September 29, 2023

It’s like Virginia is becoming my second home.

This is at least my third trip to Old Dominion in the past three years although there might have been a fourth adjacent to a Washington D.C. visit. Two years ago, for work, we flew in to Virginia Highlands Airport near the southwest Virginia town of Abingdon, before eating a wonderful Southern lunch in town and visiting a couple work sites, in Max Meadows and Toms Brook.

Abingdon is a little more than 8,000 people, and I distinctly remember the restaurant where we ate. I couldn’t remember what it was called, but they served the best grits dish I’ve ever had. Fantastic restaurant. I’m searching my phone for photos right now. Hold on. Surely, I took photos. That’s why one does so: to preserve memories of magnificent meals. How does one ever remember what they ate otherwise?

And here’s what I found: We ate at the Bone Fire Smokehouse, and the dish to which I referred was the White’s Mill Grit Cake: “fried jalapeno cheese grits from locally ground grits from the Historic White’s Mill. Served three on a plate with our famous Grit Sauce and topped with goat cheese and scallions.”

One of the best eats ever.

I’m highly disappointed in myself that I didn’t take a photo of the dish. But here’s one of the empty restaurant at noontime. What was I thinking?


I remember thinking: what a neat little joint and quaint small town.

On to Toms Brook and Max Meadows. Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores have locations there, and that was the business reason for the venture. The traveler in me couldn’t help but notice the beauty of our scenery, however.

Tall trees, greenery everywhere and mountains were the backdrop. The mountains were so tall that they rose beyond some low-sitting clouds. I believe the area is geographically known as the Tennessee River Watershed, and the greenery of what I am seeing appears to be the far-southwestern edge of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest.

I remember thinking: the people who live here get to look at this every day. So lucky.

Other Virginia trips before this most recent:
I’ve been to suburban D.C. several times. When I visit our nation’s capital, I often spend time in Alexandria. Super nice. Super affluent. Colonial yuppie might be the best way to describe it. Smart people, military careerists, political operatives and high-achievers.

I went for a trail run in 2017, probably the coldest run I’ve ever done. It might have been 38 degrees. However, I remember that the city had designated quite a long stretch of blacktop to those who enjoyed running. Was hyper-impressed.

And now I’m on my second trip to Lake Anna in north-central Virginia, just southwest of Fredericksburg and northwest of Richmond. It’s a beautiful getaway for folks who want a leisurely weekend or who like water activities. I’m not a swimmer, boater or any of the sort. I enjoy looking at the water, but that’s about it. Here are some photos from the beautiful lake house and lake front.

But I am a runner. So, my first quest was to find somewhere I could run, and there is not much available best I can tell. You sure can’t run along the winding roads near Lake Anna and Spotsylvania, not unless you want to get hit by a car. During my first visit to Lake Anna in 2016, I was able to run near the lake house where we stayed, mostly because it wasn’t traveled and there was a shoulder, albeit slight.

Our lake house for this visit is on top of a tall hill (the Stubbs Cove overlook), and the road up to the house is quite treacherous.

Kristi suggested I try Lake Anna State Park, so that’s what I did. She always has good ideas. Being that it was Memorial Day weekend, I was expecting a big crowd at the park. That was not the case. It cost $7 to utilize trail parking, and the ranger informed that the only trails were on dirt.

I needed to run. Dirt it was.

The first path was called ‘Sawtooth Trail,’ and I quickly figured out that if I didn’t want to break an ankle, I needed to plant my feet carefully. There was nobody out here aside from a father and two kiddos bicycling and a solitary deer trying to escape my view. I needed to pay attention to where I was going lest I be the subject of a future news story.

The man’s vehicle was found outside the trail. His body was found only 50 feet from its exit.

“Oh, he almost made it, Marge,” Joe said.

“Too bad. If only he had taken lots of photos along the path,” Marge replied.

I was paying attention, not only to my surroundings but to my feet. Ended up running and hiking close to five miles on the afternoon. And I took a handful of photos to boot. The humidity was set to “swamp,” so I had sweated a pound off my fightin’ weight.




Like a dingbat, I didn’t wear any insect repellent either, so I wasted no time getting into a shower and washing the bugs and dirt away. The more that I run, and the more that I run when I travel, the more I realize the need for a running list of things to take with me when I go.

Speaking of lists, I then had a grocery list of items to get for the night’s festivities, which included a rehearsal dinner for a wedding. Kristi’s sister was getting married, and that’s why we were here. We had visited here for her birthday a couple years ago, and we had a great time.

I also needed to get some copies made on a Memorial Day weekend in a part of the world unfamiliar to me — so I did what I always do when I need to find my way. I looked for a Walmart or a Target. There are usually all sorts of businesses near either, and in this case I found a FedEx Office nearby the local big box.

Mission accomplished, although I was a bit disappointed by this particular Walmart’s selection of sports apparel. That’s how I make any trip to the big box stores interesting; I look for sports gear. I figured I might be able to find a Washington Capitals t-shirt on the cheap (since they’re in the Stanley Cup Finals) or a Virginia Cavaliers or Virginia Tech Hokies shirt. Nope, the only thing they had was for the Washington Nationals. Blech.

On this getaway, I’ve even found some time to read and write, which I count as a big win. I’m currently reading “Blue Highways” by William Least Heat-Moon.

And this doesn’t at all feel like this is the last time I’ll be at Lake Anna either. In fact, the whole Virginia-Washington D.C.-Baltimore area is feeling awfully familiar to me these days.

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