Archive for March, 2010


March 3, 2010

You don’t want to be caught after dark on I-77  between North Carolina and Virginia in the wintertime.  At that elevation, it is sometimes cold, sometimes foggy and oftentimes windy.   I found myself there on a recent visit to Washington to visit family.  The curves are sharp and with each passing minute I realized that exiting for a warm motel was a good idea.  I got off at a  promising exit only to find out from the local convenience store clerk that the place I was looking for was a good piece into town and he wasn’t sure of the location.  I thought it was odd that a convenience store clerk on the edge of a lonely exit wouldn’t know where the only motel was.  I continued on to the next exit, Fancy Gap.  I saw dimly lit through the fog a motel sign and decided to give it a try.  As I turned left I saw only the entrance to a winding road with a sign touting a bargain price.   Since I was traveling alone, I decided to follow the road but stay safely inside the car while checking it out.  As I pulled in front of the check in area, a woman came through the lobby, saw me and came towards the door.  “Oh Great” I thought, “Now I will have to tell her I’m not sure about her motel.”   I threw diplomacy to the wind and decided to go for the “we sisters are all in this together” tone.  “Alright, tell me the truth, is this a safe place for a woman traveling alone?”  She smiled and waved me in.

As I stepped in, I saw immediately that this wasn’t your average locally owned motel.  I had stepped through the looking-glass into my grandmother’s parlor.  There were vases of roses, a table set for a child’s tea party, prettily dressed dolls and little crystal sentiments.  The entire room was wrapped in old roses.    For some reason, this made me feel much more at ease.  Could anyone who has this many dolls be an axe murderer? 

I learned that she and her husband owned the motel.  When I inquired about the jars of pickled relishes, she replied that her brother canned them.  I took my key and drove around to the side of the two-story motel.  There were few guests that night and thankfully my room was on the ground floor. 

The room was as astounding as the lobby.  There were dolls everywhere.  Not your run of the mill WalMart dolls either.  Beautiful collector dolls.  I counted 12 pairs of eyes.  Either I had stepped into the most charming place I’d ever stayed or a Stephen King novel.  The room was exceedingly clean.  There was an open Bible on the table atop a prim doily and  a lace cloth underneath the perched TV.  And in the soap dish was a perfectly formed rose bud soap.  Just in case, I checked and rechecked the lock that opened onto a central hallway.   Thankfully I was exhausted and had little energy to obsess over my decision.

I have since learned that some consider the Country View Inn somewhat eerily scary. Weird.  I don’t.  Here’s why–Before the homogenization of our country–everywhere is anywhere–there were lots of unique and original nooks and crannies to discover.   Part of the fun of traveling was encountering the unknown and unusual.  After all, the best thing about us is us.  We are all so different and interesting when we choose to be.  The owner of this inn has chosen to be.  She is  nostalgic and a collector of all those dainty things that beckon us home.   I left with a jar of pickles and I hope to return.  Better yet, I hope to discover another motel again where the owners without apology give a part of themselves to their guests.

What does this have to do with trolleys?   A lot.  I think one of the reasons I love trolleys so much is that they are unique and open doorways to our imagination.  They aren’t “just trolley buses.”  They are a way to express our individuality and plunge into joy.  Planning an adventure?  Come take a splash.  In Fancy Gap?  Step back in time.