It’s Peach Time in the Blue Ridge

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.

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Fresh Homemade Peach Cobbler a la Mode

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?

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Poor Farmers Market in Meadows of Dan

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).

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Yard Art at Poor Farmers Market in Meadows of Dan

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.

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Jim Lord Live at Poor Farmers Market

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”.

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Great Selection of T-Shirts at Meadows Mercantile, Meadows of Dan

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.)

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It’s Always Christmas at Meadows Mercantile in Meadows of Dan

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.

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Meadows of Dan Baptist Church – Burned March 5, 2015

They’ve had a new addition to the community in the Toy Time Folk Toy & Science Museum.  The museum has a TripAdvisor badge on their door and they are already up to #8 of 11 things to do in Meadows of Dan.  They’ll have stiff competition for the top spot with Mabry Mill, Nancy’s Candy Company, and Primland but I think that they are going to be very popular.

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The New Toy Time Museum in Meadows of Dan

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.

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A Toy Time Employee Demonstrates A Vacuum Chair

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.

There’s a preview of the book available on Amazon.

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.”

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Mayberry Trading Post on the Blue Ridge Parkway

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.

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Inside the Mayberry Trading Post

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.

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Look Out at Fred Clifton Park

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.

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View From Fred Clifton Park

I’ll close with this shot of Mother taking in the view.  I think that she is really liking it here.

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Another Texan Falling In Love With Virginia?

Classic Car Crazy

I would love to see the numbers on how many classic cars there are in this area in relation to the number of living souls.  It seems that there is a classic car show at nearly every event, plus events called “Cruise Ins” that are just classic car shows on their own.  We had classic cars in Dallas but I just never noticed this level of enthusiasm there.  (I did once get a ride in a Model T, but that was a fluke).

The first big car show I saw here was at the 2015 Pig Cooking Contest at the Spencer Penn Centre. On Friday night, they have the actual cook off.  On Saturday, vendors are crammed all throughout the restored school house and spill out on the lawn and there is a car show out back.

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My husband loves the old trucks.

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He could spend hours looking at them.

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I’m a sucker for the old Fairlanes.

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The entire back parking lot was filled with classics and I thought that it was a big show.

After the Pig Cooking Contest, we headed over to Fieldale, which has a heritage festival annually on the same day.  There is an antique store there, Fieldale Antiques, that may be one of the prettiest buildings you’ll ever see.  Well, maybe the prettiest gas station. But, seriously, it is worth the trip just to see it.  It isn’t listed on TripAdvisor and it doesn’t have a web page.  You’ll just have to take a leap of faith.  They don’t have a lot of stock, or didn’t when we went.  In fact, it seemed more like odd items of local significance stored for another day.  In an esoteric way, it’s what you would get if you had an art gallery of antiques.  Very odd. Very eclectic. You’ll want to combine it with some other sightseeing to justify a trip of any length, but … do.

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Later that year, we went to the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival in Ferrum, Virginia.  A word about the scale of this festival:  the closest thing I can compare it to is the Dallas State Fair without the buildings or the midway.  The festival is phenomenal and completely redefined what is a “big” car show. It was a veritable sea of cars.

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The cars were lined up in row after row after row.  There must have been acres of cars.

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Some were in pristine condition.

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Others, not so much.

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We even found the same model my husband’s aunt used to drive when it was new.

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I couldn’t pick a favorite.

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I’m not sure what some of them were.

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Of course, my husband liked the trucks.

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I think that I like anything with fins.

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Whatever you like, I’ll bet it will be at the Folklife Festival.  So far, it seems to be the “granddaddy” of car shows around here.  This fascination with classic cars may be yet another reason that this is just an excellent area in which to retire.  A classic car enthusiast could follow classic cars here the way a live music junkie could follow music in Austin.

I’ll have to add that to my list.

Roanoke: Market Center

Roanoke is a city that is beautiful in the rain. A little under an hour north of Henry County, Roanoke is a great place to get away from rural life and take in something more “cosmopolitan”, a quick pint at a craft brewery  (there are several), or just to grab lunch while letting the hustle and bustle of a real city remind you that you are still part of the human race.

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Every morning, we watch news from Roanoke and we thought that it was high time to take Mother in to see Market Center. We’ve only been once before and were so impressed with Fork in the Market that we went there again.  The food was predictably good but the craft beer selection was poor this time.  Last time we were able to get  S’mores porter (by DuClaw, I think?).  This time, their only porter was Nitro Vanilla by Breckinridge which is a good porter but they were out. Still, the food was good and the sidewalk seating is great.

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From the Fork in the Market sidewalk seating, you look out at a seafood restaurant, Billy’s, and the Taubman Museum.  People walk by and a steady stream of traffic makes for great people-watching.

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Fork in the Market is one of several restaurants in a building called The City Market. While this is a beautiful building on the outside, the inside is basically a food court with access to all (or at least some) of the restaurants that are also accessible from the outside.  The perk to City Market is easy access to clean restrooms and a series of beautiful mosaics at each doorway.

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I made a point to get a shot of each of the mosaics. A history of the mosaics – 2,000 pounds of ceramic tilework by artist Cheryl Foster – is available on the City Market website.

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I wish that there was more information about each mosaic but even the building’s website gives only a cursory explanation of their commission. Were these real personalities connected to the building? I don’t know.

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The colors are fantastic and there is so much detail.

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The toothless, banjo-playing boy with his dog, in particular, could use an explanatory placard.  This is an area rich in musical heritage but the mosaic, without more information, seems more like a caricature than a tribute.

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Market Center is a shopping district across the street from City Market and next to Center in the Square.  It is not synonymous with Center in the Square, which you will gather if you read the management responses to reviews on TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor is a global outfit not based in the U.S. and it has a real problem with listing districts like Market Center that don’t have an identifiable individual address.

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Market Center is a lively area that hosts a farmers’ market on Saturdays and has a long line of shops and open-air vendors along the street.

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Our big “find” this trip was ChocolatePaper.  My husband called it a “random stuff” store when we walked in but then smiled like a cat with a canary when he went far enough back to find the chocolate counter.  I had picked up a bag of Nancy’s Candy Company’s chocolate covered cookie dough balls (Nancy’s is a Meadows of Dan outfit) until I found the counter of truffles and chocolate covered delicacies.

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The sandwich board outside says that they keep the inside temperature at 66 degrees for the chocolate.  I can’t recommend a better way to beat the heat this summer than ChocolatePaper.

The Gravely Preserve

Mother has always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail.  At seventy, and after two years of little to no activity, the move to Virginia has reawakened her desire to get on the Trail.  We aren’t that far from it and the section through Virginia is supposed to be one of the most accessible, according to her.  She’s found a section hike that is just under five miles, round trip, within a short drive and it looks like this is something that is going to have to at least be attempted. No one just dives into the Appalachian Trail though so we’ll have to work up to it.

There is no shortage of local trails to take in first while we are building up muscles (maybe?) and stamina.  Before the unseasonably warm temperatures drove us indoors to hide, we went to the Gravely Nature Preserver in Ridgeway.  It’s a 75-acre preserve with a variety of trails that wind through the thickly wooded land.

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The trail is easy, without a lot of ups and downs until you get to the end, where you go downhill at a pretty decent grade. It’s not treacherous at all but it’s worth going down it instead of up.

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There are multiple trails to walk in the preserve, all of them starting off of the main trail loop, the Cliff Jones trail, and there are a few points of interest along the way.  The Cliff Jones Trail is only about a mile long and is entirely shaded.  About midway along the trail, there is the Burgess Family Cemetery.

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It is a reasonably large family cemetery but the tombstones are in fairly bad shape, many having fallen over and beginning to crumble.  There is a lot of deadwood along the whole trail, leaving a question about how well the trail is maintained or if the focus is just on the natural state of unkempt woodland.  It was still worth the visit.

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The trail itself is well marked and clear of debris.  There was almost no litter.  One of the side trails, the Rhododendron Trail, is supposed to lead through a “tunnel” of the woodland shrubs which flower in May.  We didn’t attempt that trail on this excursion because it was marked as moderately difficult and the rhododendron had long stopped flowering by the time we were there.  It is something that, along with the Burgess home site trail, we hope to catch next spring.

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The Gravely Preserve is off of the beaten track and there is little chance that a tourist is going to stumble across it accidentally.  It is a nice attraction for the town of Ridgeway though and I hope that more people do make the effort to check it out.

Smith River Fest Approaches

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.

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