Good to be back near the Appalachian Mountains, although I thought until today that they were the Blue Ridge Mountains (thank you, Google). In any case, I now feel much closer to the “Heywood Family,” the fictional characters that haunt our local attraction,Talladega Frights, whose story I wrote last year. They are a clan of hillbilly killers living in the Appalachian Mountains who prey on unsuspecting travelers. (Que banjo music.)
Sweet Tea. We made it to Bluefield despite the “sweetea” (as my Dixie friend, Troy, calls it) that nearly killed us. In my last entry, I explained the stop we made at the local fast food restaurant, Bojangles. I didn’t mention that with every combo comes a FREE sweetened ice tea. I know why it’s free: They have to give it away because otherwise only people already missing their sugar-rotted teeth and void of taste buds would actually pay for it. I’m not a tea snob, but I do like to drink my ice tea, not chew it. I have as big a sweet tooth as the next self-respecting, nowhere-near-menopausal woman, but this “southern” delicacy (and yes, these accents are definitely southern) was so sweet that drinking it to quench your thirst is about as effective as drinking ocean water.
Because of Jarret’s baseball schedule, all we seem to be doing is eating and sleeping. By the time the Orioles finish their game, Jarret showers and signs autographs (watching that never gets old) and we head to dinner. Applebee’s is the only restaurant in Bluefield that stays open past 10:00. The entire town goes to sleep around 8, so choices are limited: find something at the 24-hour Walmart or eat at Applebee’s. We eat at 10:30, visit until 1 a.m., sleep until 10, get up and do it all over again. I’m getting to the point now where I hate food.
Lemonade Days. The weather here this time is a bit warmer than during my last trip. Bluefield’s nickname is the “Air Conditioned City” because rarely do temperatures go above 85 degrees (therefore, most homes don’t have air conditioning units…although, let me thank God right here that our hotel room does). In the same way meteorologists in Bakersfield keep track of how many days temps soar above 100, the Bluefield city council actually keeps track of the number of days it gets hotter than 89. And when it does get hotter than 89, the little town springs to life to offer free lemonade to one and all. Grocery stores, fast food restaurants, downtown dress shops, gas stations–everyone gives away free lemonade. There is a celebratory spirit in the (wet) air. It’s difficult to be grumpy when folks are handing out free lemonade.
Lemonade is Bluefield’s champagne. Before we left on our trip, our son’s girlfriend told us that the Bluefield Orioles would be holding a “free lemonade” night at the ballpark and that we should all pack a yellow shirt to wear. I looked in our closets and discovered that I don’t own one item of yellow clothing, so when I arrived in Bluefield, I shopped at the nearest store with clothes (K-Mart) and found a West Virginia University t-shirt. I was quite happy that all of us would show Bluefield that Californians can participate and show spirit in their traditions, too.
When we got to the “Free Lemonade Night” game at Bowen Field on Thursday, I couldn’t wait to see a sea of yellow. The bases on the field were painted yellow, yellow balloons snapped in the wind, the first pitch thrown was an actual lemon, and I anticipated that everyone (especially the locals) would all be wearing their yellowest yellow attire. What I saw, however, was not what I expected.
We LITERALLY were the only people at the game wearing yellow.
So, here we are, a family of five, arriving to the field like a bunch of happy lemons, drawing stares and amusement from people we’ve come to know over the course of my two trips to Bluefield. The lady who runs the “Bird’s Nest” (merchandise store) yelled from behind the counter how “cute” it was that we all wore yellow. City council members thanked us for “dressing so cute” in our yellow and supporting their lemonade night.
Oh, yeah. You can count on the Martin Family to participate in your reindeer games. You betcha.
I looked at Allie and said, “I thought everyone was supposed to wear yellow tonight?”
“Um, ya, that’s what I was told,” she said with confusion as she looked around at the people looking at us.
So, we owned it. We clustered together like a bunch of bananas and made our way to the stands, where we sat proudly in the orange seats and watched as the O’s pulled off a win with a bottom of the 9th inning walk-off home run.
When the game ended, Jarret emerged from the clubhouse wearing–you guessed it–a yellow shirt. I couldn’t stand it. I pulled my family together and asked someone to take our picture. So… if you receive this photo in your Christmas card this year, you’ll now know the story behind it.