I say so often that someplace is “about an hour away” from Henry County that someone is bound to eventually get suspicious. It’s true though. Within an hour from here in pretty much any direction, there is something really cool to see or do. Smith Mountain Lake, and specifically Bridgewater Plaza in Moneta, is one of these cool destinations.
Incidentally, this is also the lake where Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss filmed the 1991 comedy, “What About Bob?”.
The leaves have been late to change this year but, like everyone else, we’ve been anxious to get out and see them anyway. We knew not to expect much last weekend so our plan was to stop at Lovers Leap Scenic Outlook in Meadows of Dan and see what the color looked like. If it was impressive, we’d hit the Parkway. If not, we’d drive past the Parkway to Galax and stop in at a new craft beer brewpub we’d found on the way to Damascus last time. The color at Lovers Leap was not impressive. Continue reading “Creek Bottom Brews – Galax”
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!
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):
I have never made it to the Smith River Festival since I’ve been here. There is just so much going on this particular weekend. It looks like so much fun. There is a 5K mud run, a rubber ducky race, a boat race, tube rentals, a beer garden, and, this year, an angling pond.
Our big conflict is the mid-atlantic beer festival held in Roanoke on the same weekend, MicroFestivus. For $40 (if you buy your tickets early), you get admission to the event, an event pint glass, and forty tastings.