Me, Lance, Rocky, and our coin jar, getting sodas

Hillbilly Date Night

We decided we needed a date night, but our family-run, two-screen movie theater is a solid half-hour away down a twisty, winding road, so we figured we’d make it a watch-at-home movie night instead. With buttery popcorn made on the stovetop and some icy-cold drinks.

Which is when we realized we didn’t have any Cokes. (Or co-colas, as I call them. And by Cokes or co-colas, I mean any sweet, carbonated beverage.)

We live in a remote area of the western Appalachian High Country. The closest store is a Food Lion 20 minutes away in Mountain City Tennessee, or the Dollar General, which is just about as far away in the opposite direction.

But! There is a Gatorade vending machine half a mile down our tiny rural road in front of a neighbor’s barn. (I’ve written a poem about this vending machine, which is kind of a community treasure and gathering spot.) Our neighbor Dave fixes cars in his barn, and even has a sign with his name on it above the barn door.

But I don’t like Gatorade, and anyway who drinks Gatorade with popcorn at the movie?

However, another local runs a 2-pump gas station and unofficial general store about 3 miles from us. I say “unofficial” because there’s no sign, and as far as I know never has been. You just have to know it’s there. Everyone calls it “Larry’s,” because, well, it’s Larry’s. I’ve run down to Larry’s to find odd necessary items (wire strippers, two-stroke engine fuel, local eggs), and even one time to get Larry himself to help me start my chainsaw when no one else was around. Larry also plugs our tires when we pick up a nail.

Lance and I knew the place would be closed, but Larry has not one, but TWO soda machines in front of his building.

So we made a plan.

Lance grabbed our little Mason jar full of spare change, I got the dog, and we set out in the Jeep to acquire Cokes for our date night with all the windows rolled down to let in the balmy summer breeze.

Rocky enjoying the drive
Rocky enjoying the drive

We stopped first at the Gatorade machine in front of Dave’s barn to double check our options. Interestingly, the drinks were not all Gatorades! There were Pepsi-colas in one slot, and we could have gotten a couple, but the sun was perfect and the countryside was gorgeous, and we were enjoying having so many options!

So we said goodbye to the Gatorade machine with the intention of seeing what Larry’s had.

Although first we had to wave to the reindeer.

At the end of our little road, almost right across from the Gatorade machine, there are plywood cutouts of Santa’s reindeer up in the weeds on the mountain. There are two reindeer left; the others have all succumbed to the weather and overgrowth. But these cultural icons once pointed people to the Christmas tree farms on our road, and we love to pause and wave at them when we pass.

Find the reindeer!
Find the reindeer!

Then we cross the river, where we’ve stood watching trout hold their position for long periods of time. Not today, though, because we were on a Fizzy Drink Date Night Mission, and had to keep at our quest.

Hello river
Hello river

We get a beautiful view of our mountain as we pass one of the farms down below us on the road; I made Lance slow down as we drove past so that I could get a photo of the tidy black barn and hay shed; I had a mind to paint the scene later if I could. (And in fact I did! You can see my painting at this link.)

View of Peak from a farm below
View of Peak from a farm below

Two miles down the road there’s another community gathering spot: the FREE sign. (I’ve written a poem about this place, too.) Lance picked up a treadmill here recently, and has been enjoying repairing it.

You see all sorts of things left at the FREE sign, from Christmas trees to furniture to baby things, and even bags of clothes and linens. On our date adventure there wasn’t anything there, although we did see that someone had added an irate message to the center of the sign. I’ll let you read that for yourself.

The FREE sign down the road
The FREE sign down the road
FREE Sign fine print
FREE Sign fine print

After the FREE sign, we pass the little church on Sutherland, which also sits below our mountain and makes for a pretty picture. I might paint that scene sometime too.

Church on Sutherland, Peak in the background
Church on Sutherland, Peak in the background

Other than those landmarks, it’s mostly cows and crooked roads, and once in a while a wild turkey or deer crossing the road.

But finally we arrived at Larry’s, just as he was taking out his brand new motorcycle for its second-ever ride. He gave me permission to take a photo of it; it’s gorgeous!

Fancy motorcycle, only ridden once
Fancy motorcycle, only ridden once

We chatted for a while, and as Larry pulled out onto the road, we counted our coins and made our choices from the vending machines: One (Coke brand) co-cola for me, two Mountain Dews for Lance.

We snapped our selfie, and headed home to make popcorn on the stovetop.

Me, Lance, Rocky, and our coin jar, getting sodas
Me, Lance, Rocky, and our coin jar, getting sodas

The movie was awful. I don’t think we made it past the first 20 minutes. But the company was good, the popcorn was buttery, the sodas were icy-cold, and the drive made it all come together. Other than the movie, it was the perfect date night.

And I just don’t know if you get almost-perfect date nights with reindeers, rivers, FREE signs, cows, and icy-cold co-colas from vending machines like this in the city.

6 comments on “Hillbilly Date Night

  1. Sherry Siddall

    Really, it’s all you could ask for (and why we spend time in Creston whenever we can).

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe

      It *is* all a body could possibly want! I love it out here, too. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Sherry!

  2. What a hoot of a story! Might be hard to believe if one didn’t live in these parts. Sounds a lot like some of our meanders. Best kind of date.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe

      Right?? I think it’s the best kind of date, too. But you know, some folks haven’t had the experience yet, so they might not know how awesome it is. 😄 Thanks for reading and commenting, Carole!

      • Papa Tom

        Caused me to have to get a Pepsi and popcorn, too. Meme was out of town.

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