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Draplin Design Co., North America



We stayed on the “tough end” of town in Asheville. PJ recommended a room at the Mountaineer Inn. “The sign was worth the stay, alone,” is all he had to say with a quick shake of the head. We pulled in, stowed Maybelle safely in the backseat with Ryno and went in to secure lodging. There was a little greek man behind the counter and when we walked in, PJ introduced himself, the old guy remembered him from his fall scooter tour and said, “Is the room only for you and your father-in-law?” Father-in-law? Dick.

Ha fuckin’ ha. Cute little greek guy, all old and smiling, saying shit like, “Big man needs big room,” while he smiles and points and me. Uh, “Opa, motherfucker.”

276. “The Mountaineer.”
277. “Just the slightest touch.”
278. “The old timey key.”
279. “Door and porch.”
280. “Hoss, well-rested after a hard night on the town.”

Out of Asheville and into the mountains. North on I-26, lost. I fucked up and went south, trying to go east, thinking we were going north, all the time, wondering about the west. Something like that. We crossed back into a southern state, long and horizontal, called, “Tennessee.”

281. “North on I-26.”

We rolled into a little town called, “Erwin.” The little downtown offered a couple antique stores so, we found the grossest looking one and went in to rescue some treasures. We met a couple good ol’ boys with a photocopied picture of a Klan rally on the counter. Not trying to connect the dots or anything, but, the shot was there, and, for sale. Weird.

282. “Downtown Erwin.”
283. “Hoppe’s.”
284. “Liberty.”

The town was famous for one ugly incident back in the day. Drifting circus man Red Eldridge got a little of his own medicine when the circus’ star elephant, a 30-year-old pachyderm by the name of “Mary” took matters into her own hands and killed the guy. She had enough. Speculation ran rampant:

“Or did Mary kill Red Eldridge because she was in pain? Erwin legend has it that Mary had two abscessed teeth, which caused her such agony that she went berserk when Eldridge tapped her with his elephant stick. The infections were, of course, discovered only after Mary was killed.”

So the town, in its collective infinite wisdom, decided “Murderous Mary” had to face southern justice. So they put their heads together and came up with a solution:

They hung her.

Ah, “The South.”

We got the fuck out of Erwin and kept moving north. Through towns like Okolona, Riovista and into Elizabethton for lunch. Were we close to the Appalachian Trail? Some mystery.

285. “That trail. Closeby?”

We pulled off to buy some fireworks. A middle-aged guy was sitting there, and waved us in. HIs dog was tied to its doghouse, barking. He gave us a comeplete run down of his collection, complete with eyebrow-raising racial names. Ah, “The South” and the funny firework names. Not so funny.

286. “Fireworks.”
287. “Old guy, hobbling back to his chair.”

We drove and drove and drove. Through the woods, down country roads, along ridgelines, alongside a little lake, completely lost and in awe of the mountain country beauty. Some of the stuff we saw:

288. “The Robert E. Lee.”
289. “Appalachian Tailgaters.”
290. “Recycle.”
291. “A guy riding a tractor.”
292. “Maybelle, navigating from the back seat.”
293. “Hoss and Ryno, lost in America.”
294. “Climbing.”
295. “A country spread.”

We drove through the holler, all the way to Pikeville and bedded down for one final night.

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