Spring Break in High Point, NC
Hello readers! I am so excited that I am fulfilling one of my New Year’s resolutions…to become a blogger! I thought I would use our trip to High Point, NC as a starting point for my blog. I know that some of your are probably thinking: “High Point, NC? What kind of a place is that to go on spring break?” The funny thing is, that is what the locals were also asking us! The reason for this particular location is that High Point is where our beloved John Coltrane grew up. Now believe me, I can’t say that I was all that enthused when my husband Brian told me that he was planning a trip to go there during my spring break from Howard University. It’s not that I am not a John Coltrane fan because I love John Coltrane’s music. It’s just that I was thinking more along the lines of somewhere “beach-y.” Oh, I guess I should mention that my husband is a saxophonist because then all of this will make sense!
This whole thing came about towards the end of January (the weekend of the Benny Golson 80th birthday bash at the Kennedy Center) when Brian and I were having brunch with Reggie Workman and his family who were in town for the event at the Kennedy Center. Reggie, for those of you who may not know, is a phenomenal jazz bassist who has played with the who’s who of the jazz world (in addition to being a who’s who himself!). Reggie was one of our professors at The New School in New York City where Brian and I earned our undergraduate degrees in Jazz Performance and he continues to be a beloved friend and mentor. Somehow we started talking about North Carolina and Reggie mentioned that in High Point, NC there was a statue of John Coltrane (Reggie was a member of Coltrane’s band at one point in his career). Then and there Brian was sold on the idea of making a pilgrimage to High Point to worship the John Coltrane statue.
We began our journey on Monday, March 16th. We left DC at about 11am in our little rented Volvo Zipcar (one of the greatest ideas ever! So convenient!) It was a little drizzly and gray but the roads were pretty clear. I had not slept at all the night before because I was up doing my hair so I had planned to sleep the whole way there. I slept for a bit but I ended up staying awake for most of the trip. We stopped just once at a Waffle house for a bit of lunch. I don’t even remember what town we were in. The one black waitress in the restaurant was named Jessica. We laughed when we heard this because I’ve always had a weird fantasy about being a waitress in a diner in some small town (I know…it’s very strange! I think I watched too many “Alice” episodes when I was little girl. “Mel, kiss my grits!”).
After lunch it was straight on to High Point. Now, keep in mind my husband planned this whole trip and did not share any details with me other than where we were going. So when we pulled into the front of the J. H. Adams Inn (the swankiest place in town), I was pleasantly surprised. I certainly was not expecting to stay anywhere as nice as this place.
My poor husband had most likely been saving all of his little pennies since January to be able to afford these accommodations (Bless his little heart! He is the greatest.)! I would highly recommend this place if you’re ever in the High Point/Greensboro, NC area. It was built in 1918 and was the home of John Hampton and Elizabeth Adams. John Hampton owned a hosiery mill (hosiery and furniture manufacturing was big business back in the day in High Point) and was a very prominent businessman. The residence has only been an inn since 2001. We stayed in the part of the inn that was added on in 2000 so we did not get to see any of the older rooms. Our room was pretty nice with it’s cranberry colored walls, plantation shutters, tasteful furnishings and huge tub in the bathroom. My favorite thing in the room was this harlequin lamp (notice the Garden and Gun magazine at the foot of the lamp…so southern!):
We had dinner that night at the restaurant there at the inn called Hampton’s. The food was delicious. I had the crab cakes and Brian had the steak. Even more delicious than the entrees were the desserts. Brian had the cheesecake and I had the lemon creme cake; both were equally yummy! We ordered the desserts to go because I had to get back the room by 9pm in order to watch 24. I could not miss one second of the action. I actually left Brian down in the restaurant while he waited on the check and I high-tailed it back to the room (I know…I am a complete addict!).
The next morning, I took advantage of the inn’s fitness room and worked out a little before partaking of the complimentary continental breakfast. It wasn’t anything fancy (I had frosted flakes, fresh fruit, a blueberry bagel, tea and orange juice) but it was filling. They also had oatmeal, boiled eggs, granola, yogurt, coffee, assorted boxed cereals…pretty basic but nice.
After breakfast, we got dressed and made a beeline for the John Coltrane statue…well not exactly a beeline…we had a little trouble finding it. We finally asked a man who was driving a city vehicle and he told us how to get there. We were on the right street but going in the wrong direction. As it turned out, we were only a few blocks away from it. We finally found it (it was across from the High Point Theatre and in front of the City Hall).
We parked and then proceeded to take many photos. A little while later, the gentleman in the city vehicle who gave us directions showed up and chatted a while and asked if he could take our picture (he asked us if we were wanted for anything before he snapped some shots with his camera. I’m not sure if he was joking or not…). He was also kind enough to take our picture with my camera. Another cool thing about the statue was that some of the bricks on the ground around the statue had inscriptions on them. I guess you can buy a brick and have them write whatever you want on it. Of course now my husband wants a brick with his name on it!
Our next stop after seeing the statue was the High Point Museum. There they have the oldest building in High Point (an old log cabin) on the grounds in front of the museum. We were greeted at the front door by a museum volunteer. She is sweetest lady! She is 85 years old and she told us that she is originally from Oklahoma and used to work in Washington, DC on Capitol Hill for the senator from Oklahoma at the time. She walked us around a little bit giving us information about the museum and some of the exhibits. She developed a little crush on Brian (more on that later)! The museum was pretty small but very quaint. Of course we were the only people visiting the museum at the time! We weren’t able to visit the lower level as they were in the process of installing a new exhibit but we saw some pretty cool stuff like John Coltrane’s piano from his childhood home, his downbeat award, a small little exhibit on Fantasia (I forgot to mention she is also from High Point) and a school bus that you could get on and drive (High Point is also known for manufacturing school buses!).
After seeing the exhibits, we went back to the front of the museum where the gift shop was located. We met up with our little lady friend again and she proceeded to show Brian the toys that they carried in the gift shop. It was then that she started calling him “Dimples.” She called his attention to a paddle and ball and told me that I needed to get that for him so that I could paddle him when he was bad! I told her that, on occasion, he can get out of hand and she replied, “I know! That’s why I call him ‘Dimples’! She was hilarious! Apparently, Brian is very popular with the over 50 crowd! The lady who worked in the gift shop (I think her name is Beth) was also very nice. We chatted with her for a while and she told us the story of how the museum acquired John Coltrane’s piano. Apparently, the person who won the piano at the auction a few years ago in New York was not able to pay for it or changed their minds and the auction house called the museum and offered it to them. The director of the museum did not dream that they would be able to get that piano as they are a small museum and they don’t have much money. She went to the auction to get whatever she could and managed to get the piano! We came to the conclusion that the piano was meant to live there in that museum. Beth gave us the directions to John Coltrane’s childhood home and some suggestions on places to eat in the area. After paying for our purchases we left the museum, heading for John Coltrane’s house. Upon leaving the museum, we were glad to see that the sun had come out after being overcast all morning.
The house where Coltrane grew up was not far from the museum and the directions that Beth gave us were spot-on. The part of town where the house is located used to be where the black middle-class lived. In it’s prime there were well-kept houses and plenty of black-owned businesses in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, it has suffered the plight of a lot of black neighborhoods in this country and is pretty run down now, although the people were very nice and just about everyone waved to us as we passed by. As we neared our destination of Underhill Street, we passed the high school Coltrane attended. During his time, William Penn High School was the only high school in the area for blacks. It is now an arts school where the music and dance building is named after John Coltrane.
Upon pulling up in front of the house, I started to get really excited. I knew that Brian would be beside himself with excitement but I didn’t expect to be so affected! No one currently lives in the house and it is owned by the High Point Museum. It’s in pretty bad shape and there is not even a marker or a plaque that lets you know that Coltrane lived there. Beth at the museum said that the museum is trying to figure out what to do with the house. They are concerned about turning it into a museum because the neighborhood where it is located is a little seedy. She did not use those words exactly, she said they were concerned because it was a residential area but when we got to the house, we could see the reason for their concern. It was pretty cool to be standing on ground where we know Coltrane walked and to picture him on the porch of the house or playing in the yard. A man who lived in the house next door was looking at us suspiciously…clearly High Point doesn’t get many Coltrane fanatics like us!
After leaving the house, we went to have lunch at Kepley’s Barbecue at the recommendation of Beth from the museum. I’m not a big barbecue fan but Brian was anxious to get some real North Carolina barbecue. It’s a very cute place…no frills. It’s been in business since 1948 so it has that retro charm. We both ordered a barbecue sandwich and shared an order of hush puppies. The sandwiches came with Kepley’s homemade slaw. We asked for it on the side because we didn’t know what to expect. The sandwiches came wrapped in paper…no plates…again, no frills. The sandwiches were good and the slaw was interesting…vinegary. I really enjoyed the hush puppies though. They were excellent. Their own barbecue sauce was in recycled ketchup bottles on each table. The tops had little slits cut in them so that you didn’t have to take the top off to pour it on your sandwich as it was very thin…not your regular thicker barbecue sauce. Brian didn’t notice the hole in the top of the bottle and proceeded to shake the bottle up before he poured it on his sandwich. He was quite embarrassed when barbecue sauce went flying all over the place! Luckily, he did not have the bottle pointing towards me! We washed down our lunch with some sweet tea and went back to the inn to relax.
There are plenty of little rooms where you can chill at the inn. We ended up spending the rest of the afternoon and early evening reading in the sunroom…well…we were supposed to be reading…much time was spent on our respective smart phone devices and just otherwise acting silly!
At the suggestion of Beth from the museum and one of our hosts at the inn (I can’t remember her name), we drove over to Jamestown for dinner at Southern Roots. This restaurant used to be the resident restaurant at the Adams Inn but left that location in 2007. The new Southern Roots opened in the new location on Main Street in Jamestown, NC earlier this month. It’s very trendy with old R&B music playing and a decor I can best describe as updated modern Soho country! The food is very reasonably priced and good! I had a mixed green salad that had blue cheese crumbles, pecans and a little piece of honeycomb (Yum!). Brian had a salad with their granny smith dressing on the side. He didn’t put it on his salad (it was very thick) but he said it was the best applesauce he had ever tasted! We both had the Shrimp and Grits entree. Very rich and buttery! Those southern people love their butter! It was delicious. The two guys sitting at the table next to us got very excited when they spotted a celebrity in the restaurant. Neither Brian nor I recognized the name…apparently, he is a well-known political figure here in DC! We were a little embarrassed that we were from DC and did not know who this was! The men were pleasantly amused to find out that we were from DC and wanted to know how we ended up there at the newest, trendiest spot in town! Later, our waitress asked us what exactly we were doing in the area because people don’t usually come there to visit without knowing someone to come and visit. We told her we were there to see the Coltrane statue and she was quite amused. We found out that she will be going to New York in the fall to attend law school. She was very sweet and we both really loved her southern accent. After dinner, it was back to the inn for a dip in that olympic-sized bathtub!
We checked out of the hotel the next morning and on the way out of town, we stopped to see High Point’s claim to fame…the world’s largest chest of drawers! This thing is gi-normous! It even has two pairs of socks hanging out of one of the drawers (a nod to High Point’s hosiery days)! Even though we weren’t supposed to walk on the grass, I had to get as close as I could!
On the way home, we stopped in downtown Richmond, VA for a late lunch at a nice little Thai place (really good peanut dressing) and dessert at River City Diner (killer chocolate cake and chocolate/banana milkshakes! Yes, I had them both…what of it?) Both places are on 17th Street across from the Farmer’s Market.
Arrived back in DC safe and sound Wednesday evening after a relaxing, sunny drive. It was a wonderful trip (thank you, delicious husband!). A good time was had by all! Where to next?