Drive to Burkes Garden (6-22-02)

Randall Thomas

Larry Elswick and I left Pikeville around 8:00 AM Saturday to meet up with the other club members at a supermarket parking lot in Lebanon, VA for the drive to Burkes Garden, VA. It was clear and cool, so we both wore jackets and drove on in the cool morning to meet Sam Chandler and Ricki Fields at the KY/VA state line. At the same time the Tri-Cities group was leaving Rush Street in Kingsport and coming up US 19 towards Lebanon. When we all got together in the Food City lot there were 5 MGB's, a Spitfire, and a Mazda Miata. Our group included Ben Bailey, Wayne Dye, Eddie & Judy Penland, Larry & Diane Bridwell, Sam Chandler & Ricki Fields, David Wallace, Larry Elswick, and Randall Thomas.

From Lebanon, we drove on northeast on US 19 to Claypool Hill and the US 460 junction, and then on to Tazewell and VA Rt. 61. Even thought US 19 and US 460 are 4-lane roads, they are curvy and scenic, with the beautiful ridges, woodlands, and farms on both sides of the highway. Traffic was light, and we could cruise at around 55 MPH without getting in anybody's way. As most of you probably know, 55 MPH in a 4-speed MGB equates to around 3,500 RPM, and so you feel as if you are really pushing the car, and going faster than the legal limit. Another reason these cars are so much fun. When we reached the turn-off to VA Rt. 623 (the only road into Burkes Garden), the fun started, what with the many twists and turns and hairpins that 623 affords. At the old school building, we got out and ate our picnic lunches under a shelter, and then took photos of the group and our cars. Since we were at around 3,300 ft. in elevation, it was considerably cooler than down in the valley at Tazewell, and I almost put my jacket back on. Burkes Garden is like a step back in time, all farms, no gas marts, fast food, traffic, or any of the other clutter of modern communities and highways elsewhere. We all drove the half loop around the area, taking in the well-kept dairy and beef cattle farms and woodlands. Judy Penland claimed to have seen a camel on one of the farms, but maybe it was one of the Jersey milk cows lying on its back taking a nap! Wild turkeys, deer, rabbits and lots of birds were also on view making it hard to gawk around and drive your car at the same time.

We left Burkes Garden after a stop at the General Store, and the ride out on 623 brought out the wanna-be Paddy Hopkirks and Tony Ponds among us, taking the curves as fast as our 20+ year old cars on skinny tires (and our own nerves) would allow. Again, there was hardly any traffic, so we were only endangering ourselves! After a pit stop at the Hardees in Tazewell, we went our separate ways, Larry and me getting back to Pikeville around 5:00 PM, a total of 322 very enjoyable miles.

Photographs by Eddie Penland