Thursday, May 27, 2010

Frontier Foray Part I

It really doesn't matter to me where I travel, as long as it is someplace I have never been before. Right now? I'm in a La Quinta in Kingsport, Tennessee and man, I have never been happier.

Having said that, I've been on the road now for nearly 16 hours so maybe my delight is more having a shower and clean sheets rather than being in a brand new city. (From what I can tell, Kingsport is your run-of-the-mill strip of chain hotels and restaurants. Nowhere you'd send a postcard from.)

In front of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's Virginia estate. Admission $22.

The adventure started as I rolled into Washington, D.C. at around 2 a.m. this morning. Cut to five hours later when I was up and getting an egg and cheese sandwich at Sidamo Coffee and Tea (417 H Street NE...and delicious!).

Saskia (my copilot) and I, bleary-eyed and unshowered (it's a road trip...), were on the road by 9:30 and we managed to clear the entire state of Virginia in one day. The highlights? Two things jump to mind: scenery and food.

If you're ever driving in this neck of the woods I highly recommend routes 29 South and I-81 South. Both will take you through the lush Blue Ridge Mountains (and yes, they really do look blue as the sun sets behind them and the mist rises over. Beautiful.)

We stopped for lunch in Shenandoah, Virginia, at Cousin Boogy's, a roadside barbecue joint. For $13 combined we got barbecue pork, cole slaw, spicy chicken and hand cut fries. The owners, Tony and Michelle, prepare everything by hand and serve it up in the dining room, which can only be described as part rec-room, part diner, part home kitchen. The floor is sticky with spilled soda and the walls plastered with photos of local patrons as the twang of southern radio plays in the background.

Cut to dinner. A Southern staple. Cracker Barrel. What are we missing in the North? This place is pure gluttonous American glory, and I truly mean that in the best way possible. For $10 I was served up a sirloin steak, salad, baked potato and corn bread, while Saskia happily ate grilled catfish, corn and carrots for $7. The rest of the menu contains all the large-portioned favorites from chicken and dumplings to fried okra. And after you dine you must hit up the kitschy country store, which sells old time candies, candles, gardening tools and "I Love America" paraphernalia. I'll go back to being my portion-controlled, New York-snobby-self tomorrow. But for tonight I bask in all of Cracker Barrel glory.

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