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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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?

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A Jingle that Gets Stuck In Your Head

There is this jingle that plays here that gets stuck in our heads.  It’s an ad for Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, so it may be played nationally, I don’t know.  What I do know that it plays here all the time, almost as frequently as political ads in an election year.  Once it sneaks into your brain, you are lost.  You will be singing it in car and the shower.

Myrtle Beach is somewhere between four and five hours away from Henry County.  Virginia Beach is around five hours from Henry County and the Outer Banks in North Carolina are closer to six hours, so considering a trip to Myrtle Beach is not unreasonable.

We haven’t been to the beach yet but we’d like to go.  The lure of the ad is strong but it looks like it has the potential to be crowded.  Anyone have any recommendations for low volume yet still touristy spots?

 

A Little Gilded Age Tobacco Money

I am fascinated by the Gilded Age.  The termed was coined in the 1920’s (credited to Mark Twain) and refers to a period from 1870 to 1900 when a few Americans made obscene fortunes and competed with each other in the ostentatious display of their wealth.  They thought that they were building monuments for all time in the elaborate homes that they built, quite often copying country estates in Europe.  Instead, they built albatrosses that succeeding generations simply could not afford to maintain.  While most of the mansions that I’ve read about were built (and often subsequently torn down) in New York or Newport, RI, at least one – the Biltmore – was actually built not far from here in Asheville, North Carolina.   Continue reading “A Little Gilded Age Tobacco Money”

The Other War

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.

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Monument to Major General Nathanael Greene at the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, NC

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.

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Monument to Brigadier General Stevens at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, North Carolina

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.

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Revolutionary War Reenactors at Spencer Penn Pig Cooking Contest, April 2015

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.

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Revolutionary War Reenactors at Fieldale Heritage Festival, April 2015

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?

Down The Dan With The DRC

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 only the 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.)

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The Dan River Company Reservations Office

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).

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The Dan River Company Shuttle

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.

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On The Water of the Dan River

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).

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One of Many Class I Rapids Along The Route

There were several sandy beaches and rocky outcroppings along the route.

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Rock Faces And Sandy Beaches

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.

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Beautiful Places to Stop Along the Way

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.

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More Rapids

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.

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The River As It Approaches the Dan River Company Egress

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.

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Stairs Leading Out of The River

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.

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The Green Heron Club – An Ale House at the End of the Run

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.

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What a Craft Selection at the Green Heron!

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.

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Two Take Out LuLu Burgers at The Green Heron

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!

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View of the Dan River From Our Table

Fall Creek Falls, North Carolina

Here in Henry County, we are very close (about 3 miles, depending on where you are standing) from the North Carolina border. In fact, when I head to the Ridgeway library, I actually cross the border into North Carolina and back into Virginia on my way.

Ever since we moved here, a neighbor who became a very close friend has been telling us that we had to go check out the waterfall on DeShazo Road.   From what he was saying, I was picturing a smaller stream with an abandoned falling-down mill and an arduous hike but I really couldn’t have been more wrong.

The falls are quite pretty.  Like so many things around here, I find a larger version by the same name in another state. There is a Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee.  These are not those falls.  These falls are actually part of the Mayo River State Park, a new park in North Carolina. Per Wikipedia, the Mayo River State Park owns over two thousand acres along the Mayo River corridor but  the current park only has trails along about 400 acres of it down near the town of Mayodan.

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The only access to the waterfall is along DeShazo Road, where a trailhead prevents access by ATVs with pylons across the entrance.  People park alongside the road to make the short hike down to the falls.  When we visited shortly after a rain, we passed two gentlemen coming up from the falls as we were entering and a lady out walking her dog coming in as we were leaving.

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The trail is clearly marked and mostly level until you actually get to the falls.  There was no litter.  The trail floor is natural earth so it probably has the potential to be muddy although it is the type of soil that is abundant here and drains well.

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It is a very short hike to the waterfall.  I’m guessing it is about a quarter of a mile. Some people say that you can see the footings of an old mill at the top of the waterfall.  For me, it is hard to distinguish stone footings from natural rocks.  We felt that the channel in the foreground of the picture below might be intentionally carved by human hands but there is no way to be sure.

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The only bit of the trail that was difficult at all was the bit going down to the base of the falls.  There were two paths – one dangerously close to the edge of a drop off and another maybe twelve feet away that was pretty steep.  We did this trail before Mother had a walking stick and she was wearing open toed sandals.  Even at that, she didn’t have much trouble with it, only requiring a gentle push up the hill as we were leaving.

I am hoping that there will eventually be trails leading from the Mayo State River Park up to the falls but it will be a good hike, distance-wise. In the meantime, the falls are reasonably accessible and quite beautiful.