I-77 runs through Virginia / West Virginia from Columbia, SC on it's way to Cleveland, OH. It crosses over and through the Appalachian Mountains (there's even a couple of tunnels). But there is another way - US Highway 52 meanders through the countryside. Catch US 52 north out of Mt. Airy, NC (Andy Griffith's hometown) for a ride you won't soon forget.
Approaching Fancy Gap, VA you climb over 1000 feet on this twisty stretch of road. In Fancy Gap, I've enjoyed both The Gap Deli and the Lakeview Restaurant (good catfish, but no lake view), and you can grab a drink or snacks at the gas station or the Dollar General. There's also an entrance for the Blue Ridge Parkway, where you can visit the Blue Ridge Music Center (south) or Mabry Mill and restaurant (north - just past Meadows of Dan), each within 20 miles. While you're in Meadows of Dan follow your sweet tooth to Nancy's Candy Company. The black licorice is wonderfully soft, unlike most hard licorice you find today.
"The sounds of the fiddle, banjo, and guitar are likely to welcome you when you visit the Blue Ridge Music Center. Experience regional traditional music each day of the week with FREE local Mid-Day Mountain Musicians playing on the breezeway of the visitors center from Noon - 4 PM.
The Music Center hosts a summer Roots of American Music Concert Series. Concerts take place in our beautiful outdoor amphitheater (capacity 2,500) at the base of Fisher Peak, feature local, regional, and national touring performers and bands, and are presented most Saturday evenings from late May through September."
See the Mayberry Trading Post page on Facebook.
Continuing north of Fancy Gap on US 52 there are nice views both north and south of the next town, Hillsville, where US 58 is turned into a huge flea market each Labor Day.
North of Hillsville, US 52 quietly crosses the New River, far below the busy I-77 overpass before continuing north to Wytheville and on to Big Walker Lookout and the BW Country Store.
"At an elevation of 3,405 feet, Big Walker Lookout affords one of the most spectacular views of the Appalachian Mountains to our visitors."
"A "Rails to Trails" project, the New River Trail State Park meanders through Grayson, Carroll, Wythe and Pulaski counties in southwestern Virginia and parallels the scenic and historic New River for 39 miles. Hiking, biking, horseback riding and boating on or near the trail. There are many different access points along the trail, with the southern end beginning in Galax going 57 miles to the Town of Pulaski in the New River Valley. Information and parking at Shot Tower Historical State Park; at the Fries visitors center; and at the Cliffview visitors center, near Galax." http://www.virginia.org/listings/OutdoorsAndSports/NewRiverTrailStatePark/
"Located along Route 52, near historic Bramwell in Mercer County, Pinnacle Rock State Park is one of the more interesting day use parks operated by the West Virginia State Park system.
Towering above the rugged mountains of southeastern West Virginia, Pinnacle Rock is an unusual sandstone formation reaching 3,100 feet above sea level. This park provides a relaxing picnic area in an unusual scenic setting. http://www.pinnaclerockstatepark.com/