You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
Brief winter explorations: Boone, NC, Harrisonburg, VA, and of course Staunton
First, Boone, NC
It's 10 December 2019 and we've driven miles south to find better weather, and this is what we get for our pains. We're in the La Quinta in Boone, NC, for reasons that will emerge. Dinner at Proper downtown, very good, nice ambience.
The next morning -- oh jeez.
It's a very nice La Quinta, and to be recommended for the next time you're passing through Boone, NC. Pets welcome.
Boone, NC, is a more or less amiable little town of about 20,000 souls, the seat of Watauga County in the western highlands of the state at about 1,000m altitude.
Despite how far south it is, this place, as we've found, can be brutally cold at times.
Our purpose was to investigate the town thoroughly, but perhaps we'll go and spend the morning browsing for treasures in the thrift shop.
Boone seems to be a functional little town, with few grand pretensions, except for some having to do with the 'legendary frontiersman' ole Dan'l Boone (known to me as Fess Parker), e.g., the Daniel Boone Native Gardens and its 'collection of North Carolina native plants in an informal landscaped design'.
The fortress aspect of the county courthouse, with formidable security and a lively trust in You Know Who.
Celebrating a bit of Boone history, when northern Gen. George Stoneman led cavalry raids in 1865 through Virginia and North Carolina, of the kind that in the 100 Years War were called chevauchée, destroying everything in their path. Stoneman is memorable for several reasons, first as Stonewall Jackson's roommate at West Point, also as perhaps the highest ranking US prisoner of war (Sherman bailed him out, in Macon, Georgia), and subsequently as the Governor of California, 1882-1886, though his party did not nominate him for a second term.
The country administration building on the main drag, King Street. Boone is also the home of the Appalachian State University, a part of the University of North Carolina system with some 19,000 students.
A law firm with a great many Eggers (some of whom, though, may now be silent partners)
A colorful 'mini mall' on King Street
Another antiques store (I'm waiting in the sunlight across the street)
The local tattoo clinic, no town should be without one, or several.
Chilling out, literally, waiting for antiques browsers to complete their investigations
One of Boone's most noteworthy sons (aside from ole Dan'l Boone) was Doc Watson, the blind bluegrass guitarist (1923-2012) who was as legendary for his music as ole Dan'l Boone was for catching racoons. To make hats out of.
The Boone Bagelry
A something-or-other contributed by the Turchin Center For the Visual Arts, located near the Boone Saloon and the Baptist Student Center.
Vietnamese or Thai cuisine can be very warming, even out on the front porch in sub-zero weather.
Here's the attractive Wild Craft Eatery on King Street, seen from the sidewalk in front of the Boone Saloon -- but this evening we dined again at Proper downtown, very good, nice ambience.
The next day, 12 December (22°F), we're driving south in the Blue Ridge mountains towards Blowing Rock, sightseeing and . . .
. . . stopping in for a peek at every 'antiques mall' we may come across.
Looks like someone hasn't been keeping up with the progress of our great American civilization.
Blowing Rock and Lenoir were not terribly exciting, so we're moving on westward to visit the apparently famous Grandfather Mountain. There it is.
The countryside is generally attractive enough, and it's a nice scenic sort of drive, with the car heater on.
We're almost there -- about to be welcomed by a mountain lion, it seems.
Nice mountain, but it turns out that they wish to have a sizable sum of money before we can proceed. So we do proceed, but not there. They can keep their old mountain, anyway. Back north to Boone, NC, and dinner at Proper downtown, very good, nice ambience.
Choupette, in a pink harness for the car, is ensuring that she won't be left behind. We're off the next day, driving in grim weather through awful poverty in eastern Tennessee, to or near Kingsport, a small Quinta room near I81. Dinner at Cracker Barrel, awaiting the arrival of Emily, Clinton, and Hazel to hand over Pugsley and Wednesday for a couple of weeks of catsitting.
La Quinta near Kingsport, TN -- Emily on the phone, preparing to start back to Nashville.
Kingsport might be a fantastic place to visit, but from this angle, we can only think about getting back onto the highway for home.
Back in Staunton
The Presbyterian Dog Church (what would the anti-heretical Fourth Lateran Council, in 1215, have thought of this one?)
The St Francis church in Staunton, no heresy problems there. (In fact, St Francis attended the anti-heretical Fourth Lateran Council, in 1215, and they loved him.)
It's often hard to tell anymore who's a real patriot and who's not, but thoughtful people try to make it easier for us to distinguish between them.
N. Augusta St., and the Augusta Street United Methodist Church
271 N. Lewis St., a few blocks over (reminiscent of The Haunting of Hill House)
Late afternoon sunlight
St Francis and associated charitable establishments
Pugsley and Wednesday are staying with us for a few weeks, and making themselves at home.
If they suddenly go missing, we'll know where to look for them.
The Staunton rail station, in this iteration dating from 1902 -- the first one was built in 1854 but destroyed by the Union army in 1864.
Looking up New Street towards Mary Baldwin University (in white)
And down East Frederick, with the Presbyterian Church on the left and the Mary Baldwin campus up on the left. The Woodrow Wilson birthplace and presidential library is about two meters out of the frame on the left. Our condo building, the Old Y, is next to the farthest traffic lights.
A flying visit to Harrisonburg, VA
With inconsequential business to conclude in Harrisonburg, half an hour north of Staunton on I81 or US Rte 11, we're poking round a bit awaiting our appointment. 18 December 2019.
The main street in Harrisonburg is called 'Main Street', otherwise known as US Rte 11 or the 'Lee Highway'
That's the Rockingham County Circuit Court, on its own little green island in the centre of town. Harrisonburg, like Staunton, is an 'independent city', not part of its surrounding county, but serving as the county seat nonetheless.
It's a pleasant enough city of 55,000 citizens (twice the population of Staunton), and is the home of the well-regarded James Madison University, with more than 20,000 students. The original owner of 5,000 hectares of the area in the mid-18th century, Thomas Harrison, deeded various portions of the present town centre (then called 'Rocktown') in 1779 and 1780 and thus acquired naming rights to the whole thing.
A Harrisonburg skyscraper. On this corner, there was once Hill's Hotel, demolished in 1905, where died James McNeill in November 1863. In 1862 McNeill had recruited a band of men in what's now West Virginia, 'McNeill's Rangers', to conduct partisan guerrilla raids on Federal camps and supply dumps. In October 1864 he was wounded when his unit attacked Union troops in Mount Jackson 25 miles up the road, and he was brought to Hill's Hotel, where he died a month later. His son Jesse took over and in February 1865 the Rangers kidnapped Generals Crook and Kelley from an hotel in Cumberland, MD, transported them to Hill's Hotel here, and entertained them until they were exchanged. The band surrendered in April 1865.
This place really is a gem -- planted right in the centre of the so-called 'Historic Downtown Harrisonburg'.
This is the central library of the Massanutten Regional Library system, with seven locations in the region. Massanutten is the name of the long mountain that runs down the centre of the Shenandoah Valley from here almost 50 miles to the north ('north' is 'down' in the Shenandoah).
It's a fairly ample collection in this building, presumably with an interlibrary loan arrangement with the other locations, and all of the usual public library services nowadays, like computer use, large print books, a children's section, etc.
In the period of 3 to 15 February, the library is running a 'Food for Fine$' programme for users to pay off overdue fines: 1 can/box/package of food for charity = $1 off the fines.
Across the street from the library, here's the interesting-looking Asbury United Methodist Church, but we'll let it go for today; there are well-bundled-up people sleeping in front of all the doorways.
Apparently the Methodist Church's drive-through window
Main Street, seen from the Methodist Church and adjacent Virginia Quilt Museum (closed today, alas)
The Massanutten Library and the Valley Turnpike Museum, ground zero for Historic Harrisonburg. We're heading home now, down US 11, the old 'Valley Pike' long used by Native Americans and subsequently by European settlers heading either here or out west through the Appalachians by the Cumberland Gap.
It's well known that the most patriotic Americans are generally the used car dealers, all of whom compete against one another in the size of their commitment, and flags.
These two seem pretty evenly matched, but . . .
. . . here's the most patriotic one. So far (we're scarcely out of town yet).
Choupette's annoyed that we've stayed away all afternoon.
Here's Choupette taking good care of Wednesday and Pugsley, which are in fact her half-siblings.
Next stop: Cat hijinks, and Christmas in Staunton