Just when I thought I’d been to every town in Southwest Virginia, I took a short drive off I-81 into Rural Retreat. Rural Retreat is located in Wythe County and has a population of just under 1,500 people. The town is tucked away just far enough off the road to where you can miss it and drive right on by without knowing it.
Here is the video I took of the drive through town:
I went to the town’s website to find out more about the history behind the name Rural Retreat but it was a little sketchy. The area around modern day Rural Retreat was once known as Mt. Airy. If that name sounds familiar it is because of the Mt. Airy in North Carolina. The North Carolina version is the hometown of the late Andy Griffith and is quite the tourist destination these days. Griffith is said to have based much of the mythical town Mayberry from The Andy Griffith Show on his hometown. More than just the name similarity, Rural Retreat certainly has a modern day Mayberry small town feel about it.
I stopped at a convenience store to fuel up then get a snack and couldn’t help but notice how many people waved and spoke to each other during that short time. It is that type of familiarity and community connection that makes small towns so charming to many folks. The whole laid-back vibe of the town was contagious.
The town is pretty typical for that part of Appalachia with older farmhouses mixed in with new developments. The high school has recently become quite renowned for its powerhouse wrestling program. I learned the town was once hailed as the “cabbage center of the world” which isn’t too surprising given the rich farmland and excellent climate.
I went into Rural Retreat looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the interstate and got just what I was looking for – peace and quiet. Not every community is meant to be a Las Vegas or New York City and that, friends and neighbors, is fine by me. – Shane
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