The plan for today is to head inland and seek out crafty shops and such and do some sightseeing. John started the morning by washing the dust off his new Venture. The sky was very cloudy/foggy. It almost looked like it could rain. The cabin owners had given Debby directions to some craft places in Paint Bank, which is northwest on 311. We ate breakfast and a little after nine we fired up the bikes and started out.
VA311 was a nice mix of straights and sweepers. We passed a road sign for a gravel road that said Walton's Mountain. We wondered if it had anything to do with the TV show (It didn't). I saw a cool old house that must have been beautiful in its day. Too bad it's just collapsing now. We got behind a semi hauling a roller just as we got to the mountains and the really curvy roads. It was just as well. As we ascended we climbed into the cloud bank and would have to go slowly anyways. A mile or so before the town the truck pulled over and we drifted down the side of the mountain into Paint Bank.
I pulled into the gas station for gas, not knowing this was our destination. This place is cool. The front part of the building is the Paint Bank General Store. The rear part is the Swinging Bridge restaurant. Upstairs is a gift shop with a swinging bridge...hence the name. A girl was trying to get a G-scale model train to run so John and Mike tried to help her out. It was not to be as the locomotive had broken free of the tender and pulled out some control wires. It was a valiant effort though.
They have a water mill in the field behind the store. Mike even tossed some horse shoes. I was standing on the boulder-strewn creek bank thinking 'this would be a good place for snakes' when I saw something about 10 feet away. Snake! It was a water snake and he got under a rock. I was able to get a picture of his head.
The store proprietor told Debby of some Mennonite craft stores "on the other side of the mountain". We decided to find these. The road over the mountain was very curvy, but there was a lot of gravel in the roadway which made things a little treacherous. At Sweet Springs we turned left on WV3 (yes, back in West Virginia) and drove 10 miles to the small community of Gap Mills. They had a craft store and a Cheese & More store, both manned by cute little Mennonite girls. I bought some notepads at the craft store and some dried fruit at the cheese store.
I really like riding through the mountains (bluffs?) of Appalachia. The mountains limit the expansion so things change little. It seems peaceful, fresh, and relaxing. It's not hard to close your eyes and be back in the 1920's. There are no malls, housing additions, storage units, etc...just rural solitude and well-kept, curvy, windy, 2-lane roads.
With our shopping here done we headed back to Paint Bank to the restaurant. When we got there they were very busy so we had to wait 30-45 minutes. The food was excellent though. Later the restaurant manager came over and explained the situation. They had a large group scheduled for 11:30 and another group scheduled for 13:00. The 13:00 group showed up at 11:30, and another scheduled group showed up with more people than planned. While unnecessary, he have us a 10% discount on our meal and free dessert. We all got peach cobbler for Debby.
While we were waiting for a table a couple guys from the Virginia DOT came in. One of the guys came over and talked about bikes with us. When he got ready to leave he said he would leave us new Virginia road maps. When we went outside to leave there was a new Virginia road map laying on each bike. I didn't get the guy's name, but "Thanks!".
Full and loaded down with peach cobbler we headed back west. In Catabwa we had saw signs for a 'Catabwa Hospital' and we wanted to see what kind of hospital it was as Debby is a nurse and John and I are EMTs. It ended up being more a mental facility for addictions and such. We couldn't think of anywhere else to go in the area so we fueled up at our gas station and headed back to the cabin. Later that evening Mike cooked some awesome ribs and we lounged, downloaded pictures, etc, for the rest of the evening. Tomorrow we head home...
Click here for our next day's adventure.