Almost Southwest

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Farmer's Market

The 4.5 mile Dick & Willie Trail in Martinsville is part of the former Danville and Western Railroad, affectionately called the Dick and Willie. This was the back of one of the unique trail markers.

The railroad ran from Danville to Stuart. It began operation in 1891.

The trail runs through some of the town's better neighborhoods. On a Saturday morning, I encountered about a half dozen other runners.

A prehistoric bike rack.

Up close and personal with a leaf.

Farmer's Market

The Martinsville Farmer's Market only had about a dozen stands, but business was brisk.

By 7 a.m., the green beans were all sold and the farmer was taking orders.

I went in to Uptown Sweets to snap a photo and felt obligated to buy two chocolate covered pretzels.


This crabbing boat was in front of the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville.

As part of the museum's Living on the Water Festival, sandscraping expert Alan Matsumoto showcased his skills.

Live water animals, including this horseshoe crab, were on display.

Part of the museum's African mammal collection.

While more of a typical convenience store on the inside, the outside had some charm and the chicken was decent


I think I found the limit...

The town of Basset seems to be passed its prime. This former factory was converted into a discount shop. The price of some of the furniture was extremely low.

Fairy Stone State Park is known for its sparkly Staurolite minerals.

One of the six original Virginia state parks, it features, cabins, campgrounds, hiking trails, and lake swimming.

The 168-acre lake, formed by this damn, adjoins a major reservoir.


Rustic Seating

View of the lake.


Another view of the lake

Sharing the lake with wildlife.

In-water playground.

Franklin County Recreation Park features a 3-acre lake.

The park also had a Frisbee golf course, as well as basketball and tennis courts. The hiking trails needed some TLC.

I took Henry County's Gravely Nature Preserve on Sunday morning. Some of the trails were rather rugged. Pictured is an old tobacco barn. Why only one photo? I ran at the crack of dawn.

Store in Franklin County.

Another store in Franklin County

Tattoos in Franklin County

With its beautiful landscapes and southern charm, Martinsville feels more like North Carolina than Virginia. Greensboro is less than 50 miles to the south, a place I lived for about three years some 20 years ago.

And, similar to when I was in Greensboro, I had a tough time telling when people were being genuinely friendly and when they where were just putting on an act.

The young girl selling baked goods at the farmer’s market seemed authentic when she sweetly said the carrot cake was amazin’. Oversold. Ordinary at best.

When I walked into a building of art studios and stores, I was greeted with a terse “may I help you.” Given, I was looking a bit rough, having tossed on a ragged t-shirt after finishing the day’s first run. I could have been mistaken for a homeless guy walking in off the street rather than the touristy type. But then one of the women tending the front desk warmly said “let me give you the run down” and spent a good five minutes talking about the various artists.

When I soaked my feet in the hotel pool after finishing the day’s final run, the family I encountered was hillbilly authentic. They managed to totally ignore me while breaking the only three posted rules. Grandma, ma and 16-year-old son were smoking and slamming down cheap beers while three young’ens dived in and out of the pool.

This was another trip where I did four runs in just over 24 hours. In addition to taking on the town of Martinsville, I covered the counties of Patrick, Henry and Franklin.

I suspect Martinsville is a vibrant place the few weekends a year NASCAR is in town. Martinsville Speedway is the only track to host a sprint cup race every year since the series began in 1949.

Overall, though, the area has declined severely from the time when it was a major hub of furniture manufacturing. In the early 1900s, Basset Furniture opened its doors in the Martinsville area. It, and a number of other furniture companies, thrived and provided stable employment until the rise of overseas manufacturing in the 1990s.

The poverty rate is around 28%, double the state average. The poverty could be seen in some of the neighborhoods. It could be seen towns such as Basset, once the home to Basset Furniture. Now, barely existing.

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