So, we’re off to Mayodan, NC … We planned on spending Christmas at this cool log cabin outside of this small town, but for our first night there, we wanted to eat out … Mountain Side Restaurant came with high recommendations from the folks that hosted us and we did try to make it happen. But we were to find out, small town Mayodan had other plans for us …
I have always wondered if people in really small towns have slower pulse rates than the rest of the world. The world seems slower, and the life seems braked when you’re in a small town. Everything is measured by its own measure, and it’s timed by its own timer in a small town. Directions are approximate, and the world is small. Really small!
After all, our own log cabin folks have told us before “if you get lost out here, you might could find us, but otherwise, you can’t” – or is it “cain’t”?! They come with their own dictionary and grammar, the small towns do!
Although the above mentioned restaurant had a link to our log cabin host’s website, we figured we asked for directions at the log cabin, just because the restaurant had not one, but two … addresses … on their own site… We were not sure whether they’re on Main Street, or Ayersville Rd. Isn’t everything on Main Street, in a small town, you’d ask?! Well, we thought so, too, but …
So, before we headed out to dinner, we asked our hostess (by the extremely thick Southern drawl, a local) where we would find this fine place, The Mountain Side Restaurant: is it on Main? Or Ayersville? She proceeded, ever more puzzled: “I b’lieve it’s Ayersville. Well, it’s Main, really! You go down a biiiiggg hill (or is it “heel”?!), and then you go up another hill (remember, we were in a place “that you might could find if you’re lost”, so it could be any hill from there…) and then you keep going, and going till you see a fire station on your right. No! On your left! And then you just keep going and you’re looking for a lodge-looking, cottage-y thing, and that’s that!”. I swear to you her directions were verbatim the ones above. Or about 95% close to that!
So, we try to follow those directions and we also have a GPS with the Ayersville Rd. address punched in. Even the GPS is approximate: it cannot find 401 on Ayersville Rd. , but it suggests 600. And we get nowhere near a fire station. There are hills. Up. And down. But which ones are we looking for? Where do we declare the hill chase done?! We are getting nowhere.
We then try the Main street address the site listed. And we get nowhere with that, either. Then, we call. And we find out they are in fact on Ayersville. But they’re closed for the night, because their main water line is busted, and they had to close down!
So, we’re thinking: the water cannot possibly be broken because of the winter temperatures? Sure, there is snow around, but it’s been 40F degrees for the past week! That’s not cold enough for the water to freeze, and thus pipes to break. But go figure …
So, famished, we keep driving in the dark, on Main Street, looking for a place that looks open and sells some food. We hope to find anything else other than McDonalds or Pizza Hut open. The town looks dead. It’s barely 6 PM, and everything is dark, with no cars parked in front. And no traffic! This is December 23rd. Greensboro has bumper-to-bumper traffic and security men directing traffic at all intersections of shopping centers. Mayodan has emptiness on Main Street! Pretty fast we’re reminded that we’re in Small Town USA, and our hearts need to stop beating that fast! Or expecting life to move that fast, at least.
We finally come across a Steak House but Aa. is saying “No. That’s closed”. I see four cars in front and the Open sign lit up, so I beg to differ and I park! The place is open. Once we enter it, it feels like a cave from Twin Peaks opened in front of us. There are maybe four tables taken, and the place feels more like a diner than a steak house per se. It’s slow. People talk slow. And walk slow. And order a burger very slow, as if a burger is such a complicated order. I order a Caesar Salad, and the waitress is dubious that I would like the dressing. I guess it’s an unusual order and people sometimes are turned off by the anchovies or garlicy taste of the Caesar dressing in that place?? I know: I am presumptuous! And I assure her I love the dressing.
You know this is a small town when the boyfriend of the hostess is waiting for her to finish her shift in the lobby, so he can probably take her home. So he can make sure she’s not hit on by the patrons – all two of them that happen to be single wandering in that night … It’s cute.
The food is mediocre, at best. They heard about boiling noodles but definitely not of seasoning them … I suspect they don’t get Emeril on TV to tell them that “noodles don’t come seasoned” or they don’t have the curiosity to listen to that channel. Again: presumptuous!
On our way out, the hostess is “taking a break” since all the 10 patrons for the night – probably the busiest night since Valentine’s Day, since it’s almost Christmas and everyone’s family must be in town, going out “at the Steakhouse” to eat – are settled in. The boyfriend is holding her as if she were his own private property, and he’s wishing us well, sort of like “the man of the house”, and he warns us : “Bundle up, y’all! It’s gonna be killer out there tonight!”. We both chuckle. The forecast calls for 35F at night – hardly what a Michigan boy and a Romanian gal would call “killer” for a winter night … We’re suspicious!
But maybe we were wrong … Maybe as everything else is different in small towns everywhere, maybe water, and people’s noses and toes do freeze above 32F … in small towns … Maybe noodles are meant to taste like drained hot water in these towns and that’s their local taste! Who knows?! Not us, “city people” for sure … We should not judge. The noodles might not have flavor up there. But every dark street corner and nameless hill and person does.
After all. We go there to visit. Not to blend in. We would not be able to do the latter. And in our speedy passing, we only but skim the surface of the life which indeed must go on under what seems to be the reality of a small town from anywhere by the eyes of an outsider.
We left tired and hungry . And smiling with pleasure. Full of the charm that is not to be found in the big city where temperatures, speeds and directions are as exact as a Physics manual. And just as boring!