Roadside Humor #1

We were going to put this at the end of our post that included Appomattox but somehow humor immediately following that topic just didn’t seem appropriate. So we’ve decided to create a new category called Roadside Humor. Whenever we find something that has given us a laugh, we’ll post it under this category. We hope it puts a smile on your face.

As we were heading home from Appomattox we passed this sign. At the same time we said “Turn around. We’ve got to have a picture of that.” Jay Leno eat your heart out…

humor, travel

Silent Partner?

Monuments, Music and More in Central Virginia

Sometimes you plan to go to an area for a specific reason. Other times you just find lots to do once you arrive. Such was the case for our next stop at Goose Point Campground on Philpott Lake just north of Martinsburg, Virginia. This is one of three Corps of Engineers campgrounds on the lake.  The beach loop is very popular and you need to make reservations well in advance if your stay will include a weekend. We were up the hill in A loop and our 35′ trailer just made the turns. In fact when it came time to leave and  use the dump station we couldn’t navigate the turn downhill and had to wait until we arrived at our next destination. Staying at the beach area would have prevented any problem as it’s just a straight drive to the dump station. There are just some things you can’t know until you’ve stayed at a park. If you need cardiovascular exercise, the walk up the hill from the beach will have the old ticker pumping away!

kayaking, travel

Steve Paddling Philpott Lake

We found ourselves in Floyd County which has recently come to light in the movie Lawless as the home of the moonshine industry during Prohibition. We also found that this was another section of the Crooked Road running from Galax to Rocky Mount. We met up with RV friends and dropped in at the Rocky Mount Visitors Center to, of course, pick up brochures. We were informed that there were music jam sessions every night of the week within a 30 mile radius. Thursday night was scheduled for the Waidsboro Ruritan Club. This was attended by locals except for us. They had brought food and only asked for us to pay for water or coffee. There were about a dozen musicians and locals dancing the flat step. A woman named Alice came over to talk with us. During the conversation I said I wished someone could teach me to flat step. The next thing I knew she grabbed my hand and said “Come On”. I don’t think I’ve got it quite yet but I sure did have fun trying. While we were talking a woman sat in with the musicians and took over the banjo. “She used to play professionally and can really bang on that thing” Alice informed us. Another area regular came over to talk and told us that the group sometimes had as many as 25 musicians and standing room only crowds. They have had people attend from as far away as England. As we were leaving we stopped to tell the woman banjo player how much we enjoyed her playing. We found out she used to play with a well known group called the Original Orchard Grass Band. If someone had asked me a few months ago if I liked Bluegrass music, I would have said “not really.” Now that I’ve heard it on the Crooked Road, I love it!

The next day was a beautiful warm early Fall day so we kayaked a small portion of Philpott Lake. While loading the boats we started talking to a local couple. They had lived and taught overseas in Asia and the Middle East for several years before retiring to Floyd. They encouraged us to go into Floyd on Friday evening for the area’s premiere bluegrass event. The Floyd Country Store is part store part stage. They have a house band that performs from 7:30 to 9:00 and then they have a local group perform for another hour or so. It costs $5 to come in, sit and listen. But you don’t sit long. Your feet can’t stay still and you find yourself up and dancing. This is where you’ll see the locals really shine. Some of these folks can really dance up a storm. The place does get very crowded and people come and go at will. Outside the store along the street groups form and play a variety of country and bluegrass. Some groups are pick-up jams while others are groups that play together regularly. We spent most of our time listening to a group called Nuthin Common and bought one of their CDs.

We’d like to thank our friends Kathy and Joe for the following pictures and video as we’d forgotten to bring either camera or iPhone.

music, dancing

Dancing in Floyd on a Friday Night

bluegrass, dancing

Who’s Leading?

I’d suggested to Steve that we splurge a bit and go to the Morrissette Winery for their Sunday brunch. I’d heard that the restaurant was very highly rated. My other visits to the winery had been for concerts and I’d gone there from Charlotte. It’s an easy trip up I 77 to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I had no idea how to go from Philpott Lake so we let the GPS guide us… It took us on some dirt roads that the truck had a hard time making! Good thing we didn’t have the trailer. That’s when we decided to always preview the roads before heading out with the RV. We finally got there and had a delicious meal with a million dollar view. The chocolate truffle balls for dessert were to die for.

winery, travel

Morrissette Winery Restaurant

On the way back home, we followed more country backroads to two covered bridges and one very photogenic barn. Steve took a picture of the Bobwhite Bridge and converted it to a pencil sketch in Nik HDR software.

covered bridge, travel

Bobwhite Bridge, Woolwine, Virginia

travel, barn

Just Like Currier and Ives

We’d travelled along I 81 through Virginia many times as we drove to see family in Pennsylvania. As we’d pass signs for the D-Day Memorial and Booker T. Washington Birthplace we’d say “some day we need to stop “. Well, some day had finally arrived.  Booker T. Washington was born into slavery on a small tobacco farm, one of 10 slaves. His mother was the cook. Although not allowed to attend school or even learn to read he had an overwhelming desire to learn.He was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. He walked across half the state of Virginia and worked so he could pay to go to newly established  school for blacks. With perseverance he attained a college degree and eventually established Tuskegee Institute. Tuskegee was based on his own experience that work and education should go hand in hand. He believed that unless a student had to work for his education he wouldn’t value it. When I hear my teacher friends talk about the lack of interest heir students have in learning and the discipline problems they encounter, I can’t help but think he might just have been right. We wanted to read more about him so we’ve downloaded three of his books to our iPads.  The farm is beautifully restored and a reminder that even the most humble beginnings can spawn greatness.

history, photography

Booker T. Washington Birthplace

nature, photography

Freedom and Education are Special

From the Booker T. Washington Birthplace we went to the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA. This location was chosen because a platoon of this town’s young men was one of the first on Omaha Beach on D-Day. Within the first five minutes half of them were killed. By the time the hill was scaled only 5 were  still alive out of the original 38. The memorial although called a national memorial received no government funds and is privately run. It gave me the same feeling as when Steve and I went to the Flight 93 Memorial last year, what it really means to give your all for your country. The three themes repeated throughout are Valor, Fidelity and Sacrifice. The central memorial with the bronze statues representing these themes is designed to look like you are landing on the beach and there are air lines under the water that simulate bullets striking the water around you. In fact, there were at least twelve times the number of bullets as are depicted here.Names engraved on the walls are only those who actually died on the first day of the D-Day invasion. The names have no rank to signify that the every life was of equal value. Nor are the names in alphabetical order as  new names can be added. The latest one was added in 2011 when an American of Lebanese descent was added. Originally his date of death was listed as 6/9 but later confirmed to be on D-Day. As impressive as the loss is the fact that they expected to loose five times as many men is unimaginable. You can tour on your own but we opted to take a guided tour and we highly recommend it. We learned so much from it. For instance, the famous picture of General Eisenhower talking with pilots just before take-off was originally interpreted as a “pep” talk and later found out he was talking about fly fishing with them. The tour explains a great deal about the generals involved and the map painted on the ceiling of Allied Headquarters. One lady on our tour was visiting from Bulgaria and spoke no English but had a friend there to interpret. There are some things that have universal meaning.

WWII, travel

National D-Day Memorial

history, photography

This Soldier Represents Valor

travel, history

These Soldiers Represent Fidelity

WWII, travel

These Soldiers Represent Sacrifice

D-Day, history

Americans killed On D-Day

Allied Nation Casualties on D-Day

travel, monument

Simulated Landing

Our last history lesson was a visit to Appomattox Courthouse, the site of the Army of the  Confederate States surrender to the Union Army thus ending the Civil War. Steve was very touched by our visit and has written this segment.

For anyone who has done any extensive reading or studying about the American Civil War, the town of Appomattox Court House in south central Virginia has to be a special place. 

Thousands upon thousands of Americans in Blue or in Grey were dead or forever maimed.  Families were shattered.  Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had been decimated.  Lee was trying desperately to reach a supply depot to feed the starving troops.  Grant and the Army of the Potomac got there first. 

Lee sent a message to Grant to ask for a meeting to discuss terms of surrender.  

Wilmer McLean had been a resident at the location of the First Battle of Bull Run, or First Manassas if you hale from south of the Mason Dixon line, at the beginning of the war.  Following the battle, he moved his family to the small town of Appomattox Court House to get away from the carnage of war.  Representatives of Lee and Grant asked to use Mr. McLean’s home for the meeting.

Robert E. Lee arrived dressed in his best uniform, buttons and buckles shining.  Ulysses S Grant arrived covered with dirt and mud and wearing a borrowed coat. 

They met, discussed trivialities for a few moments, and then got down to business.

The following day, Union troops lined the dirt road leading to the small village to receive their southern brothers

The war was over.

I don’t know how other people react when visiting here, but I had a lump in my throat the entire time.  There were tears in my eyes as I walked out of the McLean House and looked down the road where the Confederate soldiers marched to lay down their arms.  The United States, a union of states, had existed for 89 years, but on this day, a Nation was born.

When we toured the Visitors Center I learned that the man who wrote the surrender agreement for the generals to sign was an American Indian. General Lee said to him “At least one of us here is an American.” To which this Major replied ” Today general, we are all Americans”. We took a living history tour led by an actor posing as the local physician. He set the time as being the same day but 1865, about 6 months after the surrender. He described the effects of the surrender on this southern community. It was extremely well done. 

We also learned that afterwards only one more family lived in the McLean home until 1867 when they went bankrupt. The home deteriorated and was dismantled and sent to Washington to be displayed (at the Smithsonian we  presume) but never was reconstructed. So when the National Park Service established Appomattox Courthouse the home was returned and reconstructed on the original site.

travel, Civil War

McLean House

General Grant and General Lee

Picture of Grant and Lee at Surrender Document Signing

Civil War

The Road Where North Met South


Table used by Grant


Table used by General Lee for Signing

For a week that wasn’t planned this turned out to be one of the busiest times we’ve had. Now we head up to the lower Shenandoah Valley.

Lake Hartwell, SC

Now we head almost five hours across the state to the southwest corner of South Carolina. We’ll be staying at Coneross Campground on Lake Hartwell. This is a Corps of Engineers campground with about 100 sites most of which have RV hookups. The lake spans across the SC/GA line. There are several other campgrounds around the lake. Lake Hartwell is primarily for water supply to the Atlanta area but is also used for recreation. If you lived in the south during the severe drought in 2007-2008 you might remember that this lake dwindled to only a 30 day supply. It still is down 15-20 feet from full level.We arrived to find our site was a lovely, wooded drive-thru spot. The sitting and eating area was a large terrace  adjacent to the driveway.

We spent our first day kayaking and swimming on Lake Hartwell. Although we left the boats at the water’s there was so much to do in the area that we didn’t get back again. The park was also good for a four mile bike ride.

camping, South Carolina

Camping at Coneross

Lake Hartwell
View of Lake Hartwell from our site

The nearest large town is Clemson, home of Clemson University. If you don’t like orange and purple or the Clemson Tigers beware! They are crazy for their teams, especially football.  You don’t want to come here on a home football weekend when 80,000 fans descend on Death Valley as the football stadium is known. Other towns in the area are Spencer, Pendleton and Walahalla. There is another barn quilt trail here with 100 locations. We didn’t have time to visit this trail but did see some of the quilts displayed on homes and businesses as well as barns.

One of the attractions in this area was visiting historically significant homes, a church and a graveyard. Known as the Old Stone Church it was built by Scot-Irish settlers in 1797 and used until the mid 1820s. The adjacent graveyard is still used today. There are several interesting grave sites. One was a man killed in a duel in the early 1800s. He was allowed burial there only outside the boundaries of the graveyard. However the boundaries continued to expand and his grave is now almost in the center. Another famous person buried there is Andrew Pickens, the general famous for winning the Battle of Cowpens (see our Spartanburg Area post). A monument to the builder of the Old Stone Church and parents of Thomas Jefferson Rusk was erected by the state of Texas in 1936. We’d never heard of him but figured if another state would erect a tombstone to his parents, we’d better find out. Thank Goodness for Google and Wikipedia! He was one of the principal generals at the Battle of San Jacinto where Texans defeated Santa Anna. He also served as the first Secretary of state for the Texas Republic. By far the story that intrigued me the most was about a lady from Charleston who was one of New Orleans most infamous woman of ill repute (or as the sign said even in a city known for bad behavior her deeds stood out.) Her brother went to New Orleans and shot both his sister and her lover. Apparently suffering from remorse he brought her body back to the Old Stone Church for burial. The congregation would allow burial only if her grave was surrounded by a brick wall. So in death as in life she was ostracized. The grave is rather overgrown now but a part of the inscription begins with “A Brother’s Sorrow….”.

history, travel

Old Stone Church in Clemson, SC


Woodburn Plantation

Revolutionary War

General Andrew Pickens

Clemson University owns several historic properties on or near campus. We tried to visit Woodburn Plantation but it was closed. Later we learned it was open Wednesday-Friday. We took pictures through the fence. One place for “when we come back…” Fort Hill is the home of Thomas Clemson who donated the land to start Clemson University. He was the son-in-law of John C. Calhoun who built the home in the 1820s. When the home was willed to the university Thomas Clemson stipulated that it should always be open to the people. Therefore, Clemson University has volunteers trained to give tours in all of its historical properties. The two tours we took were excellent and we’d highly recommend them to anyone visiting the area. Since the Calhoun home is in the middle of the university it will be much easier to park if you go on a weekend. We went on a Sunday and parked right in front of the house. One of John C. Calhoun’s sisters married into the Custis family as in Martha Custis Washington. When furniture from Mount Vernon was being dispersed his sister asked if he’d like George Washington’s campaign chair. The chair is a fragile looking Windsor style. You have to wonder how it survived being toted about in such rough conditions. We were the only people in the home at the time. So when Steve expressed interest in the chair, the guide dropped the velvet rope and let us go inside the room for a closer look. What a thrill!

history, cemetery

Rusk Family Memorial

cemetery, travel

A Brother’s Sorrow ….                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Another property open for tour is Hanover House which is located on the grounds of the SC Botanical Garden.  This is a rare example of a French Hugenot home. It was originally built in the low country between 1714-1718. Although it had been allowed to run to ruin a state senator felt it was worth saving from impending flood control projects and contacted Clemson to see if they would like to have the property for their Architecture school. It has now been beautifully restored and period furniture shows it off well. The original owner was a French artist whose works were of similar style but pre-dated those of Audubon. Also on the Botanical Garden grounds is a Geology Museum worth seeing.

Hanover House

historical home

Inside Hanover House

John C. Calhoun, history

Fort Hill, Home of John C. Calhoun and Thomas Clemson


Fort Hill on Clemson University campus

Over Labor Day weekend we had a very heavy rain. On Monday when Opal had her morning walk we found that a large branch had come down in front of the truck (not on it, thankfully) and blocked the exit. We weren’t  planning on going out today so when I reported the problem to the gatehouse I told them not to bother anyone to come out on a holiday and that Tuesday would be fine. It hadn’t been more than a half hour when a maintenance truck arrived. They had the limb down and the driveway cleared in ten minutes. Now that’s service.) 

RV travel, camping

No Way Out

Over Labor Day weekend we had a very heavy rain. On Monday when Opal had her morning walk we found that a large branch had come down in front of the truck (not on it, thankfully) and blocked the exit. We weren’t  planning on going out today so when I reported the problem to the gatehouse I told them not to bother anyone to come out on a holiday and that Tuesday would be fine. It hadn’t been more than a half hour when a maintenance truck arrived. They had the limb down and the driveway cleared in ten minutes. Now that’s service.)

We went out to dinner once while in the area to a place that was listed in a brochure about a local music trail. We hoped to find something similar to the Crooked Road. Seems this information was a bit out of date as several of the places listed no longer had live music. The restaurant had changed names and owners from Just BBQ to Smoke and Blue but they were still using the site. It turned out to be a good local place using cafeteria trays and styrofoam plates serving from a steam table. There were people from a five year old celebrating her birthday to college lacrosse players to over four generations of  a family line dancing. The BBQ was very good and you could try any of the five sauces. The music was more country than bluegrass but we enjoyed it very much and even danced a bit.

Just northwest of this area is the start of waterfall country so we set out to find two of them. I thought Steve had put my hiking boots in the truck and he thought I was bringing them. So much for communication! I only had sandals on so had to forego getting down to some of the falls. Next time I’ll double check. The first waterfall is called Issaqueena Falls. Local legend says that Issaqueena was an Indian maiden who fell in love with an English settler around the 1760s. When she learned of her tribe’s plans to attack the settlement, she rode to warn them. She kept track of the distance by estimating miles to the settlement and that settlement became known as Ninety-six and is still known by that today. Fearing that her tribe would take revenge, the lovers went to Issaqueena Falls and pretended to leap off but landed on a ledge below. They escaped the area and lived together for many years. Near Issaqueena Falls is an old railroad tunnel called Stumphouse Tunnel. It was built in an attempt to connect Charleston to Knoxville but succumbed during the Civil War and never was finished. The tunnel is 17 feet wide and 25 feet high. You can walk in about 50 feet before  coming to a gate. It’s pitch black so bring a flashlight. The cool temperature and high moisture level in the tunnel made an ideal environment for the Clemson University dairy program to make the first bleu cheese in the area. The second falls was Brasstown Falls which has a larger Upper Falls and a multi-tiered Lower Falls. The upper Falls is accessed by crossing a knee deep stream and climbing a bank. It’s worth the effort. While visiting Lower Brasstown Falls we were taking pictures when Steve slipped and came down precariously close to the edge. That man will give me a heart attack someday!Steve here… she exaggerates a bit. I was more worried about the camera being damaged than myself. I was there so I’ll settle this. Dad takes too many risks and Mom is a worrier. – Opal

travel, South Carolina

Steve and Opal at Stumphouse Tunnel

Wildflowers Near Waterfalls

waterfall, South Carolina

Lower Brasstown Falls

waterfall, photography

Upper Brasstown Falls in HDR Software

As usual we hated to leave. Another place for “when we come back”.