Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mid-South Meanderings Part Two

Hello! After two plus days in the Baltimore area last week, it was time to pack our bags again and begin the trip home. We drove close to 600 miles our first day heading west, going from Hunt Valley, MD to Lexington, KY. 

That may sound like a long day on the road, but thanks to the scenery and to part of the route being new to us, the day went by fast. 

By scenery, I mean mountains, rolling hills, rivers and historic towns. I know that the mountains we encountered are nowhere near the size of the ones out west, but we traversed some in Maryland that top out close to 3,000 ft. That's taller than anything in our home state of Michigan, so that's good enough for me!

The hills continued, of course, as we crossed into West Virginia. Previously we'd only traveled through a small portion of this state, but on this day we went from its north-central side to its western end near Kentucky. My husband plans the majority of our driving routes and loves to take new routes when we can. I'm fine with that too, especially if the route leads us to new stops. 

Alas, our only stops in West Virginia were a lunch stop at a rest area (we'd bought take-out food at a grocery store food court before we left Hunt Valley) and a gas fill-up near the town of Jane Lew. So basically, what I mainly saw as I drove our rental car up and down those hills was the scenery around us - and the quaintness of place names like Jane Lew, Strange Creek and Big Chimney. Would like to get off the interstates in WV sometime and drive around on the lesser roads. 

Lexington, KY was our stop for the night. Drove into town to have dinner at the Good Foods Market and cafe food co-op. We'd eaten there last year for the first time and had enjoyed it. Many healthy food choices among the offerings at the hot food and salad bars, and it's fun to browse in the market section of the co-op too. 

We returned to nearby Berea the next day. We'd gone there for the first time last year as well but had visited on a Monday. There wasn't much going on in Berea that day, plus we only had a short time to look around. This time my husband promised a longer visit, and as it was a Thursday, I hoped there'd be more to see. 

Demonstration loom at the Berea Welcome Center, located in the Artisan Circle section of town. Under the direction of one of the women at the information desk, I did two rows of weaving. It was a lot of fun and had me daydreaming of getting my own loom. 

Kitty-corner from the welcome center was the Weaver's Bottom shop, where several looms were at the ready. The man there explained how he'd found one of the looms in pieces at a barn sale and eventually put it back together. A black and white runner was being woven on it. 

Also nearby was Gallery 123, a new business in town. Inside, friendly printmaker Grace Wintermeyer showed us her studio, where I took a few photos:

Her sketch of Queen Anne's Lace

And the sketch recreated as a printing plate. 

The photo I took of one of her Queen Anne's Lace prints didn't turn out well, but my picture of another of her prints did:

I love squirrels, so that image was a sure photo-op for me. Almost bought that print, but resisted the urge. Now I'm sorry I didn't.

Wintermeyer explained that Gallery 123 is meant to encourage younger artists to stay in Berea after graduating from the college there. To that end, studio space is free, which she certainly appreciated. 

Berea is a cute town, and Berea College is a pretty campus, but there was occasional light rain, so I didn't take any more photos. Instead, I poked around in some of the college-run shops. Students' endeavors in broom corn, woodworking, weaving, jewelry and ceramics are sold. 

I also greatly enjoyed the Appalachian Fireside Gallery, where crafts, books and more are available. Just as I enjoy regional foods when I travel, I also like to check out the crafts and book subjects of a region during our excursions. So often one hears that our country has become one great Walmart/fast food/big box store, but that's not true if you pay attention to what each state or region has to offer that makes it unique. Sure, one can find old-time crafts anywhere, but the down-home, mountainy flavor of the arts and crafts in Berea makes them seem quite different from the handcrafted goods sold in my more northerly environ. 

Even though we had more time in Berea than what we'd had last year, the afternoon still went by too fast for me. It was hard to pick among so many interesting things for sale. So instead of buying a handmade broom or a charming book, I bought organic Delicata squash at the Berea College farm store. Besides produce and meats from the college farms, local and regional foodstuffs are offered - things like barbeque sauces, unshelled pecans from a local pecan farm, and more. Nice store, worth a visit. 

But the biggest foodie stop of all was coming up the next (and last day) of our vacation: the incomparable Jungle Jim's in suburban Cincinnati. It's a HUGE grocery store. The wine and beer section alone is probably bigger than some grocery stores. I left my husband there to poke around for craft beers and I steered a shopping cart toward the produce section. As I headed there, I took notes of the dairy department. There are cheeses from around the world, which is the norm in smaller grocery stores nowadays too. But how many countries are represented in a typical grocery store butter case? At Jungle Jim's, all sorts of imported butters abound. 

Passed the large in-store bakery area, the freezer display of exotic meats, and more. Finally I was in produce. Good prices and quality, so I got a few things to save on a grocery store trip when we returned home. 

All too soon, my husband caught up to me with his shopping cart of craft beers. Knowing I could readily spend hours at Jungle Jim's (and I'm sure I'm not the only one who would do so), he kept me hustling through the rest of the store. Bought a few things in the Oriental, Latin American and Italian sections (their private label olive oil is very good), but sadly could only glance at the small rooms along a side wall that house the foods of various European countries. 

Jungle Jim's strength is in its vast international foods offerings, but products from all over the US are represented too - lots of hot sauces, plus honey, maple syrup and jams from different states as well. I'm sure there's even more I could take note of, but although I've been to Jungle Jim's several times, I always feel that I've yet to see it all. 

It's well worth the stop if you find yourself in the Cincinnati area! But home beckoned, and that's where we ended the day. Last year's vacation at the same time of year had ended with us walking into a house partially waterlogged by a burst pipe. Thankfully, everything was in order this year!

It had been a busy vacation - but a good one. 


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