Think Outside the State

American Tale: My 50-state Adventure

Category: Blue Ridge

Mountaineers are Always Free: Charleston, West Virginia

Hey everyone! I know it has been quite the break since the last post, but with teaching and my new position at work, I haven’t had a chance to update in a while.  I recently flew for the first time, and visited Texas (everything was bigger!) so hopefully I will be able to update more frequently as I continue to plan my next adventures.

Over the Labor Day weekend, my best friend and I decided there was a long overdue road trip that needed to happen immediately. This led to a wonderful sprint up to Charleston WV.

This trip was a bit more spontaneous than many of my others, and being one day/one night, it’s a little easier to blog about than the other states that I’ve been to recently (those blogs are coming soon as well).


We started the four and a half hour drive by stopping at our favorite bakery in Charlotte, NC. Shout out to Amelie’s for providing sustenance and energy for the road ahead.



The weather was impeccable, we couldn’t have asked for a better day to travel and explore this interesting capitol city. Through Virginia into West Virginia, I found myself constantly pointing out the scenery. Poor Taylor was tired of looking at rocks and trees, but she humored me.


Something neither of us had thought about, were TOLL ROADS. Being where I’m from, Toll Roads are a little foreign, and my least favorite (but probably funniest) part of the trip was frantically digging for change at each of the three booths. I had to sacrifice one of my favorite coins for the cause, but I know Charleston was worth it.


We took our time on the relaxing drive up 77 to 64, and stopped several times at different rest areas and the West Virginia Welcome Center. This exit has a lot of offerings, so if you need a break or a snack, definitely stop here. (We stopped on the way in, and the way out!)


When we finally arrived in Charleston, I was immediately in love. It’s got the small town “slow down and relax” feel, coupled with the history of an interesting state capitol. Perfect storm for making me daydream of living there.

We shopped around for hotel to stay in (I told you this was a bit spontaneous) and we settled on the Hampton Inn . Shout out to the amazing receptionist DESIREE, who helped us get a comfy room and gave us many suggestions for sight seeing. Coupled with free breakfast and the softest bed I’ve ever slept on, I’d definitely suggest staying there!


Our next stop, and one of my personal top priorities: Lunch. We had looked on Trip Advisor and other sites suggesting good eats in the area, and settled on the Tricky Fish for our culinary needs. They specialize in fish tacos and a very chill vibe. The weather was perfect to sit on the porch and watch the world go by, as we planned our next leg of exploration. I had the mahi-mahi taco blackened, and Taylor had the shrimp taco blackened. We split an order of their hushpuppies, and realized early in that we had ordered FAR too much food. We left stuffed to the gills and ready for the rest of the city.

Our next stop was the unbelievably must-be-out-of-a-fairy-tale capitol building. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the gold gilded dome, and the area surrounding it. I regret not being able to go inside, but there was a wedding party taking pictures and we didn’t want to photo bomb someone’s special day!




Across the street from the capitol building was a lovely overlook, where there are stairs leading down to the river. Every turn on the beautiful streets of Charleston led to more things to look at and more to explore.

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Our next stop was Capitol Street. We parked and walked the span of it, starting around the library. You can see the age of the buildings as you pass, but they are well kept and utilized.

Our first stop was Taylor’s Books. First, let me start off by saying this place has the perfect vibe.

There are various greeting cards sections (with very funny takes on several celebrations), a wonderfully laid out “new” books section, and a very diverse “used” books section. They have a great kids area, and art gallery off the side of the main store.




As if all of these things are not setting you up for the most perfect bookstore in the world, they have the precious commodity that keeps us American’s going: Coffee. And if that’s not enough, they have an array of different desserts and timg_1124reats. I had an Emerald City iced coffee, and it was the perfect balance of sweet, creamy, and coffee. Jaime at the counter suggested it, and I was far from disappointed. She also gave some great suggestions for places to see and check out in the city. Rachel, who also works at Taylor’s, added in a lot of helpful local input. (Thanks Ladies!)


Our next stop, and Jaime’s first suggestion, was Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream.


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Taylor had delicious black raspberry, and I tried the delectable Heath bar. The place was relaxed and inviting, and we stopped in for a bit to plan our next moves and people watch. From talking about their weekend plans to their next pokemon adventure, you could tell the people in the store were happy, ice cream in hand, in this amazing atmosphere and town.

We drove around a good bit after that, and took pictures in different areas of the city. We decided to check out a local


print shop, Kin Ship Goods . If you’re looking for a place to pick up some very creative, locally printed, interesting mementos of the city, this is the place to be. I was impressed at the offerings, but fell in love with my “West Virginia vs The World” shirt, and some interesting sunglasses. I loved the shop so much, I went home and ordered a sweatshirt from their website. While we were there, they were being interviewed regarding the shop, and it’s awesome to see treasures like this while traveling.


After shopping and exploring, we went back to our hotel, and settled in till dinner. The beds/room were so cozy that we both accidentally snoozed until past dinner time, changing our initial decision for dinner. After wandering around for a while, we found the Recovery Sports Restaurant  was open, and had great reviews. I had a delicious Gorgonzola burger, and Taylor had grilled chicken.

img_1182The real stunner of the dinner was the appetizer: BBQ Nachos. One of my favorite foods, and this place had it going on!



I speak for the both of us when I say that the night at the Hampton was the best rest I’ve had in months. To be able to relax and not worry about work, cleaning, or cooking was a great break, and the bed and pillows welcomed me with open arms.


After we woke up, had breakfast, and got ready for church, we said goodbye to our lovely room, the sweet receptionist, and the city itself. We went to church in Danville (about thirty minutes outside of the city) with some old friends, and headed home afterwards. The church was welcoming and had a variety of age groups, and if you’re looking for a place to worship, I definitely suggest Danville Church of Christ . Say hello to David and Patty for me!


Being such a quick, short trip, there were a few attractions that we wanted to get to that didn’t work out, including:

Kanawha State Forest

Clay Center

Limelight Theatre

The drive home was much curvier and full of back roads, since we left so far from 64, but provided even more gorgeous views through the mountains and valleys.




Our quick trip was exactly the break that I needed, and it was a great time to spend with Taylor and discovering a new state.

If you’re planning on traveling to Charleston in the future, definitely check out the Charleston Visitors Page, they are a great resource for all there is to do in the city and surrounding areas!

If you’re Save

Welcome to the Wettest County in the World

If you know me at all, you are aware how much I love the mountains.  And not just any ole mountains, The Appalachian (here is how to say it properly) Mountains.  Growing up 25 minutes from the parkway instilled a love and respect for these beauties that I can’t even begin to describe, so I wont attempt.  Either way, I had only seen MY side of the mountains, and when I found that I had a free weekend last week, I set to planning my Virginian adventure.  Now, I love planning and thinking and mapping, but I wanted to go somewhere off the beaten trail, somewhere small but rich in culture.  And through my research on Historical VA, I found exactly what I needed: Franklin County, VA.  Haven’t heard of it?  I’m not surprised.  Have heard of it? I bet it has to do with moonshine!  Of the people who know about Franklin, most know it from the movie “Lawless” (with Shia-LaBeouf and Tom Hardy!) that is based on a book, “The Wettest County in the World” (I’m reading it now!).
     When I told Mom and Dad about this, Mom called dibs on being my co-pilot and Daddy surprised us by getting us a room at a Bed and Breakfast, the AMAZING Claiborne House in Rocky Mount, the county seat of Franklin.  The Leete’s are literally the best innkeepers you could imagine!  My mom and I were so impressed at the warmth of their B&B and the hospitality the entire family has!  (See my entire separate post on the B&B HERE)

I’m a sucker for a big front porch…
When we arrived, we realized we had left the house before breakfast and drove straight through lunch!  The innkeepers suggested El Rio, an AMAZING Mexican restaurant on the corner above our B&B.  I don’t usually love Mexican food, but it was DELICIOUS!
this spread was a meal for one…so of course we split it!
Afterwards, we explored a little in town, and found the nicest people at Renick’s Antiques, who told us about things we needed to do in the area, and really gave us a taste of the small town hospitality we are so blessed with.  
When we finished at Renick’s, we headed down Booker T Washington Highway to find the heaven of all creameries:  The Homestead Creamery!  As you can see, we had HUGE ice cream cones (no preservatives!), bought some cream and lemonade (that was smooth and perfect), and played with the animals they had!  After that, we went back to the room and relaxed, snacking on pralines and cream cheese bars mom had made for the trip and left overs from El Rio.  We watched Lawless on my laptop, and went to sleep in the most comfortable sheets in the world!
Saturday, we woke up and had an amazing breakfast at the B&B, and Shellie made a post about our trip on their Funky Blog!  Mom and I drove up to Roanoke and visited one of her favorite places on TV, Black Dog Salvage.  And….WE GOT TO MEET MIKE!  Mom and I both were freaking out!  He walked up to us and asked us how we were…so of course we got a picture with him!!
After that, we went to the Texas Tavern and had their chili and Cheesy Western!  It has been in Roanoke since 1930, and is open all night!  We got tons of pictures and a t-shirt for a souvenir!
The waiter talked us into going to the Roanoke Star!  It’s the tallest man-made free standing star in the world!
When we were done there, we ran back to Renick’s to pick up something mom had decided she had to have (and that I loved too!) and went…right back to the creamery.  It was so good we had to get it twice!  After that, we visited the Booker T Washington Memorial, which we barely got to before it closed!

We went back to the inn then, and I picked up some delicious wings and pizza from Franks.  We turned in from the night after an exciting day, and packed up to leave the next day.
Sunday, we got up, had breakfast, and before we could check out and go to church, Daddy surprised us by getting us another night at the Inn!  We had some car trouble on mainstreet that caused us to miss the morning service, but we picked up some lunch and took some pictures around the inn.  
When 2:45 rolled around, we grabbed our tickets and boarded the bus to go on the Moonshine Express! put on by the Franklin County Historical Society.  They had “likker” stills, banjo pickers, and merchandise for sale before boarding, and they took us across town, showing different historical homes and having volunteer actors boarding the bus, telling parts of the story!  I felt like it was a personal view of this very historically based town, and I felt like I was taken back in time!  Tour only runs twice a year, so definitely check out the events page on their site!

Me and Tim Smith!
The tour lasted over an hour, and we got t-shirts and a guidebook (and a copy of “The Wettest County in the World” for me ;D) and went back to get ready for church.  
We visited the Rocky Mount Church of Christ Sunday night, and it was like being welcomed in to the family.  The sermon was amazing, the people were kind, and we really felt at home.
Surprisingly, we found the BEST Italian restaurant in Rocky Mount, still open when we got back from church.  Hema’s was just below our B&B, so we settled in an were AMAZED at the prices, and the quality of the food.
Mom got the special (not pictured), I got a “Chicken Loca” and we split some cheese bread and a dessert.  I was SO impressed, I would say you should definitely not drive past the restaurant without trying it out.
The next morning, after breakfast and a bittersweet check-out, mom and I visited the historical society.  We got to meet some of the volunteers who had been on the moonshine express tour, and we were shown around the museum by one of the volunteers!  It was like stepping back in time, and being guided through that by someone who had lived through it was absolutely magical!
For our last stop in Rocky Mount, we had lunch at The Hub Restaurant!  Everyone at the Historical Society suggested we go, and we were delighted at the food!  Mom went with biscuit and gravy, while I ordered the Hub Club!
Overall, I’m so blessed that I got to go on this trip with mom.  We had some really amazing quality time, and got to really enjoy just hanging out with each other.  We are a lot alike, and though we sometimes butt heads, it’s because we just want each other to be happy.
Rocky Mount was the perfect little town for the start of this blog.  I don’t think we could have happened up on a better place with better people to start this amazing 50-state adventure.  
Thanks for reading guys, and stay tuned, you never know where I’m gonna end up next.