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On The Road South--At The Boone Tavern

Outside Berea's Boone Tavern
Outside Berea's Boone Tavern
Bill Semion

When I was 21 and newly married, I took what could have been a rather fateful journey. It was prologue to what would become a nearly two-year trip through the halls of Government and Army bureaucracy, eventually resulting in where I am and who I am today. Then, however, I was facing total uncertainty as to whether there would be any future at all.
I was being drafted, and was facing a future that could include humping through the Vietnamese jungle with an M-16 in my hands. I'd received the "good news" sometime in November while working as a reporter at the Saginaw News. I was due to head for induction at Detroit's Fort Wayne in December. Then my grandmother died. i appealed for time to go to the funeral, and my local draft board granted me 30 more days. I'd already left The News, so we decided to make what could have been our one and only big vacation together driving south to see Kay's aunt in Lake Worth, Fla.
It was January, right after the New Year's eve, when we headed down in our yellow VW, each rear window pasted with a black and white peace symbol. Our first night, we made it as far as Lexington, Ky, in a snowstorm. The motel cost something like $9. The next morning, we headed south on I-75, and decided to pull off at a town the AAA Tourbook said might be interesting. It turned out to be Berea, Ky. We thought it would be nice to have a meal at the hotel run by Berea College's students, a concept made famous by the founders, employing mountain residents and at the same time giving them an education.
We stopped by the Boone Tavern And Hotel, and walked towards the white and blue dining room. We looked at the menu. Assessing our financial situation in those days, paying $5 each for dinner, which i'm sure was the price for an entree then, was pretty steep. I, rather embarrassed to have to do so, did a U-turn, and we slinked out of the hotel. But the tavern and that experience stayed with me.
Fast forward to now. Denise and I were headed to Florida to get away from the snow and cold--it was -13 in Roscommon on Monday--and also were headed for a cruise. We drove down I-75. We looked at the hotel brochure she had picked up advertising a $42 room at Berea. But something else was calling me from the back of my mind: that memory of my first visit to the Boone Tavern. Turns out Denise had been there too in her younger days and couldn't set foot in the hotel either.
Both of us decided at the same time; call the hotel and find out the cost of a night. Turns out, the student at the other end of the phone said, their winter rates still applied, so with a $30 breakfast voucher, it was $89. We were hooked. We ate dinner at the dining room that I couldn't afford some 40 years earlier, and are in a room that no way was affordable then.
The circle has come full, at least between me and the Boone Tavern, so portentous to a young man and woman facing what could have been death in the jungle in only a few months, and so portentous now, completing this leg of my ongoing journey, and starting another tomorrow, and every day.

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