After a successful wedding we had a couple of days to spend in Roanoke. I got no sleep because of coughing, but I still wanted to make the best of our mini-vacation.
We started with a fantastic breakfast at the hotel, then spent the rest of the morning helping Glynda recover. We got the wedding gifts and other paraphernalia packed away, and got her checked out of her hotel. I drove Aaron’s car, Glynda drove hers, and Laura drove our car up to the hotel where Houston and Lynda were staying, and we got together with them and Chip, Anna, and family for lunch.
Having just married off her daughter, Glynda was exhausted both physically and emotionally. She is normally one of our heartiest ramblers, but that wasn’t going to happen today. She stayed back at the hotel, while Houston, Lynda, Laura, and I set off to see what we could find.
Fincastle, the town where Katie and Aaron got married, seemed like a really cool place, so we decided to check it out. Even before we got there, though, I was distracted by a familiar architectural detail – a bell tower on an old school. A historical marker told us that we were viewing the old Daleville College buildings. The Brethren Church is prevalent in this area of Virginia, and the college was founded by that group.
We continued on up through the rolling hills to Fincastle. We first drove past the wedding venue. There were several historical buildings in the area – an old church that was also converted into another wedding venue, a log cabin that was for sale, and several historic houses.
We paused at the Thomas Jefferson-designed courthouse, and the Botetourt County Jail to take a few photos.
Right behind the courthouse we noticed a sign for the Fincastle Museum. Even though it was a Sunday, it appeared to be open.
The museum was small, but had an amazing collection of items from the area. While the items were displayed nicely, it looked like the museum could use some major curation. There were items grouped together because they were physically similar, rather than according to some historical context. They even had the apocryphal “1872 Rules for Teachers” displayed as if it were fact. Despite those flaws, I still think they are doing a great job for a small museum, and we spent awhile looking over the artifacts.
From Fincastle we continued north along Highway 220. The road twisted and turned over several ridges and we gained and lost altitude. Soon we found ourselves between two ridges, and driving along the James River. Across the river we could see the town of Eagle Rock, with a dramatic bridge crossing the river. We had to explore.
First we crossed the river and drove into the tiny town itself. There was a railroad depot, which seemed to still be active, and several storefronts that didn’t look like they got much activity. There was also a dramatic bank facade.
We returned to the bridge over the river and Houston and I got out to walk across and take a few photos.
One of the things that impressed us about the valley were the folded rocks. Terms like “syncline” and “anticline” from my old geology courses started running through my head. As seen in this image from Google Earth, the James River cuts through the ridge here…
The folded rock structure is mirrored on either side of the river.
At the entrance to the town are three unusual stone/brick structures. These were the smokestacks for three large limestone kilns. Some of the old tracks and equipment were still in place. The base of the kilns looked very boggy, and a couple looked like they were standing in water. They made for some interesting photographs.
We continued along the banks of the James on Highway 220, eventually reaching the small town of Iron Gate, and then the larger town of Clifton Forge. Obviously iron production was important at one time in this area’s economy.
We briefly hit Interstate 64 headed west, but quickly exited at the town of Low Moor. Our plan was to take a road that would bring us back to Highway 220 and loop back.
The road twisted through hilly Virginia farmland. At this point I had turned over driving duties to Laura since I was still coughing so badly. We didn’t stop to take many photos at this point, but the scenery was quite nice.
Eventually we saw a sign for the Roaring Run Iron Works, and decided to check it out. This historical area had several hiking trails and a waterfall. I was in no condition to hike, but the iron works were only a short walk away from the parking are, so we decided to check them out.
As we made our way back toward the hotel, the clouds started to build, and by the time we got back it started dumping rain. We had a great Mexican dinner at a little place in Daleville, then headed on back to our own hotel in Roanoke.
On Labor Day proper, Laura and I took our time getting up and about, enjoying another one of the fabulous breakfasts at the hotel. Our plan had been to explore more of Virginia today, but the weather and my illness kind of put a damper on that. Still, we decided to do part of the Blue Ridge Parkway on the way back.
We drove through Roanoke and finally found our way to the Parkway. As we turned onto it we questioned our decision. Even though it wasn’t raining, per se, the fog was incredible. We were driving through clouds. There was little or no visibility in some places, but at least we had the road to ourselves.
Obviously, we didn’t take too many pullouts. We soldiered on, with some partial clearing, but still mostly foggy. I really have no concept of what that part of the parkway was like.
We eventually reached Mabry Mill, one of the most popular (and most photographed) sites on the Parkway. Even with the fog it was crowded. There were at least 20-30 photographers lined up to get the exact same shot. This one…
Laura hung out at the pond looking at the fish while I took a few more photos.
Shortly after this we picked up I-77 and headed on back south and toward home. Despite my illness, it had been a great trip, and a lovely wedding.