Local Races for 2020

A runner friend recently asked me to look up some local races and send her links so she can arrange a visit and a run at the same time.  This seemed like something that might be useful for others too so here are the coming race links that I sent her.  I used to run and I’ll include some pictures from past races where I have them.

April 4th – Miles in Martinsville Half Marathon & 5K

This may be the biggest race in the immediate area.  The half marathon runs on the Dick & Willie Passage Rail Trail and the 5K runs through Uptown.  There is also a walk for the non-running crowd.  There is also a full line up of events the day before:

3 PM Tech Session: Running Form 101: Proper Running Mechanics for Injury Prevention and Longevity in the Sport

4 PM Tech Session: You Go Girl: Fitness for Women from Puberty through Postmenopause

5 PM Meet & Mingle

5:30 PM Pasta Buffet Dinner

7 to 8 PM After Dinner Speaker Bart Yasso

Running hoofing it through Martinsville Uptown as part of the Miles in Martinsville 5K
Running Through Uptown

 

A sign post along the Dick & Willie Trails shows that it is a well maintained trail.
The Dick & Willie Trail is the Martinsville equivalent to the Katy Trail in Dallas
April 18th – Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon

This is a hard one but a big one and a Boston qualifier, I think.  It is called the “Toughest Road Marathon” with over 7,430 feet of elevation change.  For my friend who has run Boston at least twice, the nice thing about this is that we can explore Roanoke afterwards. If you can still walk.

May 2 – SOVAH Super Run 5K & 8K

This one runs through the Druid Hills/Forest Park residential neighborhood in Martinsville around the private Lake Lanier.  I haven’t run this one but I have run the Great Goblin Gallop 5K around Lake Lanier, which is very pretty.  The Goblin Gallop is held each year in October and is put on by Henry County.  This route in May should be very green and anything that flowers should be out in full force.

Runners along Lake Lanier in the Great Goblin Gallop 5K Held each fall by Henry County
Running Along Lake Lanier in the Great Goblin Gallop
May 16 – Strawberry Festival 5K?

There has been a 5K just before the annual Strawberry Festival for the past few years but I’m not seeing updated info about one for 2020.  Too early?

The nice thing about the Stuart Festival races is that they end just as the festivals start up and the festivals are definitely worth visiting.

Strawberry Festival has a lot of vendors and is held in uptown Stuart with a backdrop of forested foothills
Photo from a past Strawberry Festival
June 20 – The Covered Bridge 5K

The Covered Bridge 5K is arguably one of the prettiest runs in the area.  The area around Woolwine had two historic covered bridges – Jack’s Creek and the Bob White bridge.  Unfortunately, the more impressive of the two, the Bob White bridge, was washed away by heavy rains a few years ago.  Still, there is a  small festival that goes along with the 5K and the landscape is absolutely stunning.  They haven’t updated their web site yet but the Patrick County website shows the new date to be June 20th.  Of all the area races, this would be my top pick for showing off the natural beauty of this corner of Virginia.

Runners starting out on the Covered Bridge 5K. Photo shows the race on a paved two lane road with the Blue Ridge in the distance.
Runners Starting Out on the Covered Bridge 5K

And, yes, there are hills but they really aren’t all that bad.

Nearing the end of the race, photo shows lush greenery and low clouds in the distance.
Nearing the End of the Covered Bridge 5K
August 15 – The Martinsville Speedway Mile

I haven’t been to this one but it looks to be more competitive with two laps around the famous Martinsville Speedway looking for a pace of a six-and-a-half minute mile.  There is a non-competitive walk too.

August 22nd – Smith River Festival Helgramite Mud Run 

This one is part of the Smith River Festival and there are all kinds of events going on as part of the festival.  There’s, of course, the vendor booths, but there is also a rubber duck race down the river and a boat race.  Unless it rains, this one has a very high chance of fun. I’ve attended the festival once but it rained and they shut down early so I don’t have any photos.

October 2 – Harvest Moon Run 5K & 10K & Dancing on the Depot

The Harvest Moon run meets at the trailhead for the Uptown Connection Trail and is run entirely on the Dick & Willie Passage Rail Trail.  Weather can be iffy.  It generally always seem to threaten rain but then holds off enough for the run.  There is food and music but the turn out for the Dancing on the Depot is generally small, consisting of runners and their friends and family.  The race is he central focus and the trail is beautiful.

Runners lined up for instructions at the Harvest Moon. Setting is on the edge of Uptown and gray clouds hang overhead.
Runners Receiving Instructions at Start of Harvest Moon

So this list is by no means exhaustive. I’ve left out Danville, which is close and has an active race calendar. I’ve also left out most of Roanoke and all of Greensboro.  I also left off some later in the year.

Be it as it is, these are the races I’ve suggested to my runner friend.

Until next time,

Have fun

New Year, New Camera

A brief respite in winter weather demanded a quick afternoon trip to Mountain Valley Brewing to try some of their new flavors and see what’s changed since last year.

I missed some beautiful shots this morning.  I had to drive down an unpaved road into the woods after a rain to get to a friend’s house so I was worried that I’d be able to make the trek at all without getting stuck or sliding down a hill. I hadn’t taken my camera with me.  It turned out that I got down the road just fine and the rising sun through the trees, a light fog here and there, and otherwise crystal clear air was breathtaking.  I passed a herd of longhorns that would have made an especially wonderful photo.  Oh, well.  Next time.

In the meantime, there are cats.

This is a test shot of Sunshine, a Siamese cat, perched in a window
Sunshine Perched in a Window

We’ve gotten a little over an inch and a half of rain recently and it’s been cold.  It’s warming up to normal January temperatures now but last week we had a short but glorious taste of spring weather so I escaped the cabin and headed over to Henry County’s local craft brewery, Mountain Valley Brewing.

Photo of the taps in the Mountain Valley Brewing tasting room
The Tasting Room Taps

Now, the folks at Mountain Valley Brewing are friends of mine.  We moved into Henry County around the same time and one of the owners, Herb, and I both tried a short stint in real estate before we went on to our respective livelihoods.  Mountain Valley Brewing started as a hops farm.  They still grow hops but the brewery has been growing like a weed.

A Glass of Porter's Porter and a few samples
Porter’s Porter and Some Samples

For one thing, they make excellent beer.  I went for a little Porter’s Porter (named after their newest canine family member) and got to try samples of some of their newer creations: Ginger Bread Man and Choc Full of Cherries. Both were incredible.  They had just come out with a new red that is not even listed on their website yet.  Despite being new, everyone coming in the door ordered it as soon as they set one foot over the threshold.  I am not a fan of reds normally but I did try a pint and I can see what all the fuss is over.  It may be the only red I like.

Mountain Valley Brewing Pamphlet Advertising as a Venue
Mountain Valley Brewing Has Become a Popular Venue

One important thing,  my photos will not do Mountain Valley Brewing justice.  Just take a look at their website and you’ll see some stunning photos.  One of the reasons for their incredible growth rate, besides incredible owners,  is its popularity for hosting events.  For many around here, craft beer is a novelty.  It really helps that it’s really good craft beer but they’ve gone a step further and tailored one of their beers to the domestic beer lovers so feel assured that, if you like any kind of beer at all, you’ll find something you like here.  This helps make the experience inviting for everyone.

Backlit shot of the interior of the pavilion with Herb playing an acoustic guitar
Herb Sings a Little House of the Rising Sun

This past season they enclosed the pavilion.  There is a separate set of taps in the pavilion that have different flavors than what is available in the tasting room.  This is also where the live music is.  They have some incredible talent come through, usually in the evenings.  Herb has been known to pick up a guitar and sing a little “House of the Rising Sun” now and then in the afternoons.

There is also a new deck off of the back of the pavilion. It was a perfect spot to enjoy the music and fine weather last weekend.

The sunlit deck off the back of the pavilion with several people enjoying good weather
The New Deck Off the Back of the Pavilion

They’ve also put in a hammock garden featuring locally made hammocks from DAM Good Equipment in nearby Martinsville.

A wooden structure built to attach hammocks out on the lawn in the sunshine.
The Hammock Garden

They still have the fire ring and we may be fast approaching the temperatures that make that kind of thing enjoyable.

Making a mental note… scribble, scribble, scribble

The firepit with benches around it and some of the view you get from that vantage point.
The Fire Pit

There is still some finish work to be done but, all in all, you really can’t beat a trip to Mountain Valley Brewing on a reasonably warm winter afternoon.

The bartender in the pavilion serving a beer - a red.
Someone’s Getting a Red

I am still running the camera on “auto” but I plan on joining the Blue Ridge Photography Club that has just started meeting at the Martinsville branch of the Blue Ridge Regional Library.  (The Blue Ridge Photography Club was previously the Spencer Penn Photography Club but has changed its name as it has changed venues).

Here’s to warmer weather and better photographs!

Cheers

#MoveToMartinsville

I loved the Henry County promo and now I’ve found that Martinsville has put out a new promo video as well.  It’s ironic that the preview slide for the video is skyline of Atlanta, Georgia, I know. For the most part, it’s a really good video. Martinsville really does have a lot going for it. The buildings in Uptown are beautiful. The people are wonderful. There’s a great greenway, the Dick & Willie Passage Rail Trail, snaking all the way through town and is being expanded.  Real estate is cheap. Groceries are cheap. Restaurants are cheap.  The local community college puts on several high-quality musicals every year.  There is a good improv group in Uptown Martinsville (TheatreWorks Players) and the tickets are cheap.  The Rives Theatre, also in Uptown, has good musicians in all the time.  All the ingredients are there for Martinsville (and Uptown in particular) to absolutely flourish.  All that is missing is the catalyst and it’s anyone’s guess as to what that will be. I, for one, am convinced that it will eventually happen.

Memorial Day in MHC

Of the last five Memorial Day weekends in Henry County, Virginia, we’ve had rain or threat of rain on four of them.  Somehow, this has never been able to really put a dampener on the weekend – at least for us.

There are so many things to do around here on Memorial Day weekend that it would get a little ridiculous to list them.  However, there are a couple of events that are a lot of fun that you might not hear about unless you just stumble across them.

Yard Sales & The Local Flea Market on Highway 58

The first is the stretch of Highway 58 between Martinsville and Stuart that fills up with yard sales.  This is apparently one of the very best kept secrets in the area.  There are a number of individual yard and garage sales at private homes along the highway and then there is one large flea market-style sale just next door to Larry’s Variety (which is a good spot to find new and used furniture). The flea market is not promoted online that I can find and I’ve looked.  It shouldn’t be this hard to find, especially when you already know it exists.  All I can truly tell you is that it is a large area and it usually has a good attendance regardless of the weather.  The flea market rents spaces for $15 a day and I’d guess that they normally have around two acres covered with vendors. I believe that it is put together by an area Methodist Church, but I can’t find which one.  There is $1 paid parking but a lot of people park along the highway.  The driveway in and out is topped with rock and the parking itself is grass so, even with rain, mud is not really an issue. If someone local has any idea about who puts this on, please let me know.

Although we do not typically go to yard sales, I do make a point to go to this one.  There is a lot of kitsch and a lot of junk but there are also some handmade things there from time to time. I usually find at least one thing there each year.  One year I found a hand-painted pie safe for $15. Vendor turn out was down this year (70% chance of rain on Saturday and it looked fierce) but we still went and found some home-canned pickles from Moose Country Farm, a local farm that also specializes in goat milk lotion with essential oils.  Their dill pickles are delicious and their spicy pickles mean business! They sell a variety of things through their Facebook page. It did not rain on us.

Mountain Valley Brewing’s Anniversary Party

The second is a newcomer.  Memorial Day weekend happens to also mark the anniversary of Henry County’s first Craft Brewery, Mountain Valley Brewing, and 2018 was their first anniversary.  They had two bands lined up and they tapped the raspberry wheat that weekend.

Virginia Brew Hub, a Roanoke-based magazine that covers all things craft, was on hand with their drone and took the following footage over the course of the day.

It was a great day and, while we only intended to stay for a couple of beers, we ended up listening to the whole set by Faded Travelers (and buying their CD).  The video below is just a snippet to give you an idea of the feel of the band.

Mountain Valley Brewing is growing so fast.  They started out with just the tap room. Could that really have only been a year ago? Then came the pavilion.  Then the covered deck off of the tap room.  Now lawn games like corn hole are showing up and I understand that DAM Good Equipment, a Martinsville-based company making hammocks, tents, backpacks and sleeping bags, is planning on putting in a hammock garden.  They’ve already put in a couple (see the first video).  Take a look at their site too (https://www.damtough.com).  Besides their products, they are taking their own photos and not using stock images on their website. It’s fun to guess where the pictures were taken. Hoorah to DAM Good Equipment for that.

I’ve never seen a hammock garden.  Have you?

How To See Everything At Spencer Penn’s Annual Pig Cooking Contest

There’s a lot going on at the annual Spencer Penn’s Pig Cooking Contest and it can take a while to figure out the best way to see everything.  Here are some tips for next year:

Go To The Friday Night Music Performance

There are generally two groups performing bluegrass on Friday night (the first might be a local jam session).  Admittance is $4 a person.  People start showing up around 5 o’clock and many bring a seat cushion to stake out a seat while they look at the silent auction items and get dinner from the kitchen in the back of the auditorium.  The line for the kitchen moves quickly, as do the homemade menu items, so get in line sooner rather than later. The dining tables may be crowded but they turn over fast. Be sure to get one of the deserts. All the food is handmade but the desserts are just really outstanding.
The BBQ contestants will have set up their grills behind the auditorium during the day and will be introduced during the music night performance.  Cooking commences in the evening, when the pigs arrive, and will go on all night.

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The back lot at Spencer Penn

Show Up Early to See The Bike Ride Kick Off

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The annual bike ride getting ready to start

This year’s route did take them up along Highway 58 but they had a Henry County Sheriff’s office escort.  I asked a rider from Martinsville what he thought of the ride afterwards and he said that he enjoyed it very much.  This was a great week for the bike ride because the roadsides were dotted with purple blooms from wisteria, redbuds, and cherry trees.  The network of residential roads by Spencer Penn are just gorgeous for bike riders (J.S.Holland Road, George Taylor Road, Moores Mill Road).

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Henry County Sheriff’s Office escorts

Blind judging of the cooked pork takes place on Saturday morning.  If you get there early enough to see the bike riders leave out, you can also see the pigs on the grills and talk to the BBQ contestants.  Contestants come from quite aways away, many from North Carolina.

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Coming from Texas, I had always thought that BBQ was pretty much exclusively a Texan specialty.  Having now lived in Virginia for a number of years, I have had to recognize that North Carolina is also a leader in this field and, don’t tell the folks back home, they may even be better at it.

After the judging, the pigs are carved up to make sandwiches that will be sold, along with a cold drink, chips, and some more homemade cake, back behind the building for lunch.  Vendors set up during the morning so you can stay and browse as they set up or pop back home and come back for lunch and browsing.

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Martinsville’s Phillips Turner’s Vendor Booth

There are a lot of vendors each year at the Annual Pig Cooking Contest. In fact, it is one of the largest gatherings for vendors in the area. Vendors fill the Banquet Hall, the back parking lot, and spill out onto the front lawn.

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We always leave with something.  This year we bought one of Mr. Turner’s brass-topped birdhouses and it has already attracted its first occupant, a blue bird. There are booths with jewelry, antiques, hand-made quilts, beautifully hand made cutting boards, jellies, jams, clothes, soaps, and the list goes on and on.

This year they had a childrens’ Barnival set up on the ball field.  There was a piggie train, lots of games and activities, and  a petting zoo courtesy of Infinity Acres.

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Setting Up for the Piggie Train
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Lots of Activities for Kids
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Infinity Acres Brought a Petting Zoo

There is always a classic car cruise-in too.  This year it was in the front parking lot.

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Spencer Penn posted over 250 photos of the event on their Facebook Page to the  7th Annual Pig Cookin’ Contest Photo Album.  Be sure to go check them out and send them some love.  If you couldn’t make it out this year, keep an eye on your calendars for next April.  Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but this is a hometown event that is better when experienced.