North Carolina is home to many small idyllic towns with friendly folks. Places where one might expect to see a diner with home cooked meals and fresh baked pies. Maybe there’s a park with children playing on a see-saw under the shade of a big elm tree where their mother’s sit on a nearby bench sharing the latest gossip. There might be a barber shop with a nostalgic red, blue and white barber pole with men sitting around discussing the days current events. This is only some of what I envisioned when we headed for Mt. Airy.
Mt. Airy, NC is the hometown to television icon Andy Griffith and is the bases for the fictional town of Mayberry. Lovable characters like Andy, Opie, Aunt Bea, Barney, Floyd, Gomer and Goober epitomized small town America on the Andy Griffith Show. Mt. Airy seized an opportunity and created attractions based on the television sitcom pumping millions of dollars into the local economy.
We drove down Andy Griffith Parkway to the Mt. Airy Chamber of Commerce on the corner of Main Street and Moore Avenue to get a quick run down on things to see and do. We have learned this is a good place to start in any town we visit. We were welcomed by a friendly lady with a warm smile who gave us a map for a self-guided walking tour highlighting local businesses and attractions.
I wanted to go to Floyd’s Barbershop. I could see the barber pole down on Main Street. I haven’t had a haircut since we left home weeks ago. It would be really cool to get one from Floyd. Regrettably the sign on the door said “Closed”. We came on a Monday, the one day of the week it’s not open. Darn! Peering through the window, I could see it was just like I imagined – one classic old barber chair with a leather strap hanging on the side, an assortment of hair tonics sitting on a shelf in front of a mirror, on the opposite wall was another mirror with straight back chairs lined up below, a few magazines scattered on a small table, a gum ball machine standing in the corner – I could almost hear Floyd yell “next” as he snaps the barber’s cape sending a cloud of hair flying to the floor. It was disappointing. I’ll just have to continue looking scruffy for a little longer.
We walked down Main Street passing by Snappy’s Lunch where one can get the World Famous Pork Chop Sandwich. Snappy’s Lunch has the distinction of being the only existing Mt. Airy business mentioned on the television show. We stepped inside Mayberry’s Trading Post, Opie’s Candy Store and Mayberry’s Antique Mall. We found Wally’s Filling Station where, on the TV show, cousins Goober and Gomer worked. No longer an operating gas station it’s more a gift shop for all things Mayberry. It’s where you can purchase tickets to ride a 1960’s Ford squad car that takes you on a tour around town. Next door is the Courthouse where there are recreations of the jail and Andy’s office.
We went to the Andy Griffith Museum and saw rooms filled with memorabilia from his long career. It is easy to forget while here in Mt. Airy that Andy Griffith was also in other TV shows and movies. He played the title role in Matlock, a popular television drama series and starred in the Hollywood movie “No Time For Sergeants”.
We enjoyed our visit to Mt. Airy despite its touristy aspect. It was reminiscent of a place where the pace of life was much slower. A semi-rural place were neighbors greet one another by their given names. The spirit of Mayberry lives in the hearts of all of us who watched the show. Its portrayal of human kindness and cool headed wisdom created a feeling of community that is lacking today. I recommend visiting if only for the nostalgic sentiment.
We stayed in Stone Mountain State Park Campground in North Carolina, not to be confused with the park in Georgia with the same name. The heart of Stone Mountain State Park is a granite dome rising roughly 600 feet. A network of trails traverse the park leading to Stone Mountain’ summit, old homesteads, waterfalls, trout streams, and many other points of interests. We chose a moderate four mile hike around the base of Stone Mountain to the Hutchinson Homestead where we saw restored farm buildings. We then followed along Big Sandy Creek to Stone Mountain Falls. Its a 200 foot high cascade down to a pool. It looked like it might be a popular place to play on the rocks and to slide down into the water. On this day, grammi and I had the place to ourselves. We waded and cooled off in the pool but did not venture climbing on the falls.
In the evening we took a stroll around the campground stopping to chat with other campers. It’s fun to see how they are camping. We learn and get ideas from them. We met a couple about our age traveling in a tear-drop camper. I understand the advantages of camping small and I’m all for it, but the tear-drop may be pushing it for us. We talk with another couple who recently bought an Imagine travel trailer which is the brand we have, but their unit is three feet longer than ours. They have a sofa/dinette on one side and kitchen on the opposite side. We seriously looked at that model but as noted, we are of the mindset of staying small as comfortably possible. We always said we wanted a camper that is big on the inside and small on the outside. It was nearing dark when we walked back around to our camp. We could see the deer as they came out to graze on the mowed grass in the campground.
We didn’t get to stay too long in the area because Stone Mountain was all booked up for the weekend. We found a park with vacancies not too far away at Table Rock State Park in South Carolina. We only spent one full day at this park. We drove around and explored the park and admired the view of Table Rock Mountain. There are a couple of lakes in the park for fishing and swimming.
The biggest accomplishment during our stay at Table Rock State Park was to finally go to town and buy a new mattress for the camper. It has been on the todo list for weeks but we just didn’t take the time to get it done until now. Grammi has not been sleeping well and attributed it to the mattress. So we did the research and found a 12-inch Gel Memory Foam mattress by Serta on sale at Sam’s Club. Our initial review is good. Grammi slept all night long.
Tomorrow we go to another site where we plan to stay for a few days to visit friends and family. Of course we’ll have to find time for a new adventure too.