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!

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.”

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.

Five Intentional Travel Tips (with Pictures!)

I don’t do a whole lot of traveling, and maybe I should, because I just got back from a great trip with our eldest child. Here’s the experience boiled down to a couple of quick thoughts:

Keep open to new ideas

For her last spring break of college, our daughter suggested that the two of us take a trip to Sedona, Arizona. I didn’t know much about the destination but we got started researching and it turns out that it’s a phenomenal place. If you can imagine the nicest person you know, and then imagine that person is a place, that’s Sedona.

Keep up the best you can

My girl is 22. She’s a fit little mountain goat when it comes to climbing around on trails. Me, not so much. But I jumped in on those hikes and was rewarded by beautiful scenery and very fine company.

I did not, however, even try to keep up with a 22-year-old when it came to prickly pear margaritas. I did the driving.

Keep an eye on the weather

We went to the Grand Canyon. It was cold. Like, slushy roads and snowballs cold. Boy, I know those tourists at the canyon were surprised because we sure were, too. And by the way, this challenged my expectations of what “Arizona weather” was all about. I was grateful for the hat I’d popped into my bag at the last minute.

Serendipity is everywhere

As I was flying through Charlotte, NC, on the way out to the Phoenix SkyPort, our son happened to be flying through on his way home to Roanoke. We caught up for just a minute right there at the airport. (Okay, I stalked him a little.) But to have a day where one runs into both of one’s kids in airports thousands of miles apart? Magic.

Even the bad stuff isn’t all that bad

On the flight home, my journey took me through Philadelphia instead of Charlotte (one does not simply fly directly to Roanoke). The plan was to fly out and land in Roanoke in time for dinner with the husband and that younger college kid mentioned above.

But then the flight crew was late.

And the weather went south.

We sat on the tarmac for 2-1/2 hours before the plane rolled back to the gate and the flight was cancelled. By the time we got off the plane and were wiggled into flights for the next morning — none of which were heading to Roanoke (one does not simply fly directly to Roanoke) — it was after midnight. I don’t know Philly. I didn’t know where to go for hotel with a shuttle that would get me back to the airport by 6:30 for my early flight to Charlottesville, VA. So I elected to stay overnight at the airport.

It’s quiet at 2:30 am outside security.
Good morning, Philadelphia!

I don’t recommend it if you can help it. But I did learn that the security screening opened up at 4:30 am (and the lines are much shorter!), which allows a bit of a nap at the gate before the breakfast spots start opening. Au Bon Pain never tasted so good.

The flight to Charlottesville’s (posh) airport was blissfully short and I was met by a husband who drove the extra hour to come pick me up. And even though they aren’t made of red rock, our mountains never looked so welcoming.

While I was away, the flowers had started blooming and I’m pretty sure there are some baby cows out there in the fields. It’s nice to come home to something that looks spring-y and new.

Gone to the Dawgs

We have two cats, whom we feed every afternoon at 5:30. At about 4:30, they start circling around, climbing in my lap and rubbing their faces as close to mine as they can. It’s not my favorite time of the day. I like them and I’m glad they like me, but by 4:30 I’m usually trying to wrap some things up and that works better without distraction.

Current situation: I am writing the first draft of this post at 4:47 pm, in my room with the doors closed. They haven’t found me yet, but those few moments after I push the “Save draft” button and before I pull out the Friskies will be tense ones.

We are far outnumbered in the Roanoke area when it comes to pets. Dogs are definitely the preferred companion, by a long shot. You see them in the boats on the lake, walking all around the city, hanging out in cars in the Kroger parking lot (in moderate weather, of course). Indeed, a dog’s life is quite a good life here in the SWVA.

I love dogs, and what I love even more is suggesting to Jim that we should get one, because the question elicits a very predictable and passionate response (and it’s not “yes”) every single time. See how much fun pets can be?

Oh thank goodness

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.

Taking it on the Road

Roanoke’s Arts Commission has teamed up with Ride Solutions and the Greater Roanoke Transit Authority for a contest called Writer on the Bus. This is part of an annual project where Valley Metro buses will display artwork from the city’s Regional Public Arts Collection, while a writer rides various bus routes and creates a unique work of literature.

Don’t you think that they could use a blogger?

I don’t think that blogging is what they have in mind in terms of an art form (the informational post lists short stories, plays, poetry, and essays), but how cool would it be to ride throughout the city while chatting with folks on the bus and taking pictures of the neighborhoods. I would love to have the excuse to do that, so keep your fingers crossed for me, if you will.

Weekend Plans

There is snow in the forecast for the area, and what I’ve found is that, with all the varied terrain here, there is certainly no one-size-fits-all forecast that works for everyone.

For instance, the local Virginia Weather Network posted this notice on Wednesday:

Since we are between Roanoke and Lynchburg, our path is clear.

And we are ready! We are now supposed to get a mix of snow, ice, and freezing rain, starting on Saturday afternoon and continuing until early Monday morning. But a new snow shovel, a surprise jigsaw puzzle (surprise for Jim; I bought the thing), and some excellent reading material says that we’ll get through it just fine.

If you have winter weather in your forecast, or you’re one of those parents bringing kids back to school after winter break, I hope you stay safe!

Holiday Business and Beer and Wine

We are nearly ready for Christmas, and took care of just a few more items today.

And it’s a good thing, because the traffic around Tanglewood Mall was impressive.

There are two shopping malls in Roanoke: Tanglewood and Valley View. Valley View is near the airport and was so crowded last Saturday when we went to pick the kids up, it not only threatened to make us late for the first child’s arrival, but gave me flashbacks to living in the Northern Virginia area. (Tysons Corner-loving friends, can you relate?)

But we only had one real errand over on Electric Road today: to pick up some wine for our neighbors. They brought us an amazing pie, made with rhubarb from their garden (!) and how do you reciprocate that?

Well, lucky for us, they mentioned that they like to toast the return of the light on the Winter Solstice (which is tomorrow, y’all!).

I may have mentioned that some of the chain establishments that we knew and loved in Northern Virginia have not made it down here to the Blue Ridge. So, where I would previously have gone to Total Wine in Chantilly for a nice bottle of wine, I had to do a little research to find an enhanced selection around here.

Except the Virgnia’s Blue Ridge Twitter account did it for me, with a listing of the best local places to find holiday gifts. That’s how we found Barrel Chest Wine and Beer. It’s a beer store and a wine store and a bar! They were super helpful and located a tasty looking cabernet for my neighbors. They also carry Cougar Bait American Blonde Ale, from Lexington, KY’s Country Boy Brewing company, for us to bring to Jim’s family’s place on Cape Cod.

Now, as long as our neighbors don’t read my blog, the surprise won’t be ruined.