Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cheap Joe's Art Supply

When does shopping become a heart stopping experience?

This is what happened to me when I decided to go up to Boone, NC two weeks ago. I had been visiting a good friend in SC who couldn't get off work.  After resting for a day, I started to dream.  I already had a perfectly good rented car and practically knew the way up the mountains towards Hickory without a map.  John Denver's song from my youth playing softly in my mind,  "Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains,  Shenandoah River..." was calling me to the mountains.  So, I shared with my friend Rosa what I planned to do, packed up my things, and got on my way.  I would stay up there one or two nights and visit Cheap Joe's and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I am so thankful for sweet friends.  They let you dream and encourage you.  My sweet Carolina friends did that for me.  Ranne, Rosa, and Ginger, all played a role in my journey being a delight and of course, the Lord!  He is the one who orders our steps.  It was so unplanned on my part but so detailed on His.  It was like a Monet painting, just dots up close but a magnificent work of art from a distance.  You just have to believe you are not alone.  I did get a little lost in Charlotte and frankly,  who doesn't? But after a while I was able to find my way from InterState 77 to Int. 85, then to exit 27 to route NC State Road 321, after taking some google directed backroads and stopping at a gas station and a Visitor's Information Center.

Be sure to check which button you press when getting the Google directions.  I accidentally pressed cycling directions and it took me around some backroads about which I am still laughing.   Let's say, I got a good look at the runway side of the Charlotte Airport and some industrial lots with businesses with names I had never heard.  Since I had pressed cycling directions, it also gave me an arrival of time of eleven at night with the sad news that the business I was attempting to reach would be closed.  It was then I knew I need to find a gas station and buy a map.  Unfortunately, the gas station did not have a state map but the attendant was most helpful.  He told me the exact road to take and the exact exit: exit 27.  Ever doubtful that anyone could pull that information right out of the top of their head, I did take Int. 85 but before reaching exit 27, I saw a sign for a Gaston County Visitor's Information Center.   I immediately got off the road.   I found it was well stocked, and after a few minutes some very attentive attendants greeted me and provided all the necessary information to make my trip up the mountains successful.   Exit 27, turned out in fact to be the right exit.  Oh, so sorry for doubting!  The gas station guy was right!  In addition, I also called my good friend in Charleston for help in securing a room and she recommended a Sleep In in Boone which online appeared to be a very nice place.  Then she sent me their number in a text. It turned out to be an excellent choice with its clean accommodations, King sized bed, and generous breakfast full of choices.  When I reached Hickory,  I stopped at their Visitor's Center and made me reservation by phone.  By the way both Visitor's Centers had clean bathrooms and were good places for a single lady to stop.  

Once, I reached the steep climb into Boone, I was thankful that it was around five in the afternoon and the sun was still high in the sky.  The views were already breathtaking, even for those not going into the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP).  I had to stop several times along the way, just to take the beauty in.  Snap. Snap. Snap.  How many didn't I take but should have.  Everything seemed noteworthy.  The many little churches with a message on Jesus.  You can't help but hear the gospel with every turn.  Almost heaven... North Carolina. Then the pine trees nestled against gravely stones and boulders with spring bursting forth from timid trees that had been dormant for months.  Then looking in the distance were the mountains behind the strategically placed building holding jars of jam, jelly, or honey made by the locals.   But they were blocking my view of the fading blue layers of mountains.  I had to move on.

I still had to finish the climb to get to Boone.  The road, fortunately, had been widen since the last time I had come in 2007.  It was now technically a four lane high way, but I wasn't surprised to find that it was being repaired and because of that, it had narrowed to a two lane, but with plenty of should space as not to be frighten with the high precipices.  It was all good.  Look, I am human.  I could feel the pressure and my rental had to coerced into going into turbo in  order to climb it.  There were so many sensory sensations going on, I had to focus.  Finally, I reached the top and slowly started descending a tad towards Boone.  My ears popped happily.  Traffic started picking up but it was lovely nonetheless.  Then more people.  I had reached town.

I thought with my sore knee the best thing is to buy some dinner before heading to the motel.  Best thing I could have done.  I had lots of choices but I stopped at Five Guys Hamburgers and rested.  I didn't eat there since I wasn't that hungry, but I got to stretch after that strenuous climb. Believe it or not, driving in unfamiliar places can be strenuous. The area is at least 3000 feet above sea level.  So that also takes adjusting to.  It turned out to not be a problem.  I reached the motel and to my surprise it was nicer than I expected and shared a parking lot with a Quality Inn both with manicured landscaping. I easily checked in and settled for the night.

The next morning, I woke up refreshed and ready for breakfast.  They had a wonderful clean breakfast area where you could make your own waffles, cereal, or simply have fruits and an English muffin.  The guests and attendant were friendly.  When I mentioned Cheap Joe's the gal recommended a ham place near it.  She said they sold the same ham they served at the Daniel Boone restaurant which is so well known in town.  Alas,  I was unsure if I could spend another night because a friend in Charlotte invited me to spend the night.  I only had two nights left before I would be heading to Rochester.  I had to make my decision, but I consulted the ladies at the desk.  There was room for another night but I told them I would call them early to reserve if I decided to return.

So after breakfast I packed my things and went to Cheap Joe's which was one of the reasons I had come into town in the first place.   Thank goodness for GPS.  Cheap Joe's is located on a little hill inside an industrial park.  Though they have a warehouse, the ambiance inside the story is anything but industrial.  Right before stepping in though,  I saw the rocking chairs were still there from the time I had attended a workshop around 2007 with Carol Cooper.  They were poised to take in the spring greens and beautiful mountains.  I wished I hadn't had so much on my schedule that day.  By then a friend had invited me to spend the night in Charlotte and I still wanted to see the Blue Ridge Parkway and take in the colors and breathe in that mountain air.  If not for that,  I really would have enjoyed sitting there for a spell. 

Once inside, I was greeted by a friendly attendant named Tippy and I also saw that Joe Miller, the owner was in the store saying hello to some customers.  Meanwhile, Tippy and I talked for a few minutes and she asked me where I was from.  Of course I told her Puerto Rico.  As we say in Spanish, "¡para que fue eso!" She went over to Joe and told him.  He finished a conversation with a couple of other customers and came over to say hi.  

Oh my goodness! Joe Miller is such a renowned watercolorist, but his kind and easy going manner is evident from all his videos and he is the same in person.  To say I was happy would be an understatement.  After telling me how special it was to him that I had been a long time faithful customer and had come all this way from Puerto Rico, he dedicated a beautiful Journal full of his paintings.  I was speechless. (People who know me will find that hard to believe.) Then he called for his photographer and we had our picture taken! I couldn't believe it. You can go to the Cheap Joe's Facebook page and find the picture! Or actually click on the word picture, it will take you there. 
  
He excused himself and I went on shopping. I knew I wanted some of Arches 140 lbs. cold pressed paper which I somehow planned to fit in my suitcase.  I also purchased some teaching videos and various books.  I could picture my suitcase getting heavier and heavier. You really want to buy the store.  It is a candy store for artists but there was a limit as to what would fit in my suitcase.  I still had Rochester before me.

After a while, Joe came back and asked if I had plans for lunch and would I like to join the artists at the workshop for lunch!  Then he introduced me to Fealing Lin, the Artist/Instructor and I joined her and the ladies for lunch.  We talked art. There, I was able to see the beautiful portraits Ms.Lin had done and the work her students were doing.  It was wonderful. 

Joe says he gets up early to spray his store with magic artsy air but I grant you his kind ways and those of his team are magic enough. Thank you, Joe! You made my day!

 God bless you!

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