Winging It

My last post ended with me bugging-out of Breaks Interstate Park earlier than anticipated due to approaching thunderstorms. I’d mapped-out a route the previous evening that took me on a meandering trek along and south of the Virginia/Kentucky border through the counties of Dickenson, Wise, and Lee. (I’m trying to hit all of the counties in Virginia.)

Since the radar images I’d seen had looked so ominous, I eliminated some of the higher-elevation roads, following a route that should still take me through all three of those counties.

The first part of the route was especially nice. And I actually got to enjoy the twisty roads as I outran the rain.

As I was making my way past Norton, I noticed signs for the High Knob Lookout tower and made a spur-of-the-moment decision to check it out. I’m glad I did. The road to and from the tower was reminiscent of riding in the Swiss Alps, except with a lot more trees.

Blue Sky!
Blue Sky!

I’d remembered reading about the spot at some point, which is described on the virginia.org website as follows:

 A brand new observation tower with a long history opened in 2014 atop High Knob Recreation Area. At an elevation of 4,223 feet, the original tower built in the 30s burned down 40 years later. In 1978, Flatwoods Job Corp. built a new three story tower that met its demise by arson in 2007. Thanks to a dedicated community of volunteers in partnership with the Clinch Ranger District, a new, fire-proof tower to compliment and showcase the spectacular view of 5 states was erected. It has become a symbol of hope, like the legendary phoenix rising from the ashes, offering locals and visitors alike an unparalleled view from Stone Mountain.

I’m glad I decided to visit when I did. I pretty much had the whole place to myself. I only passed one other vehicle on my way up to the tower and back down! The place would probably suck during prime season, as the road is so narrow, steep, and jam-packed with very tight curves I can almost guarantee it gets clogged by very poky four-wheeled-vehicle traffic.

View from High Knob Lookout Tower (Stone Mountain)
View from High Knob Lookout Tower (Stone Mountain)

The view was impressive. And ominous, depending on which direction I was facing.

View from High Knob Lookout Tower (Stone Mountain)
View from High Knob Lookout Tower (Stone Mountain)

 

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View from High Knob Lookout Tower (Stone Mountain)

It was pretty clear that I’d be getting wet at some point that day.

High Knob Lookout Tower (Stone Mountain)
High Knob Lookout Tower (Stone Mountain)

 

View from High Knob (Stone Mountain)
View from High Knob (Stone Mountain)

It was quite windy up there, and I enjoyed watching the clouds scurry across the sky.

The road to and from High Knob Lookout Tower (Stone Mountain)
The road to and from High Knob Lookout Tower (Stone Mountain)

It only drizzled a little as I made my way back town the mountain. I continued west and south, heading toward the town of Pennington Gap for no other reason than it sits in Lee County. I also wanted to ride through Gate City, Virginia, in the complete opposite direction. That’s why, soon after passing the Lee County sign, I decided to nix Pennington Gap, and headed south then east along US-58.

I’m glad I did, because I saw some fun stuff along the way. Like this cute farm.

Cute Little Farm
Cute Little Farm

Really, just look at the animals among the Buttercups. 😊

Cute Animals
Cute Animals

Here’s some more stuff I saw along the way…

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Barn Quilt

 

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Cows

A little further along, I came to an almost-screeching stop when I spotted two barn quilts along the highway. This cow was quite intrigued by me.

Curious Cow
Curious Cow

 

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Barn Quilt

I had to backtrack a bit, on foot, to get an acceptable shot of the other one.

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Barely acceptable barn quilt photo.

My “friend” kept an eye on me the entire time.

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Curious Cow

I continued into Gate City from there. I did a few laps of the downtown area looking for their elusive LOVEwork. I was hungry, so sorta gave up on finding the LOVEwork (it had been missing two years ago, too, the LAST time I rode to that remote town specifically to see the LOVEwork!).

I pulled into the parking lot of a very small diner. Just as I dismounted, it started raining. Pouring, actually. Perfect timing! I was able to site and enjoy a leisurely lunch of fried pickles along with a homemade cheeseburger and French fries. It was all delicious.

I plotted the rest of my route while I ate. As luck would have it, as I pulled out of town onto the main highway, look what I saw!

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Gate City LOVEwork

I didn’t even care that it was still raining. I was so tickled to see the LOVEwork. What are the chances of my getting to that very remote part of the state again any time soon?

From there, it was off to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, to see something I’d been wanting to see for a few years.

I LOVE Barn Quilts

Surprised Barn
Surprised Barn

When I started my quest to visit and capture pics of all the LOVEworks in Virginia, I wasn’t thinking that more would keep getting added. Back then, there were less than 50. Now, there are over 70 on the list. And I know of at least two that have yet to be listed. So I have no idea how many there actually are.

Monterey, which sits at the intersection of US-250 and US-220 — both fabulous motorcycle roads — is always a pleasant place to visit. (Something I learned recently, which may also interest some of you, is that US-250 is part of what used to be known as the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike.)

I do remember having read about the Monterey LOVEwork in Highland County becoming the 50th LOVE artwork. And I’d vaguely remembered reading about the Highland County LOVEwork and why they’d chosen to use a quilt theme. According to the Virginia.org website:

The LOVE letters in Highland County celebrate the rural landscape and heritage of this scenic community. In recognition of the many barn quilts located throughout the county, the LOVE letters used traditional quilt block patterns to highlight the many special features in Highland. L uses Maple Block to celebrate our maple products and popular festival in March, O uses the Double Wedding Ring to recognize our family heritage and sense of community, V is painted in Flying Geese to show our love of our wildlife and farm animals, and the E uses the Log Cabin block to represent our country style and love of home.

It was only after I saw that first barn quilt on the mountain east of Monterey that I remembered the connection.

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The first barn quilt of the trip.

I didn’t follow the trail during my recent trip, but I did see some very nice barn quilts along the route I eventually chose to take though the county (US-250 west into West Virginia).

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Ugly building, pretty barn quilt.

That one was right in town. I suspect maybe that one was sponsored by the town, since that sort of looks like a public works-type building.

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US-250 is a FUN road.

My camera was not tilted, the road is banked. 🙂

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Scenery along US-250 just west of Monterey.

 

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More barn quilts.

 

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Doesn’t that one look lovely on the white barn?

 

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Intricate Design

Monterey is only about 15 miles west of the VA/WV border. It was taking me a lot longer than anticipated to cover those few miles, what with all the stops. (That’s the sort of thing the would drive my Hubby crazy.)

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Some folks have more than one barn quilt. I thin.

The next one is certainly one of my favorites. I suspect it os owned by the same folks whose house is pictured immediately above, but I don’t know for sure.

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Bee Barn Quilt!

Do you love that one, too?

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The road surface could use a little work, but it’s still awesome.

You have to look a bit harder to find some of the barn quilts.

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Shed tucked away atop a hill.

 

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Closer look at the shed.

That was either the last one I saw before hitting WV, or it was the last one I could safely stop to photograph. US-250 is, after all, a twisty mountain road, and there aren’t always safe spots to pull off for stops.

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Keep moooving, ToadMama!

Those cows were actually near the white barn in the first photo above (the Surprised Barn). I can’t remember if it was in VA or WV, but I do remember that the barn made me laugh. And seeing cows stare at me every time I stop always makes me smile.

I hope you enjoyed the Highland County barn quilts as much as I did. I saw even more in West Virginia. That’ll be in my next post.

The First “First”

The week before I left for my adventure, I worked over 70 hours. Needless to say, my brain was a bit fried on Saturday morning. But, that’s okay. Riding really is the best medicine to relieve stress.

I honestly had no firm plans beyond heading to Monterey, Virginia to see their LOVEwork. When I pulled out of my driveway, I had no idea which route I’d be using to get there. As I headed south on US-29 toward Stanardsville, I initially thought about crossing the mountains on US-33, because my favorite route — Dyke Road — that parallels the mountains on the eastern side would have taken longer. Then I realized I WAS IN NO HURRY, and took my favorite, also longer, route instead.

It was lovely. Such a pretty area.

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VA-810, just North of Boonesville in Albemarle County, Virginia.

I don’t know the full story behind this next place, a little further south along the same road. I wasn’t a fan of The Waltons TV show, so wouldn’t recognize this place even if it were on the show. But the fence says Walton’s Homeplace. A quick Google search didn’t help.

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Sign on the fence.

 

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Cute little old house.

I took my good, sweet time enjoying the scenery. I even stopped at my favorite store for a snack and a drink.

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Dyke Store

 

Dyke Road
Dyke Road

From there, I continued south and west, not paying much attention to anything other than the ride and enjoying the scenery. I was tickled to see a barn quilt atop the mountain just before Monterey.

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Barn quilt.

 

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Stopped along US-250, east of Monterey.

I still wasn’t thinking about much of anything in particular beyond getting to Monterey. I was looking forward to seeing the LOVEwork. So much so, that I almost headed for it first, but I figured I’d better stop in town for gas first.

That’s when it happened. Because I hadn’t been paying attention, for the first time ever, I ran out of gas. As you’ll see in the next pic, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

Photo captured while standing at gas pump.
Photo captured while standing at gas pump.

That street sign you see in the above shot is where I ran out of gas. Literally about 25 feet from the gas station. I had to push the bike, but another rider came over to help me (it was slightly uphill).

“Gas?” he asked as he started pushing.

“Yes,” I said.

“That’s cutting it a bit close, isn’t it?” he said.

“Yes,” I said, laughing. I thanked him for the help, he rejoined his group, I filled up, ate some lunch, and then off I went.

Monterey LOVEwork
Monterey LOVEwork

I didnt have to go far to find the LOVE. I think it’s one of the prettiest ones I’ve seen.

After that, I just had to figure out where to go next. Again, I had a direction in mind, but no route plan. It was fun making my way on the fly.

One thing for certain, I kept a closer watch on the gas gauge after that. And I usually filled up well before I got too close to empty. 😎

Quest for LOVE Update

You know it’s hard to keep track of how many LOVEworks there are to visit when even the Virginia travel folks can’t pin down the exact number!

In this blog post from February, the travel folks said “more than 65.” That’s technically true, but the number is now higher than 70! I’ve physically visited and captured pics of at least 50 LOVEworks.

The two latest I saw are here…

Mineral, Virginia
Mineral, Virginia

 

Lake Anna
Lake Anna

It’s really hard to keep track of how many I have yet to see. Why? They keep adding more!

I’m in the process of planning (sorta) a May getaway. So I figured I’d make a list of sculptures I need to visit. There are 22! Even I was surprised at how many are on that list.

Some of them are really far away, or at least hard to get to, like the one new one near Chincoteage on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. That would either involve another trek through Maryland or a journey to Norfolk/Virginia Beach then across the bay bridge tunnel. The one in Gate City, in the far southwestern tip of Virginia, is reported to have reappeared, too.

I might see some on my upcoming adventure. Then again, I might not. This is another of those trips where the plan is NOT to plan. I’ll just head out with my maps and a general idea of direction and/or destination. I may end up on the Gulf Coast. Or I might have so much fun in the mountains that I’ll end up staying there.

It’s fun for now trying to imagine where my bike might take me.

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It’s not the destination that matters.

Unanticipated LOVE

I’ll be the first person to admit that I sometimes go out of my way to see some of the stuff that I photograph.

Like the big Virginia LOVE signs. I’ve gone out of my way to see a bunch of those. But sometimes, I encounter them unexpectedly.

Take this past Thursday as an example. I left my house around 5:30 AM for the three-plus-hour to drive to the coast. About halfway, along I-64, east of Richmond, I had to stop for a bio break. That’s when I saw this LOVEwork.

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LOVEwork in New Kent

I knew there was one down around there somewhere, but I didn’t realize it was at a rest stop. The East Coast Gateway Virginia Welcome Center to be exact.

Counting this love (New Kent, VA), the undocumented LOVE I saw in Sperryville recently, and the one I saw in Doswell, VA on my way to Carolina Beach, I have visited and captured pics of 49 LOVEworks!

I haven’t updated my log page, so you’ll just have to trust me.

I May Need a 12-Step Program

Hi, my name is Kathy, and I am a photoholic. I take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. But, even worse, I am a photo hoarder.

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Bleeding Heart

That flower image is one of hundreds of gigabytes of images that I don’t need to keep. I mean, it’s pretty, but why do I need to keep it? Like, for years? I don’t. I really need to concentrate on keeping only those images that mean something to me.

Unlike many people, I don’t store the images on my camera and/or phone forever, I actually upload them to my hard drive in a pretty timely fashion. That’s where they tend to sit. For like a year or more.

Recently, over the past six months or so, I have noticed my computer getting slower and slower. I’m not really inclined to buy a new one at the moment, so I just grit my teeth, do what I have to do on the pokey-ass thing, and then get off of it.

That slowness is probably one of the reasons you haven’t seen much of me lately.

The weather this holiday weekend has been rather wet. So I spent the day on Sunday deleting and moving image files. I think it has helped. Yay!

All is well here. I haven’t been riding as much as I’d like, but other stuff — good stuff — has been keeping me busy.

Remember my quest for LOVE? I haven’t given up. Even though I am chasing a moving target — more LOVEworks keep getting added — I really enjoy getting out and see the sculptures.

Guess how many I have captured so far? Forty-six! That’s a lot, right? This is a big state!

Unfortunately, the Virginia tourism folks don’t keep the master list up-to-date, so I don’t know how many there currently are. Whatever… who really cares about statistics? I like looking for LOVE. LOL.

Here are my latest captures…

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LOVEwork in Crozet, Virginia

 

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LOVEwork in Madison, Virginia

I’m not sure if the Madison LOVE is official or not. It’s not listed on the web site, so I have no idea who it belongs to. I suspect, however, that it might be on the Early Mountain Vineyard property. I captured that image from Wolftown-Hood Road (VA-230).

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LOVEwork at Airlie (near Warrenton, Virginia)

 

The last image is just a few minutes from my house. I guess Airlie is technically in Warrenton, but it’s not in the downtown area where I live. It’s less than four miles away, though, which is cool.

And it’s actually a pretty place. I should go there more often.

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Parked at Airlie for the LOVE capture.

I’ll try to catch y’all up on what’s been happening ’round here. The exciting stuff, anyway. Like visits with grand kids, a trip to my friend’s rose showcase, a few rides we’ve done, etc. Oh, and a few craft projects. Another reason I’ve been away from the pokey computer.

Yes, that stuff is exciting to me. I’m getting old.

TTFN, peeps!