Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Meet Virginia - She'll Take Your Breath Away!

Spring in Virginia is brilliant!  I cannot describe to you the vivid colors bursting out all over. Now is a good time to tell you about my little secret - if you want to wow your sweetie - this is it!   Trust me you can't get more romantic than this - A HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE from Forest Winds!  

Their slogan is "Where will the winds over the forest take you?"  

Please take a look at their website, blog and photos to see how fantastic their hot air ballooning can be.  You can even request a reservation online. 

Forest Winds Inc 434.385.8118 or email infor@forestwindsinc.com 

No two rides at Forest Winds are alike. From take off you will see as far as the  eye can see - to the Peaks of Otter in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the vast Smith Mountain Lake with its 500 miles of shoreline to central Virginia with its breathtaking scenery!  

This truly is a unique treasure that not many have had the chance to experience.  Bring your camera!  Your innkeeper would love to post some of your photos on our blog and website!  

From The Claiborne House Bed and Breakfast they are about 1 hour drive or 50 miles.  But don't be disheartened, to get to Forest Virginia you drive through some of the prettiest countryside on Route 122 past Smith Mountain Lake and through the little town of Bedford Virginia.  (Known for the National D-Day Memorial - the movie Saving Private Ryan was based on the bestseller by Alex Kershaw "The Bedford Boys." One sad note - the last 'Bedford Boy' died this past Sunday April 19, 2009.  Some gave all...)

Life is too short for bad coffee... Shellie @ The Claiborne House Bed and
 Breakfast in Rocky Mount Virginia  http://www.claibornehouse.net/

Saturday, April 18, 2009

One of the Little Things that Makes Franklin County Virginia Special - oh soooo Special!

(click on images for larger view)
Yes, I did say one of the little things, and boy is it ever! Some would say cute, some would say adorable, some would say "Don't go over there on your lunch break or she will be on hers!" 

Franklin County is indeed a rural community - if you take a country drive you will encounter dairy farms, tobacco barns and some unique sights.   I have forever been meaning to get a  photo of the Redwood Post Office 24146, but to be honest I shoot right past and miss it most of the time.

Don't blink or you will miss it too! You will spy - if you are quick about it - this littlest post office on your way out to the Appalachian Power Dam and Visitor Center at Smith Mountain Lake. 

 Click here for directions and more information.  

From The Claiborne House Bed and Breakfast you go to the end of our street and turn right (this is Franklin Street/Route 40 East) and stay on this road and follow the signs to the power dam.  You will pass through Redwood on the way.

I never knew what was behind this littlest post office until today.   I see there is a chimney and also something else: a porta-potty.   Apparently the building was pre-indoor-plumbing or there was simply no room to add a LOO! 

Notice the lock?  Same old same old - there are never public facilities available at any US Post Office! Is it a conspiracy or what?  

Further back behind the post office I spot something else very common in these hills.  

My aunt in California still talks about this...Remember we are as old as dirt out here in ol' Virginnie - in the days long ago family cemetaries were the norm, and still are a tradition.  

So facing east are headstones 
on many family farms and behind most churches here.  I had to walk up behind the stones to get this photo.   Which reminds me...always learning...So this is your trivia for the day and I have one basic answer, but there may be many more:  

Question: Why do headstones typically face east in a cemetary?  

Answer:  It is a traditional Christian burial.  Christian
 headstones face East toward Jerusalem,  awaiting the second coming of Jesus Christ.  When He returns, He will come from the east. It is said that He will "split the eastern sky."

Obviousely some larger cemetaries have stones facing different directions.  Our historic High Street Cemetary on the hill behind The Claiborne House the stones face east. 

Many guests enjoy looking at some of the markers at High Street Cemetary, some dignitaries and even the original owners of this house - B.W. and Julia Angle are there.  You will encounter some smaller unmarked stones which were African Americans in those days who were prominently buried on this hill but left unidentified. 
Life is too short for bad coffee... Shellie @ The Claiborne House Bed and Breakfast in Rocky Mount Virginia  http://www.claibornehouse.net/

Friday, April 17, 2009

On the path of patriots in Franklin County

Franklin County's slow growth also means addition mountain bike trails on its many wilderness areas.  It is one of the fastest growing counties in Virginia - but remains mostly rural.  (That is the way we want to keep it!)

Then Jim Palmieri and I rolled past a crowded soccer field in Franklin County's Waid Recreation Area. We crossed the main park road and followed Scott Martin up a grassy hill.

There stood two tall brick chimneys, ruins of an old Revolutionary War-era stagecoach stop. Opposite them was old barn where a blacksmith shod travelers' horses and fixed wooden-wheeled wagons. With a bit of imagination, you could almost hear horses' hooves clacking, mules huffing and wood joints of Conestoga wagons groaning.

There stood two tall brick chimneys, ruins of an old Revolutionary War-era stagecoach stop. Opposite them was old barn.

These were fixtures on the famed Carolina Road, about 4,000 feet of which passes through the burgeoning county park.

The rutted, Colonial-era turnpike was considered the I-95 of its day, and according to history books, George Washington and Daniel Boone were among the people who journeyed on it. Later the property was known as the Waid tobacco farm.

Far more recently, Franklin County has turned the land into other uses. Beautifully built baseball diamonds and soccer fields are carved into 512 acres that roll across red-clay swells. The fields draw scores of kids and parents each weekend, and covered picnic shelters with modern playground equipment allow moms and dads to keep a close eye on adventuresome toddlers.

Then there is the multi-use trail system. Waid has seven miles of developed trails of just about every style imaginable, and more are on the way. That's one of the things that drew Jim Palmieri and me to the park on a recent Saturday morning.

The other was the offer of a guided tour from Martin, the new director of the Franklin County Parks and Recreation Department.

Mountain-bike minded parks guy

Fresh from a parks gig in Boise, Idaho, where he helped manage 93 miles of mountain bike trails, Martin turned his attention to Waid Recreation Area as soon as he started his job.

Martin quickly realized Waid's potential as a mountain-biking venue.

This region has a few of those already, such as Mountain Lake, Carvins Cove and Pandapas Pond. But none of these is an honest-to-goodness park.

Explore is a living history museum. Mountain Lake is a private nature preserve. Carvins Cove is a watershed where biking is only grudgingly allowed. And Pandapas Pond is nestled in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.

"I think there's 11 miles of total trails here that will be accessible once some minor improvements are made," Martin said of Waid.

Something for everyone

With woods and meadows, farm fields and river crossings, challenging hills and relaxing flats, Waid has something for every off-road, two-wheel enthusiast -- and everyone else.

For more than 10 years, Franklin County has moved slowly in developing the park. The ball fields and picnic grounds now take up about 30 acres.

Trail-wise, Waid has one thing I haven't seen in any other popular mountain-biking spots in this region: a 4-foot wide hard-packed cinder trail that meets federal Americans-with-Disability-Act standards.

This trail twists and turns a level three-quarters of a mile through a thick pine grove before dumping you out near a historic, 52-foot truss bridge across the Pigg River. It was built in 1915 by the Roanoke Iron and Bridge Co., and originally crossed a stream in Pembroke before it was disassembled and moved to Franklin in 1996.

The bridge leads to more dirt paths that run along the river. Right now they're dead ends, but Martin is keen to the risks that opening up trails brings.

"The challenge is balancing public access while preserving the values and resources that make the public want to visit in the first place," Martin said.

The trails

Martin took Palmieri and me on a circuitous route across hill and dale, up a small mountain, past a working farm, through a cold (and deep!) river, and finally, back to the ball fields. It included well-laid paths and trails in the rough that Franklin County hopes to develop by this summer for a giant mountain bike race.

We started on traditional single-track trails just off the main park road, then quickly shifted to a section of the old Floyd Turnpike, another Colonial-era thoroughfare that ran from Franklin County to Floyd. Here and there in the path are old cobblestones embedded in dirt.

Martin then led us on a succession of farm roads (the county still leases part of the park to farmers), through freshly tilled fields (inadvisable mountain biking terrain, unless you're a strong-legged masochist who digs riding on soft sand) and through two fords of the rain-swollen Pigg River.

These were almost as wide as parts of the Roanoke River through Smith Park, and about a foot deep. We all had to walk the river, but Martin says it will be shallow enough to ride by August, when Franklin County intends to host one of the biggest mountain biking races this area has ever seen.

The big race

Scheduled for Aug. 18, the whole shebang is being underwritten by MW Windows in Rocky Mount, one of Franklin County's largest employers. The race will be called the MW Country Mountain Bike Classic.

The county intends to attract ranked riders and novices with a prize package that most mountain bike race promoters can only dream of. No water bottles or boxes of PowerBars here: the grand prize is a full set of new windows for the winner's house. Another of the big prizes is a free week's rental of a waterfront home on Smith Mountain Lake.


Eureka! Waid has BATHROOMS!

I usually use this section to remind folks that they are heading into wilderness and they've got to bring every possible thing they think they'll need -- including toilet paper. But here, there are modern outhouses near the baseball diamonds, and actual modern facilities near some the picnic grounds. If you're biking at Waid, you can leave the toilet paper at home.

That said, I didn't check to make sure there's running water in the restrooms. So bring plenty of your own. There's also no snack bar in the park, but you can pick up essentials at a convenience store just a couple miles before you get there.

Martin will appreciate it very much if you pick up your own PowerBar wrappers, and any others that you stumble across out there on Waid's trails.

And he'd like to hear from you, too, about what Franklin County can do to make Waid an even better mountain-biking experience. Feel free to e-mail him here.

Directions to Waid Recreation Area  (See Shellie your innkeeper for simple directions to Waid Homestead, it is only 5 miles from the Claiborne House Bed and Breakfast - with only two turns from our parking lot!  Don't forget the Pigg River is there and she can tell you how to find the big rock that sits out over the river for some quiet meditation or picnic time.  Or even a swimmin' hole when the weather warms up - the river is rainwater, not snow, so it is not ice cold!)

It'll take you about 45 minutes to get from downtown Roanoke to Waid Recreation Area. From Roanoke, take U.S. 220 south past Rocky Mount, then U.S. 40 west toward Ferrum. Go a few miles to the 40 West Minute Market, and make a right at the light there (just before the market is the sign, "Waid Recreation Area" with a right-turn arrow). Go 2 miles until you see the entrance for Waid on your left. Take the left, drive about a mile, and look for a place to park.

Right now, there's no map of the trails, so you'll have to explore on your own.

Have fun!

Life is too short for bad coffee... Shellie @ The Claiborne House Bed and Breakfast in Rocky Mount Virginia  http://www.claibornehouse.net/

Monday, April 6, 2009

Take a musical trip on The Crooked Road


SLIDESHOW: Crooked Road Travel the Crooked Road. Take a musical j
ourney on Southwest Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail.   If you like driving, enjoy pretty scenery and can't get enough of old-time music, The Crooked Road is a path worth considering.  Virginia's Heritage Music Trail, a state-designated route, is 253 miles of twists and turns and musical stops in the mountains of Southwest Virginia.

The Crooked Road is not so much a destination as it is a direction, a way to go to discover and appreciate a region's culture and tradition. 

"The Crooked Road sort of connects the dots," said Jonathan Romeo, interim executive director of the project.

The "road" is actually several roads, stretching across 10 counties, from Franklin County in the east to Breaks Interstate Park, on the Kentucky border, in the west.

 Along the way there are numerous attractions, including venues  for live music and museums that trace the history of music in the region. Sites include:

  • Ferrum: the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum of Ferrum College.

  • Floyd: Floyd Country Store, site of weekly Friday night jamborees.

  • Near Galax: Blue Ridge Music Center, which features an outdoor amphitheater as well as an indoor venue and visitors center, on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

  • Galax: home of the Old Fiddlers Convention, every August, and the Rex Theater.

  • Bristol: Home of the Mountain Music Museum and future home of the Cultural Heritage Center.

  • Hiltons: Carter Family Fold, home of weekly Saturday night music shows.

  • Norton: Country Cabin, a national and state historic landmark and the oldest mountain music venue on The Crooked Road where weekly Saturday night shows are held.  
  • Clintwood: Ralph Stanley Museum and Traditional Mountain Music Center, which honors Stanley as a leading light in the world of traditional mountain music.

In addition, there are several dozen other "partners" along the road - pla

ces that hold annual festivals or regularly offer live music - from the Dairy Queen in Rocky Mount to Lays Hardware in C

oeburn. The route also is dotted with wayside exhibits, kiosks that feature accompanying audio of music and information available through your car radio.

"The other aspect, of course, is the beauty of the region," Romeo said in a 

phone interview from The Crooked Road office in Abingdon.

The route crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway and passes other scenic spots such as Grayson Highlands State Park. The route then leads to Breaks Interstate Park, which has been called the Grand Canyon of the South.

PHOTO - Bob Brown / Times-Dispatch

Trish Kilby, center, from Lancing, N.C., plays banjo with The Blue Ridge Ramblers in the campground area during the 2002 Old Fiddlers Convention in Galax.

Related Links

Find out more about The Crooked Road  Visit http://www.thecrookedroad.orgor call (276) 492-2085 

Article courtesy of Richmond Times Dispatch.  Here 

Life is too short for bad coffee... Shellie @ The Claiborne House Bed and Breakfast in Rocky Mount Virginiahttp://www.claibornehouse.net/