Welcome to the peanut run, a five-mile soggy trek around southeastern Virginia peanut fields.
You start by hopping in the car at 5:30 in the morning and pointing your phone navigator to Chippokes Plantation State Park. Three hours later, you arrive at the Surry Nuclear Power Plant, where you’ll be welcomed by signs warning you about the potential of getting your tires damaged. After a quick u-turn, you will be escorted for about a quarter mile by a guy in a big white pickup truck.
Next, follow a bumpy, muddy road through a small rundown trailer park until it ends at a peanut field. Unfortunately, it is not the state park’s peanut field. So make another u-turn. Now, punch the actual state park address into the navigator. After 20 minutes or so on roads so narrow you’ll have to pull over when a car comes in the other direction, make a right at the family of wild turkeys.
You’ll arrive just in time for the Pork, Peanut and Pine Festival. With towns in the area with names such as Smithfield, you know where the Pork comes from. The Peanut, obviously, comes from the local crop. The Pine? The area used to be known for its lumber, although overharvesting put the mills out of business in the 1920s.
My run, literally around the peanut fields, was a squishy experience. It rained heavily the previous day. A couple of times I found myself ankle deep in water. Along the way, I spotted many butterflies and a deer, and I got a quick glimpse of the James River. At times, I was within 20 yards or so of my starting point, but wouldn’t have been able to get back without cutting through thick peanut plants.
After the run, Col and I spent some time at the Festival. We got to sample the Pork. I had just-out-of-the-fryer pork rinds and a pulled pork sandwich while Col went for a pork chop. We had some Peanut, sharing a piece of Peanut Pie, similar to a pecan pie except with peanuts. I also brought home some roasted peanuts, but didn’t have any interest in the boiled version. We didn’t eat any Pine, but we did spot a couple of big trees.
In addition to food, the festival featured arts & crafts, various demonstrations, historical displays, music, and animals of the farm and petting zoo variety.
Chippokes Plantation State Park is one of the oldest working farms in the U.S. It was established in 1619 and was donated to the state in 1967 in an effort to preserve its history. The park is in Surry County, population 7,000. The county is a short ferry ride across the James River from Jamestown. It was in the news 2007 when then Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was caught betting on dog fights. The property where the fighting took place is in the county.
23 runs down, 111 to go
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