I’ve got some secrets for you

Not really secret secrets, but a whole lot of tidbits that I’ve been snooping up over the spring and summer.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been writing a few stories for our local Laker Magazine. And even better, they are history-related; researching them has taken me all over the place, which is awesome when you move to a new spot.

So check this out.

In May, right before the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, I wrote a piece about the National D-Day Memorial that’s just up the road from us in Bedford, Virginia (it’s on page 24). I also added an article about Moneta, Virginia, which featured in the 1991 Disney movie, What about Bob? (Of course, you knew that movie was filmed at Smith Mountain Lake, not Lake Winnipesaukee, because it’s easier to spell it was early fall when they began filming and chilly New Hampshire was busting out in colorful leaves.) That one is on page 66.

In June, I wrote about Huddleston, Virginia (page 32), one of the communities near the lake that was, at one time, a more substantial town. It was named for Henry Huddleston Rogers, a guy who used his own funding to build a railroad to transport coal from the fields in West Virginia down to the ports in Hampton Roads. He also had some famous friends…

In July, I got to share some information about Wirtz, Virginia (page 36), which is a very tricky place to actually find. This article also includes a huge shout-out to the folks at the Franklin County Historical Society, because I bothered them so much I think I started to get on their nerves a little bit.

In the August issue, I had a piece about some very unusual residents of Penhook, Virginia (page 34 and SPOILER: they were German POWs, working as farm labor during WWII), and the mistake that gave the community its name. In researching the story, I was able to drive by the dairy farm that still stands on Route 40, and also make the acquaintance of the marvelous man whose wife had been tasked with bringing water to the prisoners working on her grandfather’s farm back in the 40s.

I added the page numbers for the links, above, because I know you’re busy and I really just appreciate you even taking a minute to (a) peruse these li’l projects and (b) even read this blog after I’ve neglected it for so long. But the Laker Magazine is really a gorgeous showcase of what makes SML cool and lovely. It is definitely worth looking through.

I hope you enjoy that end-of-summer reading! If you ever cross my path in person, rest assured that I have multiple copies of the hard-copy magazines to share. 🙂

He Went By in a Flash

One morning when I was in eighth grade, I was waiting at the bus stop with my middle-school colleagues when a car sped by. We looked up in time to see that the back seat passenger had pressed his rear end up against the window to be admired by all.

We guffawed like eighth graders do, but I also made the mistake of telling my mom about the incident. By that evening, the Fairfax County Police had paid a visit to the house to jot down a description. My friends were disappointed that I had ruined the potential for continued spectacle (because the undercover police car joined us at the bus stop the next morning and very soon the mooning stopped).

Fast-forward forty years to this evening, when Jim came home with a story that brought back that middle-school adventure. It seems that a woman in his office was bringing her trash cans from the curb one evening when she heard the sound of a motorcycle approaching. She glanced up as he sped by and realized that he was either wearing white shorts or, well, no shorts.

She didn’t have to wonder long. As she made her way up her driveway she heard the motorcycle approaching again. This time, a little slower. And this time, the rider shouted, “Oh, NO! I’ve lost my SHORTS!” She looked over. And indeed, there were no shorts. The rider sped away.

As I had long ago, Jim’s colleague called her mom to share the story. But she got a different reaction. “Sweetie,” said her mom. “Make sure you tell me the next time he comes by. Because I want to see him.”

It’s Not Y’All, It’s Me

Folks in Franklin County, by and large, do not speak like folks in Fairfax County.

And occasionally, I’m reminded that I am the one around here with the funny accent.

I’ve done some work lately about the history of some of the communities near Smith Mountain Lake, places like Wirtz, Burnt Chimney, Moneta, Huddleston, and Penhook. I’ve been fortunate enough to speak to a number of long-time residents about their recollections growing up around here.

And when I go back to transcribe the recordings of our conversations, I am struck at just how darned fast I talk.

And the other morning, I was chatting with Pete, a very delightful lady who greets us at the front desk of the YMCA. She mentioned that she’d been bird-sitting her grandson’s sun conure. I was not familiar with the breed, so she pulled up a photo of a smiling young man with a beautiful golden bird perched on his shoulder.

“Oh, he’s a pirate!” I exclaimed.

“Yes,” agreed Pete. “They’re like little parrots.”

It’s me. And my funny accent.

Good looking bird, though.

So Much Fitness

Shoutout to my friend Kristin who is vacationing with her mother-in-law (including accompanying her to Silver Sneakers exercise class) IN MIAMI!

I imagine that any exercise class in Miami would be pretty intense.But you might be amazed at the fitness opportunities right here around Smith Mountain Lake.

There are a lot of retirees here. These are not folks sitting under quilts.

Aside from the boating and water sports (a very lovely woman I know told me that she’d put off her knee replacement as long as she could because she knew it would end her waterskiing career), you can find all kinds of exercise classes and a whole lot of pickleball between the two fitness centers in the area.

As soon as we moved to the lake, our family joined the Franklin County YMCA. They have cycle classes that are very popular, and for the early part of 2019, I took part in a morning cardio and weights class. But here’s the problem. It was from 6:30 – 8:00 every MWF and getting out the door by 6:15 was stressing me out. So now I just go and use the weight machines on my own and that’s working out okay. And of course I hit that YMCA pool in Rocky Mount once a week.

But some of the folks in that 90-minute class will then stick around for a cycle class after that, spending 2 1/2 hours working out.

If this is “retirement,” they are doing it right.

I happened to be sipping coffee at CJs today when the after-Jazzercise crew came in for their coffee soiree, and Sandra, a friend who understands my current work/leisure tension remarked, “That’s something you have to look forward to.”

Sandra is a smart lady.

Doing a Good Thing

Checking out the Peaks of Otter is always a good thing.

There are a whole lot of things to do down here at Smith Mountain Lake.

As summer has roared in, the powerboats have roared in with it, toting wakeboards and waterskis while they zip around Sea-Doos (or, in our case, kayaks) all over the lake.

You can volunteer with any number of excellent service-oriented organizations and spend time at any number of churches. You can exercise at the YMCA or at the Carilion Wellness gym, or get your Zen on at the Vita Zen yoga studio. All this without even going into Roanoke!

But lately, I’ve been doing something that has really been making me happy: working. Since May, my former employer from Northern Virginia has given me plenty to do, writing stories about George Mason University faculty research. And since January, I’ve had the opportunity to learn some really interesting about the history of local communities here in Franklin and Bedford Counties.

It’s cut down on my driving around and exploring, but I’ve come across some interesting things that I’ll tell you about in the weeks to come. Because I’ve found that while exploring a new area is fascinating, so is digging a little deeper into it. Talk to you soon.

Meet my Neighbors: German Baptist Brethren

Our home in Franklin County has a well.

When we first offered to buy it, a well inspection was part of the home inspection. Our well inspector, Dale, was my first introduction to the Old German Baptist Brethren.

The German Baptist Brethren are a community that has been a part of Franklin County since the 1700s. Many of them dress “plain”: the men wear long beards, broad-brimmed black hats, dark colors. The women wear white or black caps over neatly pulled-back hair and dresses that cover their arms and legs. But oh, those dresses are beautiful! Made of cotton prints, I’ve seen them in every color imaginable.

I was fortunate because the company that inspects wells also offers exterminator services, and Steve, who came out here to take care of a little pest problem, appeared in his hat, suspenders, and impressive beard, and struck up a conversation. After a minute or two, he said, “Well, I’m being very rude! Here I am asking you questions about yourself and I bet you have questions about me!”

As they say in Franklin County, this was a blessing. I’ll be honest, one of the drawbacks to this part of Virginia is a certain lack of diversity. And I love this diversity of a different kind.

The Roanoke Times just added an article about a big German Baptist meeting that is coming up next week (old news to me because Steve told me about it!). But you should check it out and you can see more about these new neighbors of mine.

Critters

A subtle fox

In Franklin County, you don’t forget for long that you live in the country.

This guy started coming to clear about the bird feeders as the sun was going down each evening, but he’s gotten bolder and is now showing up earlier. He even brought a friend one evening!

Like most of the folks around here, we have a number of deer that stop by from time to time. But on Saturday, we had this little dude showed up with his mom.

And we have birds aplenty (in fact, our lazy little cat nabbed a nuthatch one evening, thoroughly disgusting Jim, who wrenched the prey away just as it expired).

Surprisingly fierce

Possums, bunnies (for awhile I was taking an early-morning exercise class where one of my classmates would ask if anyone has seen any “Bambis or Thumpers” on the way over) foxes, skunks, turkeys and groundhogs, even a sleepy bear or two. It really reminds you who was here first (and makes one much more cautious while driving around at night).

I’ve Got Your Weekend Plans!

So what are you doing this weekend?

If you’re at Smith Mountain Lake, I have the perfect place to start.

Bridgewater Plaza is kind of like a boardwalk area. It is situated right where the Hales Ford Bridge goes over the Roanoke River to connect Franklin and Bedford Counties. If you are driving to the lake area from the northeast, Rt. 122 suddenly opens up to a stunning view at this point and it’s very welcoming!

This beautiful photo is from the Tri-County Lakes Administrative Commission webpage – they are the folks who helped us out with our cow a couple of months ago.

You can do all kinds of things at the Plaza: rent a boat, find plenty to eat, see a show, purchase gifts (while enjoying a sample of very nice fudge), grab a cup of coffee, paint some pottery, or get yourself a wakeboard. You can even start your search for your own lake home because there are a number of savvy Realtors who have offices right there.

It gets C-R-A-Z-Y on summer weekends, but I had the place to myself when I stopped by one day last week.

The Visitors Center has tons of information
Lakeside dining and fun
You can play golf OVER THE WATER, whoa

And lucky for me, our college kid is making pizza over there this summer, so I get to hear all the stories without battling the crowds!

Thomas Jefferson’s Revenge

A long time ago, I applied to go to college at the University of Virginia. “No, thank you,” said UVA.

Four years later, I applied to go to law school at the University of Virginia. UVA said (a little more sternly), “Anne. Did you NOT HEAR US the first time?”

So I’ll be honest: UVA and I are not friends. But a couple of weeks Jim had a conference to attend up in Charlottesville and I tagged along.

I got to grab lunch with my friend Priscilla in a delicious sandwich place.

This is Tillman’s downtown. So nice, I went there twice.

The next day, I took a great walk to The Corner and had a posh yogurt parfait.

Corner Juice. That was a good yogurt!

On the way back I saw the lacrosse team doing their thing along with some students determined to get their epic graduation pictures taken.

I hear that lacrosse team is pretty good.

But just when I started seeing the appeal of the place, I misjudged a curb, tripped, and landed in a heap right in front of the arena. (Or was it the ghost of Thomas Jefferson firmly making a point?)

It’s okay, UVA. Charlottesville still has the nearest Trader Joe’s to my house. I’ll be back.

Memorial Day at SML

This is our first Memorial Day weekend at Smith Mountain Lake and oh my goodness, what has happened to this place?

We moved to the area at the end of July, as summer was on the wane. And it was beautiful and fun, and still less traffic-laden from the northern Virginia streets we were used to.

Then Labor Day came and went, and pretty soon all the boats you’d see were the intrepid bass fishermen. And wow, did it get quiet.

A very young wakeboarder getting ready to go

But this weekend, that all changed. All of a sudden, there were people in the Kroger you didn’t recognize. LOTS OF THEM. They all had beer in their carts (I am not judging; we had friends stopping by so I also had beer in my cart). The boat traffic on our stretch of the lake has exploded, particularly with wake-boarders dipping through waves behind sleek boats blasting reggae music.

Our quiet rural home has become a resort. And I’ll tell you what: it’s fantastic.