Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Cookie Lady. Kindness since 1976.

Last Wednesday afternoon, I had a pleasant "alumni visit" with June Curry, a.k.a. "The Cookie Lady," kindness queen of Afton, Virginia. I say "alumni" because I had visited before -- 25 years earlier! Below see pictures from last week, July 28, 2010, and my previous visit in November 1985.

For those who don't know the true legend of The Cookie Lady, here's the story in brief:

Ms. June grew up and has lived her 90 years in Afton, Virginia. It's a tiny town near the crest of the Blue Ridge, located at a low spot (Rockfish Gap) which thus made it a natural spot to build a road across the mountains. The raiIroad went through an incredible tunnel there starting in 1858. U.S. 250 came later, and I-64 crosses the Blue Ridge there now.

Back in 1976, America's 200th birthday, a group then called BikeCentennial started leading cross-country bicycle tours on their now-famous "TransAm" route. What better way to celebrate the Bicentennial than to get to know the country up-close-'n'-personal on a bicycle, y'know? The TransAm route just happened to go through Afton, VA... just feet from June Curry's front door. At first the bicyclists were a mystery. But not for long. Soon she became their best friend, and they hers. She has been providing water, shelter, and yes COOKIES to cyclists for 34 years now. An entire house, simply called The Bike House, is open for cyclists to spend the night, cook a meal, etc. It's an informal sort of hostel. There are no fees, just donations accepted, and expectations that things remain clean and orderly. Over the years thousands have stayed there or paid a visit. Many of them have sent postcards or other mementos and they adorn the house in a stunning display of love & history to this day. Polaroid photos of each visitor are stored in binders, in chronological order.

For a little more detail, click here for a 2009 newspaper article.

I should say also that the Appalachian Trail passes nearby, thus backpackers too have made their way on foot to stay at The Bike House. Me, I was just out of college and really sick of school. Just wanted to be on the road and boy did I hit it for several years in there. The first large solo trip I did started in Boston in September 1985. I hit all the New England states (miraculously without getting snowed on...) plus New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia by the time I was done in November. I came down the spectacular Skyline Drive and came to Afton at the south end of it. I was honored to meet Ms. June and stay at The Bike House on one of the last days of my trip.

Yes, I had my picture taken. 3 in fact. On Wednesday I found them! And discovered too that recent visitors have kindly digitized the entire archive and put it online. Check It OUT:

Some polaroid photos from the 1980s that you just might like to
have a look at:
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?o=RrzKj&page_id=45970&v=vc (dag, who dat fool boy?)

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?o=RrzKj&page_id=45960&v=yD (4th picture down = my buddy Mark Bradley. He was the first cyclist of 1985 to visit; I was the last...)

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?o=RrzKj&page_id=45949&v=10G (6th picture down = my brother Eric, the following summer)

So last Wednesday, 25 years later, I found Ms. June at home visiting with two eastbound cyclists who were passing through. She did insist I have a cookie. I sat with her about 2 hours. Fantastic! I am real glad to have had an opportunity to say Thank You. Again.

Also click Right Here for some pics I took last week of the inside of The Bike House. Check out ALL THE STUFF all all over the walls. Really a stunning sight.

Info on June Curry's guest registry and efforts being made to preserve them:

All Hail The Cookie Lady!