Rural Living

The Road Less Traveled

Garish Bedspreads and Country Lanes

 

by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer

Margo Oxendine

I did something recently that I haven’t done in maybe 40 years.

Well, it began with something I have never done: Check out of my hotel at 7:15 a.m.

I was at a Virginia Press Association conference in Richmond. The night before, I had “partied” as much as I ever do these days — nowhere near heartily.

Ah, I fondly remember the VPA conference days of dancing and availing myself of the delights of the “hospitality suite” until the wee hours. Sleeping until the housekeepers demanded I vacate the room.

I used to bring my mother along on those trips. Mom and I were great travel companions; much of that is because she would “keep me in check,” so to speak.

I remember one VPA conference back in my old dancing and hospitality days. I crept into our room sometime around 3 a.m. and fell into my bed.

I jerked awake to find the curtains wide open and the bright morning sun shouting into the room. I groaned and looked over at the chair beside the window. There was Mom, fully dressed for travel, her packed suitcase at her side, her purse clasped in her lap. “I’m ready when you are!” she chirped happily.

Oh.

At the recent conference, I attempted conviviality as long as I could. I was back in my room at 10 o’clock. I awoke at 5:52 a.m. and dallied around. By 7 o’clock, I had no options left but to leave. Our hotel sat on Route 250 at Short Pump. Short Pump, as I remember it from my college days, was naught but a wide spot in the road. Today, it is a shopping Mecca — or a nightmare, considering what I now think about shopping. Short Pump is, to me, a confusing conglomeration of commercial establishments, each of which looks very much like the other. I cannot imagine going to Short Pump to have a “fun” day.

Instead of heading back to the interstate, I decided to turn west and take Route 250 for a while. These days, the longer I can prolong merging onto the scary scramble of the interstate, the better.

Thus it was that I found myself meandering along what passes, near Richmond, as a peaceful country road. Every time I saw a sign pointing toward I-64, I decided to wait until the next one. I was amazed to discover that 250 is actually a shorter route to Charlottesville than the interstate is.

Back in the days before the interstate — yes, I remember them — 250 was the main road between Staunton and Richmond. It was a dark and lonely drive that seemed to take forever. One would simply put four gallons of gas in the car — that cost one dollar back then — and head toward home. Daddy would always fill up the car — probably spending about four dollars — before he put you back on the road to VCU.

One would pass through Short Pump and Oilville and Hadensville with nary a sight to see. Well, there is one sight I particularly remember from childhood. Somewhere alongside the road between Afton Mountain and Staunton, there were the bedspread displays.

They were my favorite sights to look out for: Rows of colorful chenille bedspreads hanging on a long line, all available for purchase. The colors were often beyond garish. The designs were intricate — flowers and butterflies and trees splashed in pink and orange and purple and green. I loved those bedspreads! I always begged for us to pull over and buy one for my bedroom. I was never indulged.

“Those are awful!” my mother would exclaim. “You have terrible taste!”

Daddy would always clench his pipe in his teeth, pronounce the sellers “gypsies,” and keep on driving toward home.

I was reminded of all this on that early Sunday morning drive back to Hot Springs. My mood could not have been rosier. There was no traffic to speak of; I was not jockeying for position on the interstate. I was not looking ahead, behind and to the side for lurking state police cars. I was not dodging tractor trailers.

I kept my eye peeled for those garish bedspreads but, alas, they were nowhere to be found. The highway system may have improved, but my taste remains the same.

To order Margo Oxendine’s A Party of One, email recorder@htcnet.org, or call 540-468-2147 Monday-Thursday from 9-5.

 

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