Mod Betty needs little excuse to get off the main highway and onto the back roads – even when our destination that night (home!) is hours and hours away. If you’re the same way and happen to be on route 81 in Virginia make a “point” to stop in Wytheville VA. It’s an easy peasy detour off the boring highway, and you’ll be glad you stopped.
Thanks to Retro Roadcommenter Lee who below notes “Wytheville is just 1 hour from the state line on I-81 from Tennesee, just north of North Carolina (30 miles from the state line on I-77); and just south of West Virginia (30 miles from the state line on I-77).” So you have no excuse to not stop there!
While you can’t miss the giant pencil pointing you towards Wytheville Office Supply, the first thing that grabbed my attention as we headed into town on Route 11 was this sweet deco-inspired neon signage for Count’s Drug:
I don’t want to give away all of the Retro Roadmap-worthy photo ops that we discovered in Wytheville, because then you’d miss that “delight of discovery” that makes exploring the back roads so much fun! But trust me, there’s more to discover in this little town than the giant pencil.
Like these giant scissors for example (and they move!)
You may be asking yourself, ”what’s the deal with these oversized implements?” – and pretty much the answer is, with all of these glorious roadside delights is…Advertising! The Big Pencil was the idea of the original owner of Wytheville Office Supply John Campbell Findlay, who had the 30 foot long pencil constructed (out of metal) in the early 1960s to draw attention to the original location of the store. Since then he has passed, and the pencil has moved a few times, but it has been at this final location since 1985.
As a good Retro Roadmap Reader you know not to just point and shoot, but go in and shop at the store. That’s where you’ll see those giant scissors as well as some interesting artifacts from the history of office supplies – my how times have changed! I’m sure you can find something to buy show your support, as we loaded up on pads of paper, pencil erasers and binder clips. You can’t have too many binder clips, I always say.
And don’t forget to shine your shoes:
Wytheville Office Supply
146 West Main Street
Wytheville, VA 24382
Binder clips in hand and shiny shoes afoot, we continued our stroll down Main Street and saw this intriguing wall sign:
While we weren’t particularly hungry, we just had to – for the sake of the website – try a Skeeter Dog at Skeeter’s E.N. Umberger Store. The old fashioned interior was well worth the price of the dawg.
As was the kind waitress who patiently took our order as we stumbled through the limited menu.
Two quick things to know about Skeeter’s: 1. They claim to have sold more than Nine Millllion hotdogs since they opened 1925 (I’m not about to count ‘em!) and 2. Be forewarned, the dogs are an unnatural red/pink color, but taste just fine. Our pal Hawk Krall over at Serious Eats can tell you more about the finer details of the dog and their slaw, but I’ll say, they were good, cheap, and well worth the stop.
Oh and 3. As I just learned from their Facebook Page, the E.N. in E.N. Umberger stands for Ernest Nuckols Umberger!
As if to confirm that our detour off the interstate was a Retro Roadmap worthy stop, check out what drove past us as we left Skeeter’s:
So do yourself a favor – get off that danged highway and bring your camera, wallet and appetite to Wytheville. Invest in the kind of downtowns we want to help survive!
E N Umberger Store-Skeeter’s
165 East Main Street
Wytheville, VA 24382
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