Monday October South West Virginia
I ate breakfast and checked out as late as I could at The Hampton Inn at Galax Virginia (pronounced “Gay-lax”). I was trying to catch up on some writing and figure out what I might be doing today, and in fact the next few days. My next commitment was not until Friday when I was due in Charleston South Carolina.
I had directions for the Galax Visitor Centre and saw the sign at the local Chamber of Commerce building. The rooms were musty and the brochures were older than the ones I already had. The lady there did give more specific directions to Barr’s Fiddle Shop, which was my first stop. I found a park and noticed another, more official Visitors Centre just over the street. This place had a lot of information and were very helpful. We did spend a while talking about the state of coffee in Galax (which is not that good).
Barr’s Fiddle Shop is a key point on The Crooked Mile Road and has been a Galax icon for almost thirty years. The walls are lined with fiddles, guitars, banjos and mandolins. The Barrs have been making handmade instruments for a long time – there’s also a well-stocked supply of strings, books, CDs and T-shirts as well as electric and bass guitars, drums and amps. The store is owned and operated by Tom and Stevie Barr. Stevie was in store today, looking to see what he was going to do with a mandolin he was building. There’s a picture of him as a youngster with Earl Scruggs and he has a CD coming out. There’s also a candy store section of the shop. You can check out more here.
Another attraction in Galax is The Rex Theatre. Every Friday night, WBRF 98.1 FM sends out 100,000 watts of live old-time and bluegrass music from the stage of this historic Theatre into five states and over the internet. The show is called Blue Ridge Back Roads and thanks to a faithful group of volunteers has become the cornerstone for the revitalization of this seventy-year old theatre. Now owned and operated by the City of Galax, the Rex continues to expand its offerings with vintage movie nights, Saturday concerts and community plays.
Time to move on – west up The Crooked Road. This turned out to be not that easy as the car’s GPS was proving to be a little confused and my US cell phone hasn’t had any network coverage since late yesterday. I was heading to Abingdon and found myself on roads of rolling hills and turns, fields with masses of pumpkins, little settlements of houses, churches were plentiful and looked to be critical meeting places for the communities. Being the second month of Fall here, the leaves are starting to turn and in patches the colour and light was incredibly beautiful. I can imagine the majesty of this in a few weeks time. As it was, the leaves were all over the road and made a farewell wave behind me. Despite trying, no photographs really do these scenes justice. But here’s one anyway.
I arrived at a town eventually. Independence, Virginia to be exact. It has a population of around 1,000 and is in Grayson County.
It wasn’t long before I was on an interstate and sure I was on the right track. The weather had been magnificent early but, within the last hour clouds had rolled in, darkened and become more ominous. I hit Abingdon just as the rain came and luckily stumbled upon Zazzy’z Coffee Roasters, which included a book shop and crafts in a former hotel or b’n’b. It was welcomed. I had been in the car, more or less for four hours and was ready for a coffee and something to eat. It was here I managed to get my phone working which was a relief. After an hour, I had my directions to the The Crooked Road Heritage Trail centre and was there in twenty minutes.
I found Heartwood just as the rain stopped. It is the headquarters of The Crooked Road Heritage Trail and is a new facility with interactive displays, music heritage information, an extensive array of CDs for sale, live performances are here, there’s local craft, wines, a restaurant and a tasteful gift shop. As the Crooked Road hub, Heartwood links musical venues, big and small, all across the region, as well as supporting the work of musicians, young and old and promoting traditional music in schools. A place well worth visiting.
It was late afternoon and I had earlier decided to stay in nearby Bristol (twenty miles away). I was now thinking of making it my base for two or three nights, before heading South for the Southern Grounds festival this coming weekend.
Eventually I found a reasonably-priced motel and, later, my first experience of an Aussie-themed Outback Restaurant. While looking for the restaurant, I espied a Starbucks (handy for tomorrow perhaps?) and a Walmart where I was able to acquire a universal plug adapter and USB charger (as I’d left mine at the last hotel). The retaurant was I must say a little weird, pictures of Uluru and kangaroos on the wall alongside American accents, but I was ready for a steak and vegetables meal.
Tomorrow The Birthplace Of Country Music Museum.