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Inspirational Reads

My Wandering Adventures

July 14, 2008

This past weekend, I took the kids up to Marietta, OH, where I met up with my mother-in-law. She took the kids from there onto South Bend, IN, where they will stay for a week and then they'll stay another week at the beach in Alabama. Yeah, thrilling, I know.

I'm pretty familiar with this stretch of road, as I used to jet up and down I-77 while in grad school, either to take the wife down to see her family in Charlotte or to visit her while she lived with her parents and I was working in the lab, desperately trying to finish up my research for my thesis. There were two places along the way that were my favorite oases to stop and refuel: West Philadelphia, OH and Fancy Gap, VA.

Fast forward a few years, and now I no longer travel that far up in Ohio, so I don't stop at West Philadelphia anymore, but Fancy Gap is still one of my favorite places to stop and get gas. For one, gas is much cheaper in Virginia than it is in North Carolina (in fact, only the rest stations along the interstate in West Effin' Virginia offered more expensive gas than the stations in the greater Triangle area in North Carolina), and for two, there's a certain nostalgia that surrounds Fancy Gap.

Here's the thing, though: I've never actually been in Fancy Gap, VA. I've only stopped at the BP station there. Fancy Gap, itself, is a mile or two down the road, so while the exit might be the Fancy Gap exit, I had never actually visited this humble village.

So, on Saturday, after refueling my car and tossing a whizz in the rather...malodorous...rest room, I checked my map and saw that Route 52 went down through Fancy Gap and would ultimately take me to Winston-Salem, where I would be able to pick up and continue with my regular course home. Armed with this knowledge, I made the executive decision to take a little excursion through Fancy Gap and see a slice of America.

I would not be disappointed.

At this perfect little confluence of Rte 52, the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway, you are welcomed into town by a weather-faded sign loudly proclaiming that "This is Frank Beamer Country". "And don't you forget it, motherfucker," would have blended perfectly with the rest of the sign, yet sadly it was missing. I'm sure some adoring Va Tech fan (Joe, I'm looking at you) swiped it during the night. Anyway, in case you didn't know, Frank Beamer is the head coach of Virginia Tech's football team and grew up just north of Fancy Gap in Hillsville, Virginia. And don't you forget it, motherfucker.

Nestled snugly in the bosom of these picturesque mountains, Fancy Gap offered plenty of camping and cabin rentals, along with several hundred shops offering all manner of trinkets, daubles, doo-dads and shit all under the heading of "Antiques". It might serve Fancy Gap well to post a sign opposite Frank Beamer Country proclaiming "One man's garbage is another man's treasure...and don't you forget it, motherfucker!".

Within about five minutes, the banjo and jug music faded into the background and I came upon Cana, Virginia. Where Fancy Gap was replete with campgrounds and "antique" shops, Cana must be the world capital for concrete statuary for your front yard. I counted at least three places dealing said creations on my drive down the hillside, and yet only one house in town had decorated their yard with anything, and those were a collection of pink flamingos arranged lovingly around a dogwood tree in the front yard. The statuary, however, was truly epic, ranging from the typical statues of deer or lawn jockeys to almost life-size replicas of tigers and lions...which were painted! I think there was also an entire team of horses at one place. I guess when you live on the side of a mountain and procuring stone is not a problem, you can do all manner of artistic endeavors with it.

All too soon, I found myself on the south side of town and, bidding Cana and Fancy Gap a fond adieu, I began plunging headlong down a mountainside. What great fun it was, too, to simply let gravity accelerate me to the point where I'm not sure if I can make the impending hard left turn in time or not, and if not, which of the large oak boles will I find myself splattered upon for eternity. I did discover that, traveling at that speed, I could pull out in time. Sadly, the path down the side of the mountain was tree-lined enough that I could not catch much more than a few glimpses of the green valleys opening at the foot of the mountains. Aesthetically unpleased, I continued on my way toward the next town on my agenda, Mount Airy, NC.

I knew I had crossed into the North By God Carolina (say the "by God" part so that it sounds like James Brown screaming) when the road turned from beautifully-paved blacktop to a layer of gray shit that once resembled tarmac. Following this rough gray ribbon through the green hills, I came to the one small town in North Carolina that everybody knows, Mount Airy.

What? Oh, right, you might recognize it by it's other name: Mayberry.

That's right. I visited the birthplace and ancestral home of Andy Griffith, and the town on which the town of Mayberry was loosely based (none of the Andry Griffith show was ever filmed in Mount Airy). However, you wouldn't know that the cameras never rolled in this town as they have fully embraced their Mayberry heritage, at least from what I saw. There was the Mayberry Mall, the Mayberry Car Wash, the Mayberry Dry Cleaners, the Mayberry Brothel and the "Can I Put My Bullet In Now?" shooting range. As you roll through the city from the north side along Rte 52, it seems everything is named Mayberry something-or-other. I can imagine that there are some people who aren't happy with this whole connection to tv nostalgia, but while I was stuck at a light, I felt like rolling the window down and drinking in the entire Mayberry ambiance. As it was, I had that damned whistling theme song stuck in my head for the forty-five minute drive to Winston-Salem, so it's probably a good thing I didn't drink in the Mayberryosity of Mount Airy.

I had called my wife while south of Charleston, WV, and promised her I'd be home by 8:30, so I didn't take the more scenic route through downtown to try and find the Andy Griffith statue. However, as I rolled through some swampy looking lands around the Ararat river (the Mayberry Fens), I promised myself I'd be back. Despite my cheekiness, I really found the town to be rather agreeable (Jesus, do I sound British in this sentance), though I doubt I would be allowed to stay long. I saw a sign as I entered town proclaiming Mount Airy a "Fit Town". Clearly, I'm lucky to have been allowed to cross the border at all.

One quick side note about the history of Mount Airy. Eng and Chang Bunker, the world's most famous Siamese twins, lived in Mount Airy. In case you don't remember the whole story, they married sisters (not twins, that I could tell, but definitely not conjoined in any way) and then they went on to father between 20 and 23 children! Remember, these dudes were connected when that all went down. Apparently, some of their descendants still live in the Mount Airy area, but still.

14 comments:

McGone said...

You can be sure that right now executives at Gatorade or Aquafina or the likes are developing a new drink called "Mayberryosity," as your post has revealed a viable market desire for "drinking in Mayberryosity."

You should try to get a cut of that.

Rider said...

So three-ways were a given in the Bunker household. What about four...? Nah, I'm not going there. Too early.

Jidai said...

Sounds fun. Kind of like what I used to do, driving the highway between Minneapolis and Duluth.

Except I got a ticket for going 105 down a hill.

Falwless said...

It's beyond weird to see a post in blogland about Fancy Gap and Mayberry and all this other junk that's very near to my glorious Winston-Salem home. North Carolina is the shizzz.

Regarding these Siamese twins (who I had no idea lived in Mt. Airy), who father[ed] between 20 and 23 children... Is there some valid reason no one could actually nail down the number of offspring? "I dunno, man, I got several of those ankle biters runnin' 'round. There may be 10, there may be 12, there's just a damn lot of 'em - go ahead, you try to count 'em... see how far you get."

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

mcgone: I'm applying for a patent on the name "Mayberryosity" right now.

rider: I'm sure there were conversations, too, like "Eng is watching" "I want him to watch..."

jidai: if it wasn't for the oak trees staring at me with malicious intent, I would have sped up. But the turns were pretty back and forth, so I couldn't really see how to do that in a vehicle with a propensity for rolling if you take a turn too fast.

flayah: Apparently, a lot of the kids died during infancy, so there's a bit of fuzzy math going on with the numbers they spawned. They lived in the pre-Civil War era and died in 1874, so I guess that sort of thing was common? I dunno.

Chemgeek said...

Would you then confirm that Fancy Gap is indeed 'facncy' and a 'gap?'

Chemgeek said...

Wher da hel dit i lenrt to typpo

sorry 'fancy'

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

It is, without a doubt, facncy. It's the facnciest gap I ever did c.

Get it. C? Ha.

Will Shannon said...

Fancy Gap? Is that sort of like the Gap that is in a mall in a better neighborhood?

Honestly, though, you did sound quite British (in an RP sort of way) in that sentence.

The one before it too, with reference to "fens."

Well, cor Blimey, innit? I mean, it's a right load of old cobblers up the old apples and pears, eh guv?

Well, you go all Stoke-on-Trent, you berk, and, well, Bob's your uncle you plonker!

Lisa-tastrophies said...

I have GOT to give up the xanax and Ho-ho's cause when I read this sentence, " the Mayberry Dry Cleaners, the Mayberry Brothel and the "Can I Put My Bullet In Now?" shooting range. " What I thought you said was that the brothel was called the "Can I Put My Bullet In Now?".
Not joking, I snarfed my diet coke all over the keyboard and one of the cats. (which do you think was easier to clean, Mr. Wizard Cat?)

Frank said...

Any town with "Fancy" in its name has got to most certainly be a downright dandy place.

Noel said...

Holy crap, Mayberry exists? Next, you'll be telling me that Club Babaloo was torn down a few years ago to make way for a Starbucks.

And I love cities with quirky names. It makes me wonder if the citizens embrace it or deny it.

Falwless said...

Congratulations on your win!! Send me money to collect your prize.

Dr Zibbs said...

Me needs to find that Andy Griffith statue.