That's exactly what I have been doing for the past two weekends.
Last weekend, I hopped on the bike, traveled down that convenient bike path, and got to know the downtown area. Roanoke has one of the oldest continuously running open air markets in the country. Or so the tourist literature says. I'm not so much interested in myth busting that particular piece of information, but rather in GOING to the open air market. Which I did.
The market was pretty easy to find, what with signs like this:
Once I parked my bike (lots of secure bike racks around -- SCORE!) I got some nice fresh fruit and veggies for the week. Then I decided to mosey around and explore a bit.
The downtown area is pretty small. It didn't take long to explore. There are cute little shops, restaurants, and a bunch of blues clubs/ comedy clubs a couple streets over from the market. (Dustin Diamond -- Screech from Saved by the Bell -- was performing in one of the clubs that night. Understandably, I decided to forego seeing Screech in lieu of a good night's sleep.)
But I was completely enamored by this:
Across the street from La De Da, the frock shoppe, I encountered a pathway with little fountains all along its length.
Sunday I decided to leave the downtown area and take advantage of Roanoke's greatest feature.
I wanted to go back to one of my favorite places along the entire AT.
It kind of felt like cheating.
First off, I wasn't carrying a pack. Just a little day pack with some food and water. Secondly, I just parked at the trail head and walked 4 miles to the outlook. No scrambling up Dragon's Tooth with a full pack, no sprawling outside a gas station and eating my body weight in gas station food, no picking at the skin on my feet, no hiker funk, no feeling of "where the heck is this stupid outlook?". Just an hour and 15 minutes and BAM! There it was.
It's still just as breathtaking, though. And,yes, I did have to take THE picture. Even though I really didn't feel like I had earned it.
Since my memory of McAfee's Knob had me dedicating and entire day to the hike, I had plenty of time left over when I got back to the jeep. So I decided to check out another of Roanoke's attractions, the Roanoke Star.
The star is essentially a gigantic neon star that sits up on Mill Mountain and is visible from the downtown area. During the day, when it's not lit, it is not nearly as impressive. But it is big. Very very big.
Not a bad way to spend the first weekend here.