Friday, July 22, 2011

Route 11 Road Trip: Day 7 Abingdon to Bristol

On the final day of our road trip, we started off at the Abindgon Farmer's Market. The town recently built a loard pavilion area for the market, and the place was packed. It was the largest selection of vendors we had seen since visiting the Roanoke Court Square market.

Later in the day, we officially completed our road trip by driving Route 11 down from Abingdon to Bristol, VA. It was a journey we'd made many times, so it didn't hold many surprises. Along the way we passed the Hi-Lo Burger. It's been around for decades, and is an area fixture.

You drive up to the window facing the road and place your order (and pay for it). Then you drive around to the opposite side of the building and pick up your order.

This part of Route 11 is also known as Lee Highway. When it was the major thoroughfare motels were plentiful to serve the weary traveler.

Once traffic shifted to Route 81, many of these motels went out of business, including the Robert E. Lee motel. For a number of years we'd watched the building with its large metal sign fall further into disrepair. Eventually, the sign was rescued and restored by a local storage business owner, which is where we found it.

The Robert E. Lee Motel sign is still on Route 11, just a short distance from its former location.

Also on Route 11 is the Helms Candy Company. If Santa visited your house in Southwest Virginia (or you visited him at a Parks-Belk Department Store), then chances are you had a Helms Candy candy cane. The factory is still just outside of Bristol, and the candy is still available.


One of the big attractions of Bristol is its unique geography. The city straddles the Virginia/Tennessee state line, which runs down the middle of State Street. Technically, the area comprises of twin cities: Bristol, Virginia and Bristol, Tennessee. But most people just think of "Bristol" as one large city that just happens to be in two states.

Bristol's known as "the birthplace of country music." If the big guitar doesn't remind you, every water gauge plate will. In 1927 the Carter family made the first of a series of recordings that became popular nationwide and started a new genre of music.

Our road trip was an amazing seven days. Normally it takes six hours to drive from our home to Abingdon, so stretching the journey over six days gave us a fresh perspective. We passed through places we'd only seen from the Interstate, and lingered in towns we usually hurry through. We experienced many things we said we would do "someday."

I'm grateful that "someday" arrived -- and it was well worth the wait.

#route 11

Route 11 Road Trip -- The Plan

Route 11 Road Trip -- Day 1: Winchester

Route 11 Road Trip - Day 2: Winchester to Harrisonburg

Route 11 Road Trip - Day 3: Harrisonburg to Lexington

Route 11 Road Trip - Day 4: Lexington

Route 11 Road Trip - Day 5: Lexington to Christiansburg

Route 11 Road Trip - Day 6: Christiansburg to Abingdon


  1. Anonymous8:15 PM

    Ralph, I enjoyed reading about your journey down Route 11. Sounds like a wonderful relaxing way to travel. I will definitely have to try this type of trip soon.

  2. I think the next time we do something like this, it won't be in the middle of summer! 100+ degrees is unusual, but less likely to occur in September or early October!