Meeting the natives!
On July 8th we could celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary. We wouldn't make much ado about it though, as this would be a rather long day in the car. We had no goal when we left New Orleans except that we would stay the night somewhere in Georgia. The day was actually quite boring, staying on the Interstate as we did. But the we managed to visit two Welcome Centers, one of which was closed whe got there. From New Orleans we took I-10 to Slidell and then I-59 north to Meridian where we changed to I-20 to Birmingham, Alabama. At the Missippi/Alabama border we visited the Welcome Center. We did'n't enter Birmingham but stayed on the interstate and headed for Atlanta, Georgia. When we passed the Alabama/Georgia border it was after six pm, and the Welcome Center had closed so we continued to and through Atlanta still on the I-20. Even though the traffic was quite heavy, we, that is Dorte who was driving while I navigated, managed to change to the I-85, without misplacing ourselves even once. We continued on the I-85 leaving Atlanta behind once more, heading north east.
We reached the small town of Suwanee around 8 PM and decided to call it a day. We had been on the road for more or less 12 hours and had driven well over 500 miles. We found ourselves a hotel, and then went out to get some dinner. We didn't want to look far, so we just ate our anniversary dinner at an Outback Steakhouse, where we enjoyed a nice steak and an ice cold Australian beer. This was actually the first beer we had since St. Louis more than 10 days before.
Mistaken for Englishmen
The next day we continued on
I-85 into South
Carolina, thus visiting this state for the third time. We crossed the border
without visiting the Welcome Center continued to Greenville before we made our
first stop. It was here that we celebrated our 25th anniversary two years
earlier. We passed the hotel, where we stayed then, and also the restaurant,
where we had our anniversary dinner then, but only stopped at a gas station to refill the car (with
petrol) and the cool box (with ice). At the gas station we both went into the
store and walked around looking at the goodies, before we went to the cashiers
desk with a cup of coffee for me, and a latte for Dorte. The man behind the
counter was a young man, who must have heard us talk to each other, while in the
shop. For some reason he did not ask the usual
question: "Where are you guys from?" No, his question was of a different kind, though
the intent was the same. He simply asked if we were English! We had to
explain to him that this was not the case, and that we were from Denmark. Dorte
went into her geograhpical quizz mode and asked him, if he knew where Denmark
was - which he didn't. We told him that it was about one hours flight east of
England, but that didn't help much as he didn't know where England was either.
After some time, using different countries, we gave up on the explanation and
just told him, that Denmark was part of Scandinavia. He nodded to this as if he
knew, but his facial expression clearly showed that this didn't mean anything at
all to him. We didn't have the heart to tell him, that the language spoken in
England was very close to his own, so we just left it at that. I know that George Bernard Shaw once said that
"England and America are two countries separated by a common language",
Anyone who has read these
pages, will have discovered that I have a weakness for the Tom Dooley story. And
if you didn't know before, you will know from my
that Tom was finally convicted and executed in Statesville, North
Carolina. I would therefore like to
visit the city's visitor center to see if I could learn more about the
story that (at this point I was just beginning to get a real interest in. The visitor
center proved to be located in the old, now disused railway station from 1911.
At this point, I knew that Tom Dooley had just been hanged in a field near the
railway station and the nice lady at the Visitor Center told me that the old
railway station and the field had been on the other side of the tracks, and she
with pleasure identified the place where the gallows had stood.
Friendly winegrowers in Swan Creek
When we arrived at our B & B just before
4 pm, we were greeted by Madelyn herself, who started out with regret that we
unfortunately could not get the room we had booked from home as the air conditioner
was broken. In return, she had another room that she wanted to show us, and it
certainly was nice too, so we got that instead. But before we got any further, she asked us what we
would be doing for the rest of the day? We had planned to relax in the room for
a few hours, but when she suggested we went on a "wine tour", we
accepted immediately. Madelyn believed that most of the local wineries probably closed around
5 pm, and as it was now around 4.10 she thought that if we hurried, we could
manage to visit three before they closed. She drew a map and explained
the fastest way to the first winery, from here to the next and from there to the
third. Just before we were about to leave, she asked
where we were going to have dinner. Since we did not know the town or the
surroundings, we hadn't really considered a place to eat in advance. Union Grove
has about 2,000 inhabitants, so it's not the big city, so I had an idea that we were
going to either Statesville or Wilkesboro for dinner. Madelyn told us, however,
that if we
would like to try a good southern rural diet, she knew just the place. When we
confirmed this , she wrote down directions from the final winery to this very
nice place, as she put it.
After the tasting we were introduced to Kim's husband, Benny, her sister and a friend who was visiting, and while we chatted with them, another local came around, and so we chatted with all of them. All in all a really nice winery, which I would recommend to anyone who passes the area. We also promised to come back some day, and hopefully I will in the summer of 2012. But for now it was time to get some dinner.
Dining with the locals
The place we were looking
for were called Gaby's Diner (today The Korner Kitchen) ,
and it was in the middle of nowhere according to Madelyn, and could be rather
difficult to locate and to recognize when we found it. Madelyn had warned us
that we could easily pass the place without noticing that it was a diner. And she
was absolutely right, her directions led us to the place with no difficulties at
all. When we got there 8 or 10 pick-up trucks, one SUV and a small sports car
was parked outside. All had North
Carolina license plates, so it did not suggest that the place was overrun by
tourists. Our car had Virginia plates, so we were completely out of order,
so to speak. We were a little unsure if the place was something for us, but finally
we entered the place. When we got inside we found that the place was not much
bigger inside than it looked from the outside. 8-10 tables with seating for four at each
table and a slightly larger table with seating for 8. All tables were apparently
when we asked the hostess for a table, she looked desperately around the room
for a place to offer us. A guy at a table right next to the larger table,
sat alone with a young man and the man yelled to the waitress that we were
welcome to sit at their table. The waitress asked if we would like that, and we
When the food arrived, we had found out that the party at the next table were Methodists. Each year apparently a joint Scandinavian/American camp for young Methodists is arranged . It alternates between being held in the U.S. and in Scandinavia, and this year it was in North Carolina. The Swedish lady was a leader of the Swedish children at the camp, and she was staying in the home ofd the woman that had started the conversation with us until the camp actually opened. That evening they were going to a blue grass fgestival in Union Grove, across the road from Madelyn's where we stayed. When our food arrived, they had to leave for the festival.
When the waitress brought our food, it was rather large plates. On each there was two very large pieces of fish, some fries, some cooked vegetables, including beans and corn cobs, and then some strange, seemingly deep-fried "cannon balls", about the size of a table tennis ball. We wondered what it was, when the man who had originally invited us to sit at the table, asked us if we had never seen hush-puppies before? When we told him that we had not, he explained that it was deep-fried balls of corn dough with various spices. Originally they were made for the dogs as an inexpensive treat, but now it had become a southern specialty, and were often eaten with fish.
The talk about the hush-puppies had established contact with the man at the table,
who presented himself as Chris. And likewise we presented ourselves. Chris told
us that the young man at the table was his nephew but I don't remember his name.
Chris asked if we wanted to visit his house and dine with him thenext day. Then he would serve
deep-fried strips of "redfish" and turkey cooked cajun style. Unfortunately we
had to fold, as the next day we were going north, but we agreed so that it
would have to wait until next time we passed through this remote part of North Carolina. We
haven't been there since then, but Tim and I will in the summer of 2012, so
maybe the invitation is still open? Chris told us that he was
employed by Freightliner. Moreover, he took care of his farm, and in his spare
time he volunteered as a fireman and so did his nephew. Chris told that his not
so talkative nephew had just gotten his hunting license, which led to a long
talk about nature in general and hunting in particular, and he wanted to know if
we went hunting in Denmark. We had to disappoint him that some did, but not us. He then told that where HE came from
hunting. Furthermore, there was no one who did not own at least one firearm. We
explained a little about the Firearms Act in Denmark that prevented people in
general from owning a weapon. He didn't quite understand, that we were not
allowed a gun for some target practise og skeet or something? Only when we told
him that Dorte had been shooting pistol for some years in a shooting club, he
stopped looking nervously at the two extremely strange foreigners. Then
our chat continued on more innocent topics, such as the stunning beautiful Blue Ridge
Mountains, where he wanted to show us a great place, with the most amazing views,
but as with the dinner, we had to decline.
When we got back to Madelyn's we carried our luggage from the car to the room, and then I went for a walk to look at the surroundings, and in doing so I passed the spot where the bluegrass festival took place, but I did not enter. Meanwhile Dorte relaxed and digested the day's impressions on a bed so filled with pillows, mattresses and featherbeds, that made her look like the princess in "The Princess and the Pea" from the old Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale.
Leaving North Carolina
Next day, we
were heading north to Virginia, but let me just
dwell a little more by out stay at Madelyn's.