THE VILLAGE WHERE TIME STANDS STILL AND OTHER BACK ROAD AVENTURES

In the last post I shared the story of our somewhat bizarre lodging adventure in Park City, Kentucky. Today, I will tell the tale of a more successful quest for vintage lodging, and a few stories from the recent adventure on the back roads of America. 

The Grand Victorian Inn, and a visit to Mammoth Cave National Park the next day, was planned as a surprise for my dearest friend. So, needless to say, I was frustrated, disappointed, and perplexed about the hotels closure as we set off in search of lodging for the evening. 
Flexibility and being able to see plans that go down in flames as opportunity for new adventures is an integral component in ensuring a trip is memorable. In the search for a hotel or motel, and a restaurant, I pressed into service the wonders of the modern era by using the phone to call upon TripAdvisor and Yelp, and our Garmin. 
Super 8 was the closest motel but a notation indicated permanent closure. The next option, about ten miles away had received consistently terrible ratings. So, that left the hotel in the park itself, not something I was eager to do because these properties are not usually listed in the budget lodging category. 
Sunrise walkabout at Mammoth
Cave National Park

After getting lost on some Kentucky back roads, and dodging deer that seemed intent on suicide, we arrived at the Mammoth Cave park complex well after dark. In fact, it was only forty minutes before the restaurant closed so we checked in and sat down for a rather interesting dinner. 

The food was good if a bit overpriced. The staff was friendly and professional but they were hopelessly overwhelmed. Two waitresses for a full restaurant did not bode well but it was our only option. 
I ordered a beer, and my dearest friend a glass of wine. Three attempts latter, and being informed three times they were out of the brand requested, I was sipping on a bottle of Bud thirty minutes after sitting down. 
The motel is quite dated. Still, it was clean and well maintained, and the setting was superb. After a restful nights rest I set out on the morning walkabout on the forest trails at the motel and before realizing it, had covered several miles. Breakfast at the restaurant was pretty much a repeat of the night before.
We followed the old two lane highways as much as possible, crossed the Ohio River into Indiana, and turned west. The destination for the evening was Maeystown in Illinois south of East St. Louis. 

Maeystown was a most pleasant discovery. Marooned on a series of farm roads (it was only nine miles from the modern era that has engulfed Waterloo) this charming little village seems suspended in another time.
The turn off to Maeystown was well marked, and after a short drive on a narrow road that twisted down a small hill, we rolled into town after crossing a beautiful little stone bridge built in the 1850’s. A hulking mill built of stone in the same period, and some charming old houses lined the road into the “business district.” 
As I latter learned, about 30 years ago this charming village was on the cusp of becoming a ghost town. Then it was “discovered” and one by the old buildings were purchased and refurbished. ounded by German immigrants, German was the primary language in town well into the early 1940’s. Stone and brick seemed to have been the building material of choice, especially for the commercial buildings. 

Corner George Inn

Among these early pioneers were David and Marcia Braswell. Fittingly, David is a German teacher.
Their labor of love was to restore the inn and store that dated to the 1880’s, and the home next door built of locally quarried stone in the 19th century.  
Operated as a hotel until 1904 (the store was in business until 1950) the property retained a surprising number of original features, including some windows, when the Braswell’s acquired it in the summer of 1988.  
They have done an amazing job. The store looks as though it had just closed for the evening – in 1910.
The inn itself was truly a time capsule. From wall paper to furnishings, and the lack of a television, made it easy to imagine that it was 1920, 1900, or even 1890. As an example, in the hall, on a small oak table under a vintage lamp, a century old book rested under a pair of wire rimmed glasses as though the owner had stepped into the kitchen for a cup of tea. 
At every turn little touches reflected the owners love for the property, an evident belief that they were merely stewards of something very special, and a passion for providing guests with a most memorable evening. 

J Fires in Waterloo

We immediately fell in love with the charming Corner George Inn, and with Maeystown. I had but one complaint. However, this also proved to be another opportunity for adventure and discovery. 
On the evening of arrival, the tavern and restaurant in town were both closed. So upon David’s recommendation we drove into Waterloo, and had a wonderful dinner of grilled herb chicken at J. Fires Market Bistro housed in a former stage station and inn.
During dinner lightening began to flash, and in the distance we heard the rumble of thunder. As we began the drive back to Maeystown, it began to rain. Then it began to pour and for the rest of the night the most intense electrical storm I have ever encountered raged.
It was not a very restful evening, but not because of room quality. The bed was comfortable, our room warm, and if it wasn’t for the storm, there is little doubt that we would have had a wonderful sleep.
The next day I started with a brisk morning walkabout, and a superb breakfast served by the Braswell’s in the upstairs ball room. Traditional German foods, fresh fruit, and delightful conversation made for an excellent start to a new day.  
If you find yourself in the St. Louis area, and are looking for a quiet little oasis where you can simply slow the pace, and rest, I suggest that you consider Maeystown. And if you decide to stay the night try the Corner George Inn, and give our regards to the Braswell’s. 


   

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