Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Thursday, June 26, 2008 - 6:49AM

Big Walker Mountain overlook, Route 52

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One more post from the neglected non-weather subject queue before the next flurry of severe storms arrives later today. I discovered this nice little-known overlook last week on Route 52 on Big Walker Mountain just south of Bland, Virginia (just a couple miles off of I-77, about 15 miles south of the WV border). There is a little country store on the ridge there that owns a very high fire tower that for $5, you can climb the ~200 stairs to the top of. Unfortunately, they were closed for the day when I stopped there last Saturday. The view to the southeast is pretty impressive even from ground level. I am planning on stopping here again the next time I travel to Raleigh, hopefully climbing the tower on a nice clear morning with good sky contrast. If I ever move away from the Appalachians, I will definately miss views like this.

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On a note related to this area, if you've ever traveled through this region you probably know that Wytheville, VA has the lowest gas prices of most places within a 300-mile radius, and consequently is a popular stop for I-81 and I-77 drivers. The drawback is that the gas stations in Wytheville are also truck stops, and as such are very crowded with heavy tractor-trailer and car traffic at the exits. What most don't know about is the little towns of Bland and Bastian, just north of Wytheville on I-77. Both of these obscure exits have gas stations that usually match Wytheville's prices, without the traffic congestion and long lines. Bland even has free WIFI. Unfortunately, the Bland station is beginning to attract the crowds too now, but Bastian remains another welcome alternative to the Wytheville madhouse. It's become my regular stopping point now on Charleston-Raleigh trips.

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