Peaks of Otter, Milepost 86 (800- 542-5927; www. peaksofotter.com). Lodge and restaurant in a gorgeous lake and mountain setting.
Bluffs Lodge, Milepost 241 (336- 372-4499). No phones and no TV to disturb the tranquillity.
Pisgah Inn, Milepost 408 (828-235-8228; www.pisgahinn. com). Breathtaking views from high on Mount Pisgah.
Do book lodging in advance.
Do take a detour to visit the Wheels Through Time museum (828- 926-6266; www. wheelsthroughtime.com) in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. There's a splendid assortment of historic cars and rare American motorbikes.
Don't be tempted to do the obvious at Jumpinoff Rock near Milepost 260.
Eat & drink
Brugh Tavern, Milepost 115 (540- 427-2440; www. explorepark.org). Built between 1780 and 1800. Open Wednesday through Sunday. Try the chicken pot pie.
Mabry Mill, Milepost 176 (276- 952-2947). The place for all your picnic needs.
Bluffs Lodge Coffee Shop, Milepost 241 (336-372- 4499). A lip-smacking country breakfast, almost 4000 feet up the mountain.
Blue Ridge Parkway Headquarters, 199 Hemphill Knob Road, Asheville, North Carolina 28803 (828-298-0398; www.nps.gov/blri).
Blue Ridge Range: The Gentle Mountains, by Ron Fisher (National Geographic Park Profiles).
Guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway, by Victoria Logue, Frank Logue, and Nicole Blouin (Menasha Ridge Press).
What we drove
Good weather from start to finish made the Mercedes SLK350 ideal for an expedition that packed 1300 miles into a long weekend. It ran top-down for the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which made us feel much closer to nature. The sleek two-seater's many admirers included a guy who said, "Guess I'm not the first person to ask if you want someone to drive it for you."