Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Top 5 in Floyd

While in Virgina this weekend, I visited the small town of Floyd. And in fact, this is not my first time stopping in for a visit. When in the area, I try to make sure that Floyd gets on the itinerary. And I encourage you to do the same.

Floyd incorporates many attractive features that makes it a great place to visit. It's a place where artists of all kinds meet and mingle. It's populated by mountain folk, who - in my opinion - tend to be among the most friendly and independent of people. It offers a wide range of cultures and cuisine. And, you can get full bars on your 4G network in the heart of downtown!

There are many, many things that I like about Floyd, but I'll stick to my Top 5. That way, if you get a chance to go, you'll still have the chance to adventure for yourself.

1. Friday Night Jamboree 
The Floyd County Store is the home of the Friday Night Jamboree. But the whole town comes out to celebrate in the festivities of the evening. It's true - you can go to the Country Store (get there early to find a seat) and sit a spell to enjoy the music that's being played right there on the stage in the back of the store; but you can also just walk down the main road through downtown. Musicians (and dancers) set up in the little nooks and crannies on the sidewalk and set to collaborative playing. You'll see any sort of instruments; and hear bluegrass and hillbilly tunes that span from twang to a kind of renaissance flair.

All the shops stay open a little later to take advantage of the crowds. Take advantage of their availability. You aren't going to want to miss out on the treasures that fill up the shops to overflowing. Floyd is the perfect place to find a gift for that hard-to-shop-for person. The items are unique and range from hippie-punk to delicate and flowery - there's also a little sturdy and reliable thrown in there for good measure. We are in the mountains, after all. Check out the New Mountain Mercantile - it's one of my favorite shops!

2. Dogtown Roadhouse
Not your ordinary pizza place! At least, to be truthful, I didn't expect this kind of place to exist somewhere on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the middle of Virgina. Dogtown specializes in wood-fired pizza with creative toppings. I had a pizza there once that sported a Butternut Squash sauce topped with Arugula and Green Apples (among other tasty toppings). I am assuming that you can order the regulars (cheese and pepperoni), but why would you when you can adventure a little further from the safety of the beautiful Sun Music Hall?

Did I mention they also have beer? A variety of taps with some really great local offerings. Come to eat and they stay for the music. They often have performances going on a little later in the evenings. Check out their Facebook page to stay on top of the latest news!

Visit Dogtown Roadhouse - 302 South Locust Street, Floyd, VA

3. Red Rooster Coffee
I learned of Red Rooster Coffee through their Kickstarter project. They were raising money for a new roaster, which would come in handy for the annual Floyd Fest event. Check out their website for more information on the specific kinds of coffees they roast and share with the community (meaning right there in Floyd through their small shop and around the world via their online shop).

They have a Facebook page as well. I follow it and can't help but wish I was in Floyd more often to get my hands on some of their small batch roasts that always sound so good. I read their updates and can't help but smell coffee on the brew.

Visit Red Rooster Coffee - 117 South Locust Street, Floyd, VA

4. The Bread Basket
This jewel of a bakery is a little ways past the downtown area on HWY 8. I would say about 5 minutes, although it always seems longer to me. I think that's only because I am always so darn excited about getting there.

This little place is run by Mennonite women who are stellar shop-keepers. The place is always neat and clean and filled to the brim with tasty things to eat. Check out their fresh baked corner - I would HIGHLY recommend the Snickerdoodle cookies. (Ehem, you may be counted a fool if you don't add them to your basket.) They're also known for their deli (you can order a fresh-made sandwich) and their shelves of bulk items (the veggie chips are the BEST IN THE WORLD). They also house a variety of locally made items: soaps, creams, carved wood items, knitted goods, etc...

Now, I might be a little biased (not that you couldn't tell by my wording), but the best way to know for sure is to visit it for yourself. I would say around lunch time. Order a sandwich, grab some chips (the veggie kind, that way you won't feel guilty when you eat an extra Snickerdoodle) and a drink. If the weather is nice, sit out at the comfy picnic tables in front. A local craftsman made them.

Visit the Bread Basket - 2167 Webbs Mill Road North, Floyd, VA

5. Chateau Morrisette Winery
This is a little bit of a stretch since it's not located in the town of Floyd but in the county of Floyd - ah...details, details. This winery is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway not far from Floyd proper and it is definitely worth the extra traveling, so make sure that you add it to your list of must-sees.

There's isn't anything I don't like about this winery: the tours are interesting, the tastings are generous, the variety of wine types is plentiful, the grounds are lovely, the people are friendly, the restaurant is both beautiful and offers tasty food that highlights local produce...

Oops, my description ran away from me. The point is, if you like wine, take a minute to stop and enjoy all that Chateau Morrisette has to offer, because there's plenty. Stay in touch with them on Facebook to hear about their upcoming events and make reservations online through their website

If I lived closer, they'd see me every Sunday at their Sunday Sounds events. If you're in the area on the day of rest, sit a spell and jam-out to any sort of talented local musicians.

Visit Chateau Morrisette - 287 Winery Road Southwest, Floyd, VA 


And so, that ends my Top 5. I would love you to tell me what makes it on your Top 5 list after you get a chance to visit this awesome place.

Adventure on, my friends!

Friday, May 18, 2012

revisiting mountain zen (with mom)

My friend's family owns property in Meadows of Dan, Virgina. For the last year, I've had the pleasure of visiting the cabin on a handful of occasions and have really come to love the area.

It may help that the area is just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, too that it's near a handful of wineries; also that it nurtures a creative vibe that seems to breed around mountain folk - a creative vibe that's passionate about the land, the people of the land and the love of it all.

Talk about some of the best things in life coming together in one place! It's an area of the country that's full of beauty and creation. Even in the ugly-duck-phase of winter, there is still a resonance of lively things about to burst forth in joyful appreciation of the land and lives around it.

My friend's cabin sits on old family property that's still-green with life. There is an apple tree just in front of the cabin that is laden in the month of August. I made my first homemade applesauce from its harvest last year. There's a dip in the land just beyond the tree and the view from the porch opens up into a vast field. I've picnicked in this field, letting the bright sun and vibrant blue sky remind me of the dreams in my soul. At night, the field and tree line mix into a shared blackness, so that all your attention is focused on the sky chock-full of dazzling stars. On several occasions, covered by the darkness of mountain-night, I've made peace in my heart.

It's a quiet place. It's a perfect space to hide from the busyness of the world, from the insanity of your schedule and focus instead on the untapped creativity that simmers within. Being at the cabin and soaking in the creative vibe that suffuses the local communities is among my most favorite of experiences. I've nicknamed the experience "mountain-zen."

And I've come to crave and appreciate each new opportunity that may come with living through the experience of mountain-zen.


In a couple of days, I'm taking my mom to the cabin and introducing her to the pleasure that exists on top of the mountain.

My friend has been encouraging me to invite her to this place for some time now. And finally, the right time has come. The perfect combination of availability on many fronts has provided an opportunity for me to share this zen space with mom, and I couldn't be more excited. It's a belated Mother's Day gift, but it's a perfect gift and honors the idiom: "Good things come to those who wait."

If there's anyone I know who deserves zen, it's my mom. She works hard - all the time. In the face of roadblocks and cliff-edges, she carves for herself a new path. And she does it in her own special way, with grace and a resolute spirit. Her example continues to challenge me. She encourages me through her actions to join the matriarchs of my family who exhibit strong characteristics of determination, persistence, ingenuity, creativity and passion.

In the last several months, my mother has proven to me that her support in my development as a writer isn't just lip service, it lives in the actions she takes to provide for my well-being. In this way, she feeds the future of my dreams. 

And I stand in awe of her sacrifice; and I swear to myself that her investments won't be in vain.

We're leaving Monday morning to share in mountain-zen. I hope she loves it as much as I do. I hope that the juices of creativity will seep in and add its unmistakable spice to the already simmering pot of her soul.

Like many moms and daughters, we share a special connection - a consequence of both the nature and nurture of our relationship. I hope that we can share this too: the delight and renewed sense of spirit that mountain-zen is known to bring.