Mountain Detour

26 Mar

Last week, I took a spontaneous, last minute road trip to D.C. from Kansas. I had every intention of blogging about it as I drove (not literally AS I drove, safety nuts) but every time I stopped for the night, there was someone great to catch up with, or my attention would be derailed by reading up on Autostraddle, or Twitter, or Facebook, or… the welcoming softness of a hotel bed. So, that’ll be a catch-up entry later.

On the way out, I happened to stop in Lewisburg, West Virginia. I hadn’t been there before this trip. I came in to town through the mountains in the middle of the night. There’s something powerful and exhilarating about weaving through the foothills in pitch darkness, with my headlights cutting through the night not quite far enough to keep me from thinking that, in the next 100 feet, the road drops off the face of the earth. When I woke up the next morning, I stepped outside to a quaint little mountain town full of beautiful houses, and awesome little local shops, including a coffee house that brewed a delicious espresso. I couldn’t stop thinking about the town. If I hadn’t been in such a hurry to get to D.C., I would have stayed longer.

So, since my return trip started today in the early evening, I decided it was the perfect distance from D.C. (about 4 hours) to stop for the night on my way back home. Same twisty night drive coming in. And when I got here, I found even more reasons to love it. One of my favorite things about traveling are the random encounters with people. You never know who you will run in to, who will strike up a conversation with you, or give you a great story to tell. And Lewisburg didn’t disappoint.

As I pulled in to town, I stopped at the gas station to pick up a drink for the hotel. I got some iced tea from a “Teazer” fancy tea machine, which had to be brewed in a certain cup. Then I spent five minutes trying to find a lid that fit the cup. I gave up and headed to the cash register. As I set my purchase on the counter, the cashier pulled out a fitting lid from behind the counter and popped it on my cup. Her name was Wanda, and she was 70 if she was a day, grey and white hair pulled back in to a ponytail. She chuckled when I said, “Oh, good. I thought I was losing my mind because I couldn’t find those lids over there.”

“No, it’s not just you. For some reason unbeknownst to me, we have to keep those lids over here instead of by the drink machines,” she explained.

“Oh. Well, that’s odd.” I commented.

“Yeah, I think if you leave them over there, they do tricks or make messes when you’re not watching them.” Wanda joked as she rang up my snacks.

I smirked. Another great thing with meeting new people is finding the ones who can play one of my favorite games: carrying on conversations about really silly, random things. The kind of conversations where you walk away with a grin, knowing that you just bonded with another human being over the most innocuous thing. Tonight, it was to be iced tea cup lids.

“Maybe they’re a bad influence on the other lids, or they teach them naughty things to do,” I suggested.

“Oh, yup. I’ve got it.” Wanda nodded, “That’s why they’re called TEAZERS — they pick on the other lids, so sitting behind the counter is timeout.”

“Ha! That must be it!” I smiled at her as she handed me my change. She was chuckling out loud, “Have a good evenin’, sweetie.”

My next stop was for food. I have this road trip rule about only eating at places that I can’t eat at back home. I had to break my rule and pick Hardee’s, though, because I just couldn’t bring myself to eat alone at a Shoney’s. That’s an experience that has to be shared. Plus, I have a thing for Hardee’s Mushroom & Swiss burgers, but on sourdough bread and with a side of extra mushrooms. The Hardee’s in my hometown manages to screw it up every time, while charging me almost $7 for a fast food burger (because of all the add-ons). And I continue to go back. Because it’s worth the pain, these things are so good.

I was pleasantly surprised and cautiously optimistic when the girl at the drive-thru not only got the gist of my requests, but also only charged me for a regular sandwich. When I got the bag, I could tell it was right by the weight of the extra mushroom container. I know it seems simple, but I really love some foods a certain way. And I really hate stupid people. So, score another “cool” point for Lewisburg and it’s adept teenage fast foodies for being able to get my stuff right.

The highlight of the evening though is my hotel. When I arrived, I took a cruise through town, hoping to find something besides the corporate chain I stayed in on the way out. I’m game for saving $30 a night to not have a continental breakfast I won’t eat anyway. Not to mention I get the charm and quirkiness that comes with local lodging establishments. Fort Savannah Inn fit the bill, and I looked them up and called to confirm availability and wireless access. Good to go. On the main street near downtown, I pulled in to the parking lot in front of a lodge-type building with a sign advertising the main front desk. I saw the innkeeper peeking out the window at me, so I got out and went inside. The inner lobby door was a six-foot wide barn door that led in to a dark, defunct souvenir shop and cafe with “KEEP OUT” signs posted everywhere. Uh, okay.

I found the other door to the office, and pulled it open as the barn door creaked shut behind me. The innkeeper hollered at me from ten feet away, “You the lady who called?”

“That’s me.” I headed toward the desk and went through the usual check-in rigmarole. $52 with tax included seemed a fair deal compared to the $80+ tax at the chains. So far, seemed pretty normal. I hopped in the car to drive around to my room, and was greeted by outdoor kids toys on the motel walkway. Sweet. Motels with people living in them? Guaranteed experience.

Now I’m settled in the room. Once I figured out that none of the three (completely different) dead bolts on the door actually work, I used the door chain that appears to be from the 1950s and probably wouldn’t keep the wind out. I closed the curtains on the first-floor window that backs to completely pitch black woods, and I took in the wood beam ceilings and furniture that appears to have come from a dozen different hotel auctions spanning the last 30 years. I love it. And when I turned on the t.v. and it was already tuned to HGTV, I knew I had another sign that Lewisburg likes me and wants me to stay here.

Tomorrow was going to be a day for hitting the road hard. But I think at least a half day of antique shops, flea markets, local coffee, and taking in some mountain scenery here sounds like a much better idea. School will wait if I don’t make it back from spring break on time. But sometimes you have to pay attention when life tells you take a detour.

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