Ward Manor Bed and Breakfast – A Beautiful Place

On a recent trip to Virginia, Ann and I spent the night at a B & B in a beautiful setting. The Ward Manor Bed and Breakfast is in Independence, VA, in the far southwest corner of the state. Located in a mountain valley that is quiet, isolated, and scenic, it is a wonderful escape from the rat race.

On the night we were there, a thunderstorm moved in after sunset and lit up the valley with flashes of lightning. It was an unforgettable evening.

The breakfast was great, as was the Southern hospitality. The historic farm house is comfortable and filled with interesting antiques.

Ward Manor is closed in the winter due to the harsh weather – only the two barn cats stay there. Tough cats!

You can see more at www.WardManor.com.

The Blue Ridge Parkway Is So Beautiful To Me

flame azalia on blue ridge parkway

Last Sunday (May 29), Ann and I left my cousin Bobbie's home and merged onto the Blue Ridge Parkway in Roanoke, VA. After 20 years of driving in Atlanta, the Parkway looks like paradise to me. Very little traffic, beautiful overlooks, no advertising, no commercial vehicles, and lots of natural plants and wild critters – I feel at home there.

We stopped in Floyd for lunch at the Floyd Country Store (I had my usual, grilled cheese sandwich and strawberry milkshake). Floyd was starting to get busy with visitors for the National Music Festival, which is not featuring country music – rare for Floyd.

We got back on the Parkway and took this picture of a flame azalia about 10 miles south of Mabry Mill. We drove another 10 miles and turned left onto Squirrel Spur Road. Squirrel Spur Road runs down the mountain to the valley, a significant drop. We stopped at an overlook, where we heard a strange sound. Two young men on skateboards (obviously in the immortal stage of life) were flying down Squirrel Spur Road. (How do they slow down for the curves?)

After we got down in the valley, we drove into Kibler Valley, where I used to spend wonderful days chasing trout in the Dan River as a teen with John David Epperly, who had a camper there. Everything seemed smaller.

Then we headed to the Greensboro Airport, to Atlanta, to traffic and heat and work and busy-ness. It was nice while it lasted.

Beautiful Image: Pamukkale, Turkey

Pamukkale, meaning "cotton castle" in Turkish, is a natural site and attraction in south-western Turkey in the Denizli Province. Pamukkale is located in Turkey’s Inner Aegean region, in the River Menderes valley, which enjoys a temperate climate over the greater part of the year. (Wikipedia)

Pamukkale, Turkey

Photo by blue foot  on Flickr

Travertine is a kind of rock which is formed as calcium bicarbonate precipitates out of hot spring water. It may be formed in many ways under different atmospheric conditions. Geological activity of the past affected a large area in which the Pamukkale thermal springs are found. There are 17 thermal sources in this special area with temperatures ranging between 35-100°C. The source of Pamukkale is only one unit of that whole area. The thermal water flows to the top of the cascades by a 320-meter-long channel and then flows on the cascades about 240-300 m. CaCO3 begins to precipitate on the cascades as the carbon dioxide evaporates, but in the beginning the precipitate is soft like gel. It needs time to completely dry and harden. In order to protect the cascades from destruction and to preserve their natural beauty, entrance to the travertine area has been prohibited.

Trip to Floyd – Day 4

We started the day with a healthy breakfast from our hosts. After we packed the car we walked from the farmhouse up to operations center of Miracle Farm, Ed and Karen’s house.

We were greeted by Pris, the friendliest cat I’ve ever seen. The first time I saw Pris, three days prior, he had rubbed against my legs, purring loudly, and then plopped down on my feet, relaxed and comfortable.Miraclefarmstream

I took some photos of the cats,the organic gardens, and the river (see photo); then the batteries in my digital camera ran out. The camera is several years old and seems to be an energy hog. It really hurt because I missed two scenes that I would have liked to have recorded.

Pris the cat was sitting in front of me, offering to shake hands like a dog. When I bent over to pet him, he jumped onto my left shoulder! Then he stretched out around my neck with his front paws on my right shoulder and relaxed. That’s a friendly cat.

Ann discussed composting with Ed. Advanced gardeners like to share tips and stories about their successes and failures, which often involve composting and mulching.

We said goodbye and drove into Floyd on Laurel Branch Rd. As we traveled east, we saw a sight that was eerie and strange. On a wooden fence that connected to an old shed, a flock of buzzards (turkey vultures) was catching the morning sun. About 30 of these big birds were on the fence and ridge line of the shed, about three feet apart, with their wings open, gathering sunlight. And the batteries in my camera were dead. It was such a unique sighting and I didn’t get to capture it — very disappointing. (Now I know why professional photographers like Doug Thompson carry two cameras.)

We bought some batteries in Floyd, took some photos, and jumped on the Blue Ridge Parkway, headed towards Roanoke. It was a beautiful drive (except for the new houses visible from the Parkway near Roanoke — is nothing sacred?).

In the Roanoke airport waiting for our flight to Atlanta, we reflected on all that we had experienced on the trip. Floyd is truly a unique place.

Trip to Floyd – Day 1
Trip to Floyd – Day 2
Trip to Floyd – Day 3

Trip to Floyd – Day 3

This post describes our third day visiting Floyd, Va, on Oct 6, 2007. Here’s the Day 1 and Day 2 posts.

We met Skip Slocum of Live Where You Play real estate at Cafe del Sol on Saturday morning. He took us on a tour Floyd County and showed us some property. I was looking forward to riding in the country — it’s been a tradition in my family since I was a small boy. (Every Sunday after Sunday school my father would take my sisters and me riding through rural Virgina. Most often we explored the Axton, VA area, but we sometimes left Henry County and ventured into Patrick, Franklin, or Pittsylvania countries. Even as children, we enjoyed seeing beautiful farms and the critters that lived on them. My sister Billie, when she was a little girl, saw a "yellow" turkey, which no one else saw. We tease her about it to this day, and she still insists she saw it.)

Skip took us out Franklin Pike to the east and then up 221 to the north. We saw a lot of beautiful land and a few places that we’d like to live. It was great fun just riding around, seeing new places, and sharing stories about life and experiences. We saw a number of places that would be great mountain bike tours.

After several hours of touring northeast Floyd County, we returned to Cafe del Sol and had lunch. Soon after we arrived, Doug Thompson came in and we invited him to join us. From the time I spent around him, Doug seems to know everyone who lives in Floyd. We had a good lunch and said goodbye to Skip and Doug.Fred First photo

We walked down to the Floyd Country Store. I had a $20 gift certificate to spend — from winning the Friday Night Jamboree raffle the previous evening. I knew exactly what I wanted to buy with it. It took me a while to find it, but I finally located Fred First’s book Slow Road Home. I had been waiting for the right time to get Fred’s book, and I knew this was it. The karmic circle was complete — my first awareness of Floyd came from looking at Fred’s photos (his photo to the right) on his Fragments from Floyd blog several years ago, and I get to buy Fred’s book at the Floyd Country Store. The only part missing from this story was Fred — unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet him on this trip.

We hopped in our rental car and drove south to see the Jacksonville Center. There’s some interesting art being created there and I wish we had had more time and energy to explore. I was intrigued by the Sustainable Living Educational Center and the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals office on the grounds. Perhaps I’ll spend some time with them in the future.

Our next stop was the Great Oaks Country Club. I have resumed my golf habit in my later years (in place of backpacking, racquetball, and white-water kayaking, for various reasons), and I wanted to see the local golf course. We pulled into the parking lot, and I walked onto the putting green and looked at  the ninth and eighteenth holes. It looks like a good golf course.

We were running low on energy, so we picked up some groceries and headed to our farm house to have dinner. After dinner, we decided to stay in and relax. Later in the evening, we stepped outside to look at the stars. The night was quiet and dark, and we could see thousands of stars. The Milky Way was obvious, and shooting stars flashed by every few minutes. We really miss quiet nights and starry skies — in the mid-1990s we could see stars from our back deck and the traffic noise was minimal. Since then our area has been transformed from rural to Atlanta suburb, and we no longer have quiet nights and we can’t see many stars. We fought a good fight to preserve the rural character of our area but Atlanta’s growth is an unstoppable force and real estate developers have been getting rich throwing up stores and subdivisions all around us. It doesn’t feel like home anymore.

Another full day — we needed sleep. Sunday was travel day — return to Atlanta.

Trip to Floyd – Day 1
Trip to Floyd – Day 2
Trip to Floyd – Day 4

Trip to Floyd – Day 2

This post describes our second day visiting Floyd, Va, on Oct 5, 2007. Here’s the Day 1 post.

On Friday we took our time getting up and out, enjoying the sounds of rural Virginia at the Miracle Farm B&B: cows mooing in the distance, crows and hawks playing their war games, and the mountain stream behind the farmhouse. We ate the delicious breakfast delivered by Ed and Karen and went out to explore Floyd.

Since our cell phones were not getting a signal around Floyd, we went to a local retailer to buy a tracfone to check our voice mail and to make local calls. When we purchased it, I noticed a warning that only two phones per person can be purchased. I asked the store manager about regulation — she said that they enforced it strictly. Apparently they often get out-of-state cars with several passengers who buy as many phones as they can as often as they can. What is going on…?

After we purchased a phone and checked our voice mail, we went to the public library to use the computers to check email.  Then I dropped Ann at The Harvest Moon so she could determine if we can get the natural and organic foods that we like in Floyd. (Ann was impressed.) I went to Citizens, the telecommunications company just up the road, to discuss rural broadband access. I had an encouraging discussion with Shelia at Citizens that gave me confidence that fast Internet and cable TV are available in much of Floyd County.

A few blocks west of the public library, Epperly Mill Rd turns south off of West Main St. Seeing that street sign triggered a memory — I visited Floyd many years ago with childhood friend John David Epperly and his father. I remember that Mr. Epperly grew up in Floyd — I’ve recently learned that Epperly Mill Rd. was named after Mr. Epperly’s grandfather, who owned the Mill.

In the afternoon we drove east on Franklin Pike to look at the countryside. Floyd’s terrain is dominated by rolling hills with mountains in the distance. The entire county is situated on a high plateau of the Blue Ridge Mountains, at an average elevation of about 2,500 feet. The landscape is almost an even mix of pasture land and forest, with many beautiful evergreens that look like Christmas trees. Occasionally we saw antique car museums (junk yards), which do not improve the aesthetics or the value of the property.

A Floyd County morning by Doug Thompson

We stopped at the Floyd Dry Goods Store. Amy Gravely, who had lived in my home town of Martinsville for several years, runs the store, which has quite a unique mix of interesting goods. We enjoyed the store and the conversation.

We returned to the Floyd Country Store for a late lunch. I saw Doug Thompson, local blogger and photo-journalist (his photo above), sitting on a bench in front of the store. I introduced myself to Doug and starting asking questions. Doug grew up in Floyd and returned to Floyd from Washington, DC, after spending many years traveling the world photographing wars and other current events. He writes the Blue Ridge Muse blog and knows almost everyone in Floyd County. Doug is quite a story teller — he entertained Ann and me for quite a while.

We went to Over the Moon Gallery & Cafe restaurant for dinner. It’s located above the Harvest Moon store. We enjoyed the acoustic music performed by a local musician. Almost every eating establishment in the town of Floyd features good music, often from live performers.

The next stop was the Friday night jamboree at the Floyd Country Store. This is the event of the week that brings everyone together for socializing and music. Unlike most music venues, no alcohol is served — we saw Woody Crenshaw, owner, scooping ice cream for kids. Families bring children to this event — we saw young children having a great time dancing. We watched Doug Thompson taking photos — I enjoyed watching a pro spot an interesting scene and capture it immediately. The blue grass jamboree cost $3 at the door. It draws a crowd — there were about 500 people in and near the Country Store. After the second band left the stage, a ticket was drawn from the fish bowl for the raffle and I won! Is that a sign?

On the way back to the car, we saw Doug Thompson in the Cafe del Sol having a coffee and sat down with him. He introduced us to Sally, the owner, who is also a vocalist in a local band. Cafe del Sol and The Floyd Country Store both provide wi-fi for customers.

It was a memorable day.

Trip to Floyd – Day 1
Trip to Floyd – Day 3
Trip to Floyd – Day 4

Trip to Floyd – Day 1

We arrived in Floyd at mid-afternoon on Thursday, Oct 3. I was surprised at how small the town of Floyd is, in contrast to its reputation. It felt like we had time traveled back to Mayberry. We were uncomfortably hungry, so we headed for the Floyd Country Store. We hadn’t eaten since breakfast at 6:30am at our home north of Atlanta. For lunch, I ordered a strawberry milkshake, a grilled cheese sandwich with tomatoes, and a peanut butter cookie (here’s the menu). The food would have been delicious if I hadn’t been so hungry, and it was especially good given that it had been eight very long hours since we had breakfast.

I was talking with Jen at the front cash register when I spotted someone I felt like I knew but had never met. David St. Lawrence, author of the Making Ripples blog and the Danger Quicksand book, had walked into the Floyd Country Store. I recognized him from his photo on his blog. After I introduced myself, he immediately invited Ann and I to sit down and talk. He spent almost two hours answering questions and describing the Floyd area, with the underlying theme that Floyd is a great place to live (if you are not dependent on the local economy for employment). I had started reading David’s blog several years ago on the recommendation of Fred First, who writes the Fragments from Floyd blog. (I had discovered Fred’s blog in my ongoing search for great photographs of rural Virginia.) David had been living near Charlottesville at the time, but he and his wife Gretchen had moved to Floyd after falling in love with the area. He is one of many unofficial PR people for Floyd, and he generously took time from his busy schedule to talk with us.

David introduced us to Woody Crenshaw, owner (with his wife Jackie) of the Floyd Country Store and one of the business leaders who has been instrumental in the renovation of downtown Floyd. In addition to the home-grown residents, Floyd’s population includes artists, musicians, and techies who have relocated to the area. There are several art galleries displaying the work of local artists. Excellent musicians emerge from the hills on Friday and Saturday to entertain and celebrate the music they love. Several local establishments have wi-fi so patrons can stay connected to the Internet. The local telecommunications company, Citizens, provides high-speed Internet as well as phone and cable TV service for the surrounding area — a great infrastructure for information workers.

We soon discovered an inconvenience: our cell phones (Cingular/AT&T) could not get a connection. We couldn’t check our voice mail or make local calls. So much for the new AT&T.

Renovated Farm House at Miracle Farm

We were staying at the Miracle Farm B&B about 8 miles west of Floyd. We met Karen Osborne, who relocated from the Bay Area in California, when we checked into the renovated farmhouse where we were staying. The farmhouse is not for visitors who want luxury, but how many 5 star hotels feature the sweet music of a mountain stream as you fall asleep? Karen and her husband Ed prepare four-course organic breakfasts that would be a great start for a strenuous day of mountain biking or kayaking.

We had dinner at the Oddfellas Cantina — good food and good music. With full bellies and a long day behind us, we headed to the farmhouse for some rest and relaxation.

To wake up in a suburb of Atlanta and fall asleep in a rustic farmhouse near Floyd, VA, is a great day.

Trip to Floyd – Day 2
Trip to Floyd – Day 3
Trip to Floyd – Day 4

Ten Hybrid Vehicle Myths

From EarthCars.com, some good information about hybrid vehicles. Click on the link for more detail.

Link: Article | Earthcars

Ten hybrid vehicle myths:

1) Hybrid cars are slow and underpowered.

2) Hybrid vehicles lack space, luxury amenities and alternate-terrain capabilities.

3) Hybrids are not cost effective when compared to their non-hybrid counterparts.

4) Hybrids are much more practical for city driving, where better fuel economy is observed.

5) Hybrid vehicles will become too costly as they age and repairs are required.

6) Hybrids need to be plugged in.

7) Diesel powered vehicles match the efficiency of hybrid gas/electric vehicles.

8) Hybrids function more as fashion statements and status symbols.

9) Manufacturers waste money and energy investing in hybrid technology.

10) Hybrid-electric vehicles are the end-all solution to the world’s energy concerns.

Jesse WhiteCrow passing through Floyd, VA

David St Lawrence at the Ripples blog describes Jesse WhiteCrow, a 42-year-old who is walking solo across America on a journey to discover himself. 

Source: Ripples: post-corporate adventures: Jesse WhiteCrow – Just passing through.

Jesse is a well-organized traveler with top-of-the-line hiking gear and a base camp back in Sheffield, Mass.  He even has a gear list on his website. Every detail of his equipment was unique. I was fascinated by his hand-inscribed titanium drinking cup.

He is an artist and a blogger and writes a compelling story of his trek. According to his business card (I said he was well-equipped) he has a book in progress.

Bull Sluice on the Chattooga

My brother-in-law Bill and I swam in the pool below Bull Sluice last Friday. I’ve wanted to swim (voluntarily) in that pool ever since I first saw it.

I swam in the pool involuntarily once after running Bull Sluice in a kayak. I survived the white water but flipped in the strong eddy in the pool on river right. (I was so relieved to have run the drop without hitting Decapitation Rock that I relaxed too soon.) The eddy pushed me against the rocks on the shoreline and I missed one attempt to roll and decided to get out. It was autumn and I got COLD fast!

Photo by J. D. Anthony

P.S. There have been at least two dozen documented deaths in Bull Sluice. The first time I kayaked Section 3 of the Chattooga River I walked around Bull Sluice. I was having a very bad day (two significant injuries, several swims, and no confidence) and it was obvious that I wasn’t ready for a Class 4-5 rapid.