Roanoke: Market Center

Roanoke is a city that is beautiful in the rain. A little under an hour north of Henry County, Roanoke is a great place to get away from rural life and take in something more “cosmopolitan”, a quick pint at a craft brewery  (there are several), or just to grab lunch while letting the hustle and bustle of a real city remind you that you are still part of the human race.

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Every morning, we watch news from Roanoke and we thought that it was high time to take Mother in to see Market Center. We’ve only been once before and were so impressed with Fork in the Market that we went there again.  The food was predictably good but the craft beer selection was poor this time.  Last time we were able to get  S’mores porter (by DuClaw, I think?).  This time, their only porter was Nitro Vanilla by Breckinridge which is a good porter but they were out. Still, the food was good and the sidewalk seating is great.

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From the Fork in the Market sidewalk seating, you look out at a seafood restaurant, Billy’s, and the Taubman Museum.  People walk by and a steady stream of traffic makes for great people-watching.

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Fork in the Market is one of several restaurants in a building called The City Market. While this is a beautiful building on the outside, the inside is basically a food court with access to all (or at least some) of the restaurants that are also accessible from the outside.  The perk to City Market is easy access to clean restrooms and a series of beautiful mosaics at each doorway.

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I made a point to get a shot of each of the mosaics. A history of the mosaics – 2,000 pounds of ceramic tilework by artist Cheryl Foster – is available on the City Market website.

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I wish that there was more information about each mosaic but even the building’s website gives only a cursory explanation of their commission. Were these real personalities connected to the building? I don’t know.

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The colors are fantastic and there is so much detail.

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The toothless, banjo-playing boy with his dog, in particular, could use an explanatory placard.  This is an area rich in musical heritage but the mosaic, without more information, seems more like a caricature than a tribute.

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Market Center is a shopping district across the street from City Market and next to Center in the Square.  It is not synonymous with Center in the Square, which you will gather if you read the management responses to reviews on TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor is a global outfit not based in the U.S. and it has a real problem with listing districts like Market Center that don’t have an identifiable individual address.

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Market Center is a lively area that hosts a farmers’ market on Saturdays and has a long line of shops and open-air vendors along the street.

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Our big “find” this trip was ChocolatePaper.  My husband called it a “random stuff” store when we walked in but then smiled like a cat with a canary when he went far enough back to find the chocolate counter.  I had picked up a bag of Nancy’s Candy Company’s chocolate covered cookie dough balls (Nancy’s is a Meadows of Dan outfit) until I found the counter of truffles and chocolate covered delicacies.

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The sandwich board outside says that they keep the inside temperature at 66 degrees for the chocolate.  I can’t recommend a better way to beat the heat this summer than ChocolatePaper.

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Fall Creek Falls, North Carolina

Here in Henry County, we are very close (about 3 miles, depending on where you are standing) from the North Carolina border. In fact, when I head to the Ridgeway library, I actually cross the border into North Carolina and back into Virginia on my way.

Ever since we moved here, a neighbor who became a very close friend has been telling us that we had to go check out the waterfall on DeShazo Road.   From what he was saying, I was picturing a smaller stream with an abandoned falling-down mill and an arduous hike but I really couldn’t have been more wrong.

The falls are quite pretty.  Like so many things around here, I find a larger version by the same name in another state. There is a Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee.  These are not those falls.  These falls are actually part of the Mayo River State Park, a new park in North Carolina. Per Wikipedia, the Mayo River State Park owns over two thousand acres along the Mayo River corridor but  the current park only has trails along about 400 acres of it down near the town of Mayodan.

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The only access to the waterfall is along DeShazo Road, where a trailhead prevents access by ATVs with pylons across the entrance.  People park alongside the road to make the short hike down to the falls.  When we visited shortly after a rain, we passed two gentlemen coming up from the falls as we were entering and a lady out walking her dog coming in as we were leaving.

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The trail is clearly marked and mostly level until you actually get to the falls.  There was no litter.  The trail floor is natural earth so it probably has the potential to be muddy although it is the type of soil that is abundant here and drains well.

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It is a very short hike to the waterfall.  I’m guessing it is about a quarter of a mile. Some people say that you can see the footings of an old mill at the top of the waterfall.  For me, it is hard to distinguish stone footings from natural rocks.  We felt that the channel in the foreground of the picture below might be intentionally carved by human hands but there is no way to be sure.

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The only bit of the trail that was difficult at all was the bit going down to the base of the falls.  There were two paths – one dangerously close to the edge of a drop off and another maybe twelve feet away that was pretty steep.  We did this trail before Mother had a walking stick and she was wearing open toed sandals.  Even at that, she didn’t have much trouble with it, only requiring a gentle push up the hill as we were leaving.

I am hoping that there will eventually be trails leading from the Mayo State River Park up to the falls but it will be a good hike, distance-wise. In the meantime, the falls are reasonably accessible and quite beautiful.

The Gravely Preserve

Mother has always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail.  At seventy, and after two years of little to no activity, the move to Virginia has reawakened her desire to get on the Trail.  We aren’t that far from it and the section through Virginia is supposed to be one of the most accessible, according to her.  She’s found a section hike that is just under five miles, round trip, within a short drive and it looks like this is something that is going to have to at least be attempted. No one just dives into the Appalachian Trail though so we’ll have to work up to it.

There is no shortage of local trails to take in first while we are building up muscles (maybe?) and stamina.  Before the unseasonably warm temperatures drove us indoors to hide, we went to the Gravely Nature Preserver in Ridgeway.  It’s a 75-acre preserve with a variety of trails that wind through the thickly wooded land.

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The trail is easy, without a lot of ups and downs until you get to the end, where you go downhill at a pretty decent grade. It’s not treacherous at all but it’s worth going down it instead of up.

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There are multiple trails to walk in the preserve, all of them starting off of the main trail loop, the Cliff Jones trail, and there are a few points of interest along the way.  The Cliff Jones Trail is only about a mile long and is entirely shaded.  About midway along the trail, there is the Burgess Family Cemetery.

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It is a reasonably large family cemetery but the tombstones are in fairly bad shape, many having fallen over and beginning to crumble.  There is a lot of deadwood along the whole trail, leaving a question about how well the trail is maintained or if the focus is just on the natural state of unkempt woodland.  It was still worth the visit.

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The trail itself is well marked and clear of debris.  There was almost no litter.  One of the side trails, the Rhododendron Trail, is supposed to lead through a “tunnel” of the woodland shrubs which flower in May.  We didn’t attempt that trail on this excursion because it was marked as moderately difficult and the rhododendron had long stopped flowering by the time we were there.  It is something that, along with the Burgess home site trail, we hope to catch next spring.

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The Gravely Preserve is off of the beaten track and there is little chance that a tourist is going to stumble across it accidentally.  It is a nice attraction for the town of Ridgeway though and I hope that more people do make the effort to check it out.

Smith River Fest Approaches

I have never made it to the Smith River Festival since I’ve been here.  There is just so much going on this particular weekend.  It looks like so much fun.  There is a 5K mud run, a rubber ducky race,  a boat race, tube rentals, a beer garden, and, this year, an angling pond.

Our big conflict is the mid-atlantic beer festival held in Roanoke on the same weekend, MicroFestivus.  For $40 (if you buy your tickets early), you get admission to the event, an event pint glass, and forty tastings.

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Martinsville’s Lake Lanier

Nestled in between the neighborhoods of Forest Park and Druid Hills in Martinsville is a small but beautiful private lake called Lake Lanier.  It’s not the Lake Lanier.  That’s in Georgia.  But it is Martinsville’s Lake Lanier.

Each year around Halloween, Henry County Parks and Recreation holds the annual Goblin Gallop 5K around the lake, ending up at the old Druid Hills school house where volunteers provide congratulations, smiles, and fresh pumpkin pie.

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It’s a beautiful run and I took these photos when I ran it in 2015.  The leaves had changed colors and were falling but the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. When a breeze would come up, a flurry of golden leaves would fall and swirl around the runners’ feet as they went by.

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Big, stately homes peek up all around Lake Lanier.  It’s one of those neighborhoods that is just so pretty that I don’t think that we’ve had an out-of-town guest that we haven’t taken on a drive through the Forest Park neighborhood just to look at the houses and it’s always fun to get them to guess what the ones for sale are going for.  If they are from one of the larger metropolitan areas (most of our guests are from the Dallas area), they are simply flabbergasted at the prices. In Dallas, these would easily be million dollar homes.  Heck, in McKinney , a Dallas suburb, they’d be million dollar homes.  In Dallas proper, they would be astronomical.

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Here’s a map from Zillow.com that shows a sampling of things for sale in the Forest Park neighborhood.  It’s important to know that Zillow is not tied directly to the multiple listing service for this area, so it may not reflect the most current status of a listing or even the current active agents.  If you want real-time information on the local real estate market, you should look at the  local listing board, the Martinsville, Henry & Patrick Counties Association of Realtors site.  What Zillow does well though is let you see where they are in relation to, say, Lake Lanier (the bit of blue there by Root Trail).

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I am not an active real estate agent though I did get a license and try when I first got here.  I don’t have a license any more though and I don’t have anything to do with the real estate market (though I do have some friends who happen to be absolutely excellent Realtors).

Point being, I don’t have any vested interest in it.  I just love to see people’s expressions when they say “that is only that much?”  So, if you’ve got some time to burn and love to look at houses, pop over to the Martinsville, Henry & Patrick Counties Association of Realtors site and do a search on Forest Park (location/subdivision).  You will more than likely be amazed.

 

Gardening in MHC

I would call myself an avid gardener but then someone  is going to ask me the name of a plant and I’m going to blink like a deer in headlights.  Let’s just say that I really, really like to play in the dirt. I make an effort to remember the names of the plants but I don’t think that they really care.

The soil here is red and I’ve been told that that means that it is rich in iron.  Plants that love acidic soils, like azaleas, love it. In fact, the azaleas need absolutely no care here to thrive.  It does help to keep the wisteria out of them and they don’t seem to like  a blanket of leaves around their base.  Other than that, they are the gift that just keeps giving.

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Rhododendron also thrive here.

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And peonies.

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The biggest problem for gardeners here is not the soil or the weather. It’s all the critters who see the flowers as salad. The deer come all the way up to the house and eat the prettiest blossoms.  Actually, I’ve been lucky with them only eating the blossoms.  My neighbors have had some of their plants eaten all the way to the ground.

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If you are trying to tame an area that’s been long neglected, there is one other pest to be aware of.  Wisteria.  I’d always heard about the invasive kudzu in the south so, when we got here and saw this:

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I thought that we were looking at kudzu. Our neighbor would squint at me whenever I talked about our battles to eradicate the vines that travel along the ground and climb anything and everything in its path.   Now that we’ve cut away all of the vines from all of the trees and shrubs and have been preventing them from taking a hold anywhere new, I understand that it really is wisteria.  Left alone,  it will climb to the top of the trees and then bloom the distinctive purple blossoms in early spring.

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It can kill a tree or shrub either by girdling its trunk or blocking its canopy from getting sufficient sunlight.  When Mother moved here, she couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to help her bring a wisteria that she was growing in her back yard in Texas.  Since she got here in April, she never saw this cedar tree in bloom:

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I’ve got several new beds of flowers started and hope to be able to post some photos as the beds mature.  So far, obedient plants and coneflowers are real winners. Daylilies just need to be shown the dirt to do well but they seem to particularly attract deer.