The Cavalier Daily
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Getting your kicks on 29

The first trip down Route 29 is a rite of passage, an introduction to the awe-inspiring rolling hills of the Appalachian Valley and the infamous speed traps that are hidden between them. Route 29, in fact, could be called the central vein of Virginia in the way it exhibits the landscape and flavor of this southern state.

It's also the main drag of Charlottesville and the access route to the heart of the University.

Almost 4,000 undergraduates hail from Northern Virginia, so one quarter of the school's population makes the two-hour drive down Route 29 at the beginning of each semester, and over time, begins to recognize certain treasures along the way as landmarks.

When coming from the north, the narrow and winding two-lane road branches out in Gainesville, Va., to accommodate the increased traffic. But it's about 45 minutes into the trip that the stark white sign proclaiming "Pizza, Subs" in bold letters comes into view and signals to traveling students that the trip is well underway.

"We are certainly a landmark," Pete's Park 'N Eat owner Maria Linardakis said.

The 43-year-old building, with its triangular roof and weathered exterior, has been home to the restaurant since its opening. And the only major oven replacements has been the elimination of waiting people through walk-up windows.

"We wanted people to come inside for their convenience," said Linardakis, who has owned the business since she moved to Virginia from Canada 28 years ago. "We have certainly built-up the business. There wasn't hardly anything around here when we started."

Linardakis said she has a steady clientele of locals, but that she also has repeat customers who stop in on their way to University football games.

"We sell a lot of pizza and a lot of subs," she said, reiterating the concise menu advertised on the landmark sign. "We wonder if people are coming to claim their pots and pots we see them so often."

But more than a restaurant, Pete's Park 'N Eat serves as a meeting place for people from around the country who are traveling down the main route.

"Everybody knows it. Everybody meets here. You just mention this place and they know," she said.

With 62 miles to go to reach Charlottesville, Pete's Park 'N Eat fades in the rearview mirror. Not as dull as an industrialized interstate and not yet the winding road of character that it becomes, Route 29 continues to forge into central Virginia.


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Madison's Pig 'N Steak restaurant is as charming as its name. The restaurant, which is located 27 miles from Charlottesville, hosts customers as large as the quantities themselves and prides itself on its handpicked barbecue that is smoked for 12 hours in a pit out back.

"It was too much and too good," one customer said as he paid his bill at the cash register.

It's a comment Pig 'N Steak waitress Lori Medeiros said she has heard often on the job.

"People will come all the way from Tennessee and say, 'We heard about your barbecue,'" she said. "They always seem a little skeptical about it at first, but everyone loves it."

Thirteen years ago Medeiros moved to Madison seeking work and has not left the area - or Pig 'N Steak - since.

"It's a family here; we work together, we hang out together," Medeiros said as she grabbed an overflowing plate of pulled pig and slaw from the kitchen. "And our boss is just the best. He may be gruff, but he'd do anything for you."


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Medeiros, who grabbed a fry from every plate she delivered, thinks people keep coming back to Pig 'N Steak for the atmosphere, the food, and hopefully for the friendly waitresses.

"People don't just come here to suck down beer. We try to keep it more like a family atmosphere," Medeiros said.

Besides locals, Pig 'N Steak gets hit every time there is a University football game.

"We're the stop before kickoff," Medeiros said. "Tons of people order barbecue to go for their tailgate parties."

Pig 'N Steak is not the only establishment along Route 29 that feels the increased traffic due to University games. Only a few miles beyond Pig 'N Steak, the Sheetz station allows travelers to get the cheapest gas around.

"We definitely get the wired-up crowd headed to the games," Sheetz manager Tina Johnson said. "We strive to be friendly, convenient and clean. And I think we achieve that. People don't only come for our low prices."

At the intersection of Routes 29 and 33 lies a mandatory pit stop for a different type of crowd than the football fans. It's a treasure of antique shops befit for the browser and scavenger.

"I was coming down Route 29 before they opened the antique stores about 40 years ago, and now people do just stop here because they are merchants," antique dealer Marjoire Lindbergh said.

For her coworker Allen Cohen, he sees the antique mall as a crucial stop-off point between bustling Washington, D.C. and Charlottesville.

"The old building is an attraction in itself," Cohen said.


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"Sometimes the old buildings are more interesting than what's inside," Lindbergh agrees. "This building remains so intact and is symbolic of the past."

Operating as an old country store at the turn of the century, the structure transformed into a high traffic antique mall in the late '60s and now is easily recognizable with its red walls and emblazoned white letters that spell "Antiques."

"The building is a piece of Virginia history and many of the items here are part of Virginia history," Cohen said. "People come here for the intrigue. They find items that they can relive their youth through."

With only 20 minutes away from the steps of the Rotunda, lush trees and historical markers begin to line the road and Route 29 feels more like a path through a valley than a major thoroughfare. As long as drivers stay within the 55 mph speed limit, the trip back to school can be more of a journey than a drive.

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