I recently read “Mud Season: How One Woman’s Dream of Moving to Vermont, Raising Children, Chickens and Sheep, and Running The Old Country Store Pretty Much Led to One Calamity After Another.” This is relevant because, as a former Texan, I didn’t know what a mud season is. Turns out that, further north than here, the ground freezes to a certain depth and does not thaw before the melting winter’s snow. Until the ground thaws enough for the run-off to sink in, there is mud. Continue reading “The First Winter Snow”
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.
It’s a beautiful building with a lot of natural light pouring in. It also has a huge selection of large print books.
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.
Next door to the library is what is called “The Grey Lady”. It is now home to Rives S. Brown Realtors.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
What else is fun to visit in Uptown Martinsville on a Saturday morning?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Weather was perfect. They had two beer selections, Coors Light and something from Devil’s Backbone, and music played on a PA system.
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.
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).
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.
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 just got a reminder in my email about the 3rd annual Stop, Drop, and Run 5K in Stuart coming up on September 10th and the 2016 Harvest Moon 5K & 10 K in Martinsville on September 16th. Now I’m sitting here looking at pictures from past races and thinking, can I be ready by then? I’m so out of shape and its so hard to get going with the humidity and heat the way it has been recently. It’s been practically tropical in southern Virginia this 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.
There is also Run With the Cows 5K on the Chinqua-Penn Walking Trail down in Reidsville, NC on September 25th that I’d like to do. That’s three races in September.
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.
I’ll have to add that to my list.