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.
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 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.
Getting out in the woods is so good for your soul, there’s even a name for it: forest bathing.
I’ve been doing a little of that myself over the past few weeks, with my renewed outings with the Shine Runners. I found this fun pub-run group last fall, but took a break from joining them during the winter because (it’s cold and) they run on local trails in the dark. I tried that once. I didn’t like it. And they run fast, in all conditions, for really long distances. Like running superheroes.
But spring is here and with it daylight savings time. Those evening runs are once again taking place in the early twilight. I am by far the slowest of the group, but I’ve kind of designated myself the go-to person in case anyone wants a casual pace. And it’s been great.
We’ve gone out to Chaos Mountain Brewing, where you can run by a farm and catch a glimpse of a tom turkey (and hear him gobbling) as well as plenty of good-looking cows. Then maybe sit by the fire pit and enjoy their Marg and Rita gose, mmmmm.
We’ve enjoyed the woods around the Brooks Mill Winery, where Cathy and I took a wrong turn, disturbing some goats and dogs in a little barnyard (their owner came out on her porch in her pajamas to assure us that the dogs wouldn’t hurt us, but please, don’t let them follow us). And last night, a small group (okay, two of us) climbed up Grassy Hill in Rocky Mount.
Grassy Hill was the most running I’d done in my run/walk combo, particularly as we headed downhill. And I noticed something. As you go running through the woods, you get to feeling very Midsummer Night’s Dream (“Check me out, I’m PUCK, y’all! IN THE WOODS!”).
Maybe it was relief at not feeling like my knees were wrecking themselves. Or not wiping out on the rocks (because Grassy Hill is a misnomer. It’s rocky). But it’s exhilarating.
And who needs to be a superhero when you can be a Shakespearean fairy? Seriously, go run in the woods.
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.
Last post about our recent bovine visitor, I promise!
When we discovered on Friday that a drowned cow had somehow attached itself to the underside of our dock, I reached for a common resource: the crowd-sourcing answers on Facebook. I first asked the Smith Mountain Lake resident’s group:
Then I shared the post with my friends to get their take on the whole thing. And did I! It received 100 comments, many of which expressed sympathy for the cow or concern about the situation, but listen, my friends are funny. People uploaded a number of à propos GIFs, including the Jed Clampett “What in tarnation?” from Lorenda.
As well as a link to that Top Gear episode where the fellas were visiting the American south and that wag Jeremy Clarkson tied a dead cow to the top of his car, from Chris L.
Also, a lot of commentary:
“You like your steaks REALLY rare,” observed Michael H.
“Did the cow know you don’t even eat meat??” – Ilham, who
knows me well.
“If this is what happens when you move out of [your former
neighborhood], we’ll be staying here forever” – former neighbor Dan S.,
seconded by Kristin S.’s “You got that right.”
“Hope you get to moooove it soon” – Cathy C.
“VA more TX than TX?” – from native Texan Seán C.
“That’s not exactly the right way to marinate beef.” – Derek
“Anne, you don’t live in Fairfax anymore, do you? I need to
keep up better.” – Karen T.
“Holy cow!” – Robin M.
“So, you’re saying he moooo-ved along? Can’t see hide nor hair of him? I’m milking this for all it’s worth. It’s udderly awful. We all hope she has moseyed along and she won’t be ‘herd’ from again. You made it seem very amoosing, though!” – Beth H., who was clearly bovinely inspired, with the cow as her muuuuuse.
“Rich ecosystem in your lake there!” observed science-minded Ilse
“Should you decide to form a bluegrass band, Boathouse Buzzards would be a great name.” – Danny C.
“Anne you get instant country street cred if you form a bluegrass band,” Tosh, who added, “Welcome to the country!”
And there was some on-point advice:
“If you get an invitation to the Appalachian Power hamburger
cookout, I suggest you politely decline.” – also Danny C.
“Dear James Reynolds, You may want to cross ‘Tri-County Lake
Administration’ off the list of potential summer employers” – concerned auntie Sarah
Most of the neighbors in the lake’s residents’ group had sincere (and ultimately, very helpful!) suggestions, but also some wit:
Terry B. echoed Jim’s preferred solution to the dilemma: “Call in the catfish.”
“BBQ?” offered Bob T.
“Go heavy on the smoke flavor,” advised Jim C. He got more specific: “When you grind your hamburger you mix in some country sausage to hide the flavor, as do many deer hunters when they grind venisonburger- 😎
And upon learning that the cow had moved on: “Well, phooey. I was going to suggest dynamite, Anne.” – Betsy A., who, as part of Lake Writers, has an eye for a plot twist.
The question came up on Friday, when I was out of town and Jim texted me that there was a dead cow floating next to our dock.
We are very fortunate to live along the shoreline of Smith Mountain Lake, where most of the houses feature a dock. The problem is, occasionally a deceased member of the wildlife community comes along to get stuck on the docks, and I guess that is what happened to Mr. Cow.
What do you do about a bobbing cow? The first thing we did was to put in a report to Appalachian Electric Power, the utility that controls the hydroelectric dam that formed Smith Mountain Lake. Based on some good advice I received when I crowd-sourced the question to the Smith Mountain Lake Residents page on Facebook, I also made a call this morning to the Tri-Counties Lake Administration, which works with AEP to police the debris on the lake. And sure enough, this afternoon, I got a phone call from a gentleman at AEP to make sure it was gone.
I walked down and saw no evidence of our visitor, either visual or olfactory, so my fingers are crossed that he has been assisted in his journey to greener pastures. Even the buzzards are no longer lurking.
As I am not a fisherman, I’m kind of hoping this is the closest encounter I have with nautical wildlife for a good long time.
It sure is a nice day to go for a walk in my neighborhood.
Since I work mostly at home, I really try to spend a little time in the afternoon marching up and down the street. Today is a perfect day for it.
A cool thing about walking around here is that, because Smith Mountain Lake is so new (around since 1966) the shoreline is made up of a bunch of peninsulas. So no matter where you go, there’s water all around you.
And all those peninsulas were once high points of land, so there are hills to challenge you.
Some of the houses are built between the hilltops and the waterline, giving them a little privacy.
Or a lot of privacy.
And if you’re really lucky, the cows might be out. Oh, hey, cows!
(If you watch the cows for more than a minute or so, they get tired of watching you. That’s humbling.)