Shopping in Uptown on a Saturday

This past Saturday morning was a little bookish.  Mother and I trekked into Uptown Martinsville to renew a book at the local library and check out the new bookstore that opened this past week.

The Blue Ridge Regional Library has several locations and the Uptown location is on Church Street as you are heading into Uptown.

mtnlaurel-030
The Blue Ridge Regional Library on Church Street

It’s a beautiful building with a lot of natural light pouring in.  It also has a huge selection of large print books.

img_20160924_105403807_hdr
Inside the Blue Ridge Regional Library on Church Street

Across the street from the library is Scuffle Hill.  Now a parish office for Christ Episcopal Church next door, Scuffle Hill is most notable for the numerous local business leaders who called it home over the years but it is also an impressive landmark as you enter the Uptown business district.

mtnlaurel-033
Martinsville’s Scuffle Hill

Next door to the library is what is called “The Grey Lady”.  It is now home to Rives S. Brown Realtors.

mtnlaurel-036
Martinsville’s Grey Lady

Registered as the John Waddey Carter House, the plaque by the door reads:

This beautiful Queen Anne residence was built in 1896 by John W. Carter as a wedding present for his young bride, Miss Mary Kizzah Drewery, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Henry M. Drewery.  Referred to as the “Grey Lady”, the dwelling is a textbook example of the Queen Anne style possessing typical features of irregular composition, mixture of materials and surface use of Eastlake ornamentation.  Conspicuously located on one of Martinsville’s main thoroughfares, the house was appropriate for a prominent and prosperous lawyer and his young wife.”

mtnlaurel-038
Martinsville’s Grey Lady

The new bookstore, Books and Crannies, also has a Church Street address but is actually on Broad Street, facing out towards a public parking lot.  We found it quite by accident since we were looking for addresses on Church Street and only pulled into the parking lot because another car was wanting to get past us.  Both selection and prices are good and it is a welcome addition to our area.

mtnlaurel-046
The New Bookstore in Uptown  – Books & Crannies

There is not a lot going on in Uptown.  I rarely see many other shoppers out.  We walked down to Rucker’s Antique Store, which was open, and Serendipity Coffee House, which was closed.  Serendipity is another business that has a Church street address but has to be accessed from the parking lot behind the building.  I went to the upstairs door in back and, although the sign said “open”, the door was locked.

mtnlaurel-053
Mural in Uptown Martinsville

Still, Uptown Martinsville is a pretty place to visit on a pretty day.  There is a 50’s and 60’s flare to the signage on the buildings and there are several colorful murals throughout the district.  The architecture is unique and in good shape.

We thought that we’d try to go see the old courthouse which is now the Martinsville-Henry County Heritage Center and Museum but it turns out that it is only open from 2 to 5 on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

mtnlaurel-054
The Old Courthouse in Uptown Martinsville

So we swung around to one business that always seems to be open, Fido’s Finds & Kittie’s Kollectibles.  This is a thrift shop that benefits our local SPCA.  It always seems to have some name-brand furniture for sale and lots of small odds and ends.  It is a good spot for holiday items, like Christmas-themed cookie jars and animal-inspired greeting cards.  They also have a decent corner of used books, rounding out our book theme for this Saturday trip.

mtnlaurel-059
Fido’s Finds – A Thrift Store Benefitting the Local SPCA

The Uptown district really is pretty but, with the exception of the Farmer’s Market on Moss Street, it feels like a bit of a ghost town on the weekends unless there is an event going on.  There are a few other businesses open on a Saturday morning and worth checking out.  If you are heading that way, be sure to stop in at:

Studio 107 – Gallery and Working Artist Studios

Pieces Boutique – Women’s Clothing

JunkBabies Antique Mall & Auction Store

Ruckers Antiques Emporium & Auction House

Fido’s Finds & Kittie’s Kollectibles SPCA Thrift Store

Books & Crannies Book Store

What else is fun to visit in Uptown Martinsville on a Saturday morning?

A Walk in Fieldale, VA

We don’t go to a lot places in the evening because we have chickens.  If you don’t have chickens, you probably would never think of this but just about everything else in the world wants to eat them.  In order to protect them from nighttime predators, you have to lock the coop up behind them after they go in to roost.  If you are a chicken owner, that means that you absolutely must be home by dark.

The Rogues were scheduled to play in a street dance fundraiser for the renovation of the Fieldale Recreation Center last Saturday evening, so we thought that we’d go catch a few songs and check out the Textile Heritage Trail.  We caught the full act of the warm up group, Heart Strings, before we had to go and we had a great time.

fieldale-013
Heart Stings Opening For The Rogues at Fieldale Rec Center Fundraiser

This was one of many fundraisers to help revitalize the Fieldale Recreation Center.  Fieldale is a jewel of  city, well, a town, in Henry County.  Like everything else here, it has struggled in the post-NAFTA economy and seems to have been all but forgotten, lost in time.  This, despite the fact that there is a Smith River access within walking distance of the downtown, plus the Fieldale Walking Trail that runs along the river,  the Textile Heritage Loop Trail, and a beautiful city park.  It really is an incredible destination to an outsider.  Fieldcrest towels were made here, once upon a time.

fieldale-018
Fieldale Rec Center Street Dance Fundraiser

In a larger economy, a developer would have swooped in and claimed the small but quaint downtown area for their own.  It is a small oval-shaped commercial district with early twentieth century brick storefronts, anchored now by the Fieldale Cafe and a beautifully restored Shell station that is actually an antiques store.  Given the river access for kayaking and trout fishing, it would seem like an outfitter would do well here.  The Virginia Home Inn consistently gets great reviews on TripAdvisor. Reviews of the Fieldale Cafe call it “the ultimate local diner” and a “hidden gem”.   Obviously, Fieldale is not wholly undiscovered.

 

We went a little early because Mother had not yet seen the Textile Heritage Trail that is nestled next to the City Park, across the street from the Smith River.  I had taken some photos of it back in 2014 but I wanted a chance to snap some more shots of it.

fieldale-012
Trail Head for the Textile Heritage Trail in Fieldale

The trail is short, only about a quarter of a mile, but features a variety of walking surfaces.  It starts and ends as a crushed rock trail, it has some bare earth lengths along the way, and there is a raised boardwalk in the middle.

fieldale-010
A Winding Crushed Rock Path On The Textile Heritage Trail in Fieldale

Much of the trail winds.  It makes for some gorgeous shots.  It is almost all shaded, with dappled light changing every potential shot as clouds and leaves above shift with the breeze.

fieldale-004
Mother Reading A Placard On The Textile Heritage Trail in Fieldale

There are placards all along the trail that explain the history of the textile industry in Martinsville and Henry County, so the trail can be as educational as you want it to be.  Even without the placards, it is a truly beautiful trail.

fieldale-005
A Shot From The Textile Heritage Trail That’s Popular on Instagram

I uploaded several of my shots to Instagram and have been pleased that they have been popular there (@lifeinmhc).  I couldn’t decide between two boardwalk shots and all of the filters in Instagram are just outstanding with the trail photos.

fieldale-007
A Shot From The Textile Heritage Trail That’s Popular on Instagram.

Our walk and the concert that Saturday were both fun but now I’m more anxious for fall than ever.  I also want to go back to Fieldale in particular to get more shots.  Fieldale Walking Trail is just across the street from this one and meanders along the river.  I can just imagine shots of the Smith in the fall colors.

Where do you go for fall colors?

Martinsville’s Harvest Moon

The main reason why I’ve never run the Martinsville Harvest Moon race before now was that it was a 10K that started at 7PM and I have never been able to complete a 10K in under an hour.  I was afraid I would end up a lone straggler limping along the Dick and Willie Trail after dark.  According to Athlinks, my best time ever was 1 hour and 9 minutes (when I was in good shape). This year they added a 5K and a virtual race.  The 5K meant that I could expect to finish before sunset so I couldn’t resist the chance to see the Dick and Willie  Rail Trail.

harvest09
The Dick & Willie Trail near the Uptown Connection Trail

The race actually starts  on the Uptown Connection Trail and goes down .6 miles to join with the Dick & Willie.  Mother and I got there early and had time to walk from the start of the race down to see the intersection with the actual Dick & Willie Rail Trail and back.

There are interesting things to see along the way on this part of the trail.  DeShazo’s Silo has a placard along the Uptown Connection Trail explaining how, although it is called a silo, it was actually an incinerator for the DeShazo Lumber Company which closed in 1971.

harvest081
DeShazo’s Silo – Actually an Incinerator for DeShazo Lumber Company

The Uptown Connection Trail intersects with the Silverbell Trail  just before meeting up with the actual Dick & Willie Trail. The Silverbell Trail is a short trail, half a mile, but we didn’t have time to see it and the artwork that is supposed to be along the way.  That would have to wait for another day.

harvest10
The Silverbell Trail Meets Up With The Uptown Connection Trail

At the end of the Uptown Connection Trail, you can continue onto the Dick & Willie Trail but we turned around and headed back to get ready for the race.

harvest08
Where The Uptown Connection Trail Meets The Dick & Willie Rail Trail

I usually carry a small point and click with me when I run but I knew that light conditions would be too poor for that so I took a couple of pictures before the race with my phone.

harvest04
Harvest Moon Runners Milling Around Before The Race

Weather was perfect.  They had two beer selections, Coors Light and something from Devil’s Backbone, and music played on a PA system.

harvest06
Harvest Moon Runners Milling Around Before The Start of the Race

When it was time for the race, they brought out a map to be sure that the 5K’ers and 10K’ers, who would start at the same time, understood which way to go for their particular race.

harvest02
Receiving Race Instructions at the Harvest Moon Run

The path was easy for the 5K.  They had a water station where the Uptown Connection Trail met the Dick & Willie Trail that would point people in the right direction at the right time and there was a volunteer at a cone that was the 5K turnaround that made sure that we all turned when we were supposed to (the 10K’ers had higher number bibs).

harvear01
The Finish Line

I finished before the sun set and then caught this blurry shot a little while later of a runner crossing the finish line.  They had an event photographer at the finish to take everyone’s photo. His photos are posted on the Miles In Martinsville Facebook Page.

It was a good race and I would highly recommend it if you are considering running it in a future year.  The Dick & Willie Trail is beautiful and fun to run with some company like this. For more information on The Dick & Willie Trail, check out “Virginia Rail Trails: Crossing The Commonwealth”.

If you like small town races with local flavor, the next one coming up is the Run With The Cows 5K at the Chinqua-Penn Walking Trail in Reidsville, NC. Unlike most 5K’s, this one is on a Sunday afternoon.  While this is down in North Carolina, the history of the property there has some regional roots.

 

The Other War

You have to understand that, when a Texan hears the words “the war for independence”,  the first thing that comes to mind is the Battle of San Jacinto,  the Alamo and Goliad, Santa Anna, and all that. For a Texan, “history” begins in 1836.  It takes a while for it to sink in, after moving to Virginia, that history does NOT start in 1836 and there was a bigger, much more important war well before that.

And so it’s understandable, when we recently took Mother down to see the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, North Carolina, that she assumed that it was related to the Civil War. It took a little while of wandering through the exhibits in the Visitor Center, seeing the red uniforms and the references to Generals Washington and Cornwallis, that she said, “Oh, this is that other war.” She has a way of dramatically understating things.  She was nonetheless quite impressed.

The Guilford Courthouse National Military Park is impressive.  There are two films in the Visitor’s Center, they have some fantastic exhibits, there is a walking tour and a driving tour to see the many monuments,  tour narrations on CD and via smartphone, and there are paths throughout the park that were virtually thronged with people on a hot September afternoon.  You could easily spend hours here.

greensboro-020
Monument to Major General Nathanael Greene at the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, NC

When I first got to Henry County, Virginia, I wondered if there had ever been any British soldiers this far inland. We are, after all, around a five hour car ride away from the coast. What would that be on horseback through dense woods?

Guilford Courthouse pretty much answers that question. There were, at one time, quite a lot of them not far away at all. This battle was important to the American Revolution because, although the British won the battle, they lost so many men that it is seen as the turning point in the war.

One of the monuments there is to mark the spot where Brigadier General Edward Stevens was wounded during the battle while leading the Virginia Militia. There is remarkably little on the Internet specifically about this battle apart from the Wikipedia entry. Apparently, it wasn’t even named in the movie, “The Patriot”, even though it was a pivotal battle. I know that we shouldn’t use a Hollywood film to tell us about history but some things you just don’t expect them to get wrong or misrepresent.  It’s a shame, really.  A little more historical accuracy could have gone a long way.

greensboro-029
Monument to Brigadier General Stevens at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, North Carolina

A British “Red Coat” would seem pretty anachronistic at just about any event that I can think of in Texas, except for a 4th of July event.  Here, Revolutionary War reenactors are a common sight at even small community festivals.

spencer-penn-033
Revolutionary War Reenactors at Spencer Penn Pig Cooking Contest, April 2015

I love the connection to the colonial past that pervades life here on the East Coast.  It’s truly humbling for it to be pointed out that the USA was not a given; that there was ever any doubt that we, as a nation, would even exist.

fieldale-003
Revolutionary War Reenactors at Fieldale Heritage Festival, April 2015

I’d love to learn more about this specific area’s involvement in the Revolution as well as the Revolution itself. I’ve tried various books but keep getting bogged down in high-minded minutiae about the founding fathers.  My favorite history book, so far, has been “Lone Star: A History of Texas and The Texans” by T.R. Fehrenbach.  Does anyone have any suggestions for a good book (or books) on Virginia and its involvement in the American Revolution?

Down The Dan With The DRC

After my trip down the James with my mother, I came home and told my husband that we just absolutely have to do this together.  He immediately started scouting for trips a little closer to home; specifically, trips with nothing over a Class I rapid.  He found a couple of different companies online but only the Dan River Company described what to expect from the actual river trip to his satisfaction. (We want to eventually do everything – try them all – but you have to start somewhere and he’s pretty adamant about this Class I rapids thing.)

dan-river-003
The Dan River Company Reservations Office

It turned out to be a great company and not far from home (about thirty minutes).  All you have to do is show up in sensible shoes. They have all the rest – the kayaks, the life preservers, the sunscreen. They even sell t-shirts.  They recommend that you bring a dry change of clothes, which I thought was kind of overkill, but it is actually a really good suggestion.  At least two of the rapids along the river stand a good chance of getting you wet (sort of like the flume ride at an amusement park).

dan-river-012
The Dan River Company Shuttle

They make scheduled runs each day to their own private launch point up the river.  We waited a short while for others to arrive but a lot of the folks on our scheduled run had, believe it or not, been held up in traffic.  One of the many draws of the Dan River Company for us (I’m not sure why) was that we got all the way there on what we would call “back roads”. Apart from a tractor, traffic is just not something you expect out here.  It seems this weekend was a huge annual festival, the Stokes Stomp, and the main route through Danbury, NC, had been closed for a parade.

Due to the traffic snarl in Danbury, the only other kayaker on our run was a return customer with her own kayak. The driver gave us some good tips on the drive up and had a great sense of humor. He got us set up and out on the river quickly. No hassles.  No muss, no fuss.

dan-river-019
On The Water of the Dan River

The water was great.  Cool and clear.  Shallow. In fact, the DRC website FAQ says that ninety percent of the route is “ankle to elbow” deep.  The current was swift. There were a lot of rapids.  They were all Class I, but there were a lot of them.  The DRC bills this as perfect for a beginner kayaker and I can see that.  There is a lot more danger here of bottoming out than of capsizing in a rapid (though that can be done).

dan-river-024
One of Many Class I Rapids Along The Route

There were several sandy beaches and rocky outcroppings along the route.

dan-river-039
Rock Faces And Sandy Beaches

It was nice to stop every now and again, enjoy the scenery, and get out of our life jackets. This one bend was especially pretty.  It had a sandy beach on one side and a rocky cliff on the other. There were tents where some people were camped (along with “no trespassing” signs) and there were lawn chairs on the rocks.  The water was deeper here and it looked like people might climb up on the rocks and jump off of them, though no one did while we were there.

dan-river-041
Beautiful Places to Stop Along the Way

We loved the rapids.  The route is 6.2 miles long and there are supposed to be about twenty rapids along the way.  You would just barely get out of the influence of one when you would hear the next.

dan-river-044
More Rapids

We were on the river for about three hours when we made it back to the bend where the Dan River Company has stairs for getting back off the river.  A man was there waiting for us and gave us a hand getting our kayaks up onto the shore.

dan-river-010
The River As It Approaches the Dan River Company Egress

I was impressed by their stairs.  Most places I’ve seen along the river, in my limited experience, are little more than steep grooves up an embankment. All we had to do was carry our paddles and life jackets up to the wash buckets at the top of the stairs and then we could dry off and head to the ale house.

dan-river-009
Stairs Leading Out of The River

The ale house.  Suddenly, that dry change of clothes they had suggested made perfect sense.  Something absolutely unique and fantastic about Dan River Company is that they share a parking lot with the Green Heron Club – an ale house. In between the river and the ale house were two large, outdoor dressing rooms, his and hers, for changing into the dry clothes before going in for a pint.

dan-river-002
The Green Heron Club – An Ale House at the End of the Run

The Green Heron Club bills itself as a music venue with drinks, not a bar with music. In the middle of this Saturday afternoon, they were a perfect spot by the river with a very impressive choice of craft beers and the taps mounted along the wall show that they have had a history of having a great selection.

dan-river-016
What a Craft Selection at the Green Heron!

The don’t serve food themselves but two of the local restaurants, Lulu’s and River Rock Cafe, will deliver to the Green Heron. Just ask up at the bar and they have the menus for both restaurants and they’ll let you use their phone to order (cell phones apparently have notoriously bad reception).  One of the other patrons suggested that we order the Lulu Burger with everything on it.  We were so glad that he recommended it because the Lulu Burger is not actually on the menu but was the perfect way to cap off the day.

dan-river-062
Two Take Out LuLu Burgers at The Green Heron

And so we sat in the Green Heron and looked out the window at the river below, ate our burgers, and enjoyed a pint.  An actual heron flew by.  What an absolutely perfect day!

dan-river-059
View of the Dan River From Our Table