Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Small Town Fix

This past weekend I attended the Hwy. 80 Garage Sale with my friend and fellow writer, Rebecca Russell. This is a garage sale/flea market along US Hwy 80 from Mesquite, TX to the Louisiana border, all through East Texas. I'd never heard of this event before looking on the Mineola, TX website, http://www.mineola.com/. It's similar to the "world's longest garage sale" held annually from Ohio to Alabama. In Wills Point we ate lunch at the Bluebird Cafe, a rustic little restaurant with great cheeseburgers and an impossibly sweet coconut meringue pie. We went to sales in people's front yards, in church parking lots, sold off flatbed trailers at the side of the road, and took advantage of some specials at antique stores along the route. I even bought a 1950s two seat glider that I'd seen when in the area back in July.

We stayed Friday night in Mineola, one of my favorite small towns, at the beautiful and gracious Munzesheimer Manor B & B, http://www.munzesheimer.com/. The Perry Room was large and the breakfast was delicious. We ate dinner on Friday night at Kitchens, a former hardware store and deli that is now a wonderful restaurant with a courtyard and aged brick walls. On Saturday we stood in line for burgers at East Texas Burger Company, a very old and popular restaurant that sells homemade fried pies and other desserts in addition to country cooking.

I've been to Mineola several times. It was one of the first small towns I'd ever spent time in because I'm a city girl. I grew up in Louisville, KY, a city of approximately half a million people when I lived there, and much larger now. After I married we moved to Denver, CO, where I was happily learning to garden, can, and make jelly when my Texan husband dragged me kicking and screaming to Dallas. After living here for 30 years, I'm no longer fighting to escape across the norther border, although I do threaten to rent a house in Maine ever summer.

But back to Mineola ... I organized a few writers' retreats there when I was program director for my local RWA chapter, Dallas Area Romance Authors, http://www.dallasromanceauthors.com/. We stayed up late on the second floor veranda of the (now private residence) Noble Manor B & B and talked about writing and our lives, complained about rejections and fleshed out characters and plots. We went during the Iron Horse Festival, an annual event that celebrates the railroad. After watching marching bands, prancing horses, and little princesses on flatbed floats, we ate from the carnival-type booths at the festival. Judy Christenberry and I even rode the twirling teacup ride! We shopped at the stores and enjoyed the atmosphere. I think perhaps I got the most out of the retreats because I was like a dry sponge, soaking in the small-town flavor. I even interviewed the police chief for the character I was developing for my first Harlequin American Romance, The Bachelor Project.

Whenever I need my small town fix, I go back to Mineola. Oh, I go to other towns also. I believe I saw a depiction of one of my photos from Graham, TX on the new cover of my December release. (Look at the picure to the left and compare it to my December cover for A Texan Returns!) Small towns just fascinate me. I listened to many stories of growing up in towns like Lipan, Lingleville, Mineral Wells, and Dennis, TX from my husband and in-laws. I learned a lot about what made a Texan from them. I learned a lot about what makes a successful small town from Mineola. So thanks, and I really enjoyed the Hwy. 80 Garage Sale. See you next year, East Texas, or before if I need another fix!


Estella said...

I could not imnagine living in a big city. I have lived in small towns all of my life.

Ellen said...

I have thoughts of going to the Hwy. 80 Garage Sale but somehow never think of it at the right time. DARN! Recently I have been also thinking of visiting some of the small towns that I usually just drive through without stopping. Maybe I'll start with Mineola.

Trish Milburn said...

Sounds like a fun trip, Victoria. The World's Longest Yard Sale goes through Tennessee about an hour or so east of where I live. I hear it's crazy, bumper-to-bumper traffic.

I was in Texas last week and finally got to visit the cute little town of Gruene.