Jim and I have done quite a bit of road-tripping lately.
We went to Kentucky, to drop the lad off at school.
From there, we drove to Block Island. (You got me; you can’t drive to an island! We drove to New London, CT and took the ferry.)
After a few busy weeks at home, we went to Indianapolis, where Jim had a conference.
And then we went back to Kentucky for Family Weekend at the lad’s school.
This was all terrific travel. We spent time with incredible people, ate good food, and saw wonderful sights. But along the way, that thought flew through my head at some point, “It sure will be nice to get home.”
He can fly a plane, and that is extra cool because one fine Saturday over the summer, he was able to arrange for some flying time, and my sister and her family decided to swing down to the Lake for lunch.
I’ve extolled the benefits of Roanoke Airport, but there is another airport right here on the lake.
It has a cat.
And a seaplane (a lake plane).
You can live there!
And if you’re lucky, you can meet some fun people there and take them to lunch at Waller’s, right down the road.
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.
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. 🙂
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.”
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.”
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.”
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.