Thursday, 31 October 2013

Weekend in Virginia

We headed up north this weekend.  When I say north, I mean Virginia, but it is the furthest north I have been so far.  We left here about 10am, and stopped for some lunch just north of Charlotte.  It was an ok journey, not helped by our hangovers from the night before.  Thank goodness we invested in DVD players for the car.  Once we got into Virginia, we turned off the interstates quite quickly.  We drove through a beautiful town called Galax. This is an area renowned for 'Bluegrass' folk music, and holds quite a few festivals through out the year.  We drove out and headed towards Fries where we were staying.

Fries is named for North Carolina cotton mill owner Colonel Francis Fries. The mill began operating 1903, leading to migration to the town.  The mill operated till 1989. It  closed down with the loss of 1700 jobs.  The site is now a hydro electric station, generating electricity.

From the towns website

'Located on the banks of the New River, Fries is known for outdoor adventure. The head of the New River Trail is located in downtown Fries. We offer everything for the outdoor enthusiast, kayaking and canoeing, fishing, biking, birding, horseback riding, camping, rock climbing, tubing and much more! With the fog rising off the river in the early morning and Bald Eagles soaring in the afternoon sun, the town is simply a tranquil, photogenic place for those looking for beautiful countryside. Right now the Town of Fries is in a exciting new phase of change for our future in tourism and restoration of our past. Fries began as a little mill town here in the Blue Ridge Mountains and is now the ultimate destination for vacationing and outdoor recreation.'

As we drove over the New River, the sight that greeted us was just amazing.  We drove up, past the new hazmat fire station, very impressive for a town that has a population of 450.  There was also bike rental and golf buggy tours available at the entrance to town.  We carried on, into the town.  The houses were all very small, and very near each other.  Almost a typical layout for a mill or mining town in the UK.  We turned off Main Street, and on to Riverview Road.  The view was just amazing.  Just near the end of the road we pulled up outside Aunt Myrtles River House.  The view from outside was stunning.


We went on in.  The house was really nicely laid out, with kitchen, bathroom and master bedroom at the back.  The dining room and main bathroom were in the middle, with the living area and second bedroom at the front.  There was a wrap around porch that went form the patio doors off the dining room all the way round to the front, with steps down to ground level.  We got the boys a snack, but didn't really bother unpacking.  We were only going to be there for 2 nights.  The boys started to get a bit restless, so we decided to take a walk.  It was very cold this day, and quite cloudy so we all wrapped up warm.  We walked down the road, and along to the River front, treading in copious geese poo as we went

There is an old train carriage set out as a nice cream shop to cater for tourists on the New River State Trail, which ran just outside the house.  Obviously it was closed, we definitely would not have wanted ice cream on a day like this.  We continued walking west towards the dam/waterfall, past the only restaurant in town.  

We cut round in front of the old fire station which has not been demolished yet, and probably won't be for a while (the Americans seem to like holding on to their old buildings for a while, they don't seem keen to demolish them.  Don't know if it is the cost, or the fact there are so many other places to build new ones....).  

We headed up the hill past the New Inn, and further towards the damn.  There was a man fishing in the river.  My only thought was how cold he must have been.  We kept going through an old derelict area, may have been a building of some description once, and along a path next to the river, passing over one of the New Rivers many tributaries.  We eventually reached the end of the path

I believe this was once the mill, which is now the electrical generator.  It is very pleasing to know that old industry in this country can be recycled to create new industry.  America is often thought to be a bit of a throw away nation, but this is the second building we have seen like this in our year here, where they are using renewable resources to create power, and recycling old facilities at the same time.

We headed back the way we came, I was pretty cold to the core by now.  The boys stopped and played in the park by the house.  Not the best park, pretty run down, but it did have an old fashioned seesaw, which was nice (if a little dangerous).  The boys had fun climbing up the apparatus.

They insisted on having a little play on the rail road carriage before heading back to the house.  The owners of the house knocked on the door to introduce themselves and make sure there were no issues.  We had got the heating and the tv working ok, so we were fine. The boys had a sandwich dinner before we packed them off to bed.  We were not far behind, our hangovers caught up with us and we were in bed by 10pm, ready for the excitement of Nascar the next day.

I am going to do a separate post on the NASCAR 

After an exciting day at NASCAR the boys awoke at 7am on the Monday, ready to get going.  We were all packed up and ready to go by 10am. The owners stopped by again, and Paul was able to ask about the local wildlife.  Bald eagles are spotted along the river.  Bears are also prevalent.  A man in town has cameras attached to his house, and has filmed a fair few over the summer.  They come from the forest area on the other side of the river.  The river does look like it would be perfect for them to fish in.

We decided to take the scenic route home.  By scenic, I mean long.  We drove from Fries, back through Galax, then along to Independance.  I love the names of the towns here.  We were travelling real back roads, going up and town with valleys, and pretty much following the New River.  The New River is thought to be the 3rd oldest river in the world, and the oldest in America.  It runs from North Carolina through Virginia to West Virginia, eventually emptying into the Mississippi Rover. It has created some beautiful landscapes and valleys.    As we crossed from Virginia into North Carolina, we started to notice some Christmas tree farms.  At first they started off small, but then they seemed to get bigger, and bigger and bigger

There was one point along this route, where i looked at the valley and every hillside on it was covered with Christmas trees.  This made me feel a bit uncomfortable, a bit like the shell shop in Myrtle Beach.  It is good that people are able to make money off the land and provide a local low carbon footprint Christmas tree to most of the east coast.  But when you think about the areas of natural forest that were cleared to start these farms, it makes me a bit sad.  I know people have been making a livelihood form the land for centuries, but it just felt a bit extreme.  I am not a tree hugged or environmentalist in any shape or form.  On the bigger picture, the areas that were cleared are probably a small percentage of the natural forest that cover such a vast area of this country.  I just hope they choose not to clear many more areas.

We travelled on to Boone.  This is quite a well known ski resort.  Obviously we are off season at the moment, and these kind of places never seem to look as good then.  Admittedly, we just stopped there for some food.  Pizza Hut buffet for all, before carrying on our way.

As we drove from Boone to Marion, we noticed we were travelling almost parallel to the Blue Ridge Parkway, a very scenic, well travelled route.  We got very close to GrandFather Mountain, which is a place I would quite like to visit one day.  It was still so pretty, despite most of the trees having already lost their leaves.  Funny, most of the trees here still have the majority of theirs, though they are starting to fall.

From here we drove down to Rutherfordton.  This is a town that comes up in our local news quite a lot.  It does not have many tall buildings, and felt a little trapped in a time warp

Again, I would not mind going back and exploring it a bit more, finding out the history etc.  we then crossed the border into South Carolina.  We drove through Chesnee, which is right near Cowpens Battleground National Park.  I would also like to explore this.  From here we crossed Lake Blalock on the Chesenee highway

By now we had had enough of trees, and slower moving roads.  Time was ticking on, and if we were not careful, we would hit the interstates around Greenville at rush hour.  We exited onto I85 just north of Spartenburg, back in familiar territory.

It was so nice to visit Virginia.  We would like to go back again, but our time here is so short, and we have so many places we wan to visit, I don't know how likely it is.  It was good to do the scenic route back, and see sights we would never have seen if we had stuck to the interstates.  It has made me awars of places I want to visit that can be done in a day trip.  I look forward to planning these trips, and doing some research.

I am also extremely grateful we have DVD players in the car.  The boys were so patient and contented while we had our little explore.  They were even taking in the scenery when they glanced up from their screens.......

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