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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Found And Lost: The Waffle House

For some reason, on all of my trips to the USA I had never been to a “Waffle House”, although this chain has a lot of restaurants in Texas. It’s a diner chain, known for its cheap prices and friendly service. So every time that we saw a “Waffle House” on this trip, Tish and I said something like “We should go there”, but it never seemed to be the right time. Finally, in Black Mountain, North Carolina, we actually had breakfast at the local “Waffle House”, and what can I say? It was great! I loved the place. It was  cheap, the waitresses were  friendly, the food was good, and the atmosphere was perfectly movie-like, so Tish and I decided to make the “Waffle House” or regular breakfast/lunch place while being on the road. Now here comes the sad part: Pretty soon after that, probably while driving through New Jersey, we noticed that there were no more “Waffle Houses” along the way, while before they had been everywhere. It was only then that we found out by googling that they are “a regional local icon”, with locations only in the South. In other words: We won’t find another “Waffle House” until we come back to Texas by the end of July.

State By State (8/9/10): West Virginia, Maryland + Pennsylvania

On our way from Ashland, Virginia to Lemont, Pennsylvania, we encountered the most bizarre alignment of state borders so far. Not only did we, rather unexpectedly, get to drive through beautiful West Virginia for maybe 20 miles, but we also got to cross Maryland on a two-mile stretch! Look at the map of this region:

The extreme narrow corridor that connects the Western part of Maryland (called the Western Panhandle) to the rest of the state is the result of an agreement from 1767 that settled a boundary conflict between Maryland and Pennsylvania (still British colonies at that time). Named after the surveyors (Landvermesser) who did the work, this new boundary got known as the Mason-Dixon Line. It became even more famous when in the 19th century it started to symbolize the border between states which allowed slavery and those which didn’t. In other words: between the North and the South.

So crossing the border into Pennsylvania ment saying goodbye to the South for Tish and me. Strangely enough, there is not a generally accepted name for the region that Pennsylvania belongs to. I guess the expression “Mid-Atlantic States” gets used occasionally, but it doesn’t seem to be very common. Pennsylvania symbolizes the in-between character of the region by the fact that it has borders with the three more famous regions of the Eastern half of the USA: the South (or Southeast), New England and the Midwest.

Pennsylvania is also a very beautiful state, at least in the parts that we have seen. I must admit that this came as quite a surprise to me, because I had always imagined it as a mostly industrialized and urban area.

Here are two more masterpieces of photography, more or less showing the state lines of Maryland and Pennsylvania:

A Word From The President

This blog hasn’t said a word about politics so far, and that is not only because of my limited knowledge of political affairs in America: During the last few weeks, there just didn’t seem to be a lot of important issues. Everybody seems to be waiting for the presidential race to begin. The biggest news in early May was probably a referendum in North Carolina that was to decide  the status of same-sex marriages in that state. We were in North Carolina, when the results of the referendum were announced, and they were rather depressing: 61 % of the participants  voted in favor of an amendment that practically bans same-sex marriages, even if they were concluded in other states. It’s sad to see that the South proved once again that the prejudices people in other parts of the country (and the world) have about it, are not always wrong.

The only uplifting part of the whole story was that the discussion about the NC referendum forced President Obama to finally clarify his position on the issue. In an ABC interview he stated that he now supports same-sex marriage. It was certainly a tactical move rather than a heart-felt one, and he should have made it much earlier, but nevertheless it made him the first US president to publicly proclaim that position, and that’s a good thing.

State By State (7): Virginia

Much as we enjoyed our time in North Carolina, after ten days in that state we were definitely ready for checking out the next one. Virginia welcomed us with the prettiest state line sign so far, but unfortunately that’s about as much as I can say about “The Old Dominion”, as it is called. Tish’s show at the “Ashland Coffee & Tea” was great (albeit surprisingly lightly attended), but that was it for Virginia. Hopefully next time we will get to know the state a little better.

On The Parkway

The day after my hiking tour we got to see even more of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this time by looking out of our car. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs along the ridge for almost 500 miles (750 kilometers) and is probably one of the most spectacular drives in the USA. We only had time for 50 miles on that road, because we had to get to Tish’s concert in Virginia, but that was already quite a treat.

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I first learned about the Blue Ridge Mountains from a John Fogerty record called “The Blue Ridge Rangers” that contained a version of the traditional “Blue Ridge Mountain Blues”:

Walk, Don’t Run

The Blue Ridge Mountains are a very beautiful part of the Appalachians, which is famous for its hiking trails. They are not a great place for running, though, as I had to find out. I basically gave up after ten minutes of nothing but steep uphill running, and spent the rest of my time circling a tiny pond (Teich) next to the parking lot. But I went back to the same place later that day and hiked up all the way up to Graybeard Mountain. Since Tish didn’t feel great and stayed at the hotel, I went by myself, and that was about as much company as I was going to have on that trip. It wasn’t before I was on my way down from the summit that I met any people at all. Luckily I didn’t run into a bear either.

The trail itself is of course gorgeous. Here are some impressions:

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“Walk Don’t Run” by the Ventures is one of my favorite instrumentals of all times. Regulars at my birthday parties might recognize it as the tune that we play at low volume every time we open the windows to let some fresh air in.

Blast From The Past

With Dave Magill at the “White Horse” in Black Mountain, North Carolina

Maybe the best thing about our trip is meeting so many great people. There are interesting and friendly persons almost everywhere we go. Some of them are people we both have met before, some are new acquaintances to Tish and me, and some are people whom Tish has known for years, but whom I never got to meet. One person from her past that Tish has mentioned a lot over the years is Dave Magill. Dave is a great guitar player and singer, and he was  Tish’s closest musical partner during her time in Red River, New Mexico, between 1979 and ca. 1982  “Ca.”, because the two can’t quite agree on exactly when their musical cooperation ended. Nor are they sure, when they had seen each other for the last time. Dave thinks it was in 1996. The important thing is that they met again in 2012, in Black Mountain, North Carolina, where Tish played a show at the “White Horse”.

Dave and his wife Cindi live in Webster, which is not far from Black Mountain, so they came over for the show, and of course Dave sat in for a large section of it. It was wonderful to see how the musical and personal understanding materialized immediately after so many years of not playing together.