A Rose and a Baby Ruth for Margie

I was driving home from exercise class about noon today, noodling on what I might do for Margie’s Valentine’s Day celebration. I had already settled on cooking her a steak and baked potato, but I needed a little more, even though I had a little candy/cookie giftie hovering around the edges.

I was listening to the oldies radio station out of Lynchburg when the 1950s song “A Rose and a Baby Ruth” (George Hamilton IV) came on, as if in answer to my question and that settled it. The fact is that the song is about a kid apologizing to his girlfriend, but I simply appropriated it for Valentine’s Day.

I stopped in Kroger, picked up a rose and went looking for the candy bar Babe Ruth refused to endorse (he said he didn’t want to be responsible for kids’ rotten teeth, but then he endorsed cigarettes). Thought finding the candy would be the easy part. It wasn’t

I couldn’t find a single Baby Ruth bar. Until i finally found one of those Halloween mini-candy bags–which isn’t the same thing–and I settled for it. It was late and my choices were slim. I had no idea if Margie would remember the song (she didn’t) or get the symbolism (she did). It all worked out pretty well. I got to see that magic smile.

Paint Bank: A Delightful Discovery

Margie and me at the General Store/Swinging Bridge Restaurant earlier today.

They mean it!

On a gray, gloomy, chilly, rainy February 10, Margie and I found the sun out in Craig County. Forty miles out into Craig County to be exact, at the tiny town of Paint Bank.

Paint Bank was named by the Cherokees for the colorful clay they used for pots that comes from its hills and it only has 76 people, according to  a Google search. It rests on the other side of Potts Mountain, 17 miles northwest of New Castle, the county seat. And it is lovely. (Here’s a history of Paint Bank.)

Margie and I drove over this morning in order to scout around and eat lunch at the promising Swinging Bridge Restaurant, hard beside Potts Creek, and take a close look at the Depot B&B, which was equally appealing from its internet presence.

The outhouse is inhouse.

The Swinging Bridge was all it promised and more. It is filled with country kitsch, but avoids the kind of tackiness usually associated with that. There are heads and full bodies of a number of the wild things you can find in rural Craig County throughout the year, so if your taste doesn’t run to dead animals, you might want to pass this one by. I didn’t mind. I found it fun and wished by two grandkids had been there.

The front of the restaurant building is the old general store, dating from the 1920s, I’d guess, and on the mezzanine is a little Christmas store. I don’t normally note the bathrooms of the buildings I visit, but this one was special, a mixture of the modern and the 19th Century.

Chicken salad (on fried roll) with sweet potato fries. Oh, yum!

The food? Ah, the food. It is creative, fresh, tasty and fattening as hell, but I just loved my unique chicken salad sandwich (and, of course, Margie sailed through her chicken sandwich with dill mayo). My sandwich was served on a deep fried sub roll (don’t criticize until you try it) and had strips of bacon and cranberry sauce (YUM!) as a base. I put sweet potato fries on the side (and they came with a scrumptious sour cream/sweet dip that I had to try, but avoid because of my delicate condition).

The Depot is an alluring B&B with a private “tent” across the creek and in an especially private area. The “tent” (which it actually is) is the size of a cabin and looks wildly comfy. It is surrounded by wilderness, including the creek.

Let me recommend that you run up for the lunch or dinner and stay for the bed (and breakfast).

Full view of the General Store/Swinging Bridge Restaurant.

The Depot B&B is inviting even on a gray day.

The Swinging Bridge bathroom: 19th century grace.

Margie with the extensive menu.

Pampa with his buffalo buddy (you can get buffalo burgers).

Margie liked the buffalo, too.

Awaiting lunch and looking around at the kitch.

Margie and me on the swinging bridge … not running.

This caboose is one of the B&B’s rooms. Margie likes it.

A creek runs through it.

This bridge doesn’t swing, but it’s gorgeous.

Running water sends me to the bathroom.

The “tent” is in the background and is private.

Yes, it’s a tent, not a house or cabin.

This would be a great place for late-night smooching.

Love this portrait of Margie. Looks as pretty as she is.

On the way home, back over Potts Mountain, we stopped to take in the Arctic.

Iceman Pampa at the frozen falls.

Winter Hike: Wet, Crisp, Clear, Invigorating

My new-ish Nikes didn’t much like the mud.

There was plenty of color if you looked closely.

February 9 isn’t generally considered to be the heart of hiking season, but today was just fine, thank you. It was clear, crisp and, quite simply, gorgeous in that winter way. And it wasn’t all that gray when you looked closely.

I haven’t been out for a couple of weeks and thought I might feel that today, but I breezed along, enjoying every step on a trail that was mostly soaked, when it wasn’t crunchy with leftover ice.

Here are some photos from the run up Tinker Mountain.

Two different varieties of moss and decaying vegetation make a lovely bouquet.

This ice was thin and small, but slippery.

Rock formation on the way up the mountain.

The view through the trees is splendid in February.

A small creek in the background had thawed and was flowing briskly.

A Bakery for the Flour(less) Child In You

Kathy Hodges checks me and my half-a-loaf out.

I ran in to the attractive little neighborhood bakery Corbin’s Confections at Library Square in downtown Salem a little while ago while waiting to interview a guy for a story I’m writing and found a pleasant surprise.

Corbin’s is for people who like breads and pastries, but don’t do wheat or nuts or a bunch of other modern no-nos. The goodies are all baked on-site and they’re good. You should try one of the bagels made by Kathy Hodges and her daughter Shana Brown. I bought half a loaf of wheat-free, multi-grain bread just to try it (and because it was just about the only thing in the store I could afford at $4. A full loaf is $8).

People who want specialty goods are generally willing to pay premium prices and Corbin’s has those. It also has quality goods. You might want to try it. You can get a loan on your house.

The Case for Roanoke

My pal Dwayne Yancey just posted an invitation on Facebook to sell Roanoke to an outsider and the responses were generally predictable (great scenery, weather, etc.) and I took the opportunity to respond, as well. I’ve lived here since taking a job as a reporter at the daily newspaper in 1971 (which is longer than most natives have lived here, I’d bet).

Here’s my response: “I ditched my hometown of Asheville for Roanoke in 1971 and have never regretted it. Roanoke is a superior place to raise children, to be an immigrant, to be brown or black, to be an entrepreneur, to be young or old (I’ve been both here), to be active and curious, to want good health care, to be ambitious, to seek additional education (regardless of your age or status), to have a good idea, to want to fall in love, to appreciate the arts and to be directly involved in them. It is a good place to begin a family and equally good to retire. It is a region that wants, needs and rewards volunteers and innovators. I don’t like the notation that ‘Roanoke is not … but …’ because Roanoke is.

“Are there problems? Yep. City government is not the nation’s (or even Western Virginia’s) best because it is extremely passive, but the city manager is competent, even when city council isn’t. The Trump population is not overwhelming and the liberal pockets are strong. Women have become acutely political, a good thing. The past two years, the Women’s March has been eye-opening. You can exercise inside at excellent facilities seven days a week or simply hike or bike the extensive greenway system any time you wish. I can have my kayak on Carvins Cove or in the Roanoke River in 15 minutes or be on a mountain hiking trail in a quarter hour. If you like trains, this is a railroad town–which now has passenger service.

Paddling the Roanoke River.

“The airport is beautiful and serviceable for a locality this size (my brother, who travels about 200 days a year says it’s one of the best in the world). Roanoke is a UPS hub and has a good highway system if you want to put a plant here.

“Live music is superb (absolutely top notch talent) and the the Valley produces a jaw-dropping number of nationally known writers. The writers conference I started 11 years ago is one of the best in this region. People who were not born here are welcome here–with open arms.

“The weather is moderate (though some would argue that in mid-January or mid-July), the swimming and skiing superb, the resorts close, B&Bs plentiful, meeting facilities excellent and the welcome warm for all of you. Come see us.”

Dwayne interestingly noted, “Our congressman grew up in Massachusetts. His predecessor was from Chicago by way of New York. Point being, you don’t have to go back many generations to take part in things here, or make a difference. Our mayor grew up in Danville. Our vice mayor grew up in Baltimore. I could go on and on.

“One of our state legislators is the only Muslim member of the Virginia General Assembly. Roanoke certainly isn’t perfect but we seem to be a lot more open to outsiders than other Southern cities. (I should note that the Muslim legislator in question grew up here; although his family immigrated here.) When he ran for office, I don’t recall his faith being an issue at all. He succeeded an African-American legislator, who represented a white-majority district.”

I’d call that “welcoming” even though with our 25-year congressman, it would have been much better had he settled in South Alabama, since that’s his voting pattern.

Junk News Consumers? Mostly Trump Supporters

You’ll recall that a couple of years ago a survey revealed that people who watch Fox News (as a primary source of news) actually knew less about what was happening in the world than people who consumed no news at all. (Story here.)

Now we have a survey from Oxford University (here) that tells us (what we already knew) that hard conservatives and Trump supporters are the biggest single consumers of “junk news.”

“The study linked a full 55 percent of all junk news traffic on Twitter to the Trump Support group. ‘On Twitter, a network of Trump supporters shares the widest range of known junk news sources and circulates more junk news than all the other groups put together,’ the authors noted.

“For comparison, the Democratic Party and Progressive Movement groups together accounted for 1 percent of junk news traffic on Twitter, according to the study.

“On Facebook, the study found that ‘extreme hard right pages—distinct from Republican pages—share the widest range of known junk news sources and circulate more junk news than all the other audiences put together.’ The ‘Hard Conservative’ group accounted for 58 percent of junk news traffic on Facebook. (The Democratic Party group accounted for 12 percent.)”

Among the groups studied were Hard Conservative, Women’s Rights, Conspiracy, Libertarian, Trump Support and Democratic Party. There were 92 sources of junk news.

Endorsing for City Council? Easy

Joe Cobb

Sat next to my old buddy John Garland, a Roanoke City Councilman, a few days ago at Downshift, an interesting little Roanoke coffee bar and bike shop (who knew?) on Campbell Avenue in downtown Roanoke. We chatted a bit as I awaited an interview subject to arrive and the topic–as it generally does with John–turned to local politics.

“Who are you endorsing for city council this spring?” he asked.

“I don’t think there’s any question,” I said. “Joe Cobb and Djuna Osborne are no-brainer selections.” He wanted to know my third pick, since three seats are open. “Nobody,” I said. “I’m really confident Djuna and Joe will actually DO something to affect change, which we need. Nobody else who has announced will do that, in my opinion.

Djuna Osborne

“Joe and Djuna will listen and they will hear and I suspect both will act, since they have a history of doing just that.

“I don’t see another candidate who will offer a change from what we have, which [outside John] is a passive rubber stamp of a council that doesn’t ask questions, doesn’t offer real solutions.

“Joe and Djuna will do both and they will get things stirred up in a positive way. Council seems to have lost confidence in its ability to function without being led by the nose.”

The Good Side of Ice

Ice, as a weather “event,” is like a beautiful old girlfriend who dumped me for a better-looking, more accomplished guy (there are bunches of them). It is absolutely gorgeous, but hardly welcome in my world.

So, here we concentrate on just how lovely ice is without reminding ourselves that it can break trees, crack driveways, sink your roof, bust your butt and even kill you. Pretty, though.

Today’s Find: A Harley Moped

The Harley moped at Charlotte’s Web.

I visited Charlotte’s Webb, an antiques Mall on Main Street in Salem yesterday and ran smack into this little beauty as I entered the front door. It’s a Harley-Davidson moped. I had no idea Harley made bikes this small (50cc), but this baby is gorgeous and it’s price is equally impressive: $2,800. The proprietor said it would go 70 mph, though I can’t imagine why anybody would want to do that.

Charlotte’s Web is a clean, neat, well-organized antiques mall (one of two really nice ones in the Roanoke Valley, the other on U.S. 460 east) that is crammed full of goodies, though the cramming does not block the shopping. I’ve been to malls that had so much stuff in them that shopping was more like “picking” (going through the attic).


Welcome to the Hall, Dwayne Yancey

I was delighted to learn yesterday that Dwayne Yancey has been selected for membership in the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame, class of 2018. He was selected as a journalist, though he has been increasing his stock in recent years as a playwright, one whose plays are being staged internationally and regularly.

Dwayne, a man who gives a whole new definition to the term “scruffy” (and who makes other journalists look less frumpy by comparison), is the editorial page editor of Roanoke’s daily newspaper. He is probably the best ever in that position, certainly the best since I’ve been in Roanoke (1971). His combination of superb writing skill, familiarity with the issues, deep sense of fairness (even to Trump, who doesn’t deserve it), and recognition of what’s important have made his essays a must-read, even though the local daily (owned by Berkshire Hathaway) is not heavily invested in taking political sides–a real shame, I’d say.

His plays, in which he often involves his entire family, have been growing in length, depth, frequency and importance in the past few years. They are quite literally performed worldwide and at any given moment, he will typically have two or three in production. He does that on the side and anybody who has worked with Dwayne will tell you that his free time must be minimal because of the vast amounts of time and energy he puts into his day job. He has always been an embarrassment to his co-workers, who couldn’t keep up his pace.

Dwayne’s book When Hell Froze Over, about Doug Wilder becoming Virginia’s first black governor, was a huge regional hit, but it is as a journalist that he was ushered into the Hall of Fame. We are now teammates in that sense (I was inducted in 2010), so I welcome Dwayne as a new member.