My upcoming young adult release, ON THE WAY TO BIRDLAND, is road trip novel that follows sixteen-year-old philosophy geek, Cordell Wheaton, on a personal odyssey up the East Coast in search of his estranged brother, Travis, who is in the throes of addiction. Young Cordy has nothing but forty bucks in his pocket and the guiding light of his hometown hero, jazz legend John Coltrane, to get him to Philadelphia and then to New York, where he hopes to convince Travis to come home with him to High Point, North Carolina and officially reunite the Wheaton family. Of course, this means Cordy needs to pull a Planes, Trains & Automobiles routine so he can reach his destinations before his money runs out and his father succumbs to a terminal illness.
Which brings me straight back to my hometown of High Point, where a massive source of my inspiration for this book was drawn from one of the most magnificent examples of Southern charm I’ve seen to date: the High Point Train Depot. Not only does my protagonist survive a death-defying scene at this location in the early pages of On the Way to Birdland, but High Point’s favorite son–John Coltrane–spent most of his life answering to the loving and fitting nickname, Trane.
At first glance, the High Point Train Depot is instantaneously glorious with its tiled hip roof and Romanesque architectural style, in addition to a parlor room decked out in early 20th Century oak benches that draw you directly into another time period. But, when you dig deeper, you learn that this cute little train depot along Main Street played a much more important role in the growth of industry–in a town that generates over sixty percent of the world’s furniture–than of that of a simple tourist location.
It is true that a visit to High Point’s legendary train depot and, of course, a quick ride on the rails down to the Queen City could be the perfect was to feel connected to the storied history of the world’s furniture capital. But a dive into historical data is perhaps even more interesting.
For example, did you know the depot was built way back in 1907 by the Southern Railway Company as a transportational improvement to the original plank road that was built and used from the mid 1850s onward? And, did you know that by 1990, the station was in such disrepair that city officials considered its outright demolition? Luckily, a citizen-led effort to save the station raised over $300,000 and secured another $3 million from the state to restore and enhance the station until 1998, when the Norfolk Southern Railway bought the lease and dumped $6.8 million more into the project to bring the station to its current glory.
If you’re ever in or around High Point, North Carolina, I’d strongly advise you to take a trip back in time and visit the High Point Train Depot, or even hop aboard and gain track-side view of the rural beauty tucked neatly within North Carolina’s fertile interior.
For more information about this and other family-oriented, educational location in my fair city, head to VisitHighPoint.com.
“With a haunting secret, a brave journey and fascinating characters, On the Way to Birdland will remind readers that when you take a giant step into the unfamiliar, you might just find yourself.”
–Joelle Charbonneau, New York Times Best Selling author of VERIFY and DISCLOSE