Once more we were lucky, as on our first day we went to the Blue Ridge Music Center to a Blue Grass Music Festival – mostly for school age children aged 8 to 18. The Music Center is set in a natural amphitheater with the mountains around as the backdrop; this is in a lovely setting. There’s a covered stage, bring your own seating is in the tall grass on the side of a hill. First up was a little fellow called Carson aged 8, a very talented musician on the fiddle, he was accompanied by his father on guitar and another adult on bass; check him out on his web site www.Fiddling Carson.com Carson introduced all the music and sang a couple of numbers - we were amazed at this very talented little fella.Following acts were: 4 girls who had just graduated from High school, also excellent with a second CD due to be released soon; a family – father, sons and a daughter who were great and four very good dancers. We had a lovely day full of traditional music which we thoroughly enjoyed as the music and dance is similar to our native Irish; just like Ireland we heard songs that told stories - most of the songs seemed to be about lost love or broken hearts. And, you know what they say of the Irish “All their wars are merry and all their songs are sad!”
The next day we turned North on the Blue Ridge Parkway to visit Mabry Mill (originally built and operated by Ed and Lizzie Mabry in the late 19th century) now visited by over 3 million people annually – the Mill Wheel is one of the most photographed places in Virginia. In their original home a lady was carding wool, while another was spinning it and making balls of wool. Ed’s Forge was built of wood except for the fire place, as you can guess sparks set the forge on fire quite often; not to worry with the abundance of trees in the area it took little time to build the next forge. Mabry Mill is a combination timber, grist and woodworking mill (band saws, lathes etc.) the water for which is channeled from the many nearby streams (remember this is at the top of the mountain) into a small canal and then over the large mill wheel. It was fascinating to see how people managed before electricity and how clever and inventive they were.
Memorial Day we drove to Hillsville a relatively big town in the hills where they were holding an enormous Flea Market - as we have little room for chotskies we decided to go for a walk along the river bank which was very pretty, we crisscrossed the river many times.
Our next destination was Huntington near Charleston, West Virginia; as we had a steep climb up to Fancy Gap (3000ft) we were hoping that we had no higher to go – no such luck, there were lots more mountains to come. This was an interesting trip – first off we had another flat tire (caused by valve extensions coming loose), then on the road we went through an absolute deluge which lasted for 40 minutes or more, followed by an hour long traffic backup (a semi had overturned) we traveled ONE MILE in an hour! The people of West Virginia have a saying “if West Virginia was ironed out flat it would be bigger than Texas” we’re inclined to believe it having driven up and down mountains all day.Learning from our Memorial Day panic of having no reservations we spent the next day planning our journey as far as Little Rock, AR which we should reach on July 6th.