Thursday, April 04, 2013

On the Road Again: Martinsville, VA

We've been to a few tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit in our travels. Martinsville, VA is just the latest stop on the tour. 

Now, we've been to some pretty out of the way places before.  Pocono Raceway is down a long narrow road in between nowhere and nothing. We did our best to find stuff to do during our week in Thunderstorm Alley, beyond duck and cover, but did not succeed too well.  However, I believe Martinsville may have trumped the roval's rural card.

We turned left at Roanoke.  More quickly than you might believe, we left behind most signs of current civilization.  Before you knew it, instead of blue signs claiming we'd find a McDonald's at the next exit, we now passed signs every quarter mile warning us to watch for turning traffic.  220 is a winding, up and down road that climbs hill and hill.  Houses perch on the mountainsides. The remnants of last year's kudzu really does look like it's about to take over the rest the world.

And nothing much more. Except for the roadside signs telling you where you can find this mile's church.  We're definitely in the Bible Belt.

After an hour, at which point you're convinced you haven't been this far removed from an interstate in your life, our GPS told us to take a left and there we are.  A track in the middle of nowhere.  More farms, train tracks, a minor selection of stores nearby, but nothing to indicate the area is capable of supporting the deluge of a Sprint Cup race twice a year.

However, unlike our visit to Bristol last year, Martinsville does not look quite so on the edge of abject poverty.  Most homes are neatly maintained, and the downtown area is clearly benefitting from some local Commerce Chapter.  Yes, there're grain elevators and lots of fields.  But this town is not about to vanish.  You might expect to see snapshots of local scenery on postcards of back road America.

And food?  Well, just do a little research.  We did.  Race fans suggested a place called "The Checkered Pig" for great BBQ.  We found it today.  The parking lot met my criteria of being crowded at lunch hour.  And most of the plates in the lot were local--not indicating the visiting track people were just going there for convenience.  The sign inside said, "Seat Yourself."  Except we couldn't.  Every table was packed with loud, chattering customers.  Another couple stood in front of us waiting for the "seat yourself" opportunity.

Now, up North this would have most likely devolved into a run for it moment.  Strangers elbowing their way to the next vacant spot.  But not here.  Lively and aware wait staff kept an eye at the line at the door and politely directed us to the next empty seat.  We still had to wait for the table to be bussed, but it all happened pretty quickly.

And the food...simple and tasty.  $7 bought me pulled pork, fries, hush puppies, cole slaw and macaroni salad.  We spent a little bit of time taste testing the selection of BBQ sauces left on the table (all house specials) and settled on the Medium.  A thinner sauce with an apple cider vinegar that gives it its sweet and sour base.  We both cleared our plates and ordered desserts.  Mine a blackberry cobbler and Rich a banana pudding "right out of the oven."

Good homestyle food.  We've a bottle of the sauce to experiment with back home.

Now, on to weather.  We're 700 miles south of home.  It's April.  I have seen a few spring blooms in the area.  But at this very minute?  It is snowing.  Yep.  We drove south so we could experience more snow.  Lucky us.  The weathermen insist that come Saturday, we'll be down to t-shirts and using sunblock.  Uh huh.  We'll see.

Tomorrow, I'll be back with some observations on the actual track.  Although I'm hoping I won't have time to write, because the sun will be shining.  I am hoping.

Until next time... :)

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