by Bob Allen
(This is the third in a series of columns about a recent trip to the mountains.)
Our plans for Wednesday were made and we agreed this was the day all four of us would drive to West Jefferson — the place we all had heard much about, but where none of us had been.
The route has always been intriguing to me — we drove through Boone and take SR 194 to Todd at the Watauga/Wilkes County line for about 11 miles over a winding highway and look for interesting scenes and places to stop.
We found the winding curves unending and finally there was an interesting farm scene. There was a home and barn in the distance against a rising small mountain and we all did our best to capture the scene well.
But lacking good color, I think all of us failed to make it a winning scene.
And then it was more winding sparsely populated roadway curve after curve causing us to downshift many times to save our brakes. We made another stop and then decided it was lunchtime — we had brought all the full fixin’s for another tasty picnic.
Church comes to our rescue
Now, our problem — where do we find a picnic table way out here in the country? And then — almost like God was hearing our thinking — I slowed down, looked in the back yard of a church, Laurel Knob Baptist, and spotted a large round cover to a well. I said, “This would make a fine picnic table with our tablecloth over it.”
We arrived in West Jefferson and someone told us to drive down Main Street and we would see the cheese factory.
After going along the impressive main street and finding only two traffic lights and several four-way stop intersections, I pulled into a lawn mower repair shop where two guys were talking. I waited until the proprietor stopped and looked my way. He said, “Yes, sir, and I asked him how I could I find the cheese factory.
He loudly replied, “I really don’t know if you can find it. There is no sign advertising its whereabouts despite my continual harping on this. The chamber of commerce doesn’t want to help, either.”
He then said, “Go to the first intersection past the nearby traffic light, and turn left. You then can’t miss it!”
As I was leaving he added, “I’m not a member of the chamber of commerce anymore.” Apparently I hit a sore spot with him and he vented his anger on me. I found it amusing and was glad I stopped there.
With three over-sized fabricated Holstein cows in front of the cheese factory, we were in for a surprise!
Instead of seeing anything exciting, we struck out. It was cleaning time and all we saw was a large empty vat.
Entertaining cheese store
We then crossed the street to enter a large store where you can taste tiny samples and purchase different cheeses.
I bought a .82-pound block of their Ashe County sharp mountain cheddar for $6 — I’m looking forward to tickling my taste buds soon.
Talking with a clerk, I learned Ashe County Cheese makes thousands of pounds of cheese and many gallons of meal. Whoa, wait a minute! I asked the clerk what she meant and she clarified meal as meal-k.
I wasn’t used to her West Jefferson way of saying milk, without sounding the ‘k’. We both were amused by it.
We also enjoyed seeing the famed historic St. Mary’s Episcopal Church with the 1976 Fresco Crucifixion mural on the inside front. There are four strikingly beautiful stained glass windows appearing to be lit-up from the contrast of inside darkness and the bright outdoors. We listened carefully to the recorded message. We were impressed by the immaculate condition of the church.
Did we take the long, winding highway back? No, we took the easier, but longer and quicker SR 16 which took us through Wilbar and Millers Creek to US 421 and then back to Boone and our motel.
See next week’s column about the nearby Grandview restaurant breakfast fun, seeing hundreds of Banner Elk ducks, a beautiful waterfall and our interesting trek along SR 194 to Valle Crucis.
—Bob Allen, publisher emeritus of The Wake Weekly, welcomes and encourages your comments or suggestions at 919-556-3059 or [email protected]