Saturday, October 7, 2017

Been to Murphy Lately?

For no particular reason Murphy was our choice to celebrate Maribel’s birthday yesterday.  We wanted to drive into the Appalachian Mountains so called up Google maps and threw a figurative dart that landed on Murphy, North Carolina population about 1600 people. The map showed a museum, riverwalk, a couple of antique stores and what looked to be a nice restaurant - Murphy Chophouse. We thought that would be enough to occupy us for the day and the scenery would probably be worth the drive, which turned out to be two hours including the time spent asking people, “Where are we?” and “How do we get on HY 74?”. Let me expound on that last sentence.

It is my assumption that the departments of transportation in Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina have severe budget restrictions that precludes putting up informational traffic signs. Nearly every time we drive to a destination we’re not familiar with we get lost, including our trip to Murphy. And it should be so simple…interstate 75 to HY 74 to Murphy. And yet we got lost in the city of Cleveland twice, coming and going. Highways 74 and 64 are the same road for a long stretch. After some time of driving through Cleveland Maribel commented that there had been no signs for quite a while. I had noticed the same thing…nothing that indicated we were still on the highway or that the highway had turned or simply stopped. Sometimes there are signs, but of a size and location I wouldn’t expect. And often there are signs saying for example, Murphy with an arrow pointing in the direction of the destination, but nothing indicating the distance. Would it cost that much more to add the distance? We’re at a point where we build in travel time to stop to ask for directions.  Okay…back to Murphy.

About two miles out of Murphy you start to see the build-up of commercial enterprises, usually indicating a city of some size. Upon entering Murphy it does play bigger than 1600 people. The Unicoi Turnpike is the main street and is where most of the attractions/businesses are located. Most of those things that would interest a tourist are located within two blocks of the intersection of Unicoi Turnpike and Valley River Avenue. There is no cost or time regulations for on-street parking. We parked directly in front of the visitor center (second building from the right in the photo) and left our car there all day.

The visitor center should be the first stop. The woman we talked with was very knowledgeable and personable. And they have more maps, brochures and other printed material including menus for every restaurant in town than I have seen in medium size cities. Unicoi Turnpike is an attractive, wide main street with flowers planted about everywhere you look. There is a strong sense of community pride that was later confirmed in our conversations with the residents.

After leaving the visitor center we stopped by the Cherokee County Museum. The admission charge is $3 and is worth it. The museum is small but is packed to the rafters with memorabilia from the cities/counties history. The main theme has to do with the Cherokee Indian’s historic presence and their eviction by the US government in 1838 known as the Trail of Tears. Here I learned that the Cherokees had a written language, a formal government, schools, and were farmers on their own land as early as 1821. Supposedly in 1830 they were more literate as a group than were the white settlers. And here I thought that at that time they were still dressed in breech cloth riding around on horses and waring on other tribes.

Our next stops were at several antique shops. Just like in the Rossville area, some shops looked and felt like junk stores, while others had an exclusive look and their merchandise and prices reflected it. There are a couple of art galleries that we didn’t get to nor did we see the Riverwalk, mostly because we spent too much time chatting with store owners and the museum curator. Murphy residents like to talk about their town.  

We did want to include dinner in Murphy as part of Maribel’s birthday celebration and as I wrote earlier had intended to eat at Murphy Chophouse, but several people expressed a preference for ShoeBooties restaurant so we ate there. Service was good. Everything else; environment, quantity and quality of food was…okay. We wish we would have stayed with our original plan.

Murphy is a nice town to visit. We will probably not return but if some day we’re in the area we wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

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