Road Trip to Virginia

Ann and I left Woodstock, GA, at noon on Saturday. The temperature was 95 degrees.

We turned north onto I-77 from I-85 at Charlotte. The temperature was 99 degrees.

We stopped in Cana, VA, at the Willow Glen Farm B&B. The house was amazing, the food excellent, and Bob and Carol were gracious and interesting hosts.

After the great breakfast on Sunday, we drove north on Highway 52 to Fancy Gap and turned right onto the magical Blue Ridge Parkway.

Mabry Mill by www.flickr.com/photos/hitmanjf/

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a wonderful place to drive after spending hours dodging collisions on the interstate highways.

We passed beautiful Mabry Mill, where hometown friend Clift Mitchell fell in the pond about 50 years ago.

We drove east through Floyd County to Cannaday Gap, where we dropped down into Franklin County to Endicott.

We drove east to Ferrum. At Ferrum College, we turned north onto Ferrum Mountain Rd towards Callaway. We continued north to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We turned northeast on the Parkway. Several miles later we turned left onto a barely visible double track. When we stopped to open the gate to drive into a pasture, the temperature was 74 degrees with very gusty winds. We drove through the pasture to Jack and Marie's home.

We had a tasty and healthy lunch with Jack, Marie, Jackson, and Katie. It was great to see them and I wish we had had more time to visit.

We returned to Franklin County and looked at some property with Clift, Linda, and John G.

At 3pm, we left for Atlanta. We stopped at the Floyd Country Store in Floyd. I got a blackberry milkshake and we chatted with Woody and Jackie for a moment.

We headed west on Highway 221. At Hillsville, we took I-77 south. We encountered a traffic stoppage at Statesville. We detoured onto I-40 West and took Highway 321 South to I-85, after losing an hour to the traffic jam.

We arrived home at 11pm. The temperature was 88 degrees. Hot 'Lanta indeed.

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