Thursday, June 30, 2016

End of This Ride

April 30-May 2

We made it back to New Jersey on Monday afternoon.

The last two days of the trip were mostly spent driving—about 400 miles from Asheville to Strasburg, Va., on Sunday, and another 300 from Strasburg to home on Monday.

The scenery was spectacular, but the traffic was horrid.

I-81 runs from Pigeon Forge, Tenn., to the Canadian border. The three largest cities it passes are Harrisburg, Scranton, and Binghamton. Even so, the traffic was so heavy it jammed, sometimes for miles. We inched along, lucky to be doing 20 mph, and when the jam broke, there was nothing—no visible reason at all for the backup.

Trucks were everywhere, drifting out of their lanes or passing each other uphill to block traffic.

I wasn't in a hurry, but I was wearing down.

Saturday, by contrast, was a good day.

Christopher and Jill took us to the Dupont State Forest. We did some reasonable climbing to see a couple of waterfalls. 

One was a small cascade that entered a large rock pool where people were swimming. I have no idea how cold that water must be, but they all seemed to be having a good time.

We walked down to reach that one.

The climb to Triple Falls was steep enough that Joanna and I were being careful not to slip on the way up. A group of women stopped and told us that we only had to go a little farther to get a good look at the falls. They wanted to know if we needed water. They were genuinely concerned that we were about to hurt ourselves. God, I felt old.

We got up to the overlook and saw Triple Falls. It comes down in steps, and looks like the remote inspiration for those paintings on glass of step waterfalls. 

A little while later, Jill and Christopher came up the almost vertical hill in front of us and climbed through the fence to join us. They had taken a trail that runs beside the river. Then, they made their own way up the hill.

There were more falls to see, but Christopher suggested that we head back down instead. It's probably just as well. Joanna's taking therapy for her knee, and although it wasn't giving her trouble, she didn't want to overdo it.

Meanwhile, I was having flashbacks to Cumberland Gap, when I thought it wouldn't be suicidal to climb some more to the three-state overlook. I damned near passed out halfway up the trail that afternoon.

On the road back from the Dupont Forest, we stopped at a farm stand for boiled peanuts. The shells cook to a dark brown, and the nuts are soft and salty. 

We nibbled on those and talked to Lori, who runs the farm with her husband. She is retired from the military. She didn't say which branch, but I'm guessing Army, because she mentioned standing in line for lunch in the desert heat with all her gear on.

She told us she is having trouble getting reliable help. Kids volunteer to work two hours in the morning and two at night in return for room and board. Their most important job is to feed the animals, and they keep forgetting to do it.

Lori and her husband raise all their own meat—beef, pork, and chicken. That brings milk and eggs, too. They raise a lot of their vegetables, too. Besides peanuts, the stand sells some of the farm's produce.

The goal is to keep everything organic and sustainable, she said. 

Her husband, whom we didn't get to meet, grew up on the farm. The Baptist church next door has a family connection, too. His father was pastor there.

We went to the Sierra Nevada brewery for dinner. As Christopher said, it's like a bit of California in North Carolina: very hip and manicured landscaping, with very tasteful lighting fixtures and other hardware along the entrance drive.

There are vats and huge kettles and a bar with more than a dozen varieties of Sierra Nevada brews on tap. I had Torpedo and Hop Hunter IPAs, the NC Saison, and Hoptimum. All excellent, as you'd expect. 

We shared at least a half dozen dishes from the menu, including lamb ribs in a molasses glaze with cumin yogurt on the side, chickpea fries with cucumber salsa verde, chicken fried quail, and rabbit rarebit. California indeed.

As they say, a good time was had by all.

Here's to good times.

Another Side of Asheville

April 28-29

Having heard of my longing for Brunswick stew, Christopher took us on Thursday to a barbecue joint called Luella's. Brunswick stew, collard greens, and hush puppies. I was, dare I say it, in pig heaven.

We visited downtown Asheville to see the Basilica of St. Lawrence. This is a Mediterranean style brick building constructed entirely of masonry. There are no structural timbers or steel supports in it.

The architect, Raphael Guavastino, was a big name in the Beaux Arts era. He did the vaults in the New York Oyster Bar. He came to Asheville to work on the Biltmore mansion and apparently decided to stick around.

It's a fascinating space with a huge oval vault made of mortar and tile. The statuary, although on a much smaller scale, reminded me of the Baroque work in St. Peter's. Beaux Arts was an over-the-top time too.

A lot of old buildings are preserved downtown, including storefronts from Woolworth and S.H. Kress five-and-dimes.

The town is filled with street musicians. One group was a jug band, appropriately decked out in beat-up mountaineer clothes. They had a real wash-tub bass—pole, tube, and rope.

Later we met Jill, Christopher's girlfriend, who took us on a tour of the private school where she teaches. It was quite a treat to see the craft projects on the walls about insects and the solar system.

We had dinner at Sunny Point, a simple but very good restaurant not far from the school. Joanna and I shared a plate of Dixie fried chicken, and I had a couple of local ales.

Friday we started at Biltmore Village, a neighborhood outside the gates of the Biltmore Estate. It's mainly an upscale shopping area—Jos. A. Bank, Brooks Brothers, Talbot, Williams Sonoma, that sort of thing.

It reminded me a bit of Upper Montclair and Southampton.

The most interesting thing there is the Cathedral of All Souls. This is a brick structure with steep roofs that look like they are sweeping down to the ground. It's bigger, but probably because of the deep red color, has a feel like the Church in the Dunes at Southampton. One look and you know it's Episcopal. 

We strolled around the village with iced coffees in hand. Christopher bought some fly fishing equipment at Curtiss Wright Outfitters.

Then it was time for something completely different. Christopher took us to the Smith Mill Works, a startup designed to support small businesses. He works for the owner, Mike, as a consultant because Christopher specializes in advising startups.

Mike bought a huge abandoned complex of greenhouses and is renting space to a growing number of organic farmers and others.

We spoke to Sally, the owner of a hybrid growing system called Sunburst. She has a separate company that farms fish. She has some fish in tanks at the greenhouse. They fertilize water in which many of her crops grow. Other plants are set out in conventional sets. Much of their business is supplying herbs to chefs at high-end restaurants. 

Sally showed us a tray of small radish plants. They will shear off the tops for salads. In this case, you would be eating the greens instead of the roots of the radish. 

There was mint that tasted like it was peppered. Several trays held a bright red plant, amaranth, which has been cultivated for millennia.

Another tenant cultivates fungi in a walk-in cooler.

We pulled up outside a Quonset hut and we could hear a sharply rhythmical metallic ring. It was the workshop called the Surly Anvil, where John the smith makes custom-order suits of plate armor. He even has swords there.

He showed us gloves with articulated fingers that looked like lobster tails. All over the shop are lightweight castings of torsos and limbs of customers who have ordered suits. Most of them are reenactors who actually knock each other off horses.

Another novel stop was Pour. You get an ID bracelet, which lets you draw your own beer. You are charged by the ounce. 

I finally got to sample a Belgian red sour ale that I had seen bottled in stores, Brouwerij Verhaeghe Duchesse du Bourgogne. It was the hit of the day, gang. All that deep red ale flavor plus the tartness of wild yeast. It's right up there with Cuvee des Jacobins as one of the best ales I've ever had.

Other good ones were New Belgium Lips of Faith, a golden ale, and Asheville Brewing Perfect Day IPA.

An unusual treat was Birra Etrusca from Dogfish Head, a Delaware brewery that I know mainly for IPAs. Etrusca was described as an "ancient ale." According to the brewery's website, the recipe is based on chemical examination of 2,800-year-old Etruscan drinking vessels. It is made with barley and wheat, and includes hazelnut, honey, and pomegranate among its incredients. Very strange and appealing.

Pour makes no food, but takes orders for the deli next door and will bring the stuff to your table. Highlight for me was the bowl of Brussels sprouts. They were deep fried and delicious.

Jill joined us at Pour when her school day was over, and we all went to the Biltmore Estate. Jill and Christopher have passes, and Joanna and I got in free because it was after five. Christopher had to dodge the automatic gate as it started to close on us.

There were deer and turkeys by the roadside, but as far as we could see, no bear. 

Much of the estate is a sprawling forest with winding roads and both native and imported flora. We walked through a bamboo grove, for instance.

Some of the land is farmed. One field contains mustard. Christopher said it is used to make biodiesel to run the estate's vehicles.

Dinner was steamed red snapper that Joanna made at Christopher and Jill's house.

A long, good day for us. 

The same to you.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Hills and Ales

April 26-27

The Foggy Rock Pub had better beer than food. Joanna had spaghetti with a meatball and I had a modified Philly steak. Not bad, but nowhere near as interesting as the beer. 

There were a couple of interesting India pales and an amber, all very tasty. i bought a couple of bottles to go, but didn't get a chance to open them. We got back to the inn and I lay on the bed to rest for a moment and maybe collect my scattered thoughts. I didn't move again for hours.

We spent much of Wednesday on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We stopped at several overlooks to admire the peaks and valleys. Whenever we reached 4,000 feet, it was almost like winter. Wildflowers were blooming in the meadows, but the hardwoods were mostly bare.

At one spot, we climbed down an uneven set of stone steps to stand in a crow's nest of sorts—a platform encircled by a low stone wall (too low for me) and looked out into the sky. The hawks were soaring below our feet. One behind another, the mountains rolled off to the east.

Joanna convinced me to sit on the wall for a snapshot. "How are you?" she asked. "Terrified," I said. 

The trick for me is not to fall. At least, that's what I'm thinking all the time. It's beautiful, but I have this sense that I'm suspended in the air. My balance, which is never that great to begin with, is compromised by the bewildering sense of space.

I am also concerned that my hat will fly off in a gust of wind and, if my reflexes outreach my caution, a lunge to retrieve it will send me over the edge after it.

My hat stayed on my head and I stayed firmly in place.

Another stop on the parkway was at a small lake, which appeared to be artificial, actually two lakes connected by a narrow break in the bank. We walked a path that brought us to a bridge at the narrowest part.

We got to the far side and could see the car parked in the distance. We found a trail bordered by rhododendron. Sections of it had exposed roots that could be footholds, or stumbling blocks, depending on your perspective.

We found the hotel and settled in at Asheville a little before four.

We went to dinner with Joanna's son Christopher and his girlfriend Jill. 

It was a vegan restaurant with a bar. 

There was bok choy in a mild red curry, grilled beets, a salad with fake bacon, a plate with cheese made of cashews. Dessert included rosemary ice cream. I'm not sure what vegetable concoction was used for the ice cream, but it was delicious. Maybe some of you have had it before, but I never would have expected rosemary to go with ice cream. A surprise right up there with bass in vanilla sauce.

The only vegetarian restaurants that I remember being that good were in Buddhist monasteries. And this one had the additional attraction of beer.

I had a local IPA and a local Pilsner that was actually good.

We also went to the Green Man, one of the city's many brew pubs, where I tried a couple of the bitters on tap. 

I was about to order a third round when the bar closed at 9.

So, albeit an early close, Harry closed another bar.

Backwoods (Sort Of)

April 26

We left Chapel Hill Monday morning and made it as far as Hillsboro before we got seriously distracted. Hillsboro was the capital of North Carolina during the Revolution. Some Tories arrested the governor and shipped him off to Charleston.

Earlier in the 1770s, before the Revolution, the Regulators were active in the area. I think they beat up the mayor or burned down his house.  A few of them were later hanged in town.

Hillsboro is also the home town of Billy Strayhorn, who wrote "Take the A Train" for (or with) Duke Ellington.

It's a great little walk of several blocks. We had lunch at a shop called La Place, which offers Louisiana cooking, and served us the best fried oysters and oyster stew I've had in a long time.

The restaurant has a large print of another jazz musician on its walls. Kid Ory was born near La Place, Louisiana.

We were going to the Woodberry Inn at Meadows of Dan, Va., which is on the Blue Ridge.

There was little delay. When you climb into the mountain country, some of the views are worth stopping for, so we did from time to time.

We got one surprise. I was driving us around a bend on a narrow mountain road. Below us, around another bend was a knot of vehicles. One was a police car with flashing lights blocking the road. I was pretty sure this wasn’t about a fallen power line.

At first it looked like a crash. But no, the cars and trucks were all whole.

A tractor-trailer couldn’t make the climb and apparently broke down. Another tractor had been summoned to take the load. And a tow truck of bigger proportions had come to tow the stalled tractor away. Uphill.

We got to the Woodberry a little after three. We introduced ourselves, and the lady said she had given our room away. I thought she was joking.

Seems the place had been full all weekend and only a few rooms had been cleaned, when somebody showed up for a room. That body got the last clean room.

She called her brother on her cell phone and told him to clean up a room for us.

We went to the Woodberry because it is close to the Mabry Mill, which is the center of a small park of recovered buildings and artifacts from regional farms and towns. 

We decided to visit the mill while the room was being prepared. We discovered that the mill was closed till the season begins on May 1. Mabry Mill was the reason I detoured to western Virginia on this trip, and I was a week too early.

We wound up in a small room with a view of the pond. It’s a quaint place, maybe 1960s quaint, and it’s almost on the Blue Ridge Parkway, so the disappointment about Mabry Mill wasn’t so bad.

We had dinner at the inn. The special was Dixie fried pork chop with baked potato. They also served us a specialty of the house—fried biscuits and apple butter.

Everything tasted great, of course, and I knew I was somewhere else. I mean, come on. Deep fried biscuits? Where else but the Confederacy?

Today, Tuesday, we took our time covering about 125 miles, mostly on the Blue Ridge Parkway, to Blowing Rock, N.C. On the way we passed a sign pointing the way to Roaring Gap. I wonder what other noisy geological formations they have around here.

We stopped along the parkway at a couple of the old cabins left by the people who used to live on the mountains. One was a single-room affair that belonged to a midwife named Puckett who lived to be 102. 

The other belonged to a couple named Brinegar. Its springhouse, root cellar, and granary are still standing. Mr. Brinegar died in the 1920s of pneumonia he caught on the way home from church in a storm. Mrs. Brinegar sold the farm to the State of North Carolina or the federal government or somebody who was building the parkway.

She was allowed to stay on the farm for life, but according to a sign, it got too noisy for her, so she moved in with a daughter somewhere else. 

We stopped at several overlooks. It's fun to see so far and watch the shadows of the clouds on the hills.

We spent most of the day somewhere between 2,500 and 3,500 feet, so we were often above the tops of the mountains on either side of the Blue Ridge. The elevation affects climate, and the season here is about a month behind northern New Jersey. 

The dogwood are in bloom and most of the leaves are small buds, so you often can get a better view now than you will later when the trees are in full leaf.

We're in Blowing Rock now and have found a promising pub just up the highway. The Foggy Rock says it has 15 taps devoted to North Carolina beers. 

I'm going to go try that soon.

Be well, all.

Not Exactly Charlemagne

April 24

So here we are in a part of the country named for Charles. As I say, not quite Charlemagne, but a royal Charles, nonetheless. 

Charles the Second issued the charter for Carolina. In an uncharacteristic burst of modesty, he said he named it for his father, Charles I, and not for himself. How can anybody tell? It gets confusing. But then these kings were all inbred.

It's summer here in this green country. We've had some little rain to keep it green.

We were at the Washington Duke Inn at Duke University for a couple days, thanks to my friend, Adrian, a professor at the university.

We got up late and got to the restaurant after they stopped serving breakfast. That turned out to be a turn of good luck. We shared a plate of the best crab cakes ever. If you're anywhere near Durham, N.C., it is worth a side trip to the Washington Duke Inn on Cameron Blvd. just to have those crab cakes.

Joanna believes they were made with no filler at all. Most of the time, you get mealy cakes flavored with crab. Not these. I had them with coffee and orange juice. I was tempted to order a light beer of some kind, maybe a Pilsner, to go with the meal, but decided to behave instead.

We spent the afternoon in downtown Durham. We stumbled without plan onto Parrish Street, which according to a number of historical markers was the Black Wall Street. The signs don't mention that all these successful black-owned businesses formed in the early 20th century were established to serve blacks, who weren't allowed to do business with white banks and insurance companies.

Success story? Yes. But define success.

We were also on Main Street, where there is a chicken and waffles joint and a tapas bar on the same block. 

Adrian came to the hotel and took us to dinner.

I found he has a new book about to come out: "The Physics of Life." It discusses his premise that natural and man-made systems evolve and find the most efficient ways to function in order to survive. Well, anyway, that's a layman's short take on some very interesting ideas.

Adrian and I have worked together on a number of articles for the magazine, and they never fail to piss somebody off. Fantastic.

We went to a restaurant in Durham called Parizade. Joanna and I shared a fantastic branzino, cooked whole. She had the head and I took the tail.

The craft beer culture of North Carolina never fails to surprise me. I had three ales, all very good. I didn't take notes, so I don't remember the names.

Right now, I'm working on something that the brewery, Mystery Brewing, calls a "Carolinian dark ale." It has an almost chocolate flavor from the malt, but enough hops to keep it from being sweet. It's named Queen Anne's Revenge. That's the name of Blackbeard's ship, which he ran aground off the Carolina coast early in the eighteenth century.

History is a great subject. It even names beers.

Sunday (today) we strolled around downtown Chapel Hill. It's a very pretty town blending the University of North Carolina campus and the secular part of the community. It's a small downtown, but a great stroll. In addition to the usual bars and restaurants, mostly catering to students, there is an art museum, which we didn't visit, and around the corner, a museum store that we did. 

I had heard about the recent phenomenon of adult coloring books. This place had a dozen or more. There was also an abundance of great stuff for kids.

Oh, wow, I said. Then came an existential moment. These things are clever and they appeal to adults and dinosaurs like me. We buy them for kids who aren't interested in this stuff at all. That's why I give my grandkids checks for birthdays.

Carrboro, next to Chapel Hill, takes its name from a guy named Carr who ran a cotton mill near the rail station there. Now the mill has been repurposed as a small mall with gorgeous shining wide-plank floors.

We had dinner at a sports bar in a shopping center near the Quality Inn. The place had something like 40 taps.

As I say, the beer scene in North Carolina (of all places) never ceases to surprise.

Be surprised, all, and to all a good night.

Where’s Waldo?

April 22

I saw a 500 note with Stonewall Jackson's image on it.

We stopped at the Stonewall Jackson Shrine.

Where are we?

As most of you can guess, Virginia. 

We set out from Montclair on Thursday morning and stopped at Fredericksburg, mainly to visit the Capital Ale House.

We stayed at the Inn at the Old Silk Mill, a bed and breakfast. The Bed was a four-poster. There was hot water, but you had to wait about 10 minutes for it to get to the room.

There was a framed display of Confederate money in the breakfast room. Stonewall made the 500. Jeff Davis only made the five.

Wifi failed, which put me at a small disadvantage. But overall, it was fun, and I may go there again. 

At the Ale House I had a couple of IPAs and a red ale or two. We had a salad and crab cakes to start. And this is the interesting thing: They were crab cakes.

Normally a joint takes a little crab for flavor and grinds it into too much flour. What you get is a nasty, doughy cake. 

These had real chunks of crab. 

We also had a plate with a knackwurst and a bratwurst with sauerkraut and potato salad. Very good. Probiotic too, because of the sauerkraut.

We set out for Durham, where we are to meet Adrian Bejan. He's a very cool professor of engineering at Duke University. We had worked together on several stories—many of them satisfyingly controversial—about his theory of design. He argues that human engineering and nature work on the same principle, that systems must simplify and become more efficient to survive.

We stopped at the Stonewall Jackson Shrine. We had been there before, but not when the building was open. We got to talk to the park ranger on duty.

Jackson was carried in a wagon from a field hospital his arm was amputated. It was a long trip, maybe two days. They brought him to the Chandler Plantation to put him on a train to Richmond, but that plan didn't work because the tracks had already been ripped up by Union soldiers.

He stayed at the plantation office building, where he developed pneumonia and died.

The Chandlers' daughter, Lucy, was much moved by Jackson’s death.  Years later, she formed a ladies' group that restored the office building and created the shrine. The property at the time was owned by a railroad. 

The plantation, without slave labor, had gone out of business and was in decay. The main house, I think, was already gone at the time. What’s now the shrine was about to go, too, when Lucy came to the rescue.

Lucy Chandler had kept the blankets and the clock from the room where Jackson died. The bed in the current room had been stored somewhere else. So those pieces are original to the scene.

According to the ranger, Lucy Chandler is the one who called it a shrine.

We headed toward Durham from there.

It's supposed to be a three and a half hour drive from Federicksburg (according to Google Maps), but it took us closer to six. We ran into heavy backups caused by road work. Three times along the route two lanes merged into one.

Then I managed to get lost in Durham. We asked for directions and went straight to the hotel.

Need I say that, after all that, the beer drinking needed to commence?

I had an good, bitter IPA called Flagship, from Carolina Brewing, and an excellent amber ale from Red Oak, another North Carolina brewery.

We had a Caesar salad made with kale in place of romaine that was very tasty. We also shared strip steak with shoestring French fries that brought tears to my eyes.

Then it was time to call it quits, Gang.

Sleep well.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

True Grits

March 22-23

The pizza was OK at Rivermont, and the beer was fantastic. They serve half pints, so I was able to try several taps before I left.

One was Kind Ryed IPA from Otter Creek Brewing in Vermont. It was bitter both from the rye and the hops. So bitter, in fact, that I enjoyed the half but may not have been able to love a full pint of it.

I had a couple of different local IPAs, including Eight Point, from a brewer called Devil’s Backbone. I learned later that the brewery is in Lexington, Va. That’s where the Stonewall Jackson House is. It’s also where Robert E. Lee died.

Even better than the Eight Point was Cran Gose from the same brewer. It’s a wild ale, so a little sour, with cranberry in the mix.

The Rivermont has a package goods store where I bought several cans to go. One was the Eight Point and the other a Cran Gose. I’ll see if they are as good packaged as they are on draught.

March 23

Today turned out to be Confederate food day. It started at a place called Biscuitville where I was able to get grits and gravy and a biscuit with my fried eggs. 

I took off a little after 10. I noticed that Appomattox Court House was just a short jaunt east of Lynchburg, so I headed there.

The National Park lies just off U.S. 460, so after a couple of false starts, I took that route. In the Lynchburg area, it is known as the Jerry Fallwell Parkway. It passes right by Fallwell Airport, which is home to Fallwell Aviation, which was founded by two of Jerry Fallwell Sr.’s cousins. You can read something about it in the local paper.

On the way to Appomattox, there was what I consider a mandatory detour. A sign with an arrow pointing to my left read “Stonewall.” So I made a quick left onto Stonewall Road. There’s no way I can’t do that.

Stonewall Road meanders through lovely country: trees (some of them in bloom), green fields, some dotted with occasional houses.

One house had two “Trump” signs in front. Another a short way along had a “For Sale” on the lawn. I wonder if they were connected or entirely coincidental.

I passed a County Road 666, but didn’t turn onto it. I had more important matters at hand than the number of the beast. I was in Virginia. I was in search of Stonewall memorabilia.

I still don’t know where that Stonewall is, or even what it is.  Maybe it’s a health spa or a gay bar on County Road 666. Stonewall Road ends anticlimactically at a town called Oakville.

Appomattox Court House is a reconstructed village. According to signs in the park, after the original court house burned down late in the 19th century, the village fell on hard times and was largely abandoned. A new village sprang up not far away.

A building that looks like the original court house is now the visitors’ center.

The McLean House, where the surrender was signed, had been dismantled in the 1890s with a plan to move it to Washington, where it would be a tourist attraction. There were detailed records of dimensions and materials.

The finances for the scheme crashed, and the pieces of the house sat for 50 years, during which time most of the building materials perished or were looted by souvenir hunters.

When reconstruction—of the house, that is—began after World War II, the builders had the plans, if not the original materials, to work with. 

A park ranger told me the current house contains a few hundred of the original bricks that were left. The original kitchen hearth was uncovered during excavations and that is on display in the cellar of the house.

The parlor, where Lee and Grant met, seems to be furnished according to contemporary drawings.

As the ranger put it, “It’s a reproduction, but a faithful reproduction.”

Outside a small Confederate cemetery (which also includes the grave of one unknown Union soldier) near the court house village, there is a small monument conveying a Daughters of the Confederacy sentiment:

“Here on April 9, 1865, after four years of heroic struggle in defense of principles believed fundamental to the existence of our government, Lee surrendered 9,000 men, the remnant of an army still unconquered in spirit.”

I was back on 460 driving east again when a State Police car with lights flashing made U-turn in front of me. He drove down the middle stripe and slowed down to block traffic. I didn’t think I was doing anything that bad.

But this wasn’t about me. A power line had fallen across the highway, and the police had to halt traffic while the power company secured it. There was already a lift truck in place on my side of the road.

The power guys worked fast securing the fallen cable to a heavier one. They had my side of the road open again in perhaps 15 minutes. 

The rest of the ride back to I-95 was largely uneventful. U.S. 460 offers a bypass of built-up areas and a “business” route that follows the old road. I took the old road several times and found interesting small towns, but nothing that made me want to stop and look around.

I checked into Days Inn in Weldon around 4:30. When I drove out to go to Ralph’s Barbecue for an early dinner, I saw the sign immediately. It’s so close, I could have walked. If, that is, I could have found a way to get across the highway.

Some of you may remember Ralph’s. I always stop there for pulled pork and Brunswick stew when I’m in this area.

I couldn’t stop eating at Ralph’s. I really enjoy this food whenever I can get it, which isn’t often. 

The only thing I had eaten since Biscuitville was a single biscotto.

Yeah, I know; biscotti are not exactly Confederate food, but this one was made by the Calandras who hail from southern Italy. Joanna gave me a bunch of them in a plastic box when I left for this trip, and they have come in very handy.

I started with a bowl of Brunswick stew. I think it is made with chicken. It has lima beans, yellow corn, bits of potato, and a savory-sweet broth made with I’m not sure what.

Then I had a plate with two kinds of pulled pork, one red and one white. There were also cooked-soft string beans (the only way I like them), and mashed potatoes.

Ralph’s puts a basket of hush puppies on the table when you order.

I was eating from the buffet, so after a brief rest I had another plate much like the first. I asked the waitress if there were any collard greens. I couldn’t find them. They weren’t on the buffet, but she brought me a bowl of them from the kitchen.

I count that as three meals. I skipped dessert so I’d have room for beer.

So far, I have finished a can of Highway 128, “the holy gose ale,” from Anderson Valley Brewing in Boonville, Calif. That’s another sour, or wild, ale, and I have developed a taste for them. Besides, who’s going to turn down a holy gose?

I’m working on a pint of Great Return, billed as a West Coast style India pale ale, which is made by Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in Richmond, Va. Dry and gently bitter. What’s more, according to the rim of the can, proceeds benefit the James River Association.

I will spend most of tomorrow on Interstate 95 on my way to Lees Motel. With a name like that, you might never guess that it’s in Edison, N.J.

I have to see my tax accountant Friday morning. Then, I just learned, I have to have my registration renewed and my car inspected before the month ends. The renewal notice must have been lost in the mail.

Gosh, there is so much to do when you’re retired.

God bless us every one.