Our Version of a First Day Hike

First Day Hikes is an initiative of America’s State Parks, and hikes are offered, with waived entrance fees in state parks across the country. To be honest, I thought that this was just a Virginia thing, but all over the US folks are encouraged to “take a hike to inspire those New Year resolutions that are centered on getting or keeping fit”. Virginia has 41 State Parks, yet Greg and I have only visited 11. We have work to do!

We didn’t make it out to our local Claytor Lake State Park on New Years Day, but we did take our version of a First Day Hike. It was more an “Urban Walk” on Main Street and across Memorial Bridge over The New River but even still, it was great to be outside.

While I mourn for the Earth when it is 70°F in January, we definitely enjoyed the breeze as we walked over Memorial Bridge, enjoying the views.

Walking along Main Street offered views of historic architecture as well, while the clouds added much to the scenery.

Perhaps next year, we will do an official First Day Hike, but our Urban Walk was a great start to 2022.


Iron Heart Winery

Instead of attending to the ever present “to do” list, I sent a last minute text to my friend Amy and visited a new winery.

Iron Heart Winery may be new, but the land it sits on is definitely not.  “Nestled in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains in Allisonia, Va., the charming family-owned winery is located in an Industrial Revolution-era farm dating back to the 19th century, providing a rustic and modern atmosphere for visitors to its historic grounds” (Savora.com)

Since we only had a couple hours, I didn’t spend as much time learning the history of this farm and winery as I would have liked.  It was hard to miss this blast furnace which was once used to convert iron ore to more usable types of iron.  The winery website, much to my delight, is full of the history of the farm and the surrounding community.  These folks aren’t wine lovers who decided to open a winery, rather a family who wanted to preserve the land. ❤

“In 2010 the winery started planting vineyards and established their Farm Stay, where you can rent cabins on the property for a lovely weekend getaway. After years of perfecting their grapes for distribution, Iron Heart finally opened the winery to the public in 2017. Currently they are producing Vidal Blanc, Riesling, Rosé, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Chambourcin wine styles” (Savor.com)

We were greeted by Rosie, and then entered the tasting room, which is converted from an original corncrib.

The family built this gorgeous stone fire place, and I look forward to sitting by the fire this coming fall and winter.

All the labels celebrate the strength of women in the fashion of Rosie the Riveter, and all of the models were family members or friends.

How can you not love that?!

The day was perfect with bright sunshine, almost too bright for photography, and a steady breeze.  We enjoyed the patio, and playing fetch with Rosie,

Then we took our glasses and walked around the property.

Before we left, Adam, the owner, took us into the wine making room (I’m sure that is NOT what it is really called) and offered us a taste from the cask.  What a treat!  The man is working full time in his “real” job and more than full time in this job / hobby, yet he could not have been more interesting, inviting, and generous with his time.

What a fun, impromptu afternoon.

The ‘to do” list remains, but I have no regrets.

For more about the history of the farm, check visit this link from my friend Brooke Wood, reporter from the Southwest Times.

Southwest Virginia – My neck of the woods

Southwest Virginia … home of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a part of the larger Appalachian mountain range, and also of the New River, considered to be the oldest river on the North American continent.  My current home in the City of Radford (http://www.radford.va.us/)  is located in the New River Valley.

On any given day, I travel down roads that, especially during this time of year, are arguably some of the prettiest around.

In the summer, my friends and I kayak along this stretch of the New.  During this time of year, I scramble down the river bank to shoot the old train trestle against the backdrop of the evening light and the changing leaves.

While visiting friends to drop off fresh baked bread or cookies, I’m rewarded by the beauty that I see outside their homes.


The ride to work takes longer than it should during the fall as I stop multiple times to capture the scenery.  The first picture was taken from my office parking lot, while the next is the view over the houses near Radford University (http://www.radford.edu/).

The taste of  a microbrew at The River Company (http://www.therivercompanyrestaurant.com/) across the New River is even better when this is what I see from the deck.

This gorgeous oak stops me on my way down to Main Street …

… while this is the view that greets me as I drive home from work in the evening.

Sure, there are things that I miss by living in the rural part of Virginia (restaurant diversity for example), but views like this one taken from Attimo Winery (http://www.attimowinery.com/) sure help to make up for it!

The Beauty of Bikes

Motorcycles and photography … a combination of  two of my favorite things.   Motorcycles have been in my life for almost 5 years, and photography for about 1.  I’ve taken pictures for years but am just now putting some effort into it.   It’s a natural to combine the two and I’m sure I’ll be taking pictures of bikes for years to come.  This is just the beginning.

Most bikers work hard to make their bikes look good and ride well.  A walk out to my carport right now will reveal the fact that my bike needs some attention to detail.  It takes some time and elbow grease to bring out the beauty and shine in a bike and the time I’ve had with the bike lately has been spent riding it, not cleaning it.


Others have done better than I and I’ve had fun taking pictures of bikes the last couple weeks. Billy has been riding this 2003 Road King for 9 years.



Not all of my friends ride HDs but many of them do.



Another friend recently bought this bike and he finally has it back on the road after some repairs and upgrades. Check out the Sharkey’s sign reflected in the pipe.


Sharkey’s is a locally owned restaurant and bar, and at any given time, especially in the evening and on weekends, a line of bikes can usually be seen.  http://www.sharkeyswingandribjoint.com/


A couple of the pictures that follow were taken with my cell phone camera and while they are not great photos, they do show how bikers work to make their machines look unique.


I love the combination of black and chrome …


But the colors are pretty too.



There’s something about that line of bikes that I love to shoot, whether parked in front of a beverage establishment …

… or riding down the road.

So until next time … Ride Safe and Have Fun!

I know I sure will!

The 2012 Bike Trip – Tennessee: Bristol and then Home

As my friend Rick said “who knew Bristol is such a cool place?”.  Well, I’m sure many already knew, but I sure didn’t!  What a great downtown area! Many others evidently thought so too because I could not get breakfast without waiting in line for 30 minutes, and after waiting in line a lot last evening, I just couldn’t do it.


Bristol went all out in preparation for the Gentlemen of the Road Stopover, to the point of displaying flags from Britain, the US and Virginia on all the flagpoles.


Carol sent me the following link which has a nice review of last night’s concert but also provides information about Bristol.  Mumford and Sons chose communities like Bristol, that are part of  National Trust Mainstreet Communities, in which to play their stopovers, and returned nearly one percent of ticket sales to downtown revitalization.  Now I love them even more!



So after taking pictures of historic buildings like the Post Office, The Paramount, the train station, and the sign across the road, I headed out of town on Rt 11, towards home.


As I hoped I would, I came across a little place called JJ’s Downhome Diner. Tiffany (pictured in the middle; the owner is to the left) recommended the potato soup and grilled cheese and she definitely knows her business! It was just like homemade (but better than my homemade!).


I got to chatting with the owner who told me that the property has been sold and the building will soon be torn down so that more big box stores can be built there.  Like there aren’t enough just a mile up the road?  What is it with people having to go to chain restaurants and the same ol, same ol places all the time?  I just don’t get it!

Off my soapbox and back on the road, I stayed with Rt 11 almost all the way home.  I loved riding through communities that I only really know of from signs along the interstate.  Places like Chilhowie, Marion, Wytheville (where I just had to stop and take a picture of the pencil for those who’ve never seen it) and Pulaski.  Built in 1907, the Pulaski County Courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Throughout my travels in Tennessee, I would see old barns with pretty quilt squares painted on them, but it never failed that I saw a barn too late, or there was no place along the road, to stop.  Finally, somewhere between Marion and Wytheville, I was able to pull over and take a picture.

According to a website called American Barn Quilts ( http://www.americanbarnquilts.com/ ), the practice of painting quilt squares on barns can be traced back almost 300 years to the arrival of immigrants from the central regions of Europe; Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.  “Paint was very expensive in those days and painting a decorative and distinctive quilt pattern on their barns was a wonderful way of allowing for decoration. It also became an excellent way for travelers to find particular families or cross roads as towns people would just tell them which pattern to look for”.

I rode up and over Draper Mountain and stopped at the Drapers Valley Overlook.  The day was so clear that the views were quite remarkable – my camera and I just did not do them justice!


As I got closer and closer to home, I found myself riding slower and slower.  This trip was my third ride of exploration and I have found all three times that I just did not want it to end!  If I didn’t have friends and family to come home to (oh, and a job), I would just keep on going!

My Tennessee Tour has been everything I had hoped.  Tennessee has quaint small towns and interesting and fun large cities, full of history and engaging people.  I found the roads to be well maintained and the signage excellent (I rarely took a wrong turn, which is good for me!).  I was a bit disappointed in the obvious presence of the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) and hated to see so many rivers that had been dammed (of course, I am hypocrite because I used the power generated by those dams).  It is a beautiful state, full of historic buildings, excellent music, delicious food and gorgeous scenery.

But … home and job responsibilities called.  Thankfully, I was able to meet with Pam, who had ridden her bike, at the Rock House Marina for the traditional “end of the trip” beer.  It was a nice reminder that I have great friends to come home to.

As I got even closer to home, I was able to meet up briefly with several friends for a gathering at Cindy’s.  A gorgeous evening, a wonderful group of friends, and I was ready to head up my driveway and park the bike.


And … I finally got to meet Chayanne, the new member of the Miller/Singer family.

Total miles: 1100!  No drops, no burns, no wrecks!
Now … where shall I go next year?

Southwest Virginia Culture: From the NRV Fair to FloydFest

Disclaimer:  This post  is not intended to show favoritism for one event style or another, nor is it to make fun of the people who choose to attend one event over the other.  This is all about fun and is a lighthearted comparison of the Fair and FloydFest.

It is also not a journal of my time at FloydFest (which was amazing!).  I have become a fan of Michael Franti and his way of thinking and living:  http://michaelfranti.com/.  What a great experience this festival was!

Now … on with the post!

I certainly never intended to spend so many years living in southwest Virginia.  Even still, I sure do have a good time here.

For much of my life, I have dreamed of living out west and anyone who knows me has heard me talk about my love for northern Idaho and western Montana.  While not perfect, and we all know there is no perfect place, this part of Virginia has an abundance of beautiful natural areas to explore and I surely can’t complain about my 8 minute, traffic free commute.

But what about the culture, people often ask.  How do you manage without the shopping, the nightlife, the restaurants, the culture?  I do admit to wishing for more diversity in restaurants.  It gets tiring choosing from the same places time and time again, and because of that, it’s a rare thing to find me  eating in a chain restaurant when I leave SWVA.  Shopping I can do online or when I travel to more urban areas, and nightlife, in my opinion, is what you make of the places and the friends that surround you.

For example, I loved the pub crawl through Roanoke with Ruth and Ralph this past Friday.  We were able to walk from one place to the next, exploring the revitalization of Kirk Ave and the Patrick Henry Hotel, while at the same time soaking up the beer, food and music of this small SWVA city.


First Stop: Blue Five                                                     Second Stop: Martin’s Bar and Grill


The Penny Deux Lounge in the Patrick Henry was the Third Stop, followed by Fork in the Market, the final stop

Friends would come and go as we walked from one place to the next and I had a great time meeting new people and enjoying new experiences.  Yes, I had to drive 45 minutes to get to Radford when the crawl was done, but the significant amount of water I drank before heading home assured that I arrived safely.

So what does a Roanoke Pub Crawl have to do with the NRV Fair and FloydFest?  Nothing really, but since I’m writing about culture in this part of the state, I decided to mention it.

So last Wednesday, I went with friends to the New River Valley Fair to play Bingo and to experience the sites and sounds of the county fair in Pulaski (I never did play bingo).

Then yesterday, I spent the day with friends in Floyd County at FloydFest 11, an outdoor music festival that features roots and progressive music from around the world.

What a contrast in styles and missions!  But there are similarities too.  One of which is that both events require us to get outside and mingle with others.  Garrison Keillor said this about attending a fair (National Geographic, July 2009):

“American life tends more and more to put you in front of a computer screen in a cubicle, and then into a car and head you toward home in the suburbs, where you drive directly into the garage and step into your kitchen without brushing elbows with anybody. People seem to want this, as opposed to urban tumult and squalor. But we have needs we can’t admit, and one is to be in a scrum of thinly clad corpulence milling in brilliant sun in front of the deep-fried-ice-cream stand and feel the brush of wings, hip bumps, hands touching your arm (“Oh, excuse me!”), the heat of humanity with its many smells (citrus deodorant, sweat and musk, bouquet of beer, hair oil, stale cigar, methane), the solid, big-rump bodies of Brueghel peasants all around you like dogs in a pack, and you—yes, elegant you of the refined taste and the commitment to the arts—are one of these dogs”.  

So True!  Many people told me that they wouldn’t set foot in that county fair (Oh no! The Rednecks!)  Others told me that they couldn’t imagine going to FloydFest (No way! The Hippies!).  Folks go to the fair for the rides, the food, the contests, the produce and the animals, and to shop at the vendor stalls.  Folks go to FloydFest for the music, the food (and drink), the connecting and loving, the camping, the parties, and to shop at the vendor stalls.

You might want to instinctively argue that there are no similarities; that someone who goes to one event, would not go to the other.  I know for sure that someone will (me!) and I am quite sure that there are others as well.

One big difference between the two events is the cost!! It was FAR less expensive to spend an evening at the fair!  FloydFest requires a significant amount of ready cash.  On the other hand, I was not able to get beer and wine at the fair and, believe me, a cold beer would have tasted great after a long, hot evening at the fairground.

Consider what both events have to offer:



Elephant Ears, Funnel Cakes and Deep Fried Oreos at the NRV Fair


Black Bean / Chicken Quesadillas, Fried Egg Sandwiches, and Coconut Curry Tofu at FloydFest

Fashion for Sale


NRV Fair                                                           FloydFest



NRV Fair                                                              FloydFest


NRV Fair                                                            FloydFest



Bingo at the NRV Fair                                                            Carrom at FloydFest



NRV Fair



“Patriotism” (sort of)


NRV Fair                                                            FloydFest

Blowing in the Wind


NRV Fair                                                                                     FloydFest

Flying High


The Cliff Hanger at the Fair                                                  Trapeze Artists at FloydFest


I found two of my most favorite things at both events.  The first favorite was my friends.  I am truly a fortunate woman to have such diverse, energetic, loving, and FUN people to spend the days and evenings with!  I’m grateful to Sarah for serving as DD for the NRV Fair adventure, and to Greg for getting Shelly and me to FloydFest and back safely!


Dianna, Vanessa, Juli, and Whitney                               With Sarah, our DD


Jessica and Colton (in the cab with Sarah) joined in on the fun – but not on the mechanical bull!


Amy and Dianna enjoying a Deep Fried Oreo                Peacock and I enjoying a cold beer


Greg and Shelly                                                                           Rick and Kristie


Christine  …                                                                                     and the girls!


Another favorite thing became visible towards the end of each day.  The moon … and it was shining brightly over both places!!


Pulaski County                                         Floyd County

So … Goodnight Moon!  Until next year, where I feel sure you might find me spending time in both Pulaski and Floyd Counties.