The blues report


This is our first really long car trip since we took the kids to the Southwestern U.S. I always have loved place names, the more unfamiliar the better, and the Maryland panhandle and West Virginia and Kentucky are a place name lover’s dream. We drove past the Youghioheny River, Menongelia County and Salt Lick on our way to Lexington for Ben’s graduation from the University of Kentucky medical school.

Dr. Ben and Minna with a couple of Ben's awards
Dr. Ben and Minna with a couple of Ben’s awards

The ride took us 10 hours, but it was still light when we arrived at Buddy’s. Buddy’s is the Lexington watering hole where Minna has been working as a bartender for the past couple of years. It was her last night there–she and Ben are moving to San Francisco for his residency in psychiatry at UCSF. Nearly all her friends and regulars were dropping by the bar at Buddy’s to see her off.

We had never really seen Minna in action. We watched  her advise people on what they should order, and generally schmooze and flirt and make suggestions to thirsty or hungry customers, all the while mixing drinks and serving food and cleaning up. A good bartender is hard to find. I think the best one used to work at Buddy’s–until last week.

Ben's family with the graduate--Moshe, Shlomit, Dr. Ben and middle brother Haggai. Ben is the baby.
Ben’s family with the graduate–Moshe, Shlomit, Dr. Ben and middle brother Haggai. Ben is the baby.

At graduation, Ben won several awards, and two of them were for being an amazing human being–compassionate, caring, generous of spirit. We learned that being an in-law is a lot like being a parent. We are totally proud of him.

After a day helping Minna and Ben pack, we headed here to the northwestern corner of North Carolina, near Boone, in the Blue Ridge. The last time we came here to Joni and Dennis’ log house, as we followed directions deeper and deeper into the woods, we surmised we were being played, victims of one of Dennis’ massive practical jokes. This time we knew it was just really remote here. You can’t see any neighbors, and the Merediths are down a nameless gravel road that’s just past the mailbox in front of the abandoned country store. The gravel road is followed by a couple of dirt roads into the woods until the barn. Then down the gravel driveway and there you are. It’s a place where a GPS won’t take you.

Sign near Joni and Dennis' house
Sign near Joni and Dennis’ house

There have been some changes here since our last visit.

The house is larger, so there’s a dining room, a living room, an exercise room, another bedroom or two, a tv room (think big one) and a bunch of rooms each with their own computer (Dennis is a science writer, and he and Joni take computing seriously; one of their first big efforts once they built the house was to get DSL service  where no DSL line had ever gone before; it was a battle royal with the local phone company). I am sitting here in front of one of the fruits of this effort–a computer with three screens, across which windows can be dragged. It’s pretty amazing.

The fire may have destroyed the canopy, but nature is coming back in force.
The fire may have destroyed the canopy, but nature is coming back in force.

Since our last visit a vast fire–(we ran Dennis’ report on the blog when it happened)–came practically right up to the house, destroying  the tree canopy  all around. Nature is returning in force, but for now the trunks and bare branches of burnt and dead trees write across the sky.

And the Merediths have installed a huge pond for the firefighters to tap should another conflagration approach.

Joni has been digging up brambles to create meadows, planting trees where they are needed, moving boulders, etc. She figures the land is there for her to improve, and improve it she does. (She is the person who designed their house using an internet program for building log houses, and then had the logs and other materials shipped in; then she hired local contractors to follow the plans).

The last time we came, the cabin was barely there.
The last time we came, the cabin was barely there.

Other changes, not all of Joni’s doing, afterall, include a derelict old one-room log cabin that has been restored by the church congregation that owns the land. It’s a beautiful restoration job–a reminder of lives past in these mountains.

Getting into the cabin door was a two step operation to foil the animals, no doubt.
Getting into the cabin door was a two step operation to foil the animals, no doubt.

Getting in is a two step operation. First you twist the key-shaped hardware so the hasp can slip off. And then you have to pull the string–a trick to foil raccoons and bears. Murray and I were quite pleased with ourselves when we figured it all out.

The loft? Inside the restored cabin.
The loft? Inside the restored cabin.

Last night Dennis and Murray set baited a raccoon trap with a Krispy Kreme donut. The plan was to release the raccoon several miles away. But when they checked the trap this morning, they found that the raccoon had extracted the donut without triggering the trap. Then he threw things  around the porch in revenge. Raccoon 1, humans 0. We’ll let you know if they eventually succeed.


kentucky, libby's trip to kentucky and north carolina, north carolina



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