Updated: May 28
Of course, I am not writing about Reba McEntire. Today I am writing about a 30 mile stretch of road that straddles North Carolina and Virginia on Interstate 77. A town or two I mention will be off of the interstate and on Route 52, but this area I still refer to as Fancy Gap, or Fancy Gap Mountain.
If you would like to watch the video I made for YouTube of the drive up the mountain, where I talk about some of the same things that are in this post. Check it out by clicking this highlighted line. I started the video at the rest area on the Virginia side of the state line, and from there I went north up Interstate 77 and stopped recording at Hillsville/Galax Virginia Exit 14.
Mount Airy, NC
This is the city about 10 minutes before you get to the base of Fancy Gap Mountain. The city is a decent size, at around 10,000 people. So, there are plenty of restaurants and a few hotels in the area. The first time I ever had Bojangles fast food was here in Mount Airy when I was 18 years old. Bojangles is still there on Route 52, but there are so many other places to list that are great to eat.
-The Derby, a family restaurant that has been around since 1937
-Speedy Chef, cheap quick eats, get the hot dogs and banana split
-Chase N CHarli, Orange Dreamsicle Cake..... oh my goodness!!!!!!!
-13 Bones, ribs and shrimp are amazing.
-Aunt Beas BBQ, of course get the BBQ Plate.
Attractions in Mount Airy
-Andy Griffith homeplace
-Andy and Opie Taylor Monument
-Wally's Service Station
-Easter Brothers Mural
-Eng and Chang Memorial Bridge
-Gertrude Smith House
-William Alfred Moore House
-Old North State Winery
Mount Airy might sound familiar to you, it is also the home to Mayberry. The Andy Griffith Show was based on this area. Andy Griffith was originally from Mount Airy. Mayberry is a neat little section of town you should definitely check out, while here. Of course, it is not the actual set of where the show was filmed but it has a few places that remind you of the show. Every September they do Mayberry Days Festival and tend to have people from the show, or their kids come to the festival.
Eng and Chang Buckner I bet you are not familiar with. They were conjoined twins that lived in the area. Born in 1811 in Thailand, they came to the United States as a traveling attraction. They loved the Mount Airy area and settled down, married sisters, and became fathers to 21 kids. Some of their descendants still live in the area. Just let that sink in for a minute. Can you imagine how different their lives were, being conjoined, married, and parents. They died in 1874 and are buried in Mount Airy near downtown at White Plains Baptist Church Cemetery and you are still able to visit their headstone.
The Autumn Leaves Festival happens in Early October. Music, food, and fun! Speaking of Music this area is associated with Bluegrass Music. Several musicians are from here, like Donna Fargo, and Tommy Jarrell. They have had fiddler conventions here in the past. There is also the Blue Ridge Amphitheater in Galax VA (off of exit 14, on 77). So, it is guaranteed you will hear some Bluegrass Music at the Autumn Leaves Festival.
Going up the Mountain on 77
This mountain has always had strange weather. It can be windy, and foggy, snowing at the top of the mountain and sunny at the bottom. You can never tell what you will drive into. They have good warning signs on the road warning you about the conditions and speed limit changes due to changing weather conditions. I have witnessed firsthand the crazy weather and fog here. There have been so many accidents too. A few years back, I was stuck behind a 21-car pile-up a few years back.
As you go up the mountain, if at all possible, on a pretty day take a glance out the window to the right and look at the valley below. Always remember safety first, but a quick glance is fine. You should be able to see Pilot Mountain, it's an obvious landmark and mentioned on the Andy Griffith Show. I wish there was a scenic overlook here on interstate 77 where you could pull over and get a good view, but that does not exist. On the side roads route 52 or route 620 which take you to the Parkway, you can get some beautiful scenery and pictures. But if you are just heading up on interstate 77 a quick glance is all you can do. But it is beautiful.
Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Mountains start in Georgia and end in Maine. And the Appalachian Trail is also part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. People hike the Appalachian trail in sections or take months and do it all at once. At one point the trail actually went through Fancy Gap, but now, the trail is in the county next door called Grayson County, but that is not far at all.
If you are not a hiker that is ok, I suggest driving route 52 or route 620 sometime to check out the scenery and also jump on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Driving in the fall, early to mid-October will give beautiful views of the mountain with the leaves changing. Plus, there are many great places to stop and check out on the Parkway.
Devil's Den Nature Preserve has a 600-Million-year-old Cave that was formed as the land shifted and collided. Around the cave is a 280-acre nature preserve. with hundreds of types of birds (some migratory) and all forest and grassland animals native to the area, like deer, eastern box turtle, and the red fox. Black Bear can also be in the area, you never know so always be prepared. I have seen a black bear 3 miles from this location on the side of the road once. The trail to the cave is well marked but steep and narrow at places, but there are a few benches along the way for a resting stop. You will see a sign that says .43 miles to cave near the beginning of the trail.
Check out these 3 places on the parkway but not near the exit off Interstate 77, this is why you drive the parkway.
- Puckett Cabin, A historic cabin that Orlean Puckett lived in the last half of her life. She
married at the age of 16, and had 24 children but none survived infancy. She was a midwife and helped deliver 1000 babies in the area. Even delivered 1 the year she died in 1939 at 102 years old. Real interesting woman. This is one of my favorite stops on the parkway.
-Levering Orchard- (Ararat) Cherry Orchard that started off in the 1970s as an Apple Orchard, they now have 43 varieties of cherries plus other fruit trees. They have over 20,000 visitors every year.
-Mabry Mill- (Meadows of Dan), located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and built in 1910 it is a picturesque place that shows like in the pioneer days. Grist Mill, Sawmill, Black Smith shop, and even an "old timer" whiskey still. Check out the gift shop and buy locally made goodies.
Fancy Gap, VA
Fancy Gap is exit 8 off Interstate 77 and taking this exit is the easiest way to get on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is not much here at this exit, just a couple gas stations. You will have to drive down Route 52 to see some places like in the produce stands, antiques, and yards sales. There are plenty of cute little shops in the area.
-Lake View Restaurant
-Pit Stop Pasta and Grill
-Ol' Farmer (Near Cana VA)
-Mountain Man Orchards and Market (In Cana VA)
-B&B Produce and Greenhouse (In Cana VA)
Check out the Fancy Gap Pottery and Fabric Outlet, you can even shop at their online store.
J. Sidna Allen House built in 1911, but only lived there for a year because of "The Courthouse Tragedy". Tours are not available, but still neat to check out since this was known as the most beautiful and expensive house in South-West Virginia back in 1911.
Sidna Allen was arrested for being involved with his brother Floyd in the shooting at the courthouse that killed 5 people, Floyd Allen was on trial for the illegal rescue of prisoners (Sidna was one of the prisoners that he helped escape 6 months earlier). Anyway, the shooting at the courthouse continued onto the streets. The Virginia Governor was called, and a detective team was sent to the area to find all that were involved. Sidna got 35 years in prison, and Floyd and his son got the electric chair. Really interesting huh?????? But now over 110 years later, this story has turned into a legend, yet mainly forgotten about. (I should write a screenplay about this, it would make a great movie!)
Hillsville/ Galax VA
Hillsville Galax area is exit 14, Several hotels and great food options. Labor Day Weekend, and Memorial Day Weekend there is a large flea market and gun show. Also, there is a craft show here the 3rd Saturday in October.
-The Mason Jar- The Chicken Chesapeake Sandwich is a must.
-Hillsville Diner- Eat for Breakfast, the Hotcakes are great. Opened in 1946 and is the oldest street car restaurant, still in operation in Virginia.
-Slyders- Hot dogs are regular or footlong.
-Macado's- there are several around, including my hometown, so this is a sentimental pick. Chicken Cordon Boo, or Bobagger sandwiches.
-The Brier Patch Cafe- The Cuban and a coffee.
-Jeff Matthews Museum- (Galax) An old farmhouse museum with plenty of Civil War and Indian artifacts along with several taxidermy animals native to the area.
-Carroll County Courthouse (Hillsville) the Court from the famous murder mentioned above, but they also have Civil War and Indian artifacts.
-Hale Wilkinson Carter Home- (Hillsville) Originally constructed in 1845 with a later addition added on, you can take tours if you like.
Walk in the Wild Nature Museum- (Woodlawn) over 150 taxidermy animals and a 25ft waterfall, plus there is a gift shop.
About 15 minutes north of here on Interstate 77 is an exit called Poplar camp. New River Shot tower is located here right beside the New River. It is over 200 years old and was used to make ammunition for early settlers of the area. There was lead at a mine nearby used to help make ammunition. This place is on the national record of historic places, Plus nearby is a tiny town named Austinville, named for Steven F Austin, (the father of Texas). Google him for a history lesson.
I hope you have enjoyed this information about this area and it makes you want to check it out for a long weekend sometime. Such a beautiful place. If you ever need any help with research or booking a vacation, I am available. Just book an appointment on my website.
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