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

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.

sm_DSC_0004
The back lot at Spencer Penn

Show Up Early to See The Bike Ride Kick Off

sm_DSC_0001
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).

sm_DSC_0005
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.

sm_DSC_0007

sm_DSC_0008

sm_DSC_0009

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.

sm_DSC_0011
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.

sm_DSC_0043

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.

sm_DSC_0021
Setting Up for the Piggie Train
sm_DSC_0020
Lots of Activities for Kids
sm_DSC_0033
Infinity Acres Brought a Petting Zoo

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

sm_DSC_0036

sm_DSC_0035

sm_DSC_0040

sm_DSC_0041

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.

It’s Spring Again. Maybe.

The average temperatures for this area in April should be mid 70’s in the daytime and mid 40’s at night.  Talk is that, this year, we’ve been paying for having a warm February and winter has made several encore performances.  Still, it officially became spring on March 20th this year and the local festival season is starting to gear up.

There is exciting stuff going on over at the Fieldale Recreation Center (check their Facebook page for updates) and they had a bingo & Pampered Chef fundraiser this past weekend.  Martinsville Bulletin made an excellent write-up in this April 5th article, “Construction Starts on Bassett, Fieldale Renovation Projects“.

This coming weekend is the annual Pig Cookin’ Contest and Craft Fair at Spencer Penn.  Come Friday night to see the cooking and listen to live bluegrass.  Then come back on Saturday to shop the vendors, see the classic cars, and maybe play some cow-patty bingo.

In getting my camera ready, I realized that I never posted about our last festival for 2017.  It was a new one for us … the “What the Hay Festival” in nearby Mayodan, North Carolina.

We shop in Mayodan quite a bit because it is very close (around 20 minutes), there’s not a lot of traffic (it’s amazing how relative that gets), and their Food Lion has had one of the better craft beer selections around (it’s the closest place to get DuClaw).  Big round bales of hay started popping up all over town decorated as all kinds of creatures in the weeks leading up to the festival. They did an excellent job with those.

sm_DSC_0017
There were decorative hay bales all over town before the festival

Mayodan has essentially a one-light intersection downtown but downtowns don’t have to be big to have an ambience.  Mayodan has a particularly pretty downtown with old brick buildings on all four corners.  On the day of the festival, they closed the road that ran through it and set up just a humdinger of a small town festival.

sm_DSC_0019
Entering the festival grounds

In the center of the intersection, they set up a soundstage and people brought chairs to sit and listen to the music. The little shop that you can see on the left in the photo below is the Mayodan Arts Center. It’s sells a variety of arts and crafts made by local people – pottery, painted glassware, photographs, bookmarks, stationery, and more.  We ended up getting a few Christmas gifts from them and definitely plan to go back.

sm_DSC_0010
Live Music in the Intersection

They had a full midway set up for the kids and vendors in tents filled in any space that was left on the streets. Mother got her flu shot at one tent.

sm_DSC_0009

 

It was a great little festival.  We also discovered Charlie’s Soap Outlet Store & Cedar Mountain Country Store nestled in the shops along one side of the road. As the name implies, they have Charlie’s Soap but they also have all kinds of knick-knacks for the home and seasonal decorations.  If you talk to the shop owners, they’ll open up a second building with metal yard art/sculptures.  We are fans.

In short, we loved the festival and we love Mayodan.  There’s a lot to see there, I think, and I want to go back when it gets warmer and just spend some time looking around. Perhaps I can find more remembrances like this monument to Mayodan veterans. The engraving on this monument says, “This WWI mortar was originally dedicated to Mayodan veterans of that war. It was rededictated to all Mayodan veterans November 11, 2001”.

sm_DSC_0016
This WWI Mortar is dedicated to all Mayodan veterans

So, I’m already planning to spend an afternoon in Mayodan sometime when it gets warm (if that ever happens again).  What other unique finds should I look for? Any great boutiques?

A Clement Weather Day at SML

I’m a big believer in “clement weather days”.  It only makes sense.  If there are a few days each year when the weather is just so bad that we get a day off, there should also be a day or two each year that are just too nice to work.  I’m not a church-goer and this just seems like a really nice tip of the hat to the Great Engineer.  A way to say “Thank you, God, for this day”.

We have a true fall here. This time of year we have spurts of summer where daytime temps can climb up into the upper eighties with nighttime temps in the sixties.  But now we also get days that do good to get into the seventies with nighttime temps in the fifties.  There are more “open window” days right now that not.  As I write this, what was Hurricane Nate is churning its way up the Blue Ridge Mountains and it is gray and drizzly – the mountains are holding the heavy rain to the west.  This past Friday was a perfect “clement weather day”.

sm_DSC_0001
The iconic Harbor Town Miniature Golf course at Bridgewater

We took full advantage of it by heading up to the Smith Mountain Lake area.  We got there just as Moosie’s opened at 11:00 and walked around for a little while before lunch.  Mango’s an open air grill and bar with a live music venue doesn’t open until noon.

sm_DSC_0002
Mango’s on a Friday morning before opening

Our plan had been to make it up to Beford to see the D-Day Memorial about twenty minutes away but it was such a beautiful day and we were enjoying Bridgewater Plaza so much, we didn’t want to get back in the car.

After lunching at Moosie’s, browsing through all of the shops, and feeding the fish, we took a walk down the boardwalk past Bridgewater Pointe,  a condominium that sits next to the plaza.

sm_DSC_0006
Bridgewater Pointe Condos

I’d never noticed the boardwalk before so this was new for us.   The sun was shining and warm and there was a refreshing, cool breeze off of the water.  Boat slips whispered and creaked and moaned a little in the water.

sm_DSC_0008
The boardwalk goes far beyond the condos

As you reach the point where the boardwalk bends, you can see the mountain in the distance. It is just far enough away that the camera doesn’t really pick it up.  It seems larger in real life.

sm_DSC_0004
Mountains are just barely visible

A wary crane watched us pass and I wished that I had a long distance lens.

sm_DSC_0005
A wary crane

But I didn’t.  We just enjoyed our view.

sm_DSC_0007
Just a beautiful day at the lake
sm_DSC_0011
Just a beautiful day at the lake

The boardwalk ends at the bridge that stretches over Smith Mountain Lake on its way to Moneta. It looks like they are doing some work there building either an extension to the current condos or additional parking.  There is a pad site for sale for another condo project.  I hope that we’ll still be able to walk on the boardwalk after this site is finished being “built out”.

sm_DSC_0009
More condos to come?

There was no visible boat traffic as we walked down to the end of the boardwalk but that didn’t last long.  As soon as we turned around to start back there were easily half a dozen boats appearing all at the same time.  It truly was a beautiful day and a great day for the lake.

This is near the end of the season.  The bartender at Mango’s said that they would close for the season by the end of the month.  They’ll reopen sometime next March, when spring has returned as well.

For more information about this destination, please check out the following links:

 

A Steam Engine in Roanoke

When we moved here in 2014, we didn’t know anything about Roanoke to speak of.  When, in 2015, there was a lot of hooplah about the return of a steam engine from Spencer, North Carolina, we didn’t know why it was a big deal and didn’t know to ask.  The news reported that people waited beside the tracks along the route, hoping to get a video, even though the time that it would pass was kept a secret. We did think that that was odd, but we were busy and weren’t paying attention.

The local hockey team is called the Rail Yard Dawgs. Up until recently, the oldest craft brewery in Roanoke was the Roanoke Railhouse.   There are ads on television for the the popular local Roanoke restaurant called  The Great 611 Steak House.  At some point, you would think that we’d start asking questions, right?  Continue reading “A Steam Engine in Roanoke”