Scenery along US 321 is very pretty. Many shades of green.
We had one odd experience. As we drove through the community of Blowing Rock, NC, we both spoke up at the same time. Dale said, "This feels like a planned community," and I said, "This place feels kind of eerie." We both felt very, very uncomfortable until we drove through it and over the next ridge.
It wasn't the same kind of "something has been disturbed that shouldn't have been" that Townsend, TN, felt like several years ago when the road crews knowingly disturbed a burial mound. (The town eventually solved the problem by bringing in some Cherokee shamans to ask the guardian to go back to sleep.) This was more like "long-haired freaky people need not apply" and "you ain't supposed to be here". ("Signs," Five Man Electrical Band) It was highly reminiscent of Meg's description of Camazotz in A Wrinkle in Time.
However, as I said, once we were over the next ridge, all was well again.
In Hickory, we found, completely by accident, because we took the wrong turn looking for a hotel, a really wonderful restaurant called Cornucopia. (2065 US Highway 70 SE, Hickory, NC 28602) The sign outside said "Schnitzel, pasta, and grill." It was not quite a hole-in-the-wall, since it was a standalone building, but it wasn't at all fancy, and it certainly wasn't a national chain. The menu included a dozen kinds of schnitzels, about ten different pasta dishes, and a collection of grill items such as souvlaki and New Zealand lamb chops. Dale and I split an appetizer of Shrimp Napolitano (shrimp sauteed in butter and white wine with garlic and herbs); he had souvlaki; and I had the evening's special, sauerbraten with spaetzel and red cabbage.
The shrimp was very good. The souvlaki was very good. The sauerbraten, cabbage, and spaetzel were divine.
Both dinners came with salad and endless garlic and cheese rolls.
Not cheap, at $33 for the both of us, but well worth the price.