Spontaneity! Here's to it. There is something about summer and being more spontaneous that just fits together like a wedge of watermelon in a hand, a baseball in a glove, or having an impromptu water fight with your kids, husband and the hose. The other day after a long gap of not being in touch (apart from Facebook and email), my friend Teresa and I got together for a day of uninhibited gallivanting (another great word). I met Teresa last year at Bunco through a mutual friend. We've both given up Bunco but are still friends–we just haven't tended the friendship in person for a while and in our lives as (busy) women that can be all too easy to neglect at times ("my bad" as I'm working on live–and genuine–connections and friendships these days).
Teresa really lives just up the road from us, not too far as the crow flies, on a scenic 30-minute stretch along these wonderful country back roads that wend through the valleys and ridges of the knob region of south central Kentucky. Teresa is a native, has a lovely blog about her home chronicles, and she and her husband grew up not far from where they live now. I enjoy her perspectives, appreciate her genuine faith and growing friendship, and admire her country life.
So last week we hatched a plan. Thursday at 9am. Great. I arrived at her house and we looked at some brochures (you see, we didn't yet have a destination, just the day reserved between us), then we got on the Internet. Teresa suggested finding a tea room. Great idea as Kentucky has many scattered about and I'm always up for a tea room. So, we found the Candleberry Tea Room in Frankfort. Even better, it also had lunch! I remembered a farm stand I'd wanted to visit but didn't remember the name or the town–just that the farmer was also a published cookbook writer. So with some good Googling, we deduced it was Honest Farm up in Midway. Ah ha, a start, or an end, to our journey.
Midway, Kentucky was our unexpected destination after our Frankfort tea room.
Off we went, catching up along the way (something about a confined car ride that is so conducive to talking). Frankfort is an easy 90 minutes from our region and the tea room is located just outside of it. I'm a bit of a tea room snob, for lack of a better term, having been to many in England and New England (and I even ran and catered one myself on summer Sunday afternoons at an historic museum house, where I used to be site manager, that was even featured in the original Victoria Magazine–sorry, toot toot!) but the fare was good, the menu appealing and the tea first rate. We each got the sampler platter. Perfect: a slice of quiche, a small cup–not much bigger than a demitasse–of cold tomato-basil soup, and a dollop of chicken salad. None of the portions was too large, as I appreciated. We had iced peach tea with our meals and we both had a cup of vanilla chai for dessert. (Teresa chose the Chess Pie, a pie of Southern origin that is popular in Kentucky, and I had an Almond Joy muffin: it was small, thankfully, and had coconut, chocolate chips and almonds in it.)
Then we got onto I-64 east and went a few miles down the pike to the historic town of Midway to find the farm of which I kept asking Teresa the name: Real Farm? Good Farm? "No, it's HONEST Farm!" she would say, exasperated, "Do you have a block on that word?" Clearly I did as I could not remember it when we went to Google it earlier so it's amazing we found an Internet reference at all! (More about that later.)
Soon off the highway we came into the small town of Midway, Kentucky. Oh my. Needless to say, it was a car-stopping experience. We were headed to the farm but ended up detouring for several hours in the town, strolling up and down Main Street and going into most every shop–antiques, clothes, crafts, gifts–along the way. (I was proud of myself for not spending a penny but eyed a few possibilities for another time–and kept seeing things my husband would like, or like to buy me!, always a good sign! Because Teresa had nicely paid for our tea room luncheon, all I spent all day was gas money: and this trip was a half-tanker in our Honda Pilot.)
We counted at least five restaurants in the small downtown area of Midway–each enticing us for another visit. But, alas, we'd already eaten lunch!
There were also five bistro-like restaurants and pubs with reasonably-priced (mostly) and mouth-watering menus (I believe we checked out almost every one.). A town that can support five restaurants in less than a 1/8 mile block is doing well. [I immediately thought "horse country," as the town is just north of some of the largest and most picturesque horse and stud farms in Kentucky. Also, being located a stone's throw from I-64, between three of Kentucky's larger metropolitan areas, certainly helps, too. Location, location, location!]
A good paint job, preservation of historic features, inviting signage and attractive plantings or tasteful decor never hurt a business. It is such an easy concept and yet there are so many business owners who don't "get" that.
Midway was a railroad town founded in the 1830s, virtually "midway" between Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky (and not far from Frankfort, the state capital). The still active railroad line goes right through the middle of the town. I could see immediately that they had an involved historic district commission because of the appealing signage, diverse but preserved commercial architecture, as well as inviting shops and a cohesive–but eclectic–street facade. Yet, it has not been overly Disney-fied and there is still a bit of peeling paint here and there and other funky features that add to its inherent charm.
The hulking big green metal box, lower left, is indicative of buried power lines along the Main Street commercial district of Midway.
One shop owner we spoke with said they've had to fight the good fight over the years to get townspeople to appreciate and want to preserve their historic architecture (isn't that always the way?). The town was also part of the Kentucky Main Street Program in 2003, a grant-funding program that enables the economic and historic revitalization of (selected) towns across Kentucky (using the National Trust for Historic Preservation's "Main Street" tenets). It is most often a highly successful marriage between revitalizing a town's economy alongside historic preservation and is proof-positive that when you restore it, they will come. [The town where I spent my formative years, Jaffrey, New Hampshire, is presently a Main Street town and enjoying great revitalization of its economy, architectural and community heritage.]
The "old" downtown depot is deceptive: it is actually new construction and is a bank, complete with drive-thru window. Although a wee bit "Disney," it is possible to integrate new with old!
Now in certain regions of the country when I've come across a well-kept, preserved town with attractive shops, it can be off-putting because the shop and restaurant owners are sometimes, well, just a bit snooty. This was never the case with our encounters in Midway. Everyone was personable, engaging, and very welcoming, even though only one of us spent under ten bucks in our few hours there. I will certainly be back with my family, friends and out-of-town guests.
And what about that Honest Farm you are probably wondering? Well, we followed our Google map to where it was supposed to be (at Hurstland Farm), drove several miles past, realized we'd probably gone too far, doubled back, got out and asked directions. We discovered the produce stand had been at that exact location (but wasn't any more). We laughed at the wonders–and perils–of the Internet and realized, being almost four o'clock, that we had to give up the hunt even though someone had kindly given us owner Susie Quick's phone number. So homeward we went, over hill and dale, back to our little home farms tucked into our respective ridges.
The day was an "honest" lesson that sometimes it's not about the destination but the journey instead. Thanks, Teresa for a most lovely outing and good company–let's do it again sometime!
NOTE: Upon returning home I realized that Honest Farm is now selling out of a Main Street, Midway location that we'd somehow missed. Another destination for another time!