Tag Archives: Virginia

Cooking the BBQ

Have You Been to Lexington?

Have you been to Lexington begs the answer, “Which one?” Lexington, Massachusetts is the oldest municipality with the name and Lexington, Kentucky is the largest city. There are cities named Lexington in Alabama, California (now a ghost town), Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. I’ve visited three, so far, all memorable for very different reasons.

Massachusetts

When I first hear the name Lexington, my thoughts skip to the famous Battle at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. On April 19, 1775, they became the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War, 

The Battle of Lexington

On the night before the clash, Paul Revere and Samuel Prescott galloped on horseback to warn that the British were coming. The first shots were fired just as the sun was rising in Lexington. Eight militiamen died. The confrontation proceeded on to Concord, resulting in many casualties. 

Patriot’s Day Parade

Patriot’s Day, originally April 19, is now observed on the third Monday in April. A reenactment of the horse ride and battle coincides with the historical event, so you must get to Lexington’s Battle Green before sunrise. The entire drama takes no more than 40 minutes, but the poignant scene stabbed me to the core, like a wound from the bayonets carried by the soldiers. We often forget the Revolutionary War, but this annual drama pays tribute to those early colonists and the freedoms they sought. 

Re-enactors of the Battle at Lexington

Virginia  

Another Lexington I’ve visited a few times is Lexington, Virginia, a small town in the Shenandoah Valley. Lexington is home to the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), Washington & Lee University (where my son graduated), and about seven thousand residents. While Confederate generals are no longer celebrated, I must say I fondly recall the serene Lee Chapel as the campus highlight.  This National Historic Landmark is the burial site of Robert E. Lee. His horse, Traveller, is interred outside, and many people leave sugar cubes on the horse’s grave.  The church’s basement contains a museum featuring the history of the school, highlighting the time when Lee was the college president. 

The Lee Chapel

Other attractions to see include the restored Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson house.  Tours revolve around Jackson’s life before the Civil War, including his tenure as a VMI professor. 

Lexington’s carefully preserved downtown is on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Shops offer fine art, Virginia-made gifts, jewelry and more. Visitors enjoy a carriage ride through the downtown and remember Virginia is for Lovers.

Carriage Ride in downtown Lexington, VA

North Carolina

Lexington, North Carolina, calls itself the Barbeque Capital of the World. No visit is complete without Lexington style barbeque, made from pork shoulders cooked over hardwood coals. This century-old method involves smoking the pork for hours and then chopping or slicing it, leaving bits of crispy, brown skin.  The meat comes with a thin ketchup-and-vinegar sauce called “dip,” a distinctive red slaw, hush puppies, and sweet tea. While the meal is nothing fancy, you’ll find it finger-licking good in all of Lexington’s 15 BBQ restaurants. 

Smoking the BBQ

Lexington. NC also offers a fascinating collection of artifacts, memorabilia, and furniture from  North Carolina’s most famous living artist, Bob Timberlake. Visitors also enjoy the Richard Childress Racing Museum,  one of NASCAR’s top race shops and museums. The championship cars driven by Dale Earnhardt Sr. prove to be the most popular.  To round out your visit, stop by any of the 19 vineyards and tasting rooms that are earning NC winemakers rave reviews. 

Richard Childress Racing Museum

Kentucky

Lexington, Kentucky, is another famous city, this one known as the Horse Capital of the World, plus the birthplace of Bourbon and Bluegrass music.  

Kentucky is horse country.

While it ranks high on my bucket list,  I have not been there—yet.  Visitors tour Keeneland Race Course and Kentucky Horse Park in the early morning to see workouts, plus walk the pastures at  Old Friends, a thoroughbred retirement farm. Don’t miss the 14 bourbon distilleries and their tasting rooms, Mary Todd Lincoln’s historic home, plus the famous Kentucky Castle in the middle of Horse Country.  

Again barrels of bourbon

You can’t go wrong in any of four of the cities named Lexington.   How many have you seen?

Veteran’s Day Re-post: Dad’s Funeral at Arlington Cemetery

Funeral at Arlington

My Dad was a Veteran of WWII and served in the Air National Guard for many years.  Rising through the ranks, he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel—two grades below General. Toward the end of his life, he tragically suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for more than ten years as it inexorably ate away his memory. Like the saying, on July 8, 2011 at age 92, the old soldier finally faded away.

He was bestowed the privilege of burial in Arlington Cemetery for his valor during combat duty in the Pacific. The National Cemetery schedules 27 internments a day, including burials of active duty soldiers serving in Afghanistan–we waited nearly seven weeks for Dad’s cremated remains to receive a proper military service. Our family opted not to wait until November 3rd, the earliest date available for full military honors including a caisson to carry him to the gravesite.

As anticipated, plans and procedures were meticulously carried out despite the earthquake that hit Virginia a day earlier. We entered the main gates and it was so humbling to see mile after mile, row upon row of perfectly aligned white marble slabs, identifying more than 320,000 servicemen’s graves. The mere sight will snap even a civilian to attention.

We were directed to the Administration building and then to a gathering room for families awaiting ceremonies. A television monitor displayed live coverage of the soldiers guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, something that transfixed the grandchildren’s attention.

My 91-year-old Mother and I handed over the required documents and were given a map with a marker denoting my Father’s plot. We drove to his internment location, past the Air Force Memorial whose spires of steel evoke the vibrant force of flight. A squad of soldiers awaited in formation to escort Lieutenant Colonel John Palmer, Jr.’s urn to the gravesite. Our family and friends followed. A highly decorated military chaplain delivered a brief service with the utmost dignity and care. His speech was passionate and he praised my Dad for serving his country in a courageous way. He honored my Dad and all the others buried in the hallowed sanctuary and hailed my father as a true American patriot.

A three-volley salute was fired by a formation of  seven soldiers stationed to our left. A lone bugler played Taps, a somber farewell muted by the enormity of the endless grounds. The flag, held over the urn during the service, was precisely folded by six members of the unit and delivered to the leader for inspection. He then passed the triangular shaped cloth to the chaplain who presented it to my Mother. Although the chaplain did not know our family, his warmth was genuine and you could feel his sincerity.

An Arlington Lady approached my Mom, a representative of the wives of soldiers buried here, and paid her respects–a truly noble gesture by this group of volunteers.  Then we stood and filed by his remains placing a red rose on the stand.

The ceremony didn’t take long but it was a poignant and most dignified way to send off to a man who loved his country and proudly served. All is well and now he gently rests in the Nation’s shrine.

If you go:

Arlington National Cemetery lies across the Potomac River from Washington, DC and is open from 8 am to 5 pm except from April 1-September 30 when it stays open until 7 pm.  Paid visitor parking is off Memorial Drive. Access to the cemetery is free and visitors may walk to see John Kennedy’s grave or the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; however it is a mile uphill. To avoid the walk, purchase tour bus tickets at the Visitor’s Center to see Robert E. Lee’s house and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Visitor Information at 877 907 8585 or www.arlingtoncemetery.mil

Feeling like a Star in the Star City

Roanoke’s Star on Mill Mountain

Not often are you treated like a star unless, of course,  you are a Hollywood celebrity or famous athlete.  But, the people of Roanoke made me feel like returning royalty including  Mayor Bowers, whom I met at the top of  Mill Mountain.

David Bowers, Mayor of Roanoke

You see, decades ago I attended Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, one of the cities in the area now known as Virginia’s Blue Ridge.  While a student I entered the Miss Roanoke Valley pageant and surprisingly won!  I did not go on to become Miss Virginia but the experience was memorable and the scholarship money helpful.

Miss Roanoke Valley

Now, after way too many years, I finally returned to Roanoke and found the city itself had earned starlet status- a shining example of living up to its title as the Star City of the South and to downtown revitalization.

 

Back in the early 1970’s,  the city center was nothing to brag about.  Today, it thrives with a farmer’s market open seven day a week  and many boutique shops and restaurants.  The Taubman Museum of Art is the new queen hosting a stellar collection. Plus, the O. Winston Link Museum is an absolute winner for photographers and railroad buffs.

 

Taubman Museum of Art

O. Winston Link Collection

On my tour I saw  only two businesses that I remembered from the past. One was the Texas Tavern, a tiny hole in the wall eatery which sits ten and continues to sell burgers for $1.25.

 

 

 

 

The other building I fondly recall is the Hotel Roanoke, a magnificent Tudor-style mansion sitting on the hill overlooking train tracks.  The hotel’s history is closely tied with railroading. The venue (constructed 1937-38) was originally owned by the N & W- Norfolk and Western Railroad, the company that transformed sleepy Big Lick into Roanoke  and established  their headquarters and a major intersection of  the north-south and east-west rail lines.

Hotel Roanoke

Sadly, the Hotel Roanoke fell into disrepair and closed her doors in 1989. But, like Sleeping Beauty, growth and change took place around her as she snoozed.  Awakened and reopened in 1995, she once again reigns with fashionable rooms and a new conference center that blends into the old  architectural style.

Dining tradition continues with the hotel’s famed peanut soup and spoon bread. I was lucky enough to sample a cup of soup topped with chopped peanuts and a tiny skillet of warm cornbread oozing butter.  Yum.  The hotel insisted my group partake the luncheon buffet: a bounty of entrees, salads, vegetables and six to eight desserts. A splendid curtain call.

 

I could go about my heavenly trip to Roanoke, but I’ll save more description on Virginia’s Blue Ridge for a later blog post.

 

Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance as fog lifts from the city of Roanoke.