Showing posts with label Local. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Local. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Fenwick Mines

Recently, we took a trip to Fenwick Mines, a National Forest designation in a nearby county. It's a hike that is allegedly handicapped accessible (I think it would be a bit bumpy for a wheelchair myself) and it offers a pond and creek with a water fall. 

Unfortunately, the bridge to the pond was out of commission because a tree had fallen across it and damaged it. The hike to the waterfall was too steep for me to climb even with a cane. The walking was fine, though, and the trail, even with tree roots, was decent.


The waterfall was barely visible from the road and we stopped and I took this photo of it. I imagine up close it was quite lovely. The colors on the trees had not changed as much as we'd hoped when we were up there.

Fenwick Mines is also part of the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail.

We visited on a Thursday. It is an uncrowded spot to go in these times of Covid. The restroom facilities are not open at present.

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Homogenization of America

Back in 1970, my little county celebrated it's 200th birthday. It precedes the creation of the United States, you see, and is quite old. At one time it was the wild west.

The folks who celebrated back then put out a little magazine about the county's birthday. It was supported by ads. Loads of them in the back, all looking the same. Big black letters in a box, with the name of the business.

Local businesses. About 100 of them.

Today, we are working on a magazine to celebrate the county's 250th birthday next year. And the ad sales?

Well, McDonalds, Walmart, Cracker Barrel, Applebee's, etc. don't want to support the locality in which they have a business. Neither do the hotel chains, or anything corporate with a headquarters elsewhere. Or the big supermarkets. No local marketing budgets, no little coffer of coins with which to support any local endeavors.

No reason to support their county.

Nope. These companies do not give back to the communities. They don't support little league teams, or offer up door prizes for school functions, or do any of that stuff, at least, not on a regular basis. Walmart used to give money to the schools some years ago but I think that stopped.

Profits have to go to the stockholders, after all.

I find this a very distressing and sad state of affairs.

I'm guilty, though, because while I do shop locally when I can I also don't hesitate to go into the supermarket or buy off of Amazon.

However, there is no reason other than greed for large corporations not to have small marketing monies available to franchises or stores all over the nation. Why can't the big hotel chain at Exit 150 support local things?

Friday, December 21, 2018

End of an Era (?)

Today is the day that the editor of The Fincastle Herald, Ed McCoy, steps down from his 34-year journey as the news guide for the county. He began working for The Herald in August, 1984, and I started freelancing for him in October, 1984.

So we have known each other a very long time, and over the years I like to think we have become friends. He's grown a bit more libertarian in his thinking as he's aged and I've grown a bit more liberal, so sometimes our political discussions can be entertaining, but they were always thought-provoking.

My first article for Ed was about making apple butter. His criticism of the story was this: it's great writing, but there isn't any "you" in the story. None of my personality came through.

I learned to deal with that by coming up with entertaining ledes to articles (that's the opening sentence to non-newspaper folks) and then going on mostly with "just the facts." I tend to be a just-the-facts kind of writer but Ed did bring out the best in my work. He was a good editor and I learned how to give a story life under his tutelage. He taught me as much as any of my professors at Hollins. Maybe more.

Stories that I remember best include one about two sisters who played basketball, which I started out with, "It must be the Tootsie Rolls," because the two girls ate the candies before games, going up in a hot air balloon, a series I wrote in Craig County about the state of the community over there and what would happen if a county went bankrupt (something that looked very likely at that time), a story I wrote about the Social Services Angel Tree that ultimately brought in $15,000 in donations, a story about the possibility of Nestle' bringing a water bottling facility to the area, and oh gosh, I wrote so many I can't possibly remember them all or pick out a best one. There were literally thousands of them.

Ed challenged me to go beyond my comfort zone, sending me on stories I'd have preferred not to write. (I never did like to write stories that tore at my heart, the ones about sick people or people fighting the tough fight against an illness or whatever.) I wrote them anyway and always did a good job with them, usually better than I ever thought I would, because I had Ed to talk it over with before I started the article. Once I had the slant, which in the early days I often needed help finding, I could move forward and create a moving piece.

As I aged and felt more comfortable with my talent and work, I turned down stories occasionally, mostly those that involved children at the schools because I became ill every time I entered a classroom. Finally, I settled into what seemed to be my forte', government writing. That suited my "just the facts" style and allowed me to feel like I was contributing something to the community by educating them about what is going on in their county.

My editor and I had many long discussions about what was going on in Botetourt. We argued with the county over Freedom of Information Act issues, and we discussed in detail how and what we should write. We profiled person after person and multiple businesses - you can find copies of the article I wrote and he edited and published hanging on the walls of many businesses in Botetourt. Just last week someone I'd written a story about told me they had the article hanging on the wall of their home. I'm sure there are just as many with his byline hanging on the walls of businesses and homes, too.

Ed and I both love history and I wrote many pieces about the multitude of historic legacies Botetourt County has to offer, as did he and other writers. Ed actually turned a series of stories about the Civil War into a magazine/book and he gave me kudos in his preface for my help over the years, which I greatly appreciated.

When I was 10 years old I said I wanted to be the editor of The Fincastle Herald. That apparently was not to be - health issues kept me from applying for his position this time, and previous opportunities never came about when I could manage it - the last one being shortly after my mother passed away in 2000. After that the newspaper, like so many others, fell upon difficult times and I was lucky to freelance for the paper for as long as I did (I stopped in 2016, although this past September I filled in for a week while Ed took a 10-day vacation.).

However, Ed gave me the opportunity to cover the county, and the chance to fill the paper with my byline, and I will always be grateful to him for that. Because he believed I could do it, I can call myself a professional writer.

Thanks for allowing me to be a freelancer for The Fincastle Herald, Ed. May your retirement be filled with lots of hunting and good times.

Ed with his camera (2016)

Ed received a proclamation from the Board of Supervisors for his long service to the community on 12/20/2018. Pictured from left: Steve Clinton, Mac Scothorn, Ed McCoy, Billy Martin, Ray Sloan.

Ed with Supervisor Mac Scothorn. Ed called Botetourt County a great place to work, full of
beautiful lands and wonderful people.

I had to laugh because even though today (12/21) is technically Ed's last day of work, yesterday he was still taking notes like a good reporter at a meeting. (I confess I do the same.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Tearing Up The Corner

A new Sheetz is going on at the corner of US 220 and Catawba Road.

Formerly the land housed a small building with various shops, an old barn, and some storage units. The small building was a bit historical, as well as the barn, but, you know, progress.

I meant to take photos back in the spring but by the time I got around to doing anything they'd already vacated the premises, put up fencing, and removed signs.

This used to be Ikenberry & Garst, a grocery store, long ago.

This is what it looked like Monday:

I shot the picture from the parking lot on a hill across the street.

The Sign Doesn't Matter

I saw this at one of my local grocery stores:

It's an emergency exit. Here's a close-up of the sign on the door:

It says "Do NOT Block or Obstruct Access"

If I were a fire marshal, I'd have given them a citation.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Remembering HFI

Saturday's Historic Fincastle festival was a memory tour, of sorts. One stop had a bunch of old souvenirs and other items from the days when HFI was a force to be reckoned with by citizens and government alike.

I wrote a number of the advertisements and other things for HFI. Not everything, but a good bit of it.

HFI did a lot of stuff at one time.

Those newspaper inserts like the one on the right were the types of things I wrote for HFI.

The Festival was a big deal in its time.

HFI has put out some books and other items over the years.

I started to buy one of the tomato can labels, but I didn't.

These were some of the T-shirts. I think there was a different T-shirt design almost every year.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Historic Fincastle Festival

Historic Fincastle, Inc. (HFI), a local preservation organization, used to put on a festival in the Town of Fincastle annually. Then they stopped because the people who did it aged and young folks didn't care.

This would have been the 50th year of the festival if it had continued, so they had a little 50th anniversary festival to reminisce and give themselves a pat on the back.

Disclaimer: I am a lifelong member of HFI and was its president back in the late 1990s.

I went but I could not see as much as I wanted because Fincastle is a town of hills, and I can't walk up and down hills anymore.

The view from Roanoke Street looking north. These are artist booths.

A little music for atmosphere.

Looking back down Roanoke Street to the south.

Folks could buy homemade goodies.

Or look at corvettes.

Student art work.

Historic documents were on display in the courthouse.

That is a LOT of signs.

This is Rowan Miller who was touting books for sale.

These books.

This was another author selling her books. She was from Vinton.

More vendors down Main Street. I didn't go down to see these folks because I didn't think I could get back up the hill.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Nice Work

Last weekend we went to the play by the local theater group. Attic Productions, located just outside of Fincastle, puts on some splendid theater, but we don't take advantage of it often enough.

The play we saw was Nice Work if You Can Get It, with music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin.

We attended a Saturday matinee and it was full of people. I am pleased that so many folks support this local effort.

This play appeared on Broadway in 2012; it's first production was in 2001.

The story is set in the late 1920s. The basic premise is a rich playboy is trying to marry a decent girl so his mother will let him run the family business. This is his third marriage. In the interim, he runs into a bootlegger (a female) and the bootlegger steals his wallet and decides to use his second house as a storage facility for her illegal hooch.

Hilarity ensues.

We enjoyed ourselves, as we generally do when we manage to make it out. The play shows this weekend for its final time locally, so if you have a chance, check it out. It's a lot of fun.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Appalachians

The other night my husband and I attended an event at the library about the mountains of our area.

We live in the Appalachian chain, which extends along the eastern part of the United States. We live in what is called the Valley and Ridge area in Virginia, located between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Alleghany Mountain chains.

The Appalachian Mountains first formed roughly 500 million years ago. They formed when Africa hit the North American eastern coast and things sort of slowly (like over a million years) smashed up. This created the mountains, which once reached elevations similar to those of the Alps and the Rocky Mountains. Then they began to erode. The Appalachian mountains were a barrier to east-west travel, as the mountains create a series of alternating ridgelines and valleys oriented in opposition to most highways and railroads running east-west.

That means that for a long time, the area where I live was the wild west (1700-1800s).

Anyway, to my east is the Blue Ridge Mountains, and to my west are the Alleghenies. Out my office window, which faces west, I see North Mountain, Caldwell Mountain, and Price Mountain. Tinker Mountain is also visible, though it is a bit to my south.

I have always called our mountains the Blue Ridge Mountains even though the Alleghenies are what I see every day. Blue Ridge just sounds more romantic, doesn't it?

A topographic view of the James River

A simple version of the areas of Virginia.

This is what the world looked like when things smashed together.

A topography map that shows our property.

Same map without my pointing anything out.

The same map except not close up. You can see Tinker to the southwest but not the
other mountains.
One of the fascinating facts about the Appalachian chain is that it actually goes all the way to Scotland. It runs under the ocean. Maybe that is why so many Scots-Irish folk settled here. It looks like home.

A nice generic shot of our farm with North Mountain in the background.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Interstate 81 Traffic Jam

Interstate 81 is the fast lane that connects Botetourt County to Roanoke City and the rest of the world. Exit 150, where one leaves I-81 to enter Botetourt County, has been known for traffic backups for as long as I can remember. That interchange is undergoing a reconstruction.

However, in the last two decades, the entire I-81 route has become infamous for backups. All it takes is a little ice or heavy rain or an inattentive driver and you have this:


Miles and miles - literally - of traffic at a dead stop with nowhere to go. Before I found my cellphone and started snapping photos, traffic further up apparently had been stopped for a while, because people were out of their vehicles, stretching, fetching sodas from the back seat, or whatever.

This was around 2:15 p.m. in the afternoon.

I-81 took 30 years to build. Construction began in 1957 and ended in 1987. The road plans initially were constructed for traffic expectations in 1970, I would guess.

Here's a history of the interstate from VDOT's website:

Construction of I-81 started in December 1957 on a stretch from one mile north of Buchanan to one mile south of the Rockbridge County line. Four miles of I-81 were open as early as 1959 near Pulaski. A small section known as the Harrisonburg bypass was also open in that city in the late 1950s.
By November, 1963, 85 miles of I-81 were open to the public:
  • 52-mile stretch from Bristol extending to five miles east of Marion
  • 15-mile stretch between Fort Chiswell and Newbern
  • 11-mile stretch extending just south of Buchanan
  • 7.5-mile stretch at Harrisonburg On November 1, 1964, a 15-mile segment west of Wytheville opened to the public creating a continuous 67 miles from Bristol to Wytheville. By December, 1964, 33 miles between Dixie Caverns and Fancy Hill (just south of Lexington) were opened to the public. In November, 1965, 26 miles from the West Virginia state line just north of Winchester to Strasburg were opened to the public. By December, 1965, a 22 mile section of I-81 from Newbern to Christiansburg was opened to the public. By November, 1966, 33 miles from Strasburg to New Market were opened to the public. On December 21, 1971, after much delay with funding, a 14.4-mile section of I-81 from Dixie Caverns to Christiansburg was opened to the public. The interstate was not completed, however, until July 1987 when work was finished on the I-77/I-81 overlap section in Wythe County.

  • The interstate is 365 miles long. From 1996-1998, the state did a "concept study" and talk of four-lanes became common, but nothing has been done.

    So people sit in traffic.

    I avoid I-81 as much as I can, but sometimes you simply have to use it. My preference would be not to widen the interstate but instead reconsider how we move freight, because as the photos above clearly show, much of the traffic is tractor trailer haulers. If we moved more freight by rail, we wouldn't need so many trucks (which would mean we would need to burn less fuel and we would decrease pollution, etc. etc.). But because the oil industry owns the U.S., I don't see that changes in the way we haul items from one end of the nation to the other will improve in my lifetime.

    In the meantime, we always keep snacks and water in the car (along with a roll of toilet paper) because you never know when you might be caught between the guardrails and unable to move your vehicle when you travel I-81.


    After I wrote this, I learned that a fatal accident was the cause of the traffic backup. My sympathies to the family.