Tag Archives: Small Towns

A North Carolina Ghost Town

Abandoned looking downtown in Fair Bluff, North Carolina

We were only gone from home for a little over 24 hours, but I came back with a number of stories.  This is the last one from our vaccine quest.

Abandoned looking downtown in Fair Bluff, North Carolina

On our way home from Southport, we decided to stop for lunch in Whiteville, a town just off the main route.  The Chef & The Frog, by the way, was excellent.  On our way there we passed through the town of Fair Bluff.  I had seen a billboard promoting their “Depot Museum” and wanted to stop.  As we entered the town it was clear that the place was nearly deserted.  The main street was almost completely devoid of shops.  A former car dealership sat empty with parts of the building on the verge of collapse.  Directly across the street was a building marked as being the Municipal Building, but it was boarded up and silent.  Urns along the sidewalks contained plants that appeared to be reasonably well cared for, or as well as could be expected for late winter.  Farther up the street a gas station was open, and a pizza shop showed signs of life.

Former car dealership in Fair Bluff, North Carolina
Abandoned looking downtown in Fair Bluff, North Carolina

So what happened here, I wondered?  As it turns out, Wikipedia summarizes the events leading up to the situation we came across:

“In 1999, Fair Bluff experienced a 1-in-100 year flood event.

In 2012, the Police Chief of Fair Bluff Marty Lewis was arrested, tried and convicted for selling and delivering oxycodone and possession with the intent to sell and conspiracy to traffic while acting as police chief. He was sentenced to a minimum of seven years in prison and fined $100,000. On April 9, 2015 Marty Lewis filled an appeal of his case. On November 3, 2015 the verdict was unanimously affirmed by the North Carolina Court of Appeals, leaving in place the 90 to 117 month prison sentence originally imposed. Lewis will not be eligible for parole before November 2022.

In 2016, the town was devastated by flooding on the Lumber River caused by Hurricane Matthew, prompting the evacuation of hundreds of residents. As of June 2018 the rebuilding effort was still underway but several hundred residents who had fled rising floodwaters never returned and a number of businesses remained shuttered.

In September 2018 Fair Bluff was flooded again by the impact of Hurricane Florence, again forcing evacuations and leaving the downtown area under water again, and devastating the town for the third time in under 20 years. After Florence, many buildings in the downtown area of the town lay abandoned, with no plans to reoccupy or fix the buildings.

The population was 951 at the 2010 census but is believed to be lower following the two disasters, some estimates going as low as 450 people.”

Old building that appears to have possibly been a railroad building in Fair Bluff, North Carolina
Old building that appears to have possibly been a railroad building in Fair Bluff, North Carolina

That pretty much explains it – a town with a troubled past and cloudy future.  But they do have a very nice train station.

Train station in Fair Bluff, North Carolina now used as a museum
Train station in Fair Bluff, North Carolina now used as a museum

New Shoe Syndrome and Other Thoughts on the Vaccine

Train station in Rowland, North Carolina

I’ve gotten a few questions about our experience with scheduling and actually getting the vaccine, and thought it might be helpful to share a few thoughts.

The Process: I’ve mentioned previously how frustrating the registration process is for many of the county and health agency websites.  Kathy & I are fortunate to be registered with the two major health providers in our area, so we were able to use our login credentials to access those sites, which likely led to a slightly better experience.  We ended up with the Moderna Vaccine through Novant Health.

We were fortunate to find any locations at all on the very first morning of our eligibility.  The fact that the one we found was 200 miles away was no big deal for us.  We have the flexibility to go wherever we need to, and it was easy for us to make the trip.

The vaccination  site was in the parking area of a community college near Wilmington, NC.  The approach was well marked, there were National Guard personnel directing traffic into several lines, checking to confirm appointments and providing forms for completion.  The one glitch was that we had pre-filled everything online, but they still had us manually complete paperwork with the same information.  Taking the paperwork pre-filled and printed would not have helped.

We arrived at about 10:40 for an 11:00 appointment, and although the lines looked long, we queued up and were directed to the actual vaccination line promptly at 11:00 (not due to any process on their part, it just happened to work out).  We sat in our car until someone came around, asked us a few more questions, explained the process and handed us each a card with confirmation of our follow up appointments for the same time and day of the week in four weeks.  Shortly thereafter two nurses came up with the vaccine, plunked each of us in the arm, wrote the time on a paper stuck to the windshield, and told us that after the prescribed waiting time we would be released.  We rolled out of the parking lot at 11:30.

Train station in Rowland, North Carolina

The Vaccine: Did we have any concerns about getting the vaccine? None.  We feel strongly that the vaccines have been adequately tested, we trust in the scientific validity of the data and believe that getting the vaccine has a much lower level of risk than not getting it.  Everyone makes their own choice, but we feel that in order to do the kind of travel we want to do, more states, countries and companies will require a vaccination than not and we don’t want to be left out when the time comes.

Train station in Rowland, North Carolina

Side Effects: None really, but it surprises me how hyper-aware we become when we’re looking for something.  I call it “new shoe syndrome” because of how when we buy a new pair of shoes we spend days paying attention to every little twinge or pinch.  We recently bought new tires for the car, and for the first few drives I paid close attention to the sound, feel and ride.  After a while you forget about it.  We stopped at a restaurant for lunch, and while there a guy came in wearing a really strong cologne.  Strong odors like cologne and smelly air fresheners always bother me, so when my throat got a little scratchy I wrote it off.  No big deal.  Our arms hurt for a few days, especially while we slept.  But my left hip is often sore anyway, and since I got my shot in my left arm, I just spent more time on my right side!

Dilapidated building near the train station in Rowland, North Carolina

Eligibility: We’ve read about people gaming the system by falsely answering the questions, crossing state lines to states with more favorable rules or otherwise getting the shot before they should have.  Kathy & I waited for our group to be called, answered all the questions truthfully and lucked into an early appointment.  Could we have waited?  Sure, but why?  Everyone who wants a shot will eventually be able to get one, so it really doesn’t matter when we go.  Could we have gotten an appointment closer to home?  Perhaps, but once we got our appointments I stopped looking.  I read somewhere about local appointments now booking out into May or June, but it doesn’t matter any more.  The owner of the restaurant we had lunch at told us that someone called him the other afternoon to say that they had 15 Johnson & Johnson shots that were going to expire at the end of the day and to send along anyone who needed them.  That happens too, you never know.

I don’t really have a lot to add.  If anyone has questions I’ll be happy to answer them as comments or emails.  Ultimately everyone is going to make their own decision and have their own experience, but I’ll help where I can.

The Photos: These photos are from the town of Rowland, NC which is on the NC side of the NC/SC line near South of the Border.  They are in-camera JPEGs taken using the Kodachrome 64 recipe from Fuji X Weekly.  The conditions were less than ideal for Kodachrome and look a little warm/brown for my taste, but I’m not sure I got the white balance right.  I’ll try them again under sunny skies and see how they look.  I also shot in RAW and will process those my usual way for comparison.  It’s an interesting look and I’ve been enjoying playing with them.

The Murals of Lake Placid, Florida

Even the trash cans join in the themes in Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals

I did a postcard from Lake Placid a few weeks ago but wanted to share a few more of the photos.  I know 25 seems like more than a few, but there are a lot of murals!

Mural celebrating the path to Eagle Scout. Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals

Small towns these days have to work hard to attract tourism, and these murals are a testament to the pride of the community and the hard work required to see the project to completion on such a grand scale.  It was an enjoyable day, we had a good lunch and enjoyed a few hours walking around this pleasant town.  Thanks to our friends Bill & Cathy for sharing it with us! 🙂

Series of murals celebrating the history of Florida at Rotary Park. Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals
Series of murals celebrating the history of Florida at Rotary Park. Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals
Mural depicting the harvest of pine resin for gum terpentine and sold by Consolidated Naval Stores of Lake Placid. Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals
Mural depicting the harvest of pine resin for gum terpentine and sold by Consolidated Naval Stores of Lake Placid. Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals
Mural depicting Lake Placid’s championship-winning basketball team in Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals
Mural depicting the medical profession. Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals

I have a number of “non-mural” photos too, and will save them to illustrate some future post.

Mural depicting Lake Placid’s championship-winning basketball team in Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals
Mural depicting the natural beauty of rural Florida. Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals
Mural depicting the natural beauty of rural Florida. Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals
Mural at the Post Office in Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals
Mural depicting early telephone communication. Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals
Celebrating the history of the orange industry. Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals
Mural depicting the fishing in Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals
Mural depicting the printing industry. Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals
Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals
Mural depicting the natural beauty of rural Florida. Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals
Mural depicting a bank robbery that took place in Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals
Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals
Even the trash cans join in the themes in Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals
Even the trash cans join in the themes in Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals
Even the trash cans join in the themes in Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals
Even the trash cans join in the themes in Lake Placid Florida, known as the Town of Murals

An Unexpected Treat

Rock Island Railroad Depot in Fairbury, Nebraska

Kathy & I like to seek out train stations during our travels, especially ones that appear to be historically significant or that have some amount of architectural uniqueness.  That’s what took us to Fairbury, Nebraska on our recent trip.

Rock Island Railroad Depot in Fairbury, Nebraska

When I photograph these train stations, they are usually locked up tight, so I mostly walk around the outside, documenting interesting features and taking overviews of the building and surroundings.  Since most of these stations are in fairly busy towns I get my usual curious looks from passersby, but for the most part no one pays any attention to me.

Rock Island Railroad Depot in Fairbury, Nebraska
Rock Island Railroad Depot in Fairbury, Nebraska
Old Diebold Safe

The station in Fairbury houses a museum, but I knew when we were on our way there that – even if the museum wasn’t observing a Covid-related closure – that we would arrive well after their normal business hours.  But as we pulled up, a good 30 minutes after closing time, a woman was coming out of the building on the opposite end of where I parked.  I got out and started my usual walking around.  The woman drove down to the end of the building where I had parked.  I said hello and told her – as if she hadn’t made the assumption – that I was just a train station buff out to take a few photos.  Then she said, “would you like to see the inside?”  Uhhh, sure (it didn’t take me that long to say yes)!

Timetable
Rock Island Railroad Depot in Fairbury, Nebraska

As it turns out they were having some kind of meeting there that evening, and she had been there to make sure things were set up.  With evidently nothing else to do she talked to me and Kathy for about 30 minutes while I wandered through and took a few pictures.  She told us that a local train club was in the process of building a model train layout in one of the upstairs rooms and apologized for that room being locked, but otherwise I had the run of the place.

Self-Explanatory
Telegraph Equipment
Old radios and typewriters
Old radio equipment

Not wanting to overstay our welcome and knowing that we still had several hours of driving left, we politely said our thanks and goodbyes, and headed off for the rest of our adventure.  It was a special and unexpected treat to be able to get inside this old station, if only for a few minutes!

You never know what you’ll find!

Roadside Finds: Jasper, Indiana

Historic train depot in Jasper, Indiana

Our first overnight stop on the return home from Wisconsin took us to the town of Jasper, Indiana.  We chose Jasper primarily because it was just about the right distance for the day, but also because it looked like it had an interesting downtown area for us to check out.

Historic train depot in Jasper, Indiana
Historic train depot in Jasper, Indiana

I was initially attracted by the fact that Jasper has a train station, but we noted that the train station was an anchor for a new mixed-use development called River Centre.  A brand new Fairfield Inn sits along the Patoka River and is connected to the Jasper Riverwalk, a 4.5 mile multi-purpose trail that connects several businesses and restaurants, and winds through a scenic section along the river.

Fairfield Inn & Suites in Jasper, Indiana
Fairfield Inn & Suites in Jasper, Indiana
Fairfield Inn & Suites in Jasper, Indiana

Across the river from River Centre and connected by a very nice steel bridge is the historic Jasper City Mill.  The current mill building is a replica of a mill that was established on the site in 1817 and was in operation until 1933.  Among the customers of the mill is said to have been Thomas Lincoln and his son Abraham Lincoln, who bartered goods for corn meal in 1828.

Jasper City Mill in Jasper, Indiana
Jasper City Mill in Jasper, Indiana

We got into town late and left early, and it was a Sunday so not too many businesses were open.  But we got a good look at the town – enough to determine that it would be worth a re-visit.  It is “on the way” to a lot of places we hope to visit, so we will be sure to add Jasper to the itinerary on a future road trip!

Jasper City Mill in Jasper, Indiana

The Sessions Hotel in Bristol VA/TN

The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia

It’s not often we get to stay at a brand-new hotel.  It’s even more rare to be the very first people to stay in a hotel room.  But that was our experience at The Sessions Hotel in Bristol, VA.  The hotel had just opened a week or so before our visit, and a paper in our room asked for feedback since we were the first ones to occupy the room.  Cool!

The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia

When we were making our plans to return home from Wisconsin, Bristol was in the right location for our last night’s stay.  We had been to Bristol before, but had only stayed at the usual next-to-the-freeway chain hotels.  When I searched on hotels, one of the search results was ‘The Sessions Hotel, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel’ by Marriott in downtown Bristol.  The price was a little higher than the freeway-side options, and the location was shown as being right in the center of town.  Whenever possible we like to be “in town” so we can walk to dinner and shops instead of searching for a place to park.  So what the heck?

Bristol is a historic town situated on the VA/TN border.  In fact the VA/TN state line runs right through the middle of State Street, the main street through town.  Bristol’s primary claim to fame is as the Birthplace of Country Music, so named because of “The Sessions,” recording sessions that took place in Bristol in 1927.  These recording sessions launched the widespread appeal of musicians who, up until that time, had been known only locally in the areas where they performed.

Hallway outside our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Key cards for our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Sitting area of our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Sitting area of our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia

According to the Marriott website, the Tribute Portfolio is a collection of boutique hotels designed to reflect the character of the city in which they are located, operated independently but under the Marriott umbrella.  Each hotel has its own theme, decor and vibe.

The hotel occupies three buildings that previously housed a mill and warehouse.  The public spaces and rooms were all designed around the theme of The Sessions.  Music-inspired artwork, furniture and accessories abounds in the public areas, and each room is uniquely decorated with the theme of a specific recording.

From the hotel website:

“Situated in the heart of the Birthplace Of Country Music, our boutique hotel is named after the 1927 Sessions made by Ralph Peer and a few others. Bristol’s energetic passion for country music is reflected throughout the hotel’s thoughtful décor with curated pieces and musical offerings. Experience a free-spirited environment in repurposed buildings where rustic meets contemporary. Rest comfortably in uniquely designed rooms and suites with exposed brick and modern furnishings. Indulge at Southern Craft restaurant, an upscale wood fired smokehouse, offering award winning barbecue, classic favorites and sides. Sip cocktails on the rooftop bar and lounge by the cozy fire pit overlooking the city of Bristol. Get pampered at the Vision Salon and Day spa with invigorating spa treatments and body rituals. Host a special event in our indoor or outdoor music venues with a music stage or attend one of the concerts at our Bristol, VA hotel.”

Shower in our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Bathroom in our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Bathtub in our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Framed guitar picks in our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Do Not Disturb sign in our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia

Our room was Room 224, which was a Junior Suite.  The room was named after the tune “Tell Mother I Will Meet Her,” recorded by Ernest Stoneman.  The room number plaque outside the room had a replica of the record label, and in the room was a framed copy of the lyrics.  The “Do Not Disturb” sign was a wooden record with “Time For A Rest” imprinted on it.

Shadows at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Shadows at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Shadows at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia

We didn’t explore the hotel much since we were only there overnight, but we certainly enjoyed our room.  We did not, for example, sample the rooftop bar, but we did have breakfast at the adjacent restaurant.  A lot of the amenities were still being finalized, as there were still painters touching up some of the rooms and hallways during our stay.  Our conversation with the manager indicated that there are plans for an outdoor music venue and other additions in the near future.

Overall the hotel was nicely done.  The decor and furnishings are of high quality, and the bathroom is the kind that makes you want to call a bathroom remodeler as soon as you get home!  The hotel is a couple of steps above the typical “chain” hotel, and just the kind of thing that Kathy & I look for when we’re looking to get away  but don’t want to drive too far.  Bristol isn’t exactly known as a foodie mecca, but we don’t consider ourselves foodies anyway.  There are plenty of unique, interesting and local places to eat – just the kind of place we look for.  Who could pass up a hotdog or two from a place called the Earnest Tube (as in the musician Ernest Tubbs) or a place called The Angry Italian?  We did pass them up this time, but would definitely put them on the agenda for another visit!

Southern Craft BBQ Restaurant in Bristol, Virginia next to The Sessions Hotel
Southern Craft BBQ Restaurant in Bristol, Virginia next to The Sessions Hotel
Southern Craft BBQ Restaurant in Bristol, Virginia next to The Sessions Hotel
Southern Craft BBQ Restaurant in Bristol, Virginia next to The Sessions Hotel
Light fixture at Southern Craft BBQ Restaurant in Bristol, Virginia next to The Sessions Hotel

Bristol and The Sessions Hotel is definitely on our short list of places to return to when we are looking for a few days away.  We hope they can start the live music back up soon.  It would be a great place to visit this fall when things cool down and the leaves heat up!

Earnhardt-Petty Mural at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Birthplace of Country Music Mural in Bristol, Tennessee
The Earnest Tube restaurant in downtown Bristol TN/VA
Train station in Bristol, Virginia
Downtown Bristol TN/VA

Roadside Finds: Casey, Illinois

World’s Largest Teeter Totter in Casey, Illinois

“Big Things In A Small Town”  That is Casey’ Illinois’ claim to fame, and the reason we stopped off on our way home from Wisconsin.  Scattered around the downtown area of this town of about 3,000 located just off I-70 between St. Louis and Indianapolis.  Casey only has one traffic light, and most everything is walking distance from the center of town.

World’s Largest Yardstick in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Wind Chime in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Rocking Chair in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest antlers in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Barber Pole in Casey, Illinois

Casey holds eight Guinness records, including giants such as largest wind chime, golf driver, knitting needles, giant chair, giant mailbox, wooden clogs, rulers and giant bird cage, constructed by businessman Jim Bolin.

World’s Largest Mailbox in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Mailbox in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Bird Cage in Casey, Illinois
The Largest Knitting Needles and Crochet Hook are located in this shop in Casey, Illinois. It was closed on the day of our visit but they are visible through the window.

We didn’t visit all of the attractions, and unfortunately didn’t try the ice cream 🙁 but we did do a pretty reasonable job of visiting the sights.

World’s Largest Wooden Shoes in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Truck Key in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Bent Nail Puzzle in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Pencil in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Spinning Top in Casey, Illinois
Worlds Largest Bookworm at the Kline Memorial Library in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Mouse Trap in Casey, Illinois

Roadside Finds: Dwight, Illinois

Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station on Historic Route 66, Dwight, Illinois

For our drive from Wisconsin back to Charlotte, we decided to stick completely to back roads.  Taking 2 1/2 days to make a drive that many would make in 1 is just the way we roll.  We encountered a number of interesting places along the way, some planned, many unexpected.

Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station on Historic Route 66, Dwight, Illinois
Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station on Historic Route 66, Dwight, Illinois
Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station on Historic Route 66, Dwight, Illinois
Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station on Historic Route 66, Dwight, Illinois

Case in point is our stop in Dwight, Illinois.  We were attracted to Dwight because of the old Texaco gas station that is associated with Route 66.  While at the gas station, I spoke with the docent there who encouraged me to visit some of the other landmarks in  town, including the historic railroad depot.  Never one to pass up a railroad depot unknowingly, we headed into town.

The Chicago & Alton Railroad designed Dwight in 1854 around a “depot ground” between two main streets. By 1891, the expanding town needed a new station. The railroad hired Henry Ives Cobb to design this Richardson Romanesque building. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
The Chicago & Alton Railroad designed Dwight in 1854 around a “depot ground” between two main streets. By 1891, the expanding town needed a new station. The railroad hired Henry Ives Cobb to design this Richardson Romanesque building. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
The Chicago & Alton Railroad designed Dwight in 1854 around a “depot ground” between two main streets. By 1891, the expanding town needed a new station. The railroad hired Henry Ives Cobb to design this Richardson Romanesque building. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

In addition to the depot, there is a bank building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and a building  that once housed an at-that-time famous treatment center for alcoholism.  We couldn’t find the windmill or the church immediately and decided to not take more time looking.

Built in 1905, the First National Bank on West Main in Dwight, IL was designed by world-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Of the three banks he designed, it is the only one still in existence. Its simple yet dignified style rejected classical influences of the time.
William Fox Developmental Center in downtown Dwight, Illinois. The building originally housed The Keeley Institute, founded by Leslie Keeley in 1879, was the first to treat alcohol addiction as a disease rather than a vice. At its peak, 800 patients arrived here by train each week, and over 200 branches of the Institute were operating in the US and Europe. The famous “Keeley Cure,” reputedly gold chloride injections, we never accepted by the mainstream medical community.
Dwight, Illinois
Dwight, Illinois