Riding past homogenized towns that all have the same fast-food joints, pharmacies, and dollar stores, it’s easy to think that localism has died and that regional uniqueness is a thing of the past. America isn’t just Corporate America and Hollywood. Our history may be comparatively brief, but it’s rich. And it lives on.
Nowhere is that more evident than in the hollers of rural southwest Virginia, where the geography created a culture of music and song that would go around the world. That “High Lonesome Sound”—made famous by The Carter Family, Ralph Stanley, and many others—originated “in these parts” and could have only ever been from here. Appalachian music is alive and well. For those inclined, riding a motorcycle through the rural countryside during the day and whiling away the evening hours to some old-time music, The Crooked Road is an ideal place to plot a course.
The Crooked Road Trail. The 330-mile route passes through the winding country roads of southwest Virginia, affording postcard Appalachian views and ample opportunities to hear some music. Major highlights include the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, a rustic 800-seat venue; The Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol; and the Floyd Country Store, home of the famous Friday Night Jamboree. Per the country store’s website: “The Jamboree operates on ‘Granny’s Rules’—no smoking, no drinking alcohol, no bad language, and no conduct unbecoming to a lady or a gentleman.” So leave the switchblades and moonshine at home, I guess.
Appalachian cooking is the Rosetta stone of Southern cuisine. Resourcefulness born of necessity and frugality created a cuisine tied to heirloom ingredients. With a renewed interest in local food, heritage produce, and Southern cooking—spearheaded by dedicated chefs like Sean Brock and Hugh Acheson—Appalachian cuisine is about to have a moment. Look out for Chef Travis Milton’s long-awaited Shovel and Pick restaurant, opening soon in the Sessions Hotel in Bristol.