I've done several "road trip" post in the past, but this is about a couple of recent excursions into the East Tennessee countryside. Search "road trip" to see past postings.
Sometimes it's more than the three of us, but normally the central occupants of Gary's "bow-tie" pickup are Gary, the driver, Dr. Ahler, the navigator and historian, and me, the historical photographer.
The three of us rarely know where we're going until we finally leave Dr. Ahler's house and turn onto the main road. He then almost instantly knows where he'd like to go, which way he wants to get there, and what he is looking to obtain! Having traveled the main roads, the back roads, and even the deeper less-traveled gravel roads of East Tennessee during his "circuit riding" doctoring days, he pretty much knows his way around the area. At about 81, he still has a sharp vivid memory of the directions, farms and houses along the way, and even names of families, and acquaintances, he encountered in his travels to and from various hospitals in the area.
He directs Gary along the route he wants to go, and sometimes argues with the female GPS voice coming from the dash! He is often right too, but he has not yet given in to trusting all the "newfangled" technology. He relies instead, on directions from the rising or setting sun, mountain escarpments, big oak trees, property lines, ponds, lakes, and gut feelings.
I sit quietly in the back, listening to his tales and yarns from yesteryear, knowing that this elderly gentlemen has had a colorful life, and isn't giving up easily to his aches and pains. He has and will live his life as aggressively as possible. While he's doing this, Gary and I are reaping the benefits of what he's seen and what he wants to see before his time is finished. Therefore, our lives will also be blessed by his knowledge, conservative views, and friendship!
A couple of Saturdays ago, which is generally the day we travel, four of us, that day we included Benny, a childhood friend, and ended up at the Mayfield Dairy Visitor Center near Englewood, TN. Our primary goal had been to reach a new Mennonite store near that community. After picking up some vegetables and a watermelon apiece, the Visitor Center was just an added surprise for me.
I had no idea where I was, and they weren't really sure, but all of a sudden we turned onto the blacktop and there was "Maggie" the cow! I knew then I was about to sample some great ice cream!
Supermarkets in East Tennessee are full of numerous varieties of their ice cream, but at the visitor center you can sample experimental flavors that are either not yet in stores, or may never be in stores. It's always a treat!
Dr. Ahler and Benny enjoyed a quiet moment sitting in the shade finishing off their dip choices.
This past Saturday, even Dr. Ahler was not sure where we were. We had made so many twists and turns that he was confused, but only for a few minutes. We are never lost, but we do, on occasion get turned around.
This trip we were on an apple hunt! There are several stores, fruit markets, and stands all up and down most all roads in Tennessee, and East Tennessee roads are no exception.
Finally, we turned down one last road and there was one of the biggest in the area. Wooden's Apple House, in Bledsoe County, has many varieties of apples and their orchards stretch right up to the parking lot. Picking your own is prohibited, but who cares when the store provides all you could ever eat or even carry!
They also have a bakery inside where you can sample apple turnovers and other treats made on premise, with their own apples.
On down the road, we find other stands, wholesale/retail warehouses, and fruit markets to tempt us into buying more than we need.
All along these back roads we are slowed by the trucks carrying empty baskets and Mexican field laborers. Some of the people in the area are transit workers, but many came long ago and set up a good life in the American economy. They own most of the wholesale warehouses, and while stopped at one, I watched workers in the hot fields working on their Saturday.
These fields stretch for acres, with more tomato plants than one could ever count accurately. I wondered how many of us would work these fields today, especially on a "football" Saturday. Us "white folks", and even some of us "black folks", have just become too soft; not willing to work for minimum wage at such menial tasks, in hot dirty conditions. Sounds like Roman history to me!
Anyway, we came away with plastic bags of corn, peaches, Mutsu apples (even a one peck box), and huge tomatoes; one of which I just had with cottage cheese! One of the peaches was my breakfast, and it was so juicy and sweet.
We wind our way back home, down different roads, hoping to surprise our wives with the bounty that we've piled into the backseat. Of course, sometimes we buy too much and have to give some away, but that's the way it is, and always has been, in the South.
It won't be long before we eat our way through our produce and plan another trip to somewhere, yet to be determined; but rest assured Gary and Dr. Ahler will get us there by an interesting circuitous route!