"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Friday, June 30, 2017

Country Roads - West Virginia

Lewisburg, West Virginia
Lewisburg Fairgrounds

Take me home, country roads... John Denver had it right!  Steve's family is from the tiny town of Ronceverte, WV, population 1753.  We hadn't been here to visit for many years so we were looking forward to our time here.  Most of his family moved to Virginia over the years but he still has a dear aunt and some cousins here. 

Many farms on rolling hillsides.

Our drive from Kentucky and through the lower part of Virginia was short and uneventful.
Always a surprise to look up and see this on the freeway.

This week we'd be settled in at the fairgrounds in neighboring Lewisburg.  This is where the State Fair is held.  They have thousands of campsites!  Since there was only a couple of us here, we had plenty of space.  We chose a spot near the front because it had a couple of trees for shade.  It was very hot and humid!  We haven't really had much of that up to this point.
Full hookups, $27.  We were lucky as the Greenbrier Classic PGA Tournament was going on at the nearby ritzy Greenbrier the following week and the fairgrounds would be packed.  They also jack the prices up to $50 a night. 
The Greenbrier is a National Historic Landmark and world-class resort since 1778.  For over 235 years, the natural mineral springs have brought visitors here including 26 Presidents.  It is a gorgeous place!  We've only seen it.  Steve's cousin, Aaron, works here and invited us to come have lunch. Well, they have a very strict dress code of resort/formal attire.  NO denim of any kind.  Well, that counts us out!  Maybe another time.
There are tours offered of the declassified Bunker at The Greenbrier. It takes you behind the scenes and walks you through a deep, carved path into the mountainside.  Beneath the West Virginia Wing is an emergency Cold War fallout shelter which was once a top secret U.S. government relocation facility for Congress. The tours are $34 each.  We haven't done this yet but would like to.
We spent a day in Ronceverte so Steve could drive down memory lane once again. Ronceverte is a railroad town.  Part of the C&O lines that connected Pocahontas County to Hinton, and to Clifton Forge, Virginia. Ronceverte was part of the "Gravel Girtie" line where train cars were sent to the limestone quarry at Fort Spring and loaded with crushed lime. During World War II the lines carried German prisoners of war.  Many of his family members worked for the railroad or in the nearby coal mines.  --Update-- I received info from family members that the crushed limestone came from a quarry in Snowflake, not Fort Springs.  I got the info from the train station in Ronceverte.  When I did more research I found some of the time it referred to Snowflake and other times it was Fort Smith.  Both towns are located very close together.

Steve's great grandfather once owned the hardware store in town.  You can barely make it out anymore painted on the red brick.
Lee & Son Hdwe, Inc.
Not much to this town anymore, but like many others, there is a revitalization going on.
We visited the cemetery and brought fresh flowers.

We also drove to his grandparents property.  Much of the land has been sold off over the years and the old homestead burned down several years ago.  It is very overgrown now.

This is the old drive.  Too thick to even walk through.

Still some pretty old buildings and homes along the river.

The Greenbrier River.

There are a few covered bridges in the area too.

Big, beautiful farms and horse ranches.
I do love to hear his stories of spending summers at his grandparents.  Pointing out where they used to play, get ice cream, swim and get into trouble.  Remember how some things "back then" seemed bigger?  He was surprised when he showed me a place they called Hamburger Hill that they used to run up and down.  Well, it's really more like a 10 foot dirt embankment!  We had a good laugh over that one.
Ever hear of Salt Rising Bread?  Me neither until I met Steve.  It is a dense white bread that was widely made by early settlers in the Appalachian Mountains, It is leavened by naturally occurring bacteria rather than by yeast. Salt Rising bread is made from a starter of potatoes instead of sourdough starter.  Rotted potatoes. The bread starter requires a shorter incubation period and a higher incubation temperature.  The bread has a distinctive taste and odor. The pungent odor of the starter has been described as similar to "very ripe cheese".  Not to be insulting, but to me it smells like vomit.  And when it's in the toaster, whew, look out!

So my mission while Steve was working was to find one of the few bakeries around that still makes it.  It involved an hour drive down a windy road that took me through even smaller towns.  It was a beautiful drive.  One particular town caught my eye and I parked and walked about a little.  The town of Union had a monument behind the cemetery that needed investigating.  I love walking around old cemeteries and this one also had a geocache hidden there.  Bonus!
I read about the Confederate monument and the battles that took place here as well as many amputations.  I also found the cache hidden cleverly in the far corner under a tree.  It was a log made out of Styrofoam and painted perfectly.  I would've like to have spent more time here but I was on a mission to get 4 loaves of the stinky stuff they were holding for me before they closed.

The scenery was so pretty and the Antebellum style homes were everywhere.  Reminded me of Gone with the Wind.  I did get to the bakery and bought the 4 loaves of bread.  Across the street was an Amish Store.  I bought a big slice of Parmesan cheese which I mostly ate on the way home.  It was pretty good!
My week was filled with visiting the Historical Society to see if I could find any new genealogy on Steve's family.  There wasn't anything new I hadn't seen in previous years so I spent most of the time chatting with some older gentlemen that seemed to know many of Steve's relatives from long ago. 
After dinner we cached a little more and discovered there is a component to Geocaching called Benchmarking.  Not sure exactly how it works yet, but it involves locating benchmarks that are usually on old, historic buildings or places.  This one was on the Post Office.  1961 isn't that old, but it was fun finding it.  We may look more into this, but regular 'ol Geocaching keeps us busy enough.

Of course we had to pop into the Greenbrier Valley Brewing Co.  Steve sampled a few, but wasn't all that impressed.

The beer wasn't so impressive but the brewery itself was.

Last but not least, our main reason for visiting was to see Bob and Sally.  We call her Aunt Sally.  While she isn't actually related, she was raised with his Mom and they were closer than sisters.  We are very fond of her.  Being with her is like being with a little piece of his Mom (who passed serveral years ago. )
Steve, Sally & Bob.

We visited with them a few times while we were there.  On our last day we went to their house and Aunt Sally made us a wonderful home cooked Pot Roast meal with all the fixins'.  It was so good!
They have a beautiful home and we enjoyed a lot of Front Porch Sittin'.

Later that night we were able to meet up for a drink with one of Steve's cousins, Aaron. He's the one that works at the beautiful Greenbrier Resort.  We were very thankful to them for spending time with us so late at night as they both are crazy at work with the PGA about to go on.
Aaron, Susan and their son.
Thank you Susan for the jars of pickles.  They are delicious!
Next up: More family time in Virginia and a Class Reunion.


  1. We spent the night at that fairgrounds but didn't get to do any exploring. Not sure we'll make it back there or not so enjoying your travels and pictures.

    1. Glad we weren't there with all that crazy golf stuff about to happen! It is pretty countryside.

  2. Benchmarking, huh? Sounds interesting; have to let me know how it works once you figure it out!! Looks like you guys had fun!!

    1. Hard to find it (on geocache), but we did like the interesting places/buildings it takes you.

  3. Your site at the fairground looks so peaceful. I can't imagine the craziness about to happen once the tournament starts. Hopefully you get to take Aaron up on that visit to the Greenbriar Resort. Ron and I were in Incline Village earlier this week. I did a Geocache search and noticed a nearby ghost cache located at the former site of Bonanza-The Ponderosa Ranch. Unfortunately it's closed and fenced off but we did see some of the buildings from the road. So now we have the Nevada souvenir on our geocache profile page :-) It's wonderful that you get to relive some of Steve's childhood memories: 10' foot high mountain, LOL :-))

    1. I'll bet you were happy with the cooler temps! Did you ever get to go to the Ponderosa? It was such a cool place. I guess not many of the younger generations know about it and I'm sure the property value is much better put to some other use. I think we found that cache. If it's still in play it should be attainable without going through/over fences. It was a great whirlwind visit with family and friends in WV and VA. Most of the rest of our trip through September will be with RV friends and some other friends. Having fun! Thought of you guys when I saw the playground here was roped off due to some type of damage on the slide.

    2. Definitely! It was mid 80's compared to 105 at home. Ron did get to see the Ponderosa when he was younger but not me. The geocache is simple: to 'find' it you just post a photo of the surrounding area. I know that's the name of your rig so I had to get this one! It's always a bummer to see a broken slide... The kids are so happy to have it back. In fact, when we were in Incline Village a little girl gave us a flower she picked from a nearby bush and said thank you for fixing the slide :-) So sweet!

  4. Replies
    1. It was nice to sit out there in the evening watching the fireflies, drinking ice tea! Just like a country song, right?

  5. Clara (Dowdy) House.January 13, 2018 at 6:58 AM

    Correction. Limestone was crushed and shipped out of Snowflake. Not Fort Spring. My dad was Forman and oversaw all the crushing and filling the box cars for shipping.

    1. Hi Clara. My information came from the railroad station in Ronceverte. I researched it more after your comment and found references to both Snowflake and Fort Spring. On a map it looks like they are very close to each other. Thank you for the info, I'll add Snowflake.

  6. Here's a comment from Steve's Cousin (Mom's Sister Corrine's daughter)Clara...Snowflake was a settlement on the other side of the mountain from Fort Springs and where they produced all the limestone...and, this is just for your edification..harry.. Clara House After reading this one posting needs correction. Limestone was not crushed and shipped from Fort Spring. It all came out of Snowflake. My dad (Allen Dowdy) was tipple forman overseeing the crushing, grading, filling the box cars and have them ready for shipping out to all over the country.

    1. Hi Uncle Harry. After Clara's note I did a little more research. My information came from the railroad station in Ronceverte. I researched it more and found references to both Snowflake and Fort Spring. On a map it looks like they are very close to each other. Thank you for the info, I'll add Snowflake.


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