August 11, 2013
We hadn’t given the new Mini a proper shake-down road trip. When we got the Audi we took it completely across country, driving from South Carolina to somewhere north of Seattle. We didn’t have the time nor energy for such an adventure this time (Well, at least one of us didn’t :-)) so we decided on something a bit shorter.
It was time for the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. We figured the perfect way to christen the car would be to take it up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and try to find a bit of dark sky to watch for them. From there we would do some free form road tripping, hoping to wind up in Washington DC by the end of the week.
I had scouted a few potential sites on Google Earth, but there was no way to tell if there would be dark skies. So, shortly after lunch we set off, having somehow managed to pack our gear into the tiny trunk of the Mini. We wanted to make tracks, so we took the Interstate straight on up to Gastonia, then headed off toward Blowing Rock, where we hit the Parkway. We drove with the top back, enjoying the breeze.
There were quite a few clouds, but for the most part it was sunny and the day was spectacular. We pulled off at several overlooks, many of which looked like like they would work for meteor viewing. I didn’t take many photos along the way, though.
It seemed like the Parkway was stretching on further and further. By this time we were getting a bit tired, and wanted to find our hotel for the evening. We had booked a place near Mount Airy, AKA Mayberry, so we headed in that direction.
We found the hotel and got checked in, then headed into town. Despite all of the “Aunt Bea” this, and “Sheriff Taylor” that, the town looked nothing like Mayberry. Laura commented on this, and I said that of course, the show was some stylized town shot on a back lot in Los Angeles, and had nothing to do with the real town in North Carolina.
In fact, the show was shot on the “40 Acres” sound lot in Culver City. The “Midwestern Town” portion of the lot was not only home to the Andy Griffith Show, but any other show or movie that needed a small town setting. Even Star Trek paid the lot a visit.
The town itself is in a hilly setting along a river, unlike any backlot on TV.
After a few mis-turns, we found a place for dinner. Gondolas in Mount Airy turned out to be an outstanding find. The food was excellent, and there was more of it than we could finish. There was no way we could finish it all, and we really hated having to leave a large unfinished portion behind.
After dinner it was time to go find meteors. We headed up to the Parkway and drove until we found a suitable spot. There was still a bit of light pollution, but that didn’t really matter. The clouds were going to be more of a problem than any light pollution. At least I could see the Milky Way between the clouds, and I hadn’t been able to see that in ages. As for meteors, I saw one, and Laura saw two. The meteor shower was a bust.
Even with the clouds I set up my camera with long exposure time-lapse, hoping to capture something. Here’s a short video show a bit of what we saw…
So, once again, we were stymied by the Perseids. Even 22 years ago, when we were in Tucson, Arizona, we weren’t able to see many meteors even in the middle of the desert. I guess the only way we are going to see these things is on a boat in the middle of the ocean.