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Pressing on. Prest-on.

PrestonI was convinced the most idyllic, beautiful and remote places on the trip were going to be in the mid-west or in the middle of nowhere western parts of America – not so.

West Virginia and Kentucky are officially part of ‘the south’ which I find weird, because geographically speaking they’re not really in the southern part of America to me, but the south is what they are, and the south is what you get.

We stayed at a campground in West Virginia for two nights because we realised it would save the hassle of packing up all the gear, and we could go on an ‘excursion’ to our named place in Kentucky in a day and back, and take in a quick visit to Lexington too.

So we pressed on – to Preston – Kentucky without any real idea of what to expect.

The first sign that we were really in the south came as the gas station right after we’d crossed the WV/KY state line. The gas station was a gas station, diner, and grocery mart all in one. Everyone in their clearly knew everyone else and were on first name terms. A woman in line in front of me to pay was dragging on a cigarette (which just seems wrong at a gas station), and when I eventually said “Just these please” indicating the two bottles of Ale81 and candy bar I was buying in my delightful British accent, the cashier looked at me as if I was from another planet .. didn’t know what to say for a moment .. and then eventually changed gear, found her vocal chords, and in a draaaawl bigger than anything I have ever heard in Charleston said “Will thaaat be aaaaawwwl fah yaaa?”.

Judging by the disappointment of Wapping and Warwick last week, I wasn’t expecting to find much in Preston – another ‘nothing’ town – but what we got was a perfect stereotype of a ‘middle of nowhere’ town.

There was the the most rustic looking general store ‘Blevins Store’ that you have ever seen in your life. Four old guys sat out the front on the porch, one whom was actually whittling away on his whittling stick. It was everything you might imagine of a quaint old general store.

Blevins

The guy inside with his wispy beard and big peaked cap looked at us a bit worried, but I got in first and paid him a compliment – always pay people a compliment and they will like you. “What a fantastic store you have here”, was my opening gambit, and we were off and running and he explained he’d worked there for 40 years – all his life, collected photos of his customers that he stuck up on the wall and loved his tiny village.

There was a local newspaper article from a few years back on the wall about the store – describing it not just as a General Store, but as ‘A way of life’ for the village and it’s villagers. And I swear the yellow faded photo of the store from the front featured the same four guys that were sat out front right now – they’d probably been there for 40 years too.

It was slightly dusty and musky, and had products on the shelf that hadn’t moved in months. It. Was. Brilliant.

But then it got awkward as we were clearly just gawping at the store, so I dove into the refrigerator and got two more bottle of Ale81 – non standard sized bottles this time … with a longer neck … that I’d never seen before.

“Eww can get um thiiirty sense back on um buddles if eww bring um back to tha store here” we were informed, but we pointed out that we were on a long trip and not passing back through Preston at any time in the foreseeable future.

ForestWe headed onto Lexington to the afternoon. We caught up with my friend Kathleen who I know from Charleston back visiting her mum, we explained about the rustic store. “But that’s not all of what Kentucky is like!” she said seemingly almost worried that I would have a tainted point of view of her home state. But it’s a good taint, Kathleen, I loved it.

The sun set as we drove back east along Interstate 64, through the Daniel Boone national forest, and West Virgina opened up to us again in its vast, open, expansive beauty. And this is a relatively small state, I remember thinking to myself, “How’s it gonna look when I hit one of the really big ones later on in the summer?”. Too much to think about.

I took a swing of my Ale81, and preston. I mean … pressed on – this time back to camp and tent, to watch the sunset, and cook dinner camp stove style.

I could get used to this.

10 responses to “Pressing on. Prest-on.”

  1. Kathryn says:

    Awesome post. Keep ’em comin’

    You may find the middle states a bit less interesting, but then again maybe not….you have a knack for finding things!

  2. jhota says:

    pfft. just because the federal government (aka the Census Bureau) defines something in a certain way (say, as part of “the South”) doesn’t make it true.

  3. MumTina says:

    I think that ‘store’ was fantastic, did they have any ancient bottles of Ribena for sale! Did you explain why you wanted to chat and photograph them? I think you are better than Alan Whicker at finding weird and wonderful things for us to see. MJ connection here, ‘Off the wall’ maybe.

  4. geofftech says:

    oddly enough we’ve been to a couple of Grocery stores (one of them a ‘Krogers’ – which I really like, wish they had them in Charleston) that have had specific British sections – including Ribena. yay!

    Katie notes that food & other products are cheaper up in KY/TN/WV than they are down in Charlestn (SC). I wonder if we get stung more because we’re such a tourist town (like London).

    We had pizza & beer (and by beer I mean ‘budweiser’) in Columbus the other night, and the Bud was outrageously cheap – then we drove past the bloody factory/distribution point the next morning and realised that was why! no major shipping costs getting the beer out in and around columbia.

    @kathryn – thx. i feel it was a good one. well apart from all the horrendous typos, which i’ve now gone and corrected.

    summary: get out in your car, get off of the interstate and come and check out small town / rural USA people, it’s bloody brilliant …

  5. Amandeep says:

    I think the southern Appalachia is one of the most beautiful places in the US, and the place I’ve found the most crazily accented speech. Did you know that some linguists believe Elizabethan English is preserved in the southern Appalachian dialect? If you’re a few days ahead, you need to go white water rafting around the NC/TN border.

    Charleston wins for beautiful little cities.

    Civil war border states are questionably southern. Somehow, I feel like Kentucky and Missouri qualify, Maryland and Delaware do not, and West Virginia is sort of eh…

  6. Kathryn says:

    Watch out whitewater raftin’ the NC/Georgia border!
    (Where they shot Deliverance.) Feel like squealin’ like a pig?

    I broke a toe is all.

  7. Gerard says:

    Geoff, from your previous update, I would like to know the stories of ‘Geoff stalkers’ that you have turned away, the ones that ‘need not apply’! Would make a great entry in its own right I would think!

  8. amy says:

    That general store is priceless!

  9. Paul VS says:

    I’m lovin’ the guy that was actually whittling.

  10. CKD (Kathleen in USA) says:

    “good taint”? oh my. and don’t forget who introduced you to Ale-8-1 in the first place…

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