So, I had some time to kill, so I thought 'why not?' I made the very windy journey, sans cell phone service, to this truck stop/general shop/homestyle restaurant.
"Well, I'll make a long story short. I was working in the coal mines with my brother," started Edward Harlan Castle, owner of Cool Springs Park.
It all started back in the 1940s, when Castle decided to leave his job as a miner and open up a truck stop.
"I thought that would be better than working in the mines," Castle recalled. "So I started looking for a place. I knew it had to be on a route that had traffic and Route 50 was the only one that had traffic those years."
After driving up and down Route 50, he picked a plot of land near Rowlesburg and started building from scratch.
"There wasn't anything here but a little log cabin when I came," Castle added.
But now, Cool Springs Park is a one stop shop for anything you could ever need.
Have to pick up some groceries? They've got ‘em.
Looking for locally made favorites? They've got you covered.
Nails for construction, feed for the farm, old locomotives and even a park for the kids.
You literally can find it all at Cool Springs. (Restaurant Road Trip)The shop has a thousand signs on the front that lists the various things they have - everything from hot dogs and milkshakes to construction materials and toys.
Outside, there are various antique trains and tractors and other lawn ornaments that are good for getting out to stretch your legs and look around. There's also a little playground for kids. I'm told there are animals, too, but I didn't see any during my visit.
Walking inside, it looks like a mash-up of some local, fresh produce, travel essentials, construction materials, farming supplies, random toys, and, really, a little bit of everything.
It's a pretty popular place on the day I went; the folks running the register were also running the restaurant, so they were going back and forth between the two. I went to the register to ask if I can just sit anywhere to dine in, and the girl said yes. So, I took up a seat on the outer U-shaped bar area. A few booths filled the interior of the space.
And, it was a clear this was a local gathering spot for folks, because the entire row across from me was chatting and greeting new people who came in. They'd occasionally glance at me, wondering what I was doing there likely.
Finally - after what felt like awkwardly forever - one of the waitresses came over to take my order. I ordered their famous footlong hot dog with chili, slaw, mustard and onions. I also got a small caramel shake, because I am in love with caramel, of course.
This is where things took a bit of a turn.
You see, I never expected fine dining. I am as comfortable in a small, dive bar with excellent food as I am in a high-end, fancy restaurant. But, they both have to have something in common: cleanliness.
Remember that bit I mentioned about the waitresses also working the cash register? Well, it was at this point when I realized they were going from handling cash to assembling my hot dog - no gloves, no hand-washing.
And, let's be clear for a second. I'm sure much worse goes on or has gone on at restaurants I've been to. But, seeing it blatantly right in front of me turned my stomach. If they will grab a dollar bill, then a hot dog bun right in front of me, what's going on that I'm NOT seeing?
Cleanliness is a biggg thing for me. I will try just about any crazy, ridiculous food - but I want it to be handled safely. Clean.
And, I could be being a brat, maybe, but I'm sorry? Just bein' real.
So, I, did, however, nibble on the hot dog. I still wanted to try this, and I have made the two-hour roundtrip to get here, so I'm definitely eating the hot dog.
And, you know what? It was decent. The weenie was boiled, the slaw was fresh and chopped finely. There was a good bit of mustard and onion, too. And, the caramel shake? Even better. Fine ribbons of caramel were weaved throughout. Delicious and thick.
Well. I didn't die; I was totally fine, and it was tasty.
And, I don't want to take anything away from this place. I know it has a lot of sentimental attachment for folks. It's a local dive, and I think you know that going into it. Just because I'm extra sensitive to the non-glove wearing folks doesn't mean you are.
And, I still think this is a cool spot. It's kitschy, it's eclectic, and it has a lot of character. I think, maybe, this isn't an everyday thing for them -- they may have just been extra busy this day. Either way, there's so much to see here. Really cool stop along your way.