Deep Water

I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite things to do here in Franklin County is make my way to the YMCA in Rocky Mount to use the pool.

Happy Valentines Day, Franklin County Y!

Well, now it’s even better because I have two pool friends, Jennifer and Jim, both of whom also enjoy swimming on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. (There are four swimming lanes in the pool so we have room for one more! Come join us!)

Jennifer is a new-ish swimmer, in the pool because she’s really a runner with an injury. Jim is former lifeguard who used to tend the posh swimmers at the Homestead resort back in the day. More recently he was a dentist in Allegheny County and is now retired and lives near Smith Mountain Lake.

Both of my new friends are complimentary about my swimming habit of plodding up and down the lane nonstop for as long as I can. Jim even asked for pointers on flip-turns.

I am aware that this request may have been a conversation starter (like many of my Franklin County neighbors, Jim is a conversational guy), because we then chatted about this and that until I got so cold standing around the pool that I had to excuse myself to, you know, find some dry clothes. However, their polite words make me feel like:

Photo by skeeze, Pixabay.com.

But the excitement wasn’t over once I left Rocky Mount. I took a fresh route home from the Y, trying to rely more on my instinct for direction and less on the map apps on the phone.

I got lost.

But along the way, I saw a most amazing lawn decoration. In the front yard of a home was a decorative outhouse, complete with a propped-open door and a pair of jeans attached to the seat as if a ghostly pooper was seated therein. Unfortunately, I whizzed by (see what I did there?) too fast for a photo, but my next trip to the pool now has an objective other than snappier flip turns.

Skunk’d: A Love Story

I took a quick road trip up to Fairfax on Monday and Tuesday, so I spent much of my time in the car or visiting with nice northern Virginia people and not at my computer.

Skunk awakening. Image by christels on Pixabay.

But during the drive, particularly down in our area, you can’t help but notice a peculiar phenomenon. Dead skunks are all over the road. In the 25 minutes it took for me to get into Roanoke, I counted five of the smelly little guys, and four more on the rest of the drive to Fairfax.

There are enough of those furry black and white carcasses to definitely notice, and yes, the smell is everywhere, too.

I did a little research and learned the reason for the skunk explosion: it’s love. Skunks hibernate and come out of their slumber in February and early March, ready to breed. Evidently, this primal urge nudges them to travel unusually large distances, often crossing roads at night (because skunks, you know, are nocturnal).

Also, skunks tend to be a bit bolder than other wildlife because of their built-in olfactory defense system. Back off, predators! Sadly, that doesn’t help them much when it comes to cars.

A couple of years ago, an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch offered a bit of a silver lining to all of these skunk casualties: randy skunks can be a better harbinger of an early spring than that groundhog in Pennsylvania. Early spring? I might find some love in my heart for those skunks after all!

Trip to the Capital

You might have heard that here in my state (Virginia) the governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general have some troubles on their hands. Well, I took off to Richmond yesterday to set them straight.

Not really. In my pursuit of Franklin County history, I spent the day at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, which is also in Richmond.

As soon as I started trying to track down information on some of our local communities, it occurred to me that the Virginia Museum’s library might have some information to share. In response to a quick message left on their Contact Us page, I got an email from one of their reference pros who had found some actual books for me to peruse!

Reasoning that Richmond was only a three hour drive up the road, I set off bright and early yesterday to traverse the commonwealth and get some answers. About Franklin County, not our executive branch.

The library is a seriously scholarly place. The friendly woman at the front desk had me register as a researcher and explained that if I needed a book, I could look it up on their online catalog and write its information on a call slip (in pencil, you know, because they don’t allow pens or highlighters) (they had pencils to share), and they’d pull it for me. She then indicated a number of computers on the far side of the library.

Some of the computers were located on a nice, spacious desk area, and I headed right for them. “Can I help you?” asked a well-dressed man who looked like he belonged there. “Well, I think I’m okay,” I replied. “I’m just going to set up here and look up these books that I got from your colleague.”

He patiently explained that I had parked myself in the employees-only section of the reference room, but then also showed me to the computers for the regular folks as well as how to look up items in the online catalog, just to show there were no hard feelings.

Did I find all the answers I needed? Hmmm. I still think that Linda over at the Franklin County Historical Society is the real source of Franklin County intel. But it was amazing to learn from a book from 1926.

And I left with a huge appreciation for historians and library professionals. This project — as well as the current events in our state — reinforces for me how very complicated history can be.

Workout with Wirtz Flavor

Good times here ^^

Once we moved down here, the family quickly joined the Franklin County YMCA because they have a Smith Mountain Lake branch that is pretty convenient. The Y has a lot of weight machines, a very active pickleball culture, and a full roster of classes. Plus another facility over in Rocky Mount with a pool.

One fortuitous day, as I was feeling sad because I had just dropped a child off at the airport to return to school, I ran into one of the group exercise instructors, Luisa, while we were getting the oil changed in our cars. She is not only the instructor who plays the best music in her classes (in my opinion) but she is, I learned that day, one of the kindest, friendliest people I’ve met around here. And there are a lot of friendly people here.

So I decided to pop into her Sculpt class that goes from 6:30 – 8, MWF. And guess what? Everyone in that class is super friendly, too. It’s one of the few venues I’ve seen that mixes “lake people” and “local people” and these ladies really care about each other. And Luisa plays that good music. I feel pretty lucky to have found this crew.

International Wine Right Here!

I know, I’m kind of writing about alcohol two days in a row, which really isn’t what I’m about, but I wanted to tell you about the International Wine Festival, held right here in Roanoke last weekend.

On Sunday afternoon, the Taubman Museum of Art hosted an International Wine Festival, which was a perfect way to enjoy a chilly January afternoon.

The event was sold out! The crowd enjoyed tastings of more than forty wines from around the world, along with food pairings and music, all in the backdrop of the beautiful museum space.

(For the record, I did not try all forty wines. Jim tasted even fewer than I did, because he volunteered to drive home over Windy Gap.)

I took some pictures of my favorite bottles, so I would remember to pick them up.

And best of all, all of the wines offered, whether from Japan, Chile, South Africa, Italy, or Napa, are available at Kroger, my next stop as soon as I finish writing today.

Another Kind of “Spirit”

The other day I mentioned that I had visited the Franklin County Historical Society and took a peep at the upcoming moonshine exhibit.

According to a report in the Roanoke Times this afternoon, Twin Creeks, a Franklin County distillery, will be setting up a tasting room right down the road in Rocky Mount! According to the Times’ article, it is going to be right near the Harvester Performance Center and should get going in March. There are some terrific acts coming to the Performance Center in March — maybe the idea of a peach brandy pop beforehand will help me entice Jim into an evening out?

A Bovine Mystery

I need to talk to a farmer. Because I have questions.

I went out for a lovely walk on Sunday morning and happened to snap a picture of this peaceful field because it looked so frosty and picturesque.

But then, when Jim and I drove by just a couple of hours later, the view had gotten even more interesting.

This happens ALL THE TIME. I know that people move herds around, but I simply can’t understand how they move ALL THOSE COWS around from pasture to pasture. I have seen cows move. They’re neither fast nor organized, and in fact the only time I’ve seen a cow move quickly is when someone wanted to organize him back into a pasture from which he’d escaped.

Me: “Jim, HOW DO THEY DO IT?”

Jim: “I don’t know, Anne. I just don’t know.”

I really need a go-to person with bovine knowledge because this is, I think, one of the great questions.

Visit with Ghosts

I made it back to the Franklin County Historical Society today; while I think I’ve done all the research I need there for my project, I really wanted to see the museum on the second floor.

The FCoHS is housed in a 1925 home, beautifully preserved. They do not allow photographs inside without arranging it ahead of time, so I cannot show you the wonders that I saw today, but if you check out their website, you can see some for yourself.

Flags are rolled up for rainy days

One does not simply roll around the museum on the second floor of the FCoHS. I was escorted by Ruth, who explained to me that she was also a newcomer to Franklin County, having lived here a mere 25 years ( in contrast, her husband’s family has been here for generations). The Society’s museum packs into its spaces an immense collection of artifacts, clothing, military (including Confederate) uniforms and memorabilia, and documents. Ancient church organs, land grant documents from the 1700s, and reminders of the tobacco industry that had enriched Virginia compete for attention, and it’s worth a look around and behind everything, because every object may well hide another.

Ruth explained that the “tobacco room” and the moonshine exhibits were being moved to the annex in the back of the building, which is not open to the public yet. I was able to capture it from the outside, though; it’s the sight that greets you as barrel up the driveway to the parking lot behind the FCoHS office.

The museum absolutely does its job, reflecting a devotion to the people who have lived in Franklin County since before the Europeans settled it. This visit reinforced for me that I still have a lot to learn about the place.

Are You a Real Writer if You Just Hang Out with Some of Them?

As you may recall, we moved down here in stages: Jim in February, 2018 to start his job, and the rest of the family in July. Soon after he made his move, he surprised us by joining a writer’s group.

Jim enjoys some creative writing and his group has been a valuable resource for him. Well, on Saturday, he invited me take a glimpse into the Roanoke literary world by signing us both up for the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference.

The conference took place at Hollins University, just north of the city. It was a lot of fun just being on a college campus, taking notes in classrooms and shuffling to the auditorium (it was maybe not so much fun for the students in the cafeteria as all of the writers converged on them at lunch).

There were a slew of classes to take. I sat in on a class entitled “Understanding Legal Structures and If You Need One,” where a counselor from Roanoke’s Regional Small Business Development Center dropped some facts about LLCs, business licenses, and tax questions. The crowd in there had a very lively discussion and it was impressive how everyone helped each other out with their questions.

I also took part in workshops on descriptive writing using the senses, virtue in writing (be careful what you write, because your writing defines you), “shoddy” first drafts (with a nod to Anne Lamotte’s classic Bird by Bird), and finding your writing project. I chatted with encouraging and very smart folks, learned about a writers’ group right out here at Smith Mountain Lake, and thoroughly enjoyed spending the day with a colorful collection of folks (I’m looking at you, guy in the kilt).

At the end of the day, Jim and I retreated to the Cabo Fish Taco in Roanoke to refuel and recharge our introvert selves because that was a lot of chatting all day.

A little quiet time.

And of course I signed up for the Regional WritersConference Facebook group. Because although Jim was the first of us to jump onboarda writing group, everyone knows who the real joiner is in this family.

Where’s Wirtz?

This was a post that was supposed to have gone up on Thursday afternoon but I had a few technical difficulties. But wait until you see this scenery, people!

As I did the other day, I went on a little road trip this afternoon. This time, though, I was hunting for Wirtz.

Wirtz is actually our hometown down here in Franklin County. However, according to Google Maps, it’s 15 miles away from us. And if you Google the Wirtz, VA Post Office, you’ll see that it is actually located in the area known as Burnt Chimney.

This is confusing and clearly called for some investigation.

There is a road named Wirtz Road between our locale and GPS spot for Wirtz on the map, and indeed, after I’d followed the directions there, all of a sudden Google Maps announced that I had reached my destination. But the only thing near me was Gary’s Antiques.

And the train tracks.

But if you look very closely, voilà.

It’s hard to read but the sign says, “Wirtz.” Success!

As a bonus, this was a nice spot to stop and take pictures because there was very little traffic and I could actually pull out my phone. As I’ve mentioned, there is some breathtaking scenery here all the time but alas, nowhere to pull over. So I’m pretty darned pleased with my trip to Wirtz.