Friday, August 13, 2010

Riding Virginia Rail Trails--Day 2

August 12, 2010
New River Trail and Wytheville
The New River Trail runs for 57 miles along a rail bed abandoned by the Norfolk Southern Railroad after the local lead and iron ore mines closed down. Most of the trail parallels the poorly named New River, which is in reality one of the oldest rivers on our planet. Some believe that the only river older than the New is the Nile.

Our cycling group from Coastal Georgia/Carolina swelled to twenty today, and we all caravanned from our hotel to a trailhead at about the mid-point of the New River Trail. From there, although we all traveled south, the group quickly dispersed as subgroups enjoyed the trail with widely varying riding styles. Our style was slow and easy, with plenty of stops to enjoy the scenery, take photographs, and read informational signs.

Although we didn’t have the advantage of altitude or of not having to pedal today, as we did on yesterday’s downhill coast, we still had a far more pleasant ride than we expected for a day with temperatures hitting the 90s. Most of the trail was through dense woods, and the pedaling was pretty easy, because the path was well-graded hard packed fine gravel and the slope was so gradual we could hardly discern anything other than flat most of the time.

We marveled at the work it took to build this railway on such rugged terrain—varying from hillside to cliff face. It made for a fun ride—peppered with plenty of trestles and even a tunnel blasted through a rock promontory.

We rode to a spot where the river, which is wide and shallow, seemed to disappear a quarter mile from the base of a small hydro dam, behind which the rest of the river lay. Then we turned around and rode back to our car.

After cleaning up, we drove to Wytheville, where the group had dinner reservations at an historic log house. Dick and I headed to town early, to get in a little sight-seeing before dinner. Our first stop was a fabric store having a sale they called “Fabric Frenzy,” and it had the desired effect on me. I left with fifty pieces of batik fabric. Then we headed just a little further down Main Street to see our kind of road side attraction--a thirty foot long pencil that has hung in front of a local office supply store for over fifty years. Could this be the world’s biggest pencil?

Not far away, in the heart of downtown, is the birthplace of Edith Bolling, who grew up to become Mrs. Woodrow Wilson. Part of her home is now a museum which “shows how her childhood in Wytheville helped shape her future” as First Lady. Unfortunately, the museum was closed for the day by the time we got there.

This is the Log House Restaurant, which seems to have gotten addition after addition over the years, resulting in a maze of intimate dining rooms with rough log walls, wide plank floors and lots of charming atmosphere. A funky garden out back is full of vegetables, herbs, flowers, and lots of tasteful and delightful garden statuary that is for sale. Several apple trees are dropping green apples (watch your head!) near the little pen you can go in to pet the rabbits, and there is a bigger racket than you would expect from the little quails in the cage by the gazebo. The restaurant’s highly eclectic gift and antique shop offers a little diversion while waiting for a table. I couldn’t resist a four foot tall hand-carved very weathered wooden mermaid. She just fits in the back of the car.

When we all finally got together over dinner, it didn’t matter that the service was exceptionally slow—we enjoyed having plenty of time together sharing our day’s adventures and planning for our ride tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. The Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum thanks you for the mention on your blog post. We are very sorry to have missed your visit. If you are ever back in the area, please stop by and see us. If you have a group, let us know in advance and we can schedule a group tour that might be more conducive to your schedule.