West Virginia down to Tennessee

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Tell me the truth…did you sing the George Strait lyric? That’s how I heard it in my head. LOL.

You might not know this but Charleston, WV has a salt industry that is over 200 years old. In the neighboring town of Malden, right between the railroad tracks and the river, you’ll find the J. Q. Dickinson Salt Works. During their production season, they offer tours of the facility and you can watch as they pump ancient seawater up from wells. The salty brine is then left to crystallize in greenhouses. Unfortunately, we stopped by on a dreary winter day. That didn’t stop the staff from showing off their hospitality. Their gift shop was open and they were eager to sample the foods that are made with their salt. There were body scrubs, scented soy candles, & even ramp jelly! In my opinion, their showstopper product is their finishing salt. It’s a balanced tasting salt, with just the right size crystals to lend a slight crunch as you bite down into it. This is the only salt that I will use on my Salted Caramel Chocolates. The individual crystals hold their shape when placed on the hot chocolate bonbon. It’s far better than any salt that I have found.

There’s a tradition when I come home about going to Gabes. For what you ask? Nothing really, I think we go just to go. We truly didn’t need anything and left empty handed but still, a fun browse. We decided to head on up to the Drug Emporium. I needed to pick up a B Vitamin supplement to stay energized on the trip. What I didn’t expect to find was a complete health food store inside of the pharmacy. I was pleased to encounter the longest most complete Gluten Free Aisle that I’ve ever seen! There were GF wraps that I’d never heard of including one made from coconut flour. I turned the corner and they had a whole Carhart clothing section beside a WVU memorabilia shop. I will definitely stop here on return trips because they literally have everything including growlers of craft brew.

We continued to drive around for a bit and ended up at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. They have all the standard things that you’d expect, only more. This was a frequent stop of mine when I lived in Charleston. I was always on the hunt. An old habit was to frequent thrift stores and pick up lamps or more specifically, lamp parts. It’s rare that I finish a lamp parts. I liked to piece them together to make new “Franken-lamps”. Somewhere over the years, I stopped looking for lamp parts. The temptation to pick up some was hard….but scavenging at the beginning of a road trip wouldn’t be prudent. I passed over some really great parts. LOL.

One of my buddies that was always up for a thrift store run is Lesley. She and I met while working at an Italian restaurant. I trained her on a shift and we were instantly inseparable. Luckily, I was able to schedule dinner with her and her son Jackson who is now 12. My first question as I approached her house was, “show me what you’ve been working on.” As an artist, her house is always a treat for your eyes. It wasn’t my intention but she gifted me a small painting with a quartz crystal and a stone painted like a little bird(shameless plug for Little Bird Chocolate). It turns out that Jackson is really into birds. Lesley bought him 3 beautiful doves for Christmas and their biggest admirer is the dog. He is a black lab/wolfhound mix that seems to be equal parts excited and scared of the birds. It was great to catch up with her whole household.

One of the best parts of each visit is seeing my favorite Aunt Margie. I’ve posted about her on FB before but I will include a quick recap for posterity. Margie taught me how to ride the city bus as a child. On Saturday’s we would catch the bus at the foot of my driveway and go to downtown Charleston. This was the early 80’s before the mall opened. The storefronts were full of shops and the streets were full of people. It was all about the experience, we walked around and had lunch. That’s kinda the reason that I enjoy NYC so much. I walk & eat there too. The stores were so cool and the memories so vivid. Downtown Charleston will always remind me of those days.

The trip must go on so early Friday morning I told my parents goodbye. I made sure to update emergency contact info for my glove compartment & texted mom a photograph of my insurance card. I try to make sure that contingencies are in place for my trips, to anticipate things that you hope you won’t need. I once texted a group of friends 1 week before a NYC trip to remind them to clip their toenails. I knew it sounded odd, but a sore toenail the day before a big walking trip could ruin things.

I arranged to meet my sister for lunch on Friday where she works in Ashland, Kentucky because, why not add another state to the route. My familiarity with Ashland was limited to an outdoor Wynonna Judd concert. It’s Wynonna’s hometown. I passed Chuck Woolery Boulevard and it turns out to be his hometown as well. There are some cool homes around the hospital. There were two court-styled neighborhoods that intrigued me so I turned around to take a picture. A brick horseshoe-shaped street was the site of 12 full-sized homes from the 1920’s. It was something that I’ve never seen before and warranted a glance. I’d love to know more about them.

On the road again, I ventured through Kentucky down Interstate 75 toward Knoxville. Blue skies gave way to gray before starting to rain then finally turning into a torrential downpour. With no visibility I had to turn on the hazard lights and slow to a crawl. That storm allowed plenty of time to think of the geography and how it affected the weather. It seemed like I was on the western slope of a mountain range and a storm front was clashing against the hills. The rain let up a little and allowed me to speed up a bit though it continued to rain. Had it been sunny I would have posed at the Rocky Top exit….just so you’d have that song stuck in your head like me.

I finally arrived at my destination in Knoxville. My friend Allyson moved here from Raleigh with her husband Mike and kids, Conrad & Stella. Allyson clearly told them about me because I was greeted at the front door by Conrad saying hi Mister Joey. This was my first time meeting Stella. She started our introduction with “look what I can do!” Allyson seemed stunned because they never warm up to new people like they did with me. It turns out that I’m a child whisperer. LOL. It was a great visit!

Not so surprise realization…I need to see my friends more frequently.

While I’ve hoped for the trip to be unhurried, there is a bit of pace that I need to keep. I’ve tried to break things up into small less than 5 hour segments. Luckily, the things I want to see are spaced out like that. The goal for Saturday was to leave Knoxville, travel through Nashville, say hi to family in Waverly, and bed down in Memphis.

I have taken a few back roads so far and have been rewarded with pretty vistas of the rolling Tennessee hills. I passed a big chicken on the side of a country road and had to turn around. I’ll always stop to snap a selfie with a big chicken. Saturday was no exception.

Having never been to Nashville but knowing that I didn’t have a ton of time, I decided to find a cool coffee shop to plug in and do a bit of writing. I narrowed things down to 2 shops, both in east Nashville. My first choice was in a new mixed-use building plopped down in a craftsman-style neighborhood. It’s so popular that I couldn’t find a parking space…which led me to a shop that I truly enjoyed. Bongo East is located in the 5 Points neighborhood. Now you know how much I like a combination business. Well, this coffee shop shares space with Game Point Cafe, a curated board game library concept. Folks can choose from over 400 board games to play. The Americano was on point, the energy was upbeat but low-key.

After an hour or so, I hopped back in the car to head to Waverly to visit my Aunt Kathy & Uncle Joe. They moved from WV when I was a teenager and I didn’t see them with much regularity. Thankfully, FB has allowed us to keep up with each other through the years. It was such a great treat to sit and talk for a couple of hours. Kathy was previously in the legal field too and we traded some stories. My takeaway? It sounds like judges are a bit easier to deal with than lawyers.

From Waverly it was a 2.5 hour drive to Memphis. I found an Elvis themed motel adjacent to the Lisa Marie plane. I could see the lights of Graceland from the balcony at night. Tuesday is Elvis’ birthday, so this place is plenty busy this weekend. And with that good night’s sleep I am off to Little Rock & Oklahoma City.

3 Replies to “West Virginia down to Tennessee”

    1. Joey, you are such a special little bird. I love you so much and was so elated to get some time with you! You always bring me a smile and light up any room. Be safe… Travel on! I am thouroughly enjoying keeping up with your travels through this blog. Don’t forget to scope out some cool thrift stores as you ramble on!


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