaint town called Mount Airy, situated just south of the NC/VA state border. Two things pleasantly surprised me that day: firstly, the town of Mount Airy has long been believed to be the basis for fictional Mayberry in the Andy Griffith Show ((Andy Griffith was born and raised in Mount Airy)), and all the shops and ambiance of the town is centered around the show. You can even drive past Andy Griffith’s home where he grew up, and stay overnight if that’s what floats your boat because it is now a bed & breakfast! The second pleasant surprise was when my mom introduced me to her high school acquaintance Gene, his new bride and her daughter. I immediately recognized the wife as my good friend Jill’s Aunt Mary and the daughter was Jill’s cousin Nanette! Welcome to the East Coast, where there’s someone you know or some connection waiting around every corner. We lunched at Walker’s Soda Fountain, chatting for what must have been a couple of hours at least! It is pretty remarkable to be in a random place like Mount Airy, NC with people you know from such a small town in central New York State, catching up like no time had lapsed since last seeing them, years ago. The people working at Walker’s were so sweet and friendly, and didn’t seem to mind one bit that we were taking up a table long after we finished our lunch.

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^^Mary, Gene and my mom posing for their Mayberry photo op

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As mentioned above, the majority of the village of Mount Airy is based around Mayberry and the Andy Griffith Show, which my mother watched as a kid. There is Floyd’s Barber Shop, Opie’s Candy Store, an old police cruiser that drives down Main Street giving the tourists a ride, as well as an Andy Griffith Museum. Memorabilia is front and center in each set of storefront windows. Amazingly, this small town seems to be thriving on the Mayberry theme after all this time. One other notable shop not associated with the theme ((or not that I could tell, at least)) was Miss Angels Heavenly Pies. The sugary scent of freshly baked goods coming out of this place was calling us inside, and thankfully we obliged. The mini pies are really delicious. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the dozen or so flavors offered. We chose a lemon, cherry, two mixed berry pies and a pumpkin pecan. Miss Angels also offer freshly baked breads, cupcakes, cookies, bars, etc. This place is not to be missed if you have a sweet tooth, or simply love a good pie. Unfortunately no photos were snapped before the pies were gobbled up.

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Since western North Carolina touches the Appalachian Mountain Range, there were numerous state park and area hiking trails to choose from the next day when we were ready to walk off that delicious pie. My mom selected Hanging Rock State Park, so we hiked, had a picnic lunch, and took photographs of the gorgeous scenery. Especially picturesque areas included Window Falls, Hidden Falls, and the Hanging Rock trail. Not up for actually hanging off the Hanging Rock, we enjoyed the view just underneath the rock before returning to the car and heading back to home base. It was such a crisp, colorful Autumn day, and one I will most definitely remember fondly.

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The final evening with my mom, we dined at 6th And Vine in Downtown Winston-Salem. A wine bar with great food, they often have live music and fun events you can enjoy in the restaurant or on the adorable back patio. I had a delicious Baked Goat Cheese salad along with flatbread and their daily special hummus offering, which was roasted red pepper. Lucky for me it just so happened to be $5 Sangria Tuesday, so I sipped on a refreshing white sangria with my dinner.

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Our time in Winston was short, lasting only a couple of days, but it is clear to see why my mom loves it there so much. From parks to hiking trails to historic buildings, great weather, and a quaint downtown area, there is so much to see and do. Not to mention hip, happening nearby cities which include Charlotte and Asheville; the mountains are a short drive; and the ocean is a mere three to four hours drive. Time spent with my mom is always rather special, so thanks Mom for hosting us and showing us around your newly adopted home. We shall return to lovely Winston!

Next, I’m taking you back to the Carolina coast with me for a relaxing day at gorgeous Bald Head Island

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Donna Milsten says:

    Completely understand how easy it is to fall in love with this area. Our log home, in Elk Creek, VA, is just an hour and a half from W-S. There are two quaint towns nearby, several State and National parks, and the New River within minutes drive. There are so many surprises to discover in this area. We are in Elk Creek now for the weekend. It makes me very sad when we have to return to the DC area for work, but we know that we are very blessed to have both places. Hope you, Andrew, and your Mom can visit us here some day!

    1. Mary says:

      We’d love to return and hope across the border to see you and more of western Virginia!

  2. MoM says:

    I’ve been patiently awaiting my turn in your blog. When we first discussed your cross country adventure, my heart soared, just thinking how much this means to you both. When we spend time together, the time just seems to fly faster. I am so happy here, and very thankful that you were able to see my Winston from my eyes. come back, we just scratched the surface! I love you,, safe travels my dears…

    1. Mary says:

      We very much enjoyed Winston with you. See you in the UK, yes??!! xo

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