Wednesday, October 28, 2015

South Dakota's Badlands--land of stone and light

Pointed peaks in stratified rock of the Badlands National Park
When visiting national parks, we like to watch films that are shown in visitor’s centers. These are usually beautifully done and provide history of the park in a concise and understandable way.
So one morning during our stay at Cedar Pass Lodge in Badlands National Park, we moseyed into the nearby Ben Reiffel Visitor  Center to look at exhibits and watch the 22-minute film called “Land of Stone and Light.”

Rounded rock formations actually contain an interesting palate of color.
From that film we learned that human history of the location goes back 12,000 years. The Lakota Indians were nomadic tribes whose lives depended on buffalo for shelter, clothes (skin and fur), food and cooking—really everything.
Buffalo are thriving now in the Badlands. They play an important
part in the ecosystem of the park.
When the U.S. government made treaties with the Lakotas in the mid-1700s, they were forced to end their nomadic way of life and settle on reservations. White men then hunted buffalo nearly to extinction and put up fences. Resistance from the Lakotas ended with the battle and massacre of many Lakotas at Wounded Knee in 1870.

Larry hiking the Notch Trail into the Badlands
Then came homesteaders in the early 20th century.  Looking for a “good” life and free land , these people were called “sod busters.” They discovered that the land was not conducive to farming, and small scale farming was a hard way to make a living. Bitterly cold winters and fierce winds made for harsh conditions, and many left.

Hikes brought us very close to the rugged
rock formations.
For a long while no one was interested in the area except geologists who studied the layers of rock. During the prehistoric period, ash from volcanic eruptions fell on the Badlands, and rain washed rock from the Rocky Mountains there. Layers developed: pierre shale (the lower level), brule (mid-level dark stripes), and sharps (top formations).
Climatic change, river deposits, and volcanic eruptions—followed by erosion—created what we know as Badlands. About 500,000 years ago wind, weather, and time began a period of erosion that has resulted in what we see today.

Beautiful colors glow in late afternoon night.
As part of a dynamic and changing earth, the rocks are eroding at the rate of one inch per year. It’s possible that the stratified rock formations of the Badlands may be gone in another 500,000 years. In the meantime, plants and animals must adapt to a harsh environment with cold winters, hot summers, and wildly variable precipitation amounts.
A formation called "the window." You can see why.
In 1843 fossils from a prehistoric creature apparently related to dinosaurs were discovered in the layered landscape. These bones, from animals that no longer exist, encouraged creation of a new science---paleontology. That’s still a primary study in the park, and there’s a lab at the visitor center where people can watch scientists in action.

Geologists are greatly interested in the layered peaks and buttes
of Badlands National Park in South Dakota.
People who come to the Badlands today are generally curious about nature and want to see this extraordinary place for themselves. Besides, I know that any land that has been designated a U.S. national park is worth visiting.
A national grassland covers the early landscapes of the park.
Actually, the Badlands is not desolate or forbidding but supports a variety of plant and animal life. It’s a living, changing land, unexcelled in scenic splendor. Visitors (myself included) who stay awhile, observe the artistically sculpted geology, and perhaps hike some of the many trails for a closer look come to appreciate this “fragile touch of wilderness” that changes with the rhythm of the wind.

Sunset seen through the rock formations of the Badlands.

 Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Monday, October 26, 2015

Airfare prices drop in time for holiday travel--booking tips

Airlines are finally passing on savings from low fuel prices to consumers who can expect to pay 17-percent less for flights over the next three months. Though this is good news for holiday travelers, airfare, hotels and car rental costs peak from Thanksgiving through Christmas, so it's important to plan your trip wisely.

Don't delay buying tickets for holiday air travel.
Try these booking tips to keep your travel in budget this season.

Book before December 15.
If you can't book your flight early because you're waiting to confirm time off, just make sure you do so before December 15. Airfare prices spike the last 10 days leading up to Christmas, and you'll pay out the nose for last-minute holiday travel.

Track prices.
Airfare fluctuates throughout the day, week and based on demand. Booking today could mean you miss out savings tomorrow, so start watching flight prices and track savings using, which compares prices on travel with real-time price-tracking and offers an added social element to help you coordinate with your family and friends. You can also use the Hopper App to learn about the best times to fly based on price and get notified when your preferred itinerary drops in price.

Your computer could be the best tool to help you
save money on flights.
Click for coupons.
Despite higher prices around the holidays, travel providers still offer deals to compete for your dollars. Before reserving flights, hotels and car rentals, always search for coupon codes to reduce your cost. Such websites as make it easy to find travel promo codes for extra savings including $25 off $100 Hotwire bookings, or 25-percent off a car rental from Budget through Dec. 28.

Shop warehouse sites.
If you have a membership to Costco or Sam's Club, consider booking through their travel portals for discounts on airfare, lodging and rental cars, as well as deals on cruises and activities. Costco has deals like 10 to 20-percent off rooms at Hyatt and Best Western properties, as well as discounts and coupons from several rental car companies. Sam's Club advertises average savings of 15 percent on hotel rooms, and 10-percent off rental car rates.

Traveling as a family requires
advance preparations.
Book one-way fares.
Before you limit your airfare searches to round-trip tickets, price one-way tickets from multiple carriers to see if you can get a better deal. This strategy also enables you to apply reward miles to one leg of the trip if you don't have enough to cover the cost of a round-trip ticket.

Buy someone's reservation. connects you with other travelers who are stuck with a hotel reservation they can't change, and facilitates your purchase of that reservation for up to 25 percent below market price. Enter the city or zip code where you're visiting to look for available reservations.

Travel on the holiday.
Since most consumers don't want to fly on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day or New Year's Day, airfare will be lower. While it's not ideal to show up late to Thanksgiving dinner, you can still spend a long weekend with your family and enjoy leftovers. In addition to day-of discounts, certain days are better priced than others, like return flights scheduled for Dec. 2 instead of Nov. 29.

Send gifts directly.
With carry-on and checked baggage fees adding to the cost of holiday travel, the last thing you want to worry about is fitting everyone's gifts into your luggage. Avoid this complication by shipping gifts directly to the recipient. If time is an issue, know you can put off your holiday shopping up until Dec. 18, the date of this year's Free Shipping Day. Hundreds of retailers will offer free shipping (no minimum order thresholds) plus extra discounts, with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy your
(cheaper) flight.
Use your rewards.
Now is the time to use those credit card or booking site reward programs. If you're booking an extended stay at a hotel this holiday season, consider signing up for Rewards, which will provide you with one free night's stay after every 10 days booked. Use this site to book hotel accommodations throughout the year to accrue free nights during the pricey holiday season.
This article was contributed by money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. Check her website for more great tips.

Photos from free sites.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia

On a recent trip, we discovered the beautiful RoanokeValley in the Blue Ridge Mountain region of Virginia. The city of Roanoke is the largest metropolitan area along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but there are plenty of small towns to visit with wonderfully friendly people.

View of Abbott Lake at Peaks of Otter Lodge
Although we  checked out several counties over four days, we didn’t cover the entire Blue Ridge Parkway. I’d love to come back and explore the full 469 miles of picturesque scenery that runs through Virginia and North Carolina. This thin ribbon of road on the ridge of mountains that are older than the Alps or Himalayas connects two national parks--Shennandoah and Great Smokey Mountains.

Mountain reflections in Abbott Lake.

With a 40 mph speed limit, the Parkway is designed for leisure travel. To really enjoy the views, visitors should take their time and schedule numerous side trips on foot, horseback, or bicycle or by boat. That's the best way to understand why the Blue Ridge Parkway is called America's Favorite Journey.
Hike and Bike

One of the bridges on the Roaring Run hike
Opportunities are plentiful for breaks on your road trip. Explore, discover, and renew your spirit on trails, at overlooks, and also  at concerts. Hike through serene natural areas and learn about historic sites. Trails vary from short jaunts that are great for stretching your legs to longer excursions in the mountains. Well-known trails include Peaks of Otter, Rocky Knob, Humpback Rocks, and along the James River.  At Roaring Run, a six-tenths mile trail featuring scenic bridges, overlooks, and a waterfall, an old historic furnace is the focal point.
Learn about coal mining at the
historic furnace at Roaring Run.
Bicyclists have a little more difficulty as elevation ranges from 649 to 6,047 feet, and there are no dedicated bike lanes on the Parkway. But, if riding is your thing, the Blue Ridge Mountains in southwest Virginia provide some of the best mountain biking on the East Coast.

Parks like New River Trail State Park, which runs parallel to the New River for 39 miles, offer excellent biking trails. Virginia’s Explore Park, at milepost 115 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, just east of Roanoke, offers terrain for bike riders of all skill levels.
Get on the water

Despite its name, New River is reputed to be the oldest river in North America. It’s designated as an American Heritage River, and small boats can easily navigate its class 1-3 rapids. The James and Roanoke Rivers are also suitable for paddling by canoe or kayak.
Spend a day swimming or boating at Smith Mountain Lake, the “Jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains.” Located in a state park in Franklin County, it is the second largest and most popular freshwater lake in Virginia.

Smith Mountain Lake is a prime place for all kinds of
water fun--swimming, fishing, house boating, sailing, and more.
Tackle the Appalachian Trail
More than one-fourth of the Appalachian Trail lies in Virginia. The AT roughly parallels the Parkway from mile 0 at Rockfish Gap to mile 103 and can be accessed from numerous locations in the Blue Ridge region. If you choose to hike the AT for a few hours or for weeks, you’ll enjoy some breathtaking views.

One of the most photographed spots on the AT is McAfee Knob with excellent views of Catawba Valley. It’s easily accessible just west of Roanoke on Rt. 311 and will take a couple of hours to complete round trip.
Stay awhile
Fishing is a popular activity at rivers along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Horseback riding, farmers' markets, and music concerts are other attractions.
The Roanoke Valley offers a variety of lodging choices for every budget including historic hotels, luxury waterfront suites and cottages, small hotels, and camping spots. Stay at one place and take day trips, or drive along the Parkway each day, stopping for various activities along the way (That’s what I’d like to do).

During our mid-September visit, leaves were just hinting of color, so I think October would be a perfect time to return. Cool temperatures, trees splashed with brilliant fall foliage, and great hiking weather would make this a memorable drive.

To help plan your trip, get the official publication of the Blue Ridge Parkway Association, which includes suggestions of places to pause or stay and their milepost locations.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Walking is a great way to explore when you travel

Pick up any health magazine, and you’re likely to find an article on walking for exercise. It’s such an easy thing to do and provides so many health benefits. And it's a great way to explore when you travel.

Limestone path in Tuolumne meadow in Yosemite National Park
The best part for travelers is you can do it almost anywhere--in airplane aisles, on ships’ promenades, and when you stop for gas on road trips. Not only will walking burn calories (you had the cheesecake last night, didn’t you?), but it’s the cheapest form of transportation and a great way to check out a destination. We’re not talking about backpacking or running a marathon—just normal walking, putting one foot in front of the other long enough to increase heart rate, even slightly.

Larry walks along a beach on the Oregon coast.
The American Heart Association tells us that walking boosts metabolism while improving mood. Even better, it reduces risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, and breast and colon cancer. And walking improves blood pressure and blood sugar levels while helping you maintain proper body weight. Why wouldn’t you want all those health benefits?
So don’t forget a comfortable pair of sneakers when you travel. Keep them handy (on your feet!), and you won’t have an excuse not to walk. While you’re out and about on foot it’s easy to make friends, see the sights of a new city, or appreciate the beauty of nature. Walking makes you slow down and really take in the sights.

Walking among the redwood trees in
Humboldt State Park, California
It's no secret that sitting too long is bad for you, even if you attempt to exercise at your seat. If you’re flying to a destination, try to get up and walk for a couple of minutes every hour (walking to the lav doesn’t count). Same goes for long road trips in the car. Find a roadside park where you can spend 10-15 minutes walking at your own pace (jogging not required). Besides, walking will help calm any anxiety you might feel about your trip.

Exploring trains in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Some travelers like to monitor their daily steps with a FitBit or other tracking devices. To that end, look for walking tours--you might be surprised how many miles you can cover before declaring it’s time to find a ride. Walking allows you to stop and admire special sights along the way, take detours when something piques your interest, and have fun sharing experiences with your traveling companion.

So keep moving—one step at a time!

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier


Friday, October 16, 2015

Cruising the Danube River on AmaSerena

I had never been on a river cruise but had heard many good things about this mode of travel. So last summer Larry and I booked the Romantic Danube cruise on AmaWaterways, a fascinating journey from Vilshofen, Germany to Budapest, Hungary.
AmaSerena in its maiden season on the Danube River
We added the pre-cruise option from Ama to spend three days in Prague, Czech Republic before boarding the ship. Afterwards, we chose to spend three more days in Budapest on our own before heading home.

There’s much to like about sailing on the storied Danube. Sure, the distance the ship traveled in seven days could have been driven in five hours. But this slower method of travel allowed us time to explore towns small and large along the way.
When choosing a river cruise, it’s important to consider the company and the ship. AmaWaterways is one of the premier river cruise companies with a reputation for excellent service. Sure enough, the staff was accommodating and eager to make sure we had a good time and our needs were taken care of.

The ship
Most cabins have two balconies on AmaSerena

AmaSerena, the ship we chose for this trip, launched shortly before our August 2015 cruise, so we knew it would have the most advanced features. One that appealed to us was the Twin Balconies concept, an indoor French balcony with floor to ceiling windows (we never tried to see if it opened), and a private outdoor balcony with two chairs and a small table.

Even though we like an outdoor balcony we found that it wasn’t as useful (on this particular cruise, at least) as we had anticipated. Since ships on popular cruises like the Danube often dock at ports two or three deep—and very close together-- sitting on the balcony wasn’t an option (unless you wanted to welcome someone from the other ship to your room!).
Public lounge area on AmaSerena
Also, since most traveling was done at night, we didn’t use the balcony because it was dark (and we were sleeping!). Besides, the observation deck is easy to get to, so most passengers found that a better place to gather and watch the passing countryside. AmaSerena carries a maximum of 164 passengers, so it’s easy to mingle and make friends. Everything on the ship is just steps away—and I’m not sure anyone used the elevator.

Our cabin was a generous 235 square feet with ample storage for our clothes and necessities. A granite desk and spacious bathroom—with a window so we could see outside while brushing our teeth—were pleasant surprises.
Fine wines are included with meals
Public lounge areas, dining rooms, and outdoor spaces were beautiful and comfortable. Afternoon tea featured an array of sandwiches and sweets; tea, coffee, water, and a healthy drink-of-the- day were always available. The main dining room offered buffet style breakfast and lunch, although ordering from the menu was always an option. Beer and wine were included with meals.

Dining at the Chef's Table is a special amenity for guests
As a special treat, guests could sign up to dine at the Chef’s Table (no extra charge), an intimate restaurant at the end of the ship with a private chef preparing dishes in view of the diners—and gorgeous views of passing scenery through large picture windows. 
Chefs prepare dishes in full view of guests.
Activities for guests

Biking along the Danube near Durnstein.
One of the first river cruise lines to put bicycles on board for guests to use, AmaWaterways carries a fleet of more than two dozen bikes and plenty of safety helmets. We made use of these in Melk, riding on a path along the Danube for 12 miles. On some cruises passengers may be allowed to venture on their own; however, we were required to remain on the group tour as we pedaled along the riverside bikeway.
Sightseeing in Salzburg, Austria

We participated in the included small group excursions led by local guides at each port to learn about the culture and heritage of each region. We still had time for independent exploration, shopping, and activities like attending an organ concert on our own in Passau. Special “slow walker” and “late riser” excursions were offered as were additional options that we found to be fun and educational--worth the extra fee.

Like most travelers, we're used to being “connected,” so we were delighted with how well the ship’s complimentary Wi-Fi and high-speed, in-room Internet worked. No more time-consuming log-on processes or scrambling to find hot spots when on shore.
Dining was always a highlight of the day.
We were too busy to try out the beauty salon or in-room entertainment like movies on demand or travel videos. Same for the massage and fitness center--we got our exercise walking miles each day!

As for the itinerary and what we did on our Danube River cruise, I’ll cover these in several follow up articles.

Note: This trip was funded entirely by the writer, and opinions are her own.
Photos from AmaWaterways and Larry and Beverly Burmeier


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fossils are highlight of Waco Mammoth National Monument

Explore the world of ancient creatures that once roamed the Earth at one of the many programs taking place across the country for National Fossil Day on October 14, 2015. The National Park Service and partners across the country will host events and programs throughout the week that promote public awareness and stewardship of fossils.

Texas' newest site in the National Park System is all about fossils.

Among the sites offering special events is Waco Mammoth National Monument, which was designated a member of the national park system in July 2015. About two hours from Austin in central Texas, the Waco Mammoth National Monument celebration on
Saturday, October 17 will feature family fun with games, food, contests, and tours.

Official park system brochure
Excavation began on the Waco, Texas site in 1978 after a large bone was discovered by two men searching for snakes and arrowheads.  As it turned out this was one of the richest Ice Age fossil beds in the world, a paleontological site representing the nation’s only recorded discovery of a nursery herd of Columbian mammoths.

Early researchers discovered
many prehistoric bones at Waco.
In the following decades researchers have found 23 mammoths, a tooth from a saber-toothed cat, and numerous other fossils. Visitors can view "in situ" fossils including female mammoths, a bull mammoth, and a camel that lived approximately 67,000 years ago.
The site was opened to the public in December 2009, and more than 21,000 guests visit annually. Today a state-of-the-art, climate-controlled dig shelter permanently protects remains there, and visitation is expected to increase now that the site is a national monument.
Importance of fossils

Fossils found in digs provide new
insights into behaviours of
preshitoric animals.
Fossils discovered on the nation's public lands, including more than 250 national parks, preserve prehistoric life from all major eras of Earth's history and include samples from every major group of animal or plant. Visitors have the opportunity to see fossilized remains in the same places where those animals and plants lived millions of years ago.

“Fossils not only offer clues to the history of life, past climates, and ancient landscapes, but also spark our curiosity and discovery,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.

Visitors view protected fossils at Waco Mammoth National Monument. 
National Fossil Day was started in 2010 by the National Park Service and the American Geological Institute. This year, more than 300 partners, including museums, federal and state agencies, fossil sites, science and education organizations, and national parks will sponsor special events.

Photos from Waco Mammoth National Monument site.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Evita, the musical about Eva Peron, still fascinates audiences

You may know the basics abut Eva Peron: She was a poor Argentine girl who grew up to be the wife of the president of Argentina. Adored by the working-class, she was hated by the military and aristocracy. She died at a very young age and continued to evoke opposite but passionate feelings from her countrymen. The beautiful signature song of the Broadway show, ”Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,” is a haunting reminder of a life cut short before her mission was fulfilled.
A poster for the musical
The 2015-2016 season at the Zach Scott Theater in Austin opened with Evita, the seven-time Tony award musical, on September 30. Performed on the Topfer stage, the show runs through December 1. Nick Demos, who directed and choreographed the production, aimed to make it different from other productions of the show. As a cast member of the original touring company many years ago, Demos knew the show intimately and put his own stamp on this production.

The performance fits the Zach well, providing the audience with opportunities to see and hear the action clearly. It’s a complicated story that could be confusing if viewed haphazardly from a distance.
Zach Scott Theater is a wonderful place to see performances.
The story opens with a requiem sequence that reflects the chaos and sadness following Eva Peron’s death from cancer at age 33. Despite the sorrow felt by the common people, Che, the editorializing narrator, reveals that the somber atmosphere is a mockery. “When the smoke from her funeral clears, we’ll see how she did nothing for years,” Che says.

This good-or-bad tension continues throughout the play, which is set in Buenos Aires in the years between 1943 and 1952. Ultimately, the viewer is left to decide whether Eva deserved the reverence or if this was her supreme acting role.
Eva Peron faces her adoring public.
As a young girl, Eva Duarte learns that the way to achieve the power she desires is by taking ever more powerful men as lovers. Tired of watching her beloved Argentina decline, she seeks the spotlight, and learns that politics is the way to make things possible. When she meets Juan Peron, a rising political figure, they size up each other, deciding “I Could be Surprisingly Good for You.” Eva likes that Peron is influential, but in reality, she is the one influencing him.

A photo of the real-life Eva Peron
Eva is a master at creating turmoil and stirring up the masses. She aims to be the voice of the people, the person who will show them a new Argentina. When she becomes First Lady at the age of 27, the people want to see their beloved Evita more than her husband Juan. Although she claims humility before the masses, Eva strives to outshine the enemy—the aristocracy.
Evita becomes the face of Argentina to the world, the star of her own show. Broadway actress Madeline Trumble has the powerful voice to carry the title role. Peron, played by Matthew Redden, mostly follows her lead and is perplexed when the peasants realize that little has changed for them. Even as Argentina goes bankrupt, Peron realizes that Eva “is all they have.”

Was the love for country a sham? Che, the narrator, keeps these doubts in the forefront and challenges Eva’s need for adoration. Andrew Foote plays the part of Che as “everyman,” part observer and part instigator. Even after Eva becomes ill, he questions whether her actions really benefitted the country in this classic discrepancy between public perception and reality.
Eva was honored with
a postage stamp.
The ensemble, representing the variety of people in Argentina, is one of the best, churning through costume changes at lightning speed for the many delightful and intricate dance numbers. In fact, watching the superb supporting cast is a highlight of the show.

Fans of musical theater will enjoy memorable songs by the incomparable duo of Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice. If you have time after the show ends, stay for the talk-back, when members of the cast come onstage (sans make-up and costumes) to answer questions from the audience. It’s a fine feature of Zach Scott Theater and a great way to further relate to the story and actors.

Photos from Zach Theater and free sources.



Saturday, October 10, 2015

Play pinball to your heart's desire at Roanoke's new Pinball Museum

How’s your eye-hand co-ordination?
A great place to test your dexterity skills is on The Magnotron at the new Roanoke Pinball Museum. It’s one of 25 vintage pinball machines at this interactive museum dedicated to the science and history of pinball.
The Pinball Museum in Roanoke, Virginia, has 25 machines to
test your skill.
For one admission price ($10 a day) you can play any or all of the machines for as long as you like—no quarters needed. Most of the pinball machines were produced between the 1950s and 1990s and have been renovated to withstand modern-day usage.

Try a round on the prized machine, a wooden table dating from the 1930s, where patrons still try to outscore the previous player.

This old wooden table was produced in the 1930s--and it still plays.
The colorful dinging  machines have earned a special place in American culture; and if you don’t get too caught up in making the highest score, you might even learn a bit about the history of pinball and the science behind the game.
Playing at your leisure, you’ll inevitably develop techniques (ask your parents or grandparents about this) that help you improve, even though it sometimes seems that the action is out of your control. The fast-paced games can become addictive, so young and old alike keep coming back to try again and again.

You can spend all day in the Pinball Museum for just $10.
While you’re waiting to play or standing in front of the machines, take time to appreciate the various colors, designs, and compositions of the back glasses and playfields. Notice themes--such as western, superhero, and magic—and game names like Fireball, Captain Fantastic, Jokerz, Jubilee, Gotlieb’s Corral, Apollo, Skeet Shooting, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
Then see how quick your reactions are when the little ball comes speeding toward your end of the table. Can you stop it from disappearing and send it back to ring up hundreds of points--so you increase playing time for a given game?

Rooftop garden and view of the city
The Roanoke Pinball Museum is the newest of seven nonprofit museums sponsored by the Western Virginia Foundation for the Arts and Sciences operating as the Center in the Square. Jim Sears, president and general manager of Center in the Square since 1993, says downtown is in the middle of a renaissance thanks to attractions like the Pinball Museum.
People are drawn to the heart of the city as arts organizations preserve the history and heritage for visitors and locals alike to enjoy. If you need a break from zapping the ball, or just want to see a beautiful skyline, go to the top of the building for a bird’s-eye view of Roanoke, which is especially glowing at night. You’ll see a safe city loaded with plenty of activities and shops to keep you busy.

Photos by Beverly Burmeier


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Roanoker serves best breakfast in Blue Ridge region of Virginia

Good food at a good price in a good atmosphere

Many restaurants aspire to provide consistently good food at reasonable prices, but there’s one in Roanoke, Virginia that has succeeded in doing that for almost 75 years.

Yummy omelet with spiced apples at The Roanoker
Named one of Virginia’s five best breakfast places by Southern Living, TheRoanoker lives up to its mission at stated above. Confirm that with any of the people eating their morning meal there—between 700 and 1800 daily-- most savoring a big plate of biscuits and sausage gravy, whatever else they may order.
Opened as a lunch counter downtown in July, 1941 by three partners, The Roaneker was affected when two of the young men were called into service during World War II. The third, E. Crafton Warren, was left to run the restaurant and later became sole owner after the War. For many soldiers, breakfast at The Roanoker was their last meal before leaving the city to join the war effort.

Current location of The Roanoker
After several moves and expansions, the Warrens relocated the restaurant to the present location at 2522 Colonial Avenue in 1981. From a small room that could seat only 50, the restaurant can now seat 300 people comfortably. It has become a meeting place for families, business associates, and celebrations of special events.
Current owner Renee “Butch” Craft started working there as a secretary when she was 19 years old and eventually bought the business from E.C. Warren, son of the original owner. She is maintaining The Roanoker’s tag as “the place to have breakfast” in Roanoke.

Homey interior of The Roanoker
Now about those biscuits. Starting at 3:30 a.m. every morning, the cook begins the process of rolling out the dough, which is made from scratch daily using Big Spring Mill flour—the same flour that has been used since the restaurant opened in 1941. That is what consistency is all about. And, yes, they are wonderfully flaky and sinfully delicious.
In fact, the biscuits are so good that people request them for take-out. On Christmas Eve it’s not unusual for The Roanoker to sell 3500 biscuits, the limit of what they can handle on one day. The recipe for sausage gravy has been featured in several branded cookbooks—but why would you want to make it yourself if you can come here to enjoy?

The Roanoker is open every day except Monday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The service is as good as the food, so put The Roanoker on your list of places not to miss when visiting Virginia’s Blue Ridge region.
Photos by Beverly Burmeier