A First for Roanoke

I got to be a (small) part of a big deal this weekend, as Roanoke hosted the Carilion Ironman 70.3 Blue Ridge triathlon, the very first Ironman event in our area.

The Ironman folks map things out like champs

It’s a big race, with 1,500 competitors who jumped into Carvins Cove and swam for a mile, then rode their bikes about 56 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway, then changed shoes and ran 13.1 miles on the Roanoke Greenway.

A sea of bikes parked while the athletes were out running

It’s a big deal for our region, too. When the race first announced it would be coming to Roanoke, people were very excited, not just for the athletes and their families who would be hanging out in our coffee shops, but for a chance to show off how nice and outdoorsy this place is.

An unprecedented crowd at BreadCraft

So I knew I wanted to volunteer.

I also didn’t want to start my volunteer gig at 3:00 am, so I found a nice job that started at the very reasonable hour of 1:00 pm. With the environmental team. What does that mean? With a crew of about six other folks and one golf cart, I emptied and re-lined trash cans for about five hours.

These folks are taking care of the gear that the athletes left behind after they swam and got on their bikes 56 miles away

I got a green technical shirt to show for my day’s work, along with the knowledge that if you are dressed like the trash person and are carrying trash bags, you can go anywhere unquestioned.

I got to see my friend John cross the finish line!

Way to go, John!

And I was extremely impressed with one young man who’d finished all that racing and still offered to help me carry a load of discarded boxes. “He’s amazingly nice,” said his young female companion. “He’s so nice he makes up for me.”

I’d say they were both charming and if this is the sort of folks who Ironman attracts, they can come back anytime.

Walking Around with Famous People

I intended to write, write, write through the pandemic about how we “country folk” made our way through the Covid mess. Now that things are opening back up, I’m not that surprised, I suppose, that I just didn’t find the energy for to do it.

But I’ve got notes, y’all, so I’m going to spend a couple of days talking about some of the things that kept us busy when we were supposed to stay away from other people.

I’ve mentioned that one thing I like to do each morning is take a walk. It really is pretty here and getting a little air sets me up nicely for the day. I walk with my neighbor, Jane, a couple of days a week (on many weeks we made sure to walk six feet apart!), but other days, I’m on my own.

When we lived in a suburban neighborhood in busy Northern Virginia, I’d get on the road walking or jogging by 5 am so I could get home in time to bother our kids before they went off to school. The problem with that schedule here is that when it’s dark, it’s dark. We don’t have streetlights.

That’s the moon setting, you know

Our daughter prodded me out the dark door. Now a New Yorker, when she came to visit she appreciated getting out early and seeing the stars. You’re missing out, she told me, so I dusted off my old headlamp and started braving the pre-dawn roads.

Sunrises are pretty good here.

The other problem, though, is critters. We have friendly creatures, like opossum, foxes, and rabbits (squee!). We have some other denizens, though, like coyotes and yes, black bears, whom I did not want to meet. The answer came from my sister and brother-in-law: podcasts.

I started with Smartless, a podcast featuring Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, Will Arnett, and a mystery guest each week. I chose this one because I walk without my earbuds in (on dark, twisty, roads, I want to be able to hear what’s coming) and I figured that the sound of men’s voices would discourage anything creeping around from coming too close. They talk to some amazing people and what I love is that they’re all really, really kind to each other.

Then Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground came along and I loved that, too. And Brené Brown’s Unlocking Us is good, though her guests tend to be doing their book tours, and I have hit up Amazon a few too many times when I get home. I am now way behind on my reading.

Lately I’m loving Adam Grant’s WorkLife – he is an organizational psychologist and talks about how we get along with each other, mostly at work but also just in general. He has great energy, is really thoughtful, and was sassy enough match wits with Malcom Gladwell when he was a guest on the show. I just saw that WorkLife is one of Apple’s most highly-rated podcasts, so here I was thinking I was discovering something but ahem, I’m just a little late to the party.

Most of all, I highly recommend Every Little Thing, where each episode answers a burning question, like how old is Winnie the Pooh (the character. Old bear? Young bear?), or whether people actually only breathe through one nostril at a time, or how the game Scrabble became so popular. The episode on Pooh had me laughing like a fool and actually crying at the end, and I dare you to listen to the episode on dog shows (are they anti-dachshund?) without cheering for the weenie dogs.

These little drops of wisdom each morning have made the walks a lot of fun, and I’ll tell you what: I haven’t seen a bear yet.

Turkey Trot

Our old suburban neighborhood used to have a turkey trot every year on Thanksgiving morning. We’d all meet at the Haydens’ house and take a route around a little man-made lake, then come back and share some excellent pumpkin bread. Sometimes we would run, other times we would walk. Kids would come out, and older folks, and people in turkey hats, and it was a wonderful way to catch up with neighbors you might not have had a chance to see during a busy fall.

This year, they’re doing it again, responsibly distanced of course. A couple of friends were texting about going and it occurred to me that while I will miss the neighborhood turkey trot (quite a bit), out here in Franklin County I can go for a walk and have a chance to see a real turkey trotting.

Turkeys are pretty majestic and out here they just hang out in people’s yards, like deer. One day I had my own deer-reminiscent experience of seeing a turkey from the corner of my eye as I was driving. He was headed on a collision course with my car, but just as I was thinking, oh, no, I’m about to flatten a turkey, that guy launched into the air and sailed across the road, inches from my windshield.

It was a spectacular sight. I could even see his little eye looking at my thunderstruck face as he flew by. It was a striking (not literally, ha ha) reminder that you never know when you’re going to see something amazing, but also that sometimes, we’re capable of much more than anyone thinks.

Want some fun Thanksgiving facts about turkeys? Here’s an article from National Geographic that will make you the star of dinner table conversation today! I hope you have much to be thankful for, today and every day.

Grrrrrrr-ate(ful), part 2

Yesterday I started my November compilation of things for which I am grateful, in lieu of sticking with an old practice of dribbling the list out day by day on Facebook.

Last year, I switched things up by eschewing Facebook and sending handwritten notes to the people for whom I am grateful. But (a) that was kind of a lot of work, albeit quite rewarding, and (b) I don’t want to do that two years in a row because what if you forget someone? I don’t need that kind of stress.

ESPECIALLY ON ELECTION NIGHT!

So, with no further ado, here are ten more things I am grateful for:

  1. People who work to help the rest of us vote. I’m related to one of those! They get up early and hang out all day, making sure that we the ability to have our voices heard.
  2. November 11 reminds me to be grateful for the veterans who keep us safe, sacrificing so that our communities can be secure.
  3. Military families, too. Military spouses are incredible human beings.
  4. We live in a place where I can see cows on a regular basis, along with wild turkeys, lots of deer, rolling hills, and all kinds of amazing scenery.
  5. Everyone who reads this lil blog (and basically anything I write) makes my heart sing.
  6. I am grateful when someone spells my name right. There’s an “e” at the end, y’all. And when someone asks to check the spelling? Wow, you’re the real heroes.
  7. Hobbies. Needlework is my go-to right now, but I’ve done the scrapbooks, the card making, the quilting, the knitting. Craftiness is goodness.
  8. Zoom. Yeah, I said it. It lets me see some beloved faces and I appreciate them now more than ever.
  9. On this chilly evening, I appreciate that our heater is working a-okay and I can enjoy the blustery weather outside by peeping at it from a cozy house.
  10. All the people and organizations that are out there trying to make the world a better place for folks who can use a hand.

I’ll finish up the last 10 items on list tomorrow. Have you voted yet? I am sending fervent wishes for a good voting experience for everyone, and that all of us get to have our voices heard. Happy Election Day, US!

Intentionally Uninformed

I am a bit less in-the-know lately: I deactivated my Facebook account.

When I quit running several years ago, and announced my decision to Jim, his reaction was, “Wow, Anne, let me let Sports Illustrated know!” (because he’s hilarious). But to be fair, I think an announcement like quitting some social media is much the same.

But for me, at least, it was a hard decision. I’ve been off of it for almost a month, and I still miss it. I miss keeping up with folks from our old home in Fairfax, and I miss the how-to resource in the “Residents” page of our new home here in Smith Mountain Lake.

However

There’s a lot of bickering on that Residents page. Heck, there’s a lot of bickering all over the place on Facebook. I would find myself scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, and finally felt like I was reading a whole lot of things that weren’t serving me in order to find the gems that kept bringing me back.

And here’s the thing. I kept coming back. Even when I had other things to do. Any free moment? I’d just click on over there. I even took it off my phone, but it’s easy enough to get there from the browser. And though I tried not to post anything, I’d do it and then spend the rest of the day checking to see if anyone had commented on it or had given it a thumbs-up.

I know plenty of people who find real value over there in Mr. Zuckerberg’s corner of the world. But I was starting to feel like I was being fed a “product” that wasn’t good for me. So I zapped it. Now I keep a book close by for when I get a twitchy social media finger (one particularly helpful one is Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism, which gave me the idea in the first place) (along with pressure from our kids), and if I need to take a break from whatever I’m doing online, I’ll read a page or two instead of clicking over to Facebook.

I hope to keep at it until it’s not so hard!

I don’t know how long I’ll be away from the ‘book – I’ve only disabled my account, not deleted it. And to be fair, I’m still active over on the others: Instagram, Twitter, and even Messenger. But right now, there’s enough of what I don’t like over there to keep me from going back.

Escape!

Over the next week or so, I thought I’d write about what things are like here in the Virginia countryside with all of this quarantining, and what I’ve been doing during the lockdown.

One of the things I try to do is get out and walk. Where we live, it’s very easy to take a walk and remain socially distanced.

Even when you walk with someone else.

I walk on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a neighbor, Jane, and her dog, Max.

He is not convinced that he wants to walk with me

We usually get on the road around 7, which is now just as the sun is coming up. Our loop is just about two miles. We see all kinds of critters.

That’s a deer I saw this morning, peeking at
me from over the hill

On the other days, I mix it up with different routes or maybe a little jog. But I try to get out there every day because — a true confession — I want my pants to keep fitting.

Here’s a guy who’s been walking for a cause and he’s awesome.

Here’s a news article that was in yesterday’s Roanoke Times about how regular walking might even help you survive a bout with the ‘rona! Yes, please!

I hope that whatever your situation, you’re able to exercise, even in (or especially in) a low-key way. I’m reading a book, Keep Going, by artist Austin Kelon, who sees walking as an antidote to the barrage of information flying at us every day: “you get outside and you start walking and you come to your senses … people smiling, birds chirping, clouds flying overhead … all that stuff. There’s possibility. Walking is a way to find possibility in your life when there doesn’t seem to be any left.”

Next Year, We’re Getting Costumes

We have been doing a whole lot of traveling, but have managed to lately enjoy a quiet couple of weekends in town.

Which allowed for a visit from my dear friend Gina passing through on the way to visit Harrisonburg. If you don’t bring your visitors up to the Roanoke Star, were they really here?

And last weekend, we did something completely new to us: visited the Big Lick Comic-Con.

HISTORY BREAK: You probably know that Big Lick is Roanoke’s original name, dating back to when the area was first settled by Europeans and named after the salt marshes in the area. When the railroads came in in the 1880s, the town changed its name to Roanoke, which some sources say is derived from the Algonquian word for “money.”

At any rate, these days you can enjoy the Big Lick Brewing Company and Big Lick Entertainment, which puts on the Comic-Con.

And it was really fun! We had never been to one; Jim used to try to get our son to go to Awesome Con (the Comic-Con in DC), but our boy never signed on. So now that the kids are out of the house, we two empty nesters went to check it out.

Look out, Jim!

I didn’t know what to expect. People in costumes, certainly. And the costumes were really marvelous, detailed, and lovingly put together. They are also a barometer of what’s big in the world of fantasy these days (lots and lots of Star Wars, and I only saw one Hermione).

There was all kinds of merchandise.

The Sasquatch was particularly appealing

And there were some guests, too. We saw Jason David Frank up on the stage — he’d been a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger, and at one point I heard a audience member telling him how inspirational he had been to him as he was growing up.

The whole event centered around a culture that I know very little about. It was inclusive, welcoming, and really celebratory. And full of kindness: I saw a woman approach a sinister-looking Star Wars guy to ask if he would take his picture with her kids, and the response through that mask was a sincere, enthusiastic, “Sure!” That was the vibe all through the event, and I’m glad to see it’s coming back in August.

Who knows, maybe you’ll see an extra Gandalf and Galadriel walking around?

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

(There’s some LOTR geekdom for ya.)

Good Food from Everywhere

Last week I stumbled upon an advertisement for a Taste of Virginia food expo to be held at the Hotel Roanoke.

It was offered as part of the meeting of the 21st Annual Virginia Biological Farming Conference, and since Cora and I were going to be downtown anyway, we knew we wouldn’t want to miss it.

It surpassed our expectations!

We sampled breads, herbs, coffee, and cheeses, all made fresh and locally, served up by friendly vendors. There was plenty of wine, beer, and even moonshine (two different distillers!) but we had a long afternoon planned and didn’t want to slow ourselves down.

If I’d indulged in a wine sample, it would have been with H.T. at the Brooks Mill Winery

Plus, because the emphasis of the conference was organic and biological farming, most of the crowd there were actually farmers or people associated with the food community. You would think that, living down here, one would have more opportunity to hang out with farmers but on the other hand, those folks have pretty long hours.

We went home with some delicious Persian kolompeh cookies and some chutney from Kelly’s Persian Foods, located in Charleston West Virginia, some chimichurri spice and pimiento cheese from Piemonte Kitchen & Garden, whose Facebook page has some cool photos of the event, and a jar of lavender jelly and great-smelling soap from Green Roof Soaps, right up the road in Bedford (and on Etsy!). The diversity of offerings was incredible and the crowd was large enough to feel festive without being too crowded. In fact, I felt a little like I was in on a secret.

But now you know, too.

This is an event that I want to make sure is on my calendar for next year!

Road Trip Ahead

I have not been writing much here lately because the two Reynolds kids are home and I have been trying to squeeze in work writing in the early part of the day and kid activities in the afternoon and evening.

When your kids are in their 20s, a favorite activity is thrift shopping.

Alas, though, all good things (like college holiday breaks) come to an end and our boy is heading back to school tomorrow morning. He and Jim are driving out there together, leaving me and Cora with a quiet weekend. So we’re heading to Charlottesville!

Charlottesville is the home of the University of Virginia, of course, and the community sits geographically (and culturally, I think) in between busy Northern Virginia (whence many UVA students originate) and the rest of Virginia — with its tempestuous history and pretty mountains. I think that it has a cultivated country-cultured vibe.

Which is illustrated in our planned outings for the day. We are first heading to Blue Ridge Pottery, just north of the city. Then we’re going to have lunch at one of those shops that has bowls of superfoods and quinoa because that’s what the girl likes to eat and you really can’t find too much of that in our local vicinity.

And we both agree on our final stop:

This beautiful sighthttps://www.traderjoes.com/ is from the Trader Joe’s website

We don’t have Trader Joe’s in Roanoke. Our nearest one is Charlottesville. It’s going to be a well-timed, really good day.

Santa is Watching Everywhere. And I Mean Everywhere.

I mentioned yesterday that we joined a new gym this summer. We have been very pleased.

Not only did I run into an old friend from Fairfax (at the lake, visiting her parents!) during my first visit, but they are connected with the local health care systems, so there is a helicopter out in the parking lot, in case a workout goes very, very badly.

And they even have an elf on a shelf (or water fountain, as the case may be) to keep you in line during the holiday season.

EOAS: Not just for the Santa crowd

I got on a piece of equipment this morning and almost got popped by that elf.

I mean, yikes, right?

This gym is so nice that some people seem to spend their whole mornings there. This is not how I roll, because I like to be at my computer by 8:30 or so, but it’s nice to know that’s an option. At least until the elf kicks you out.