Local Author Joe Tennis Features Hwy 58, Creeper Trail in latest Book

Stretching east from Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach, U.S. Highway 58 slips across the southern belly of Virginia, winding across hills and rivers and twisting around mountains.

For miles, this snake-shaped route parallels the Virginia Creeper Trail.

By the time this road ends near the Kentucky border at the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, the highway will have stretched more than 500 miles, making it Virginia’s longest road.

In his recently released book, Beach to Bluegrass: Places to Brake on Virginia’s Longest Road (The Overmountain Press, $17.95), Bristol author Joe Tennis journeys along U.S. Highway 58 (through 58 chapters) focused on history, legend, natural wonders and roadside oddities.

Illustrated with more than 100 photos, including a color shot of the Virginia Creeper Trail’s Whitetop Laurel Falls, Beach to Bluegrass includes stories of how the New River in Grayson County nearly turned into a giant lake in the 1970s and what happened when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt ascended Whitetop Mountain in August 1933 to visit a folk festival.

Beach to Bluegrass also details the tearjerking love story of Johnny Cash and June Carter, showcasing where the country music superstars spent time at a remote home in the Virginia mountains.

“What I wanted to do with this book is show the diversity of Virginia,” said Tennis, who now lives in Bristol, Va., about a mile off U.S. 58. “This road seems to go on forever, and so do the stories.”

The book’s title, Beach to Bluegrass, references where the book begins - at the beach of Cape Henry, near the beginning of U.S. 58, and how the journey ends at the doorway to the bluegrass of Kentucky, the Cumberland Gap, as U.S. 58 terminates less than a half-mile inside Tennessee.

Tennis, 39, is also the author of Southwest Virginia Crossroads: An Almanac of Place Names and Places to See (The Overmountain Press, $29.95), which also features tales of the Virginia Creeper Trail, including how towns took their names and particular claims to fame at Alvarado, Carrickfergus, Taylors Valley, Damascus, Abingdon, Laureldale and Whitetop.

Another book by Tennis, The Marble and Other Ghost Tales of Tennessee and Virginia (Backyard Books, $6.99), includes the story of a ghostly legend along the Virginia Creeper Trail at Green Cove - and how the area may be haunted by The Creekfield Woman. The Creeper Trail also shows up in Tennis’s Sullivan County Tennessee: Images of America (Arcadia Publishing, $19.99), as the author explores the history of South Holston Lake.

Tennis’s books are available at Zazzy’z in Abingdon; Abingdon Visitors Center; Abingdon Mercantile; Light’s at Stone Mill; Cave House Craft Shop; Historical Society of Washington County Library; William King Regional Arts Center; In the Country at Damascus; Adventure Damascus; Books-a-Million in Bristol; Christian Book Warehouse in Bristol; Plum Creek Gifts in Marion; The Heritage Center in Wytheville; and The Treasury in Independence.

To order Beach to Bluegrass, The Marble or Southwest Virginia Crossroads, email orders(a)overmtn.com or call (800) 992-2691.