Sunday, June 13, 2010

Home to Mifflintown, PA

We had a lot of catching up to do at the start of our final day in VA. However, we needed to start out with a nourishing meal, in this case, at Mancini's down the street. We don't frequently go for breakfast because it's crowded on weekends, but on this weekday we had the place almost to ourselves. We bought a copy of the local paper (some obscure rag called "The Washington Post") and sipped on some locally roasted coffee while we ate.

Once we were satisfied, we hit the road. We decided to try to remain in the spirit of the trip even though we weren't on Route 11 at the time. To that end we took Route 50 most of the way out to the junction with 11 at Winchester. The morning traffic had mostly subsided so it was an uneventful yet pleasant journey through horse country.

At Winchester we took a hard right and started heading north again. We squeaked through WV and MD at a rapid clip, passing Martinsburg and Hagerstown on the way to the PA border. In PA we were going to try and see J&C, who lived not too far off the path. To that end we found ourselves with some time to kill in Chambersburg, PA, which was at the crossroads of 11 and another US Route, the Lincoln Highway (US 30).

We parked the car at the circle in the dead center of town and found our way to a small Latin American grocery, where we bought drinks and pastries. (I also accidentally acquired a not-very-appealing looking guava drink that I carried around for several days). We sat on some nice benches in the shade by the Franklin County Courthouse and had our snacks, where we later observed large "no loitering" signs. Why would they put out benches that invite one to linger and then specifically prohibit lingering?

The Chambersburg Heritage center was across the street and, although we mostly went in to use the bathroom, we decided to peek in the museum part. We were immediately accosted by a teenage guide and led into the museum, where she recited the facts about the town in a seemingly pre-recorded patter. The most interesting points were that, (1) given its preeminence as a crossroads for two major thoroughfares, it was invaded three times by the Confederates during the Civil War and burned to the ground once, and (2) they possess a giant, gold-leafed, rotating statue of Benjamin Franklin. The statue rotates excruciatingly slowly, it turns out, but at least it operates by remote control. The guide reverently showed us how old Ben could face the interior of the museum during the day, but is turned to look out the window in the evening. Disappointingly, she wouldn't let us play with it.

On our way out of town we did a drive-by of one of those wacky Roadside America type things, which was a miniature village in someone's yard. Since we didn't have time to have a long conversation with an old dude with nothing but time on his hands, we couldn't stop. It was then that I made my fatal error in navigation, taking us off on the entirely wrong direction on one of those open-jaw shaped roads. I couldn't figure out why none of the town names were making sense, but eventually it became clear that we were heading SW instead of NW. What's more, our friends were waiting for us and we were in a place with no cell phone reception. Argh!

We let the GPS take over at some point and eventually found ourselves in Lewistown, having completely missed our friends' dinner hour with our roundabout route. After having our waitress explain what OIP meant (original Italian pizza), we ordered some pizza and beers. Somehow Jack's Corona was like $5 but I got a tastier brew for 1/10th of the price. Sadly, the beer was necessary to wash down the sub-edible pizza. Not sure what the OIP designation is supposed to refer to (there were several places in the town that had it), but it was a cruel misnomer since it certainly had nothing to do with authenticity.

Given the lateness of the hour, when we finally did meet up with J&C, they were gracious enough to let us stay the night. We caught up with them on all the goings-on of the kids and watched "Snoopy's Reunion", which was full of plot twists the way the kids got into it. C, however, was not so impressed and kept pointing out holes in the continuity, much to J's chagrin and our delight. It was a great way to end the evening on what had otherwise been a pretty solitary trip.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Greeneville to home

There is a point in each journey when the tide turns. Something changes and sets the tone for the rest of the trip. For us, it was the sudden realization that the tables in the back of the car weren't going anywhere unless we took 'em, and we were falling behind. If we continued at the current rate, we'd never make it to the end.

We started our morning in song, unable to resist humming the strains of Elton John as we ate breakfast in The Tiny Diner attached to our motel. We perused the morning's news (which happened to be from the previous week since the paper was only published that frequently) over our meal. We contemplated but ultimately did not get the vengeance omelet, featuring chicken AND egg, just to report back to SIL, who is skeezed out by such things.

After passing Pal's, a local fast food chain with an eye-catching design, we made our way towards Bristol, a town which straddles the TN/VA line, and is known for being the birthplace of modern country music, recording Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family and many others over a period of only a few days. Presently it seemed a bit run down, trying to reinvent itself as an antiques shopping hub. We browsed a little but didn't find any gems.

As we entered VA we began to see more and more old roadside signs for motels, restaurants, drive-ins, garages and the like. Not sure what the uptick was due to--maybe the more southerly part of Route 11 was cobbled together later from more minor roads, whereas this portion was legitimately part of the historical driving route of the early 20th century. At any rate, it broke up the monotony some. We also began to travel more through the centers of towns at some point, which both slowed us down and kept our eyes busy.

Our next stop was to the Dip Dogs stand. We were getting into the territory that I had researched at this point, and naturally my investigations led me to food. Now what differentiates a Dip Dog from a regular corn dog? I couldn't rightfully say, except I think there was less of an emphasis on corn in the batter. I wasn't particularly hungry but had to try one in the name of Science. It was good. I'd stop there again, although I'd be more inclined if they had a public restroom.

And from then on, we careened up the road and then got on the highway, stopping only for a sub-par early dinner in Staunton. It was sad having to leave the route for an extended period, but much of 11 through VA was already known to us so I didn't feel that bad about it, although I did miss out on my Route 11 potato chips in Mt. Jackson, one of the reasons we had gone on the trip in the first place. We got home at some late hour, surely alarming the neighbors who had presumed us out of town for another several days (but not enough for them to call the cops, thankfully).

But the tables were out of the car. That was the important bit.