Exploring the backroads of the.......
Bluegrass, biking, brewpubs, and a whole lot of beautiful scenery
By Mike Mathes

Tourist traps are easy to find.

They inundate us with messages to spend money, join the fray of well-known attractions and run with the crowds.

But, if you really want to learn the flavor of a place, you need to reach out and seek the back roads, the small towns and the home folk that make up some of the country’s best places to visit.

Such places about in a portion of our nation known as Blue Ridge country, a segment of the Appalachian Mountain group that extends across North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. For those willing to spend the time, the entire Blue Ridge area can be traversed along a winding national highway known as the Blue Ridge Parkway which extends from the Great Smokies on the southwest end, to Shenandoah National Park on the northeast.

We targeted a sojourn to the Blue Ridge Area with high hopes, but were forced to divert on a few of our itinerary items by the recent federal government shutdown debacle.

While it may have been considered a disaster for some travel planners, my wife and I found it to be a blessing. Jumping out of our comfort zone with national parks, we diverted our attention to other options, namely the outstanding system of state parks offered throughout the Blue Ridge region.

We approached Blue Ridge Country by car, driving through the hills of southern West Virginia, a gorgeous bit of country in its own right.

From Flat Top Mountain, we caught our first glimpse of the majestic blue ridges rising to the south. Two tunnels and several miles later, we were basking in the beauty of the rolling hills of southwest Virginia, passing Wytheville and moving along to our first destination, Galax, VA.

Why Galax?

Good question for those unfamiliar with the area. A bit of internet research had pointed to Galax for a couple of reasons. First, it was one of the stops located just a few miles off the

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