Charlottesville and Shenadoah National Park

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September 29th 2014
Published: September 30th 2014
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We drove to Charlottesville through the Shenadoah National Park. The route we took is called the Skyline Drive and it takes you right down the ridges of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We heard the views were spectacular, and even though it was lashing rain we decided to still go for it. We arrived at the park gates and the ranger told us it was pretty foggy but we said we'd go anyway. We couldn't see a thing on the drive but we imagined the views would be nice! We saw a few deer and Eagles on the drive.
We arrived at Charlottesville around 7pm. Our motel was right beside the practice pitches for the University of Virginia. The college brass band were practicing, and they played Beyonces 'put a ring on it'. It was brilliant! We checked into the motel and got showered and changed before heading to the Main Street to a pub called The Whiskey Jar, where we met Sarah, who we met on our trek to Machu Picchu 2 years ago, and her friend Zach. We had some food and a few beers. They were celebrating because they have their own business and that day they made two big sales. Both Sarah and Zach are also in grad school at UVA. After Sarah and Zac went home, we went to the Sky Bar for a drink. There are loads of local breweries around so we tried some local stuff. Afterwards we walked home.
Charlottesville is primarily a university town so it was great to wander around. Sarah couldn't believe that we'd done the half hour walk down to the town, as Americans drive everywhere. But Zach pointed out to her that we're Europeans. Apparently that's what Europeans do!

The next day was our chill out day so we got up late, had breakfast in IHOP and then drove down to the town and did a bit of shopping. We had some Indian food for lunch and then made our way back to the motel to get ready for dinner. We ate in a great pub called The Virginian. I had Mac and Cheese and Dave had ribs. It was gorgeous. We then drove 40 mins outside Charlottesville to a place called Louisa. Our other friend, Zac, who we also met in Peru, coaches the Charlottesville Black Knights; the highschool football team. They were playing the Louisa Lions.

The game was a spectacle. They had a real live lion and two white tigers, as well as a person in a lion suit as a mascot, they had fireworks and a cannon that blew smoke rings into the air everytime there was a touchdown. They had model cars racing around the track around the outside of the field; there was a brass band and cheerleaders; and a guy who ran around the edge of the field with an American flag. There were hotdog stands, pizza stands, drinks, sweets, candy floss and popcorn. And this was just school kids playing!! It was actually hard to concentrate on the game because there was so much else going on.
We were looking out for Zac when he texted saying he was in the coaches booth across the way. We caught up with him after the game, which the Black Knights lost. We arranged to meet back in Charlottesville for a drink later.
We caught up with Zac and his friends in the Sky Bar later that night, after we were questioned by security about being from Ireland. It was very awkward we felt like we were in a zoo. About 6 people were just looking at us! We had a few pints of the Devil's Backbone, a local brew, before heading back to Clay's apartment. She lives just behind Sky Bar. We had a glass of wine and went up on the roof to play bags. There was a guy there called Jim who wore a Liverpool jersey. Random. Zac and Clay invited us to go play kickball on the Sunday.

The next morning we had planned to do a 10 mile hike called the Old Rag but that was swiftly abandoned once we woke up late. So we drove to the mountains and did a much smaller hike called Humpback Rock, after stopping in Zin for a breakfast burger. Couldn't finish mine!
The hike was only .8 miles up and back, but it was pretty steep so it took us some time to get to the top. It was a lovely hike even though it was a bit strenuous. Once we got to the Humpback Rock The views were spectacular. We took in the view for a while, got our breath back and then made our way back down the mountain. We saw a Swallowtail butterfly and loads of shield bugs which they call stink bugs over here becsuse they smell. They're an invasive species from Asia, so nothing eats them. They're everywhere. We also saw a milipede who was causally making its way across a rock.
At the bottom, we got into the car and drove about 5 mins to the picnic area. We had bought snacks earlier that day so we tucked into those while keeping one eye out for bears. It was starting to get dark so we jumped back into the car and drove back along the Skyline Drive to a lookout and fell asleep in the car! We woke after an hour and at that stage the sun was setting so we drove to a few lookouts and took some photos of the sunset. It was really beautiful. We then headed to the Blue Mountain Brewery where we tried some local beer and had the nicest pizza. It was a lovely restaurant; we sat outside where there were fairy lights. By the time we'd finished it was dark so we drove back along the Skyline drive to look down on the city lights and see the stars. We saw a shooting star! We then drove back to the motel where we crashed around 11pm and didn't wake til 11am the next day.

We woke on the Sunday morning with a text from Zac saying kickball was starting at 11. So we didn't go. We got breakfast in the Virginian (steak and omelette and French toast with bacon, maple syrup and fried spuds). After we finished, Zac picked us up outside in his Jeep and took us about 40 minutes outside of Charlottesville to s shooting range. I got to sit in the passenger seat, but Dave had to sit in the back of the Jeep which had no seats, just Zacs 2 shotguns and shells. We arrived at the shooting range where we had to sign in and then we got started on some clay pigeon shooting. I was so nervous I got Dave to go first. There were 5 stations and you got to shoot 5 rounds at each station. I hit one clay pigeon out of 25 and Dave got 5 out of 75. I gave up after 25 rounds because my gun was really light and it recoiled more violently which left me with a very sore shoulder.
We had
An Actual LionAn Actual LionAn Actual Lion

Not really sure how I feel about this!
great fun at the shooting range before getting back in the Jeep and driving to a winery. We had a bottle of white while looking over the view of the vineyards. It was a lovely bright day. On the way back to Charlottesville we stopped at the supermarket to pick up stuff for dinner and headed back to Zacs for a 'grill' which is what we call a barbeque. Zac made a salad with balsamic and strawberries and we had pork chops and sausages. We had baked pumpkin cheesecake for dessert. We met a couple of Zacs housemates and their 2 kittens before Zac drove us back to our motel. We said our goodbyes and headed to our room to pack. When we finished packing it was only about 10pm so we ran down to World of Beers to have one last pint of local beer before leaving the next day. I had a great Hazelnut flavour beer and Dave had a red ale. We were so tired by the time we got back.

The next morning we drove to the laundromat to wash our clothes. Afterwards we walked down the town one last time and picked up some
The CheerleadersThe CheerleadersThe Cheerleaders

Goooo Black Knights!
lunch at a great Indian restaurant. Afterwards, we started our journey to Williamsburg.

Additional photos below
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Breakfast Burger Breakfast Burger
Breakfast Burger

Before the hike!

Brings out the autumn colours

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