We broke out of Tennessee once Southwest Virginia partially opened.

Abingdon, Virginia was on my pin map for its food and wine scene; its charming character; and the Virginia Creeper Trail, a repurposed rail trail that runs 35 miles from Abingdon to Whitetop, at the Virginia/North Carolina border.

The airbnb was booked. A weekend bag packed and the bicycles loaded. On a late Saturday morning earlier this month we sailed across the border like joyous prison escapees. In a couple of hours we were driving over the little creek path into Abingdon Vineyards, our lunch destination.

Just charming. Set along the South Holston River, one can hike, pedal, drive, or even kayak to the wine.

We scored a shaded picnic table and sat for a flight and charcuterie plate. The (steel barrel aged) 2019 Steel Strings was our favorite. Chardonel grapes, a hybrid of a French hybrid and a Chardonnay, are late to mature and thus give the wine a refreshing bite of ginger and lemongrass. Two bottles returned home with us, naturally.

The afternoon fading away, we arrived at our equally as charming airbnb, unloaded the bicycles and explored a bit.

White’s Mill, one of four water-powered mills in Southwest Virginia. The granite stone (French Burr, for finer grinding) came over from the continent in the late 1700’s because the local stone is too limestone-y and can not be made into proper mill stones. The mercantile across the street was packed with all sorts of bric-a-brac, but I did come away with a fresh ground package of white corn meal.

Back in Abingdon proper, another tasting!  This one, of olive oil. Two fancy varietals were added to my tote…

The William King Art Museum, high on my list was, alas, not open. As for my foodie wishes, I wish I had mouth watering snaps of our dinner to share; alas, with no restaurants yet offering dine-in our photos of a meal tucked into a take-away box are not all that blog-worthy. Trust me that all exceeded expectations in the taste department, however.

Our plan was only to ride half of the trail; to ride the entire trail can take a full day, or longer if one member in your group likes to stop and take photos 🙋🏻‍♀️. We had reservations on one of the several bike shuttle services for 0900 for the following morning to take us to the halfway point, Damascus, from where we would cycle back to Abingdon. Upon waking Sunday morning at our usual early hour, we decided instead to cycle to and from Damascus, thereby beating the heat that would be bearing down upon us if we waited. This turned out to be brilliant planning.

The start of the rail trail was but a two-minute ride from our airbnb. Mile Marker 0. A turkey vulture greeted us on the first of the trestle bridges.

Between Abingdon and Damascus there are more than a dozen trestle bridges. Along one I even spied some Virginia Creeper, a member of the ivy family that turns a brilliant scarlet color in autumn.

Beautiful rolling hills of Virginia. It is scenery like this that keeps my homesickness for Austria at bay.

The cows help with the Austria-sickness, too.

At the quarter mark, the pretty Alvarado Station. Its little cafe was shuttered, alas.

Trestle 12 is the show-stopper.

The trail to Damascus was terribly scenic, though we did have a navigational matter with a downed tree. The trail crew was on it, though, and it was cleared for our return.

In Damascus proper we paused for lunch at the Damascus Diner, enjoying quite possibly the finest burgers we have eaten in America since our return. Seriously. I jest not. That I had cycled 17 miles to enjoy said burger meant that I entirely forgot to snap. But you know what a perfect grilled burger looks like.

And then, the return. Thirty-four-ish miles in total. Mostly flat, of course, except for the brutal slight incline for the last 5 miles or so that was an easy-breezy decline on the outbound. Funny how that works. Back at the cottage in late afternoon, we decided to pack up and return to Knoxville rather than stay the additional night for a supper of something in a take-away carton. Our airbnb host was obliging, and promised us a complimentary night when we return in the fall. We will definitely return.