If you are looking for a fun, quick, and inexpensive way to make wonderful memories over a weekend (or a weekday), we have FOUND it.
Damascus, Virginia is about a 3 to 3.5 hour drive west from Henry County. It’s a possible day trip but six hours on the road deserves a little bit of rest along with the fun, so we opted to take a leisurely drive out to Damascus on a Saturday, ride the Virginia Creeper Trail on Sunday morning , and then be back home by that afternoon. Continue reading “Day Trip Down The Virginia Creeper”
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.
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:
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.
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!