I spent my 4th of July in Mayberry, basically. It was fantastic. We traveled about 25 miles to drop in on the small town of Rutherfordton, North Carolina. This place must have been inhabited by Brits at one point in its history, because instead of pronouncing it “ruther-ford-tun”, locals just call it “rolf-tun.” Brits are the only people who can look at a word like “Leicestershire” (by all rights “lye-kester-shire”) and pronounce it “lester.”
Anyway in this place we found a 4th of July celebration of the kind that disappeared in most of America 50 years ago. There were Antebellum and Victorian houses decked out with bunting, watermelon and pie eating contests, sack races…the works. They even had the mayor in a dunk tank. Since the town is at the top of a hill, a soapbox derby is the centerpiece of the festivities. They line the main street with hay bales and roll their home made contraptions for two blocks:
The barriers are understandable. Some of these babies hit speeds of close to 15 miles an hour.
The exception was this fellow who was having hand brake problems.
These guys burned it up at 14 mph. No wonder they wore crash helmets.
Anyway, we all had a famous time. For the girls, however, I think Rutherfordton was outdone by our day trip to Asheville. Talk about hipster paradise, they were amazed by all the tattoos and piercings. Try explaining a man sporting those big hoop-like ear piercings to a 5-year-old girl. God only knows what little Joan thinks those things are all about.
For a city that’s not really geared for children (it’s mostly populated by under-30-aged hippies, over-60-aged hippies and retirees) it’s amazingly entertaining. On a Saturday night there are more street musicians, jugglers and silver-painted still-statue performance artists per square mile than anywhere else in the country. Balloon bending is practically a cottage industry there. So, it seems, is Medievalism. While enjoying PB&J’s in a park on Saturday afternoon a fellow in sandals and a tunic passed by. He said to his daughter — and I thought I could almost detect a faint English accent — “so, are we going to go see uncle Mark play his lute tonight?”
Next vacation, friends, go to North Carolina. You can enjoy a greater variety of recreation there than any other state I know. And we didn’t even make it to the coast, which is where the real beach and boating action is. The only down side for me was that more people than ever confused me with this guy from The Hangover. For those of you who wonder what I look like, that’s pretty much it. I had at least three conversations that went like this:
“You’re that guy from The Hangover.”
“Nope, I’m not, but I get that a lot.”
“Or you actually are that guy and you’re just telling us you’re not.”
“OK, you win. Want an autograph?”
In once instance I protested that I wasn’t actually a guy from a movie, but something even better: a noted pastry blogger here on holiday. For some reason the guy just spit on my shoes and walked the other way.