Thursday, July 1, 2010

Valle Crucis

I enjoy taking road trips for a vacation, and alone among people who choose to live in the Florida Keys, home of walking and cycling and swimming, I actually like to drive. Perhaps because of that I find it frustrating to be driving on vacation in a lost corner of North Carolina where the speed limits are actually higher than I can safely drive. This couple out for a gentle tour in their elderly VW outstripped me easily on the twists and turns of 55mph Highway 80 between Celo and Micaville. My brother in law says the local joke is that a Florida tag on a vehicle like mine is a warning to locals that the operator can't drive. Charmed I'm sure.this vacation day started like the others, a dawn walk for Bob's dog Mason and Cheyenne followed by crunchy breakfast al fresco and then off to see the sights. Mason does not like to ride so he stayed home. We were off to see the improbably named Vale of the Cross, an obscure Shangri La tucked away in the mountains near the city of Boone, an hour north of where we were.I had been hunting for a photo blog of the area around Celo when I came across this website some years ago and well worth a read: It's the work of a professional photographer associated with the nearby University and thus it is full of misty winter mornings and mellow fruitfulness...
It is June. Summer has hit the Valle. For me it's about lifting morning fogs, hay cuttin' during the day then sipping (moonshine) wine on the porch in the evenings... Oh how I love living the unfettered life here.
...and rather short on gritty details about life in this mysterious valley. I have long wanted to know more.It turns out that this Vale has more in common with the Keys than you'd think, namely a solitary main road winding through the place. And unlike the Overseas Highway there aren't any turn outs here to stop and take in the views. Mobile photography is the order of the day.
Except when it's time to go shopping. This is the Annex to the original Mast store named I believe for one W. W. Mast who bought out a share of the existing Taylor store at this location. The mast store was famous for providing everything a local family might need and for extending credit and bartering, all skills and decencies likely to be critical once again in this our 21st century Great Depression. A California family bought the store when the mast family pooped out in 1980 and have added outlets elsewhere. We shopped at the store in Asheville known rather grandly as outfitter's in the manner of a gentleman's haberdashery to voyages of exploration in a Victorian vein. I expected the mast store to expose me to groups of Arctic veterans mulling over their choices of crampons and carabiners but I found the usual clumps of yuppie suburban shoppers buying water bottles and name brand running shoes. The Mast Annex in Valle Crucis deals in organics and candies and pickled vegetables, suitable fare for dandified tourists.The floppy hat brigade was out in force.
We got pickled beans and chocolate malted balls, dark for her, milk for moi.
And jam. And some weird cheese spread. nothing much you understand, about fifty dollars worth. This is supposed to be a cheap vacation but the wife loves to surprise guests at parties with peculiar foods. I have been bummed about not going to New England this year but to my surprise there it was outside the Mast store.And these are day lilies my Brother in Law tells me. They are called that because that is probably what they are, though not being a botanist he could have been pulling my leg. I am left to wonder what night lilies look like.
eager to hunt down the secrets of this mysterious place we got in the car and took our lives in our hands, checking out the farming life.
Local pick up trucks are extremely busy it turns out and drive like the hounds of hell are on their tails. There is a total absence of No Trespassing signs around here, which is very disturbing to someone from the Florida Keys which ugly signs abound like mosquitoes after a rainstorm.
This looks likely to be some illegal immigrant picking up his welfare check in the blazing sun.
I'm going to stick my neck out and guess he doesn't swindle the government enough to be able to afford this rather attractive home. I look forward to eating his boss's carrots though.
I wanted to query a local about this sign but in our headlong rush we met none. I wonder why they feel the need to keep their ice outside their freezers?
I confess, Valle Crucis managed to keep it's deep dark secrets from me and we blasted on out of the valley none the wiser about the place.
I dare say locals like to keep it that way. Lucky them. Except I expect their ice has all melted by now.