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 Trailand 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 onlythe 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.)
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).
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.
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).
There were several sandy beaches and rocky outcroppings along the route.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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):