Friday, October 20, 2006

Highway 11W

As anyone who knows me reiterate, I don't like interstates. Oh, I know they serve a purpose, and sometimes I do use them, but if no one is in the car with me and I don't have to be anywhere at any particular time, well, I prefer the backroads, or rather the roads that were the main roads prior to the development of the American autobahn system. One of my favorites is the highway 11 system, specifically those runs of the highway that connect Abingdon, Virginia with Knoxville, Tennessee. I can't imagine the number of times I've run these roads, specifically highways 11E and highways 11W.

If you click on the image above (muchas gracias Wikipedia), then you'll see the stretches I mean in orange.

Well, I was in Emory this past weekend for Homecoming, and decided to take 11W home this past Tuesday and, as I drove down Main Street in Abingdon, I thought to myself, hell, why not take pictures of the major landmarks that, in my mind at least, define the trip. Consider:

First, there's the spot that inspired my little photographic fit of pique - downtown, Abingdon, Virginia right beside the Cave House, a great wine store, the legendary Tavern, and so on. The Cave House, of course, is where a pack of wolves that attacked Daniel Boone in the 1760s lived - a pack that gave Abingdon its first name, Wolf Hills.

Next is the Robert E. Lee Motel, a long defunct motel just north of Bristol, Virginia. I took this picture while filling up. There is a part of my head that has wanted to just pull over with a flashlight and my cane and slip in to explore - but my fear of being charged with trespassing or encountering hobos has long restrained me. For a creepy paragraph, scroll down this page from the Abingdon Virginian. Spookylicious.

The Helms Candy Company in Bristol, Virginia is one of the few remaining icons of the days when Bristol was a hub of candymaking - once having nine different companies making hundreds of different products. They've got a relatively new website worth a few minutes of anyone's time - I specifically recommend the page on the company's history. You also might want to hit ETSU's Reece Museum soon - they're having an exhibit on the city's candymaking tradition through January 31st.

Okay, this picture didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped it would - it's simply an intersection in the Euclid Avenue Historic District in Bristol, one of the prettiest drives in the region. I love the houses though this stretch, not to mention the beautiful schools and churches. ah.

I didn't get a good picture of the Grand Guitar, though it wasn't for lack of trying. I love the Grand Guitar. It is a huge guitar, just into Bristol, Tennessee. It is a museum, it is a radio station. And it is awesome. I borrowed this pic from their site which you all should visit almost as hard as you should visit their museum.

The Tennessee Mountaineer Restaurant isn't somewhere I've ever eaten - though I plan to in the near future - after all, how can you have a sign like that and not serve incredibly delicious vittles? I believe this joint is in Church Hill, a town I don't know particularly well, but one which, from what I have seen as I drive by, is quite lovely. Moving on. . .

Cherokee Lake, is a long, meandering body of water with a shoreline hundreds of miles long, reminiscent of of the rivers that spawned her. It is an artificial lake, only around 64 years old, a product of the Tennessee Valley Authority's radical reinvention of East Tennesseean geography (not to mention political-economy). As you drive down 11W you come into contact with the lake time and time again. On sunny days, especially when the water is low, the artificiality of the lake becomes manifest - it doesn't do much for me, frankly. But, on days like this last Tuesday, days where all the world is green and gray and brown, days when the water is high - well, some nooks have aged just enough to make one think of Inverness.

This house, or perhaps an old store, lies just to the southwest, as I remember at least, of Rutledge, Tennessee. I don't know who lived or worked there, or how long this place has been empty. But, as the greenbriar and the whitethorn grow up around it, well, I dunno', I like this place. I normally stop for at least a minute or two everytime I'm on 11W. Maybe I'm crazy.

Finally, as I roll into Knoxville, this is the landmark that tells me I'm home. Like the Tennessee Mountaineer, I've never actually been inside this Tavern - but I like to think that someday I will. Who knows.


J. Michael Mason said...

Nice post EDS. I love 11 from CBurg to Abingdon as it gets me off of 81. I grew up traveling this road from Radford to Pulaski each day in my youth so it's a well worn path for me. Perhaps mext weekend on my trip to A-town I will snap some pictures of the northern neck of the SWVa portion of Lee's Highway. My favorite stretch is where it doubles with 460 between CBurg and Salem. Flat farmland in the Roanoke River valley with the Blue Ridge and Alleghenys thrusting up to the sky on each side of you.

hannahslowe said...

Dude, I have been inside that tavern. I'm telling you now, if you want to keep that Romantic Mysticism, then DON'T do it!

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