Banishing the Blahs

Sep 28, 2012 by

Last week, I found myself feeling more than a little mopey.  This was mainly to do with realizing that I have to face up to the fact that I have only one concrete production lined up for 2013, and it’s not in Chicago.  Even though I have a short play in the Hobo Robo Festival in Chicago in three weeks, I’ve been feeling like the head of steam I built up during my years there may have run out.  To make this moodiness even worse, I found several grants I’d like to apply for, but I just couldn’t come up with anything to write about.  I have never been a person who suffers from a lack of story ideas, and the combination of writer’s block and my empty, gaping 2013 calendar tossed me into a mild depression.

So I decided to take a little jaunt to clear my head.  A change of scenery was in order, I figured, since it had been a good month since I’d done any traveling (which is really an eternity for me).  My destination would be Boone, North Carolina and I was flying solo.  I fixed on Boone because it’s a really cute town, and the 80-minute drive is all mountain highways and Jefferson National Forest.  No interstate at all.  Scenic in the extreme.  Peaceful.  Rejuvenating.

Additionally, about 8 miles south of Boone in Blowing Rock, NC, there is a tiny outlet mall that contains stores not forgotten by time.  I swear, we really do live in shopping Siberia when I can get this excited about a Banana Republic.


So last Friday around noon, I set off.

The drive to Boone heads first through Damascus, Virginia, a completely quaint little town that marks the quarter-trail marker for the Appalachian Trail.  It looks like this.

Adorable, right?

Once you pass through Damascus, it’s only a few minutes until you hit the Tennessee State Line, and by then you’re already in the Jefferson National Forest, driving under a canopy of turning leaves, beside a freezing cold burbling stream.  When you exit the forest, you cross right into North Carolina, and you start to see Christmas tree farms along the highway, and bigger mountains in the distance.

That's a tree farm in the top left corner.

I elected to hit up the outlet mall first, but having never been there I was not really prepared for the roadside wonderfest that lay in wait.  The 8 or so minutes that it takes to drive south from Boone to Blowing Rock have got to contain the MOST weirdsmobile tourist trap bizzarities per square inch of any place outside Branson or Niagara Falls.  In addition to the titular Blowing Rock, a natural formation that bills itself as “North Carolina’s Oldest Tourist Attraction, Since 1933”, here are some other barely-explicable oddities I ran across.  Mind you, I didn’t even turn off the highway.  Who knows what else is lurking down the back roads.


If you know me at all, you know that I live for stuff like this.

The Crystal Wedding Chapel : A place the size of my closet where you can actually, factually get married.

Not exactly sure what the Greek statuary adds...

There is no tiny bell in that belfry. I checked.

Mystery Hill : Where the laws of gravity and physics allegedly don’t apply, and the gift shop sells samurai swords and personalized shot glasses.

I can't... what?

Tweetsie Railroad : An Old West Railroad and theme park.  If it hadn’t cost $35/adult, I would have gone straight on in.  But there is no way I’m paying that money to set foot in a place like this without someone to take pictures of me.

Toot! Toot!

The Appalachian Fossil Museum and Gem Shop : Which isn’t really weird per se, but still a roadside attraction.  Of course it closed 1 minute before I drove up.

Rawr! Fossils!

The Mustard Seed and Bless Your Heart : A nursery/garden store and accompanying gift shop/florist that were just too adorable and in bloom to pass up.

There was another "guard" doggie sleeping on the cash register counter.

Buy me things!

After all that roadside-ing, I did eventually make it to Boone.

After a stop by the Earth Fare (which is as close to a Whole Foods as you can get around here, and a very nice place to shop), I wandered down King Street, the cute little epicenter of Boone shopping and dining.  There was some lovely music wafting in the air from an outdoor concert on the porch of the community center, and in typical Boone fashion, people were walking around barefoot, selling flower crowns and face painting, and hoola-hooping on the sidewalk.  It’s just one of those places.

Boone Music

King Street Shopping

Artwalk, a collection of galleries

Window display at 641 RPM

641 RPM, a record store

While there are lots of great places to eat in Boone, especially on King Street, I decided that I didn’t want to brave driving through the forest at night alone (it gets dark, ya’ll!), so I broke out a bag of granola I’d purchased at Earth Fare instead of sitting down to dinner.  The drive back in the early twilight was glorious.  I felt so much better, clearer, having almost entirely banished my blahs.

And I think I have an idea for a new play.

1 Comment

  1. Jean

    Great way to “shake off the blahs.” Glad you’re back in the swing of things!

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