My parents loved to take canoe trips down the Brazos River in Texas back when I was growing up in the 1970’s.
When she signed up for a canoe trip with her church, Horsepasture Christian Church, to tell the truth, I was dreading it. I didn’t plan on going but the more I thought about my 70-something year old mother out on a river I didn’t know with people I didn’t know, I came to the conclusion that there was no choice in the matter. No one else would be as concerned about her safety as I would, I thought. If anything happened, I would never be able to forgive myself. As it turned out, the group from the Horsepasture Christian Church was great. I don’t know that I’ve ever met a better group of people. She would have been completely safe in their company. I’m so grateful that I got to go just because it was a great trip with a fantastic group of people. God works in funny ways.
We met up at the church at 6 AM and began a two-hour trip up to Iron Gate, a launch point just a little below where the Cowpasture and Jackson Rivers come together to form the James River.
It was a big group, around 50 people, and it took a while to get us all on the river.
There was a small area of rapids right at the onset that looked deceptively simple but gave a few people some problems. If you were too far to the left, you could bottom out and have to get out to portage across the slippery rocks. You had to stay to the right to get through them but a strong current there could push you into a dead tree along the bank that could easily capsize you.
Once we got past that, it was pretty much smooth sailing.
It wasn’t uncommon to see cows down on the banks along the way. One of the group members said that he’d seen bear along the banks too.
At one point along the river, there is a train trestle that spans the width of the river. We had the good fortune to come up to it just as a train was passing.
It was a great group and they pretty much stayed together, stopping a couple of places along the river to stretch legs. There were several areas of rapids but only one that was pretty serious (a class II rapids called “the Squeeze“). Here’s a random video from YouTube that shows you what it looks like.
Luckily, there was a long rocky beach beside it so most of the group opted to walk along the beach past the rapids while some of the more experienced men in the group navigated their canoes down the water to meet them.
It was such a wonderful trip. Mother really enjoyed it and I did too. The church does a river trip once a year and picked this route because of the fishing. They’ve also done a run on the New River. This trip was just shy of a two-hour trip from the church.
We got out at the Gala Boat Launch after about ten miles on the river and began the trip back. We were home by 7:30 PM and that includes a stop at Dodge’s in Bassett Forks for egg rolls.
Every year about this time, there is a Peach Festival in Stuart on a Friday evening followed by a Folk Fair in Meadows of Dan on Saturday. We have still not made it to the Peach Festival in Stuart yet. The first year, I didn’t realize that it was on Friday night. The second year, I figured it out too late. This year, it rained.
Somehow I have no trouble making it to the Folk Fair in Meadows of Dan. Maybe because I just love Meadows of Dan. I mean I really love Meadows of Dan. It sits at the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway and is just the cutest little community.
We go up to the Poor Farmers Market here quite a bit and I love following them on Facebook. The owner posts a lot of pictures from Meadows of Dan as well as historical tidbits and news of business for the area. This is where we discovered white sweet potatoes which are, possibly, the perfect food. They taste like regular sweet potatoes but have the look and consistency of regular white potatoes. Who know that a vegetable could be so interesting?
The store is full of souvenirs – autographed books by local authors, t-shirts, cast iron cookware, holiday ideas, jams and jellies, and every little odd assortment of things that you can imagine. There is a deli counter and ice cream in the back and a covered sitting spot to eat. Today, they had the most colorful metal yard art shaped like roses, bird houses, and huge roosters. You just never know what you’ll find at Poor Farmers Market besides white sweet potatoes (and peaches).
Jim Lord played live music out on the stage at the back of the parking lot and a few vendors were scattered about. The bulk of the vendor tents were set up down the road by the Community Center but this is where I wanted to be.
Just across the street from Poor Farmers Market is The Meadows Mercantile. It’s a long building that looks vaguely western. You can enter on either end of the building which is divided into four rooms and filled to the brim with souvenirs and everything Christmas. They have a fantastic selection of t-shirts right now. We bought three and I’ve already admitted that I am going to have to go back to get the one that says “The Mountains Are Calling And I Must Go”.
Two of the rooms are souvenir-type things and then the next two rooms are all Christmas. Ornaments. Trees. Nativities. You name it. Mother got her very first Virginia Christmas ornament – of a black bear. (She keeps wanting to put out food scraps for “critters” but we have chickens and just about all “critters” eat chickens. I told her that is not outside the realm of possibility that she could attract a black bear by doing this. So far, that seems to have worked.)
The Meadows of Dan community lost a significant landmark last year. The Meadows of Dan Baptist Church burned to the ground on March 5, 2015. Poor Farmers Market has photos of the fire on their Facebook page. It was so sad. Such an incredible loss for the community. Proceeds from the peach cobbler sale will go to rebuild.
The building used to be a gun and knife store, hence the bars that make it look like an old jail inside. Before that, it was a general store. Now, toys and puzzles line the walls and invite people to play with them to see how they work. I was able to operate the dreidel, putting me on a technical skill level with, I think, a five year old, but we needed help with a lot of the displays. One of the employees helped us operate several of the toys, including a chair that would raise you up by compressing air in a vacuum tube next to it. At least, I think that was how it worked. Compared to other science museums I’ve seen like this, it’s really engaging and there is a lot to see and do. Kids will absolutely love it and adults are going to enjoy themselves too.
After the Folk Toy and Science Museum, we decided to drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway and investigate an old country store I had read about in “This Old Store”, the Mayberry Trading Post.
It’s a very readable, short book. Apart from the history of the store, it gives the history of the area and spends some time on several notable personalities that lived here. The community of Mayberry has dwindled to just a few souls but the country store is still there and open for business. Interesting note in the book (page 89), Andy Griffith’s mother had relatives here when he was a boy and he had come to Mayberry to visit them back in the day. “Information such as this”, the book says, “makes a pretty strong circumstantial case for this place here being the source of the name of the television Mayberry, if not a documentable one.”
I’ve since read that many places compete for being the source of the name of the idylized small town of Tinsel Town fame. Whether it is or not is probably moot at this point. Whether it is the town, or not, I mean. It is indisputably a remnant of the past that many of us have romanticized in a nostalgic fervor so that it is like Brigadoon, a small village protected from the ravages of change by an enchantment that hides it away from the world for a hundred years each night as the villagers sleep.
I read once that the reason that vintage Victorian clothes are so important is that there were only so many made (by nature of definition). Once they are gone, and they can’t last forever, that’s it. You can’t make more genuine articles. Old country stores like this are the same, I think. If you are of the same mind, I think that you would really like stopping by. And buy a shirt or a hoodie, or a jar of jam … just to keep the lights on.
It was a rainy day but we managed to grab some shots at Lover’s Leap on the way up. We actually went to Fred Clifton Park, right next to the outlook, which I believe has better views.
This is one of the views from Fred Clifton Park. It’s pretty much the same view as from Lover’s Leap but with more room to stand. The local legend is that a white settler and an native American maiden, shunned by both sides for their love, leapt from here into the valley below. It’s a popular story for a lot of places, so I have my doubts. It is a breathtaking view though. The camera couldn’t capture it but there are farms and vineyards down in that valley. It’s truly gorgeous.
I’ll close with this shot of Mother taking in the view. I think that she is really liking it here.
Neither of us remember there being craft beer festivals back in Dallas. There had to be some. Surely, right?
Here, however, we have been to four craft beer festivals in just the past couple of years. Each one has had its pros and cons but, wow, a craft beer festival. That’s right up there with an ice cream festival.
The BallPark Beer Festival – Hooker Field, Martinsville
We went to the first (annual) BallPark Beer Festival at Hooker Field in Martinsville in May of 2015. It was great. They had several tents and multiple brewers in each tent. Instead of kegs, each brewer had vats of different brews iced down. I thought that this was great because normally each brewer only brings two to four kegs. By having the bottles, they were able to have more different kinds of beers. The glasses were the size of juice glasses and one perk to standing on grass is that you could easily pour out anything you didn’t like or didn’t want.
The Kings of Belmont played and it was a great scene. We wished that we had brought chairs to sit on the lawn and listen to the band.
We missed it this year but that’s just because it fell off of our radar. Next year, I’ll remember to keep an eye out for it in JULY.
Brewsterwalk – Uptown Martinsville
Then there was Brewsterwalk in October (also 2015) held in the old downtown area known as Uptown. Brewsterwalk is kind of a play on words because there is a huge annual multi-day concert here called Roosterwalk. It’s kind of a big deal.
Attendance was capped at 600 tickets, so it was a little bigger than the BallPark’s Beer Fest that had been capped at 400. There were food trucks and a sitting area just to the right of the stage, so that worked really well.
This was where we discovered Raven’s Roost Porter by Parkway Brewing. And look at that glass! It’s a full-sized pint glass. We love those glasses. We also still love Raven’s Roost. We believe that the local Food Lion (on Greensboro Road) is keeping it in stock just for us. So we buy it. A lot.
We heard a couple of bands, the Chris Duarte Group and Wild Ponies, but left before the finale band, Junto, came on. The bands were awesome. But we are a music area, right? I guess you have to expect greatness when it comes to the music around here.
MicroFestivus Premiere Craft Beer Festival – Roanoke
We’ve actually made it to MicroFestivus twice now and we are learning how to do this properly. For instance, this year we rented a hotel room within walking distance to the festival. How’s that for an idea?!
The first time it rained.
MicroFestivus was supposed to be held in Elmwood Park but, due to the rain, it got moved into the parking garage adjacent to Elmwood Park. We found it. We had our list of brewers and brews that we especially wanted to find and we set off. Our big discovery in 2014 was Southern Tier’s Creme Brulee Stout. We do buy that occasionally when we see it in a craft beer store but it really is a little on the dessert side for a beer.
It continued to rain. There was a band set up on a soundstage but I honestly don’t remember them playing. It was wet and kind of cruddy. The beer festival was inside the garage, so you wound around the levels and that worked out really well.
The food trucks were outside of the garage and the way to them was covered by white tents.
Fast forward to 2016. We missed 2015 MicroFestivus for some reason. This year, however, this year we were ready. There are rain clouds. The festival this year is a street festival. We have a hotel room.
We have a hotel room in Hotel Roanoke. Let me tell you, THIS is the way to “do” downtown Roanoke. Honestly, we will be staying here again. This is the prettiest hotel that I’ve ever seen and it has this wonderful “vibe”. The closest that I’ve ever experienced was the Hotel Del in San Diego. It’s old world but … almost other world.
The festival went off without a hitch. (Which is really good because the area it was in flooded two days later). Our discovery this year? South Street Brewery’s Ice Cream Porter.
Or Hardywood’s Raspberry Stout. I’m not sure. I guess it’s going to depend on who gets their bottles out to the stores. They were both stand outs.
It did not rain but it was hot. The festival entrance was on Campbell Avenue and ran two blocks up 1st Street to end at food trucks. Both Kirk Avenue and Church Avenue, which cross 1st Street, were closed and had beer tents running a block to two blocks along their sidewalks.
It was crowded but I have photos that make it look thronged and others that make it look like a Sunday afternoon church bazaar.
Roanoke is a craft beer destination even without the festival. Check out these local breweries when you can (and these probably aren’t all of them):
It’s been difficult to get up and moving lately with the summertime temps. I used to enjoy running a 5K here and there but I’m the only one in the household that really enjoys that and, with Mother’s move, there just hasn’t been time. And then there was this humid summer.
I’d love to run the Harvest Moon run in Martinsville because it is on the Dick & Willie Trail, a rail trail that runs all the way through town. I started (but did not finish) the Martinsville half marathon training in the winter of 2015 but I still haven’t been on the trail when it is all leafed out because every single person I’ve talked to has said that I shouldn’t go alone. In other words, I need a male escort. I didn’t run the Harvest Moon in 2014 because I couldn’t finish a 10K in under an hour and it starts at 7PM. This year they are offering a 5K and, if I can be fit enough to do that, it might just be the best of all possible worlds for me.
Martinsville has a pretty active and close-knit running community. Check out Miles In Martinsville for a list of events, training programs, and volunteer opportunities. There are a lot of good runners with incredible patience willing to mentor the slower runners (like me). There is also a Facebook Group called MHC Inspire that allows local runners (and mountain bikers, etc) to keep up with and encourage each other. There is a group that meets on the Dick & Willie Trail by El Parral Restaurant every Sunday morning (I’m told) and runs six miles. I haven’t gotten that fit yet.
All in all, though, the running community is pretty much just as vibrant here in the Martinsville-Henry County area as it was in McKinney, TX.
I was worried when I moved here about running in Virginia. Friends teased me about all the hills. Although I did eventually stop running, it wasn’t because of the hills. In fact, I’ve seen some of the most beautiful countryside here by running through it and no two races are exactly the same. The first race I ran in Stuart, The Strawberry Festival 5K, was fairly easy. The Caring Soles 10K in Stuart kicked me (if fact they sent someone out to make sure that I was okay).
Woolwine, which is an exceptionally hilly place, has probably one of the nicest runs in the area, the Covered Bridge Festival 5K, every June.
Woolwine is worth two photos. Absolutely gorgeous.
The Rebels 5K race in Critz (pronounced with a hard I) led me to find the Reynolds Homestead just a few miles north, if that far.
Even the Peach Festival 5K in Meadows of Dan was not bad at all and they are at the foot of the Blue Ridge Parkway. One guy even did it with a stroller.
If I do manage to get out there and get back to running, I have a separate Facebook page for pictures I’ve taken at races, Runs With Camera. There’s an album for each race I’ve taken my camera on. Most are in the Dallas area but, hopefully, I’ll get at least a few more from Virginia.
I would love to see the numbers on how many classic cars there are in this area in relation to the number of living souls. It seems that there is a classic car show at nearly every event, plus events called “Cruise Ins” that are just classic car shows on their own. We had classic cars in Dallas but I just never noticed this level of enthusiasm there. (I did once get a ride in a Model T, but that was a fluke).
The first big car show I saw here was at the 2015 Pig Cooking Contest at the Spencer Penn Centre. On Friday night, they have the actual cook off. On Saturday, vendors are crammed all throughout the restored school house and spill out on the lawn and there is a car show out back.
My husband loves the old trucks.
He could spend hours looking at them.
I’m a sucker for the old Fairlanes.
The entire back parking lot was filled with classics and I thought that it was a big show.
After the Pig Cooking Contest, we headed over to Fieldale, which has a heritage festival annually on the same day. There is an antique store there, Fieldale Antiques, that may be one of the prettiest buildings you’ll ever see. Well, maybe the prettiest gas station. But, seriously, it is worth the trip just to see it. It isn’t listed on TripAdvisor and it doesn’t have a web page. You’ll just have to take a leap of faith. They don’t have a lot of stock, or didn’t when we went. In fact, it seemed more like odd items of local significance stored for another day. In an esoteric way, it’s what you would get if you had an art gallery of antiques. Very odd. Very eclectic. You’ll want to combine it with some other sightseeing to justify a trip of any length, but … do.
Later that year, we went to the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival in Ferrum, Virginia. A word about the scale of this festival: the closest thing I can compare it to is the Dallas State Fair without the buildings or the midway. The festival is phenomenal and completely redefined what is a “big” car show. It was a veritable sea of cars.
The cars were lined up in row after row after row. There must have been acres of cars.
Some were in pristine condition.
Others, not so much.
We even found the same model my husband’s aunt used to drive when it was new.
I couldn’t pick a favorite.
I’m not sure what some of them were.
Of course, my husband liked the trucks.
I think that I like anything with fins.
Whatever you like, I’ll bet it will be at the Folklife Festival. So far, it seems to be the “granddaddy” of car shows around here. This fascination with classic cars may be yet another reason that this is just an excellent area in which to retire. A classic car enthusiast could follow classic cars here the way a live music junkie could follow music in Austin.