They Brought the Party

Oh, what a weekend it was!

This past weekend, Jim and I were deep into a road trip to the Midwest, and that’s not what I’m talking about.

The weekend before that, we received a marvelous gift, named Lorenda, Meg, and Aviva. These are three friends of ours from our former neighborhood AND THEY DROVE THE FOUR HOURS FROM NORTHERN VIRGINIA TO COME VISIT!

It is not an easy trip. They did it on a Friday afternoon, which is a doubly difficult maneuver. But they arrived with White Claws, and wine, some AMAZING applesauce cake and a ton of laughter.

The neighborhood we moved from was one of those neighborhoods that circles around the local school system. Thus, everyone’s kids are about the same age, doing similar things, and you all pretty know the main structural information about your neighbors’ lives. Then, of course, those kids go off to college and some people move to Smith Mountain Lake where the new neighbors might not even know where Robinson Secondary School is located.

Lorenda’s husband is a Virginia Tech alum, and now her youngest fella is a student there. She popped in back in April after hiking with her lad, so she knows a little about Franklin County. Meg and Aviva were real newcomers.

And they were wonderful, enthusiastic, energetic guests. We got up relatively early on Saturday (not as early as Aviva, who took in the lakeside sunrise) and drove into Roanoke for the Farmer’s Market and some exploration of the establishments on Market Square.

We saw the Star getting polished up
We pondered purchases as La-De-Dah
We made it over to Black Dog Salvage
And we had a great time in Floyd
The Floyd Country Store has fantastic food and Saturday afternoon entertainment
We even got up early on Sunday morning for water sports! Look at that paddle board skill! True KICK ASS ROCK STAR BABES!

They were tolerant of the ride over Windy Gap and a little disappointed that the Booker T. Washington National Monument was closed. Homestead Creamery Ice Cream was enjoyed by all. And we are so looking forward to them coming back!

Put Your Hand(s) Up!

A couple of months ago, I wrote about how the folks out here at Smith Mountain Lake spend a lot of time working out.

Well, you know what else they do? They volunteer like crazy.

You wouldn’t believe the volunteer options that abound here. You can work at the Booker T. Washington National Monument, you can help the community through a number of non-profit organizations, or you can get involved with your church. Almost everyone you talk to has a volunteer gig.

And I’ve even gotten in on it: for the past ten months or so, I have been working as the PR/Media person for the Smith Mountain Lake Charity Home Tour.

The Home Tour is in October each year (it’s been going on for 29 years, y’all!). It’s a big deal, I don’t mind telling you.

These folks work all year to find eight lovely homes situated all around the lake and get their owners to invite hordes of people to come and visit. Of course, those visitors are well organized by plenty of (you guessed it) active volunteers who learn the layout of the homes and make sure that everyone has a great experience.

Here’s the best part: each home is paired with a regional charity, and all of the money made by the Tour, whether through ticket sales or business sponsorships, is divided up between those charities. It’s a big undertaking!

It’s also a huge part of the local community, and I have been so pleased to have been a part of it this year. On top of feeling like you are working for a great cause, it’s given me a way to meet some terrific people, get to know a lot of the businesses around here, and has allowed me to zip around to houses all over the lake so I can take pictures of them for our various communications. It is wonderful to see the creativity of our neighbors.

If this has whet your appetite for peeking at some beautiful homes, I’ll tell you what: take a look at the website for the Tour and if you’re local, go get yourself a ticket! Or you can check out the Tour’s Facebook (@smlcharityhometour) page because I do that, too (hint: I’m going to put something really cool up there tomorrow if I can figure out how to load a video).

I’m not going to suggest that I have any favorite houses on the Tour because they’re all nice. Really, you should go see them.

Summer’s Last Hurrah (Part 1)

Labor Day Weekend is a big deal down here at Smith Mountain Lake.

The boat traffic is extreme! Even the automobile traffic is pretty intense, though I saw this notification about the traffic up in our old hometown and felt a little better.

Jim and I took the weekend to lay low. We went to a new spot for a beer on Saturday– a very well-regarded place out here that didn’t impress us much. It was jam packed with a lot of people who gave the impression of having been sipping on their boats all day. Even the ladies behind the bar were a little salty. So we left and moved on to Jake’s Place for dinner on the water.

If you zoom in to the treetops you can peep Mr. Heron.

On Sunday, we did yard work which isn’t exactly Fun-with-a-capital-F but pretty satisfying, nevertheless.

And this evening we popped into our favorite neighborhood spot, Napoli Cowboy, to have a beer with old bar friends Stu and Caroline, new bar friends Alan and Linda, and our favorite bartenders, Sharon and Ashley (they are the nicest people around, and even consistently laugh at Jim’s jokes).

Things are going to slow down here significantly in the coming weeks, and we feel like we appropriately sent off the official summer season.

This is my kind of salty.

A Shocking Scene on the Road

I saw something today that reminded me how special this area is.

I had a little bit of business to attend to at one of the local marinas this afternoon (fun fact: there are marinas all around the lake, and some of them got their start 50+ years ago, when a family saw its farmland become covered in water from the Smith Mountain dam project and decide to pivot into a new line of work. These are resourceful folks around here).

I found myself traveling behind a Franklin County school bus, and when it got to a stop at one of the neighborhoods off Burnt Chimney road, two youngsters (both under 10, certainly) climbed out, and as the bus drove away, they jumped on their bikes which they had evidently left at the bus stop this morning to ride to their home.

To someone from the “mean streets” of Fairfax County (up in ultra suburban Northern Virginia), this was a shocker. I don’t know if that shock says more about Franklin County or me.

That Happened Fast

Just like that, We have been here for a year! Our Wirtz-aversary sneaked right past us.

It was not surprising, though. The summer was a blur. One of the Reynolds kids spent her summer at school, taking classes. She was here for the month of May and again for a week at the tail end of July.

Our other college kid was here, working in the kitchen at a local pizza spot. We didn’t see too much of him but it was sure nice having him around.

Jim and I worked on our various projects and responsibilities, did some traveling, and boom, now here we are with the leaves starting to turn and a year in southwest Virginia under our belts.

We’ve done a lot: found work, a church, a doctor, a dentist, a hairdresser (me), a barber (Jim), a place to buy plants, a gym we like, and some fun people to talk to. Those curvy roads aren’t nearly as scary as they were when we first arrived. I’ve loved getting to know our neighbors, both the “from heres” and the “come heres” and appreciate their kindness and pride in this beautiful place.

And I still marvel at the sight of the mountains and am delighted to come around a corner and spy some cows hanging out doing their thing. To wake up every morning and see the lake in our backyard feels like a gift every single time.

I’ve had some folks ask if I miss our old home. Sometimes I do, but I try not to. I miss the people that I used to run into without even thinking about it, and instead focus on appreciating how those tiny interactions brighten a day. So I make a point of running into people here, too.

Last fall, I was chatting with one of the guys at the dump who had moved with his wife from New Jersey, and was planning to move back after ten years at the lake. “I made a life here,” he said. “She didn’t.” I thought that was sad. So that became my Number One Goal: making a life here. I think we’re doing okay.

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).

Dark Side

A few weeks ago, when I posted about running around in the woods, one of my friends commented that I sure made it look enticing out here in the country. And I’m grateful because that’s exactly my point: I really want you all to see how amazing it is out here in Franklin County.

But of course not every day here is full of wonder. And I’m not just talking about the days you get stuck driving behind this guy.

Jim jokes that our cat feels like every time he looks out the window he sees something terrifying. I get that sometimes (raccoon on the porch? Hard pass on that one).

There’s a lot of adjustment moving to a new spot. We lived in the busy DC suburbs for nearly 30 years (even longer for me), and when you leave that behind as a middle-aged person, you also leave behind a real comfort zone.

And it’s eye-popping to explore a new place, but sometimes, just sometimes, you start to wonder if you’re going to be able to find a spot to fit in. That’s where I’ve been for a couple of weeks.

So dudes, wait until you hear some of the stories about trying to find folks to hang out with. And of course, I will still try to entice those nice people I know (like you, Larry!) to come here too.

Spring Fever

Spring has sprung down in Franklin County and with the warm weather, people were going hard at the garden stores this weekend.

Unfortunately, out in Wirtz, the hardware store and the garden store are not open on Sundays (a lot of things aren’t open on Sundays), so we had to drive into the city to get to a garden store.

It’s not a hardship. And we got coffee, too.

The garden store we found is Walter’s Greenhouse. It’s just a few minutes outside of Roanoke, on the road out to the lake.

It’s family run and super friendly. Also super hilly. The lady at the cashier table cheered on the people buying plants: “Come on, girl! Keep going!” We didn’t buy too much, just enough to get started. But Jim loves lurking around garden stores so I know we’ll make this a habit.

The view from the bottom of the hill
… and from the top (how cool is that truck?)

Showing Off in Person

It’s my friend Lorenda’s birthday today, but last week she gave ME a present by coming down to Wirtz and letting me show her around.

My friend is a middle school teacher in a large public school system in busy northern Virginia. Her son is a student at Virginia Tech, a terrific university down the road in Blacksburg, Va. She decided to use the large public school’s spring break to visit her boy and me as well! I’m so grateful.

I’m also grateful that she is a good sport — instead of hiking all day, as planned, we had to spend a chunk of the afternoon waiting for a tree guy to remove a tree that had fallen on the side of the house in a storm.

But first, we hopped in the car and drove all around Smith Mountain Lake and into Roanoke for lunch at the tasty On the Rise Bakery in the Grandin part of the city. Then hustled back to sit on the porch to wait for the tree guy.

Our cat, who has liked no one since we moved him from Fairfax, even liked her.

I hope she wants to come back so we can get that hike in. Or, as the weather gets warmer, a swim. And some belated birthday Homestead Creamery ice cream.