DISPATCH, MID-JULY, 2010: My 2 current fave highways are TN-52 E & 70 W (by way of 111 S). My hubs is currently an under-employed writer & part-time doctoral student, so our travel funds this summer are limited. Fortunately, our youngest 2, ages 16 & 17, work summer staff @ a sleep-away camp on the Cumberland Plateau, w/ the odd break now & again, to come home to Nashville for a few days. I HATE boring, monotonous drives, so, as usual, we go w/ backroads. The road less taken is ALWAYS worth it for us. So, we head up to Livingston on 52, then mosey back home on 70. Along the way, we manage to almost always decide to make it an overnight, rather than a daytrip, w/ our preference being travel courts and "mom & pop" establishments of all stripes. In summer, our family eschews tv, so motel movie-time is a special treat. We also avoid all chain-food (save drive-thru sodas & the like) for 3 mos. in summer, and have, since our kids were small. On 52, we like to pick up 69-cent, home-made brownies, w/ or w/o walnuts, @ Rock Bridge market, which sits incongruously next to Elmwood, an 1868 Italianate manor w/ a sweeping emerald lawn, accessed by the afore-mentioned rock bridge. As we roll thru Sumner, Macon, & Clay counties--hubs, the navigator, myself, the driver, & our developmentally delayed older son, the guitar-rock lyrics encyclopedia--we stop as the mood strikes. We might grab a snack @ Bill Martin's store in Lafayette, or stop for an ice cream concoction @ Porky Shake, after passing through the livestock & horse scenes and fading fascades of general merchandise storefronts of Moss, TN, before the Mayberry charm of the Celina town square. Our clan is fond of roadside farmstands, too, & always bring home pretty red tomatoes & peaches-and-cream sweet corn, w/ the occasional watermelon thrown in, as well as other fruits, for good measure. As we snake up from Clay County, past logging mills & quarries, we sneak up on Overton County, often staying @ the Overton Motel. We enjoy both dining-in and ordering "redneck room service" (calling in an order, then walking up the hilly parking lot to bring back a carry-out meal or snack from the motel restaurant). W/ ancestry that traces to the area, we also like to rummage around in the county library's genealogy room, which is across from the courthouse, on the square, walking distance from the heritage museum. I've promised the volunteer ladies that run the museum 12 hours a week, that I'll bring them a photo of my Overton County ancestor, as they have few pictures of the local men who died for the Union cause, & would like more. This summer, we've made an additional edict---each trip is not complete w/o a pilgrimage to the hillside behind the Livingston town square, and the goat farm where we've been able to watch a tiny little fellow grow, since May. Also, no trip up the mountain is complete w/o a stop @ East Main Market, for fruits, veggies, preserves, local honey w/ a glistening golden comb, & even flowers. (Got my mom a very pretty Knockout Rose bush there, for $8 less than Nashville's farmers' markets. It means more to her b/c it's from her beloved Granny's hometown.) The town also offers Hogeye Fest in June, & Chainsaw Fest in July. We love both, partly b/c we're crazy about "Fests" of all kinds. Well, I could go on & on, but instead, I'll leave you w/ 2 of many must-stops on 70, one in Putnam County, & the other in Smith County, so named for my Smith ancestors (on Daddy's side). There are numerous travel courts & swimming holes we have yet to explore on 70, but we've got eats 'bout "sussed out". In the rural back-country of Cookeville, just past an adult-oriented business that's dubbed itself the "Love Shack", sits the Dipsy Doodle, where we've discovered a better-than-most banana pudding & the best chocolate merangue pie I've had outside my mother's kitchen. So, eat dessert 1st, b/c dinner's down the road a piece, in Smith, after passing more "Holy Roller" & "Foot-washin' Baptist" churches than you could shake a stick at. (I'm allowed to use those terms, given that my great-aunts & uncles do, in describing thier own faith traditions.) Off to your left, coming down 70 W, just next to a pool hall called "The Nuggett[sic]", sits Caney Fork Beer & Bait. This unassuming country store & service station is not just a place for Michelob & Minnow-seekers. No. What you want, no, make that NEED, is a thick slice of just-cut "stick-baloney" on white, made any way you want it. I take mine w/ a hearty slice of tomato, onion, pickle, & mustard---no cheese. Add to that local throwback Golden Flake chips, whose bbq variety is still the same as when I was a kid, & for half-a-second, my stomach and head think Daddy & I are in the truck, w/ a bunch of noisy crickets, ready for a day of baloney & b.s. on the banks. ps: I've attached an old postcard of the Overton Motel & Restaurant---ENJOY!
Midsouth Mama loves greasy spoons and pre-1960 hotel rooms with hubby and kids.