Friday, May 22, 2015

Paintings, a Stage, and a Very Sloped Runway

Mark and I had a few days off last week and wanted to put them to good use. I really wanted to fly a trip in my C172, and Mark has really gotten into bourbon and whiskey, so we thought it would be fun to fly out to Kentucky to tour some bourbon distilleries.

Unfortunately, the first day of the trip, while bright and sunny, was also stupidly windy in the mountains we'd have to cross to get there. I didn't think it would be smart to try to cross the mountains in that kind of wind and turbulence, so we had to regroup and change our plans a bit. New plan: fly south, spend a day in Lynchburg, then cross the mountains the following day when the winds died down.

We decided to fly into Falwell (W24). The runway sits on a hill and slopes so much that you can only really land one way and take off the other way. You can see some of the slope here on base.

I've flown into sloping airports before, but this one takes the cake! The runway is only 2900' long, and I was stopped well before the halfway point; it was one of the best short field landings I've ever made. I saw on their website that they're supposed to have a soapbox derby here at some point. It looks like it'll be the perfect place for it!

We parked the plane in a tiedown for the night, paid the $5 overnight fee, and rather than taking a cab into town, wound up renting a U-Haul pickup truck for a really good price. It was about a 15 minute drive from the airport into town, and the hotel let us check in early, so we left our bags in the room and went out to explore.

I don't know how I forgot to take pictures of Main Street, but there are some neat shops and restaurants. We bought a few things at some quirky stores, had lunch and coffee at the White Hart Cafe, wandered down a couple blocks to the James River to check out a park (that we found out is under construction), and walked through a crazy huge antique store.

Some of the empty storefronts along Main Street had these stickers on the windows, and people could write in what they wished would go in the space. I laughed for a few minutes at this one.

Toward late afternoon we made our way back to the hotel. Just before going back inside, Mark pointed out that the building across the street said 'Art Galleries'. We didn't see any signs to show that they were open, but the door was unlocked so we went in. It was neat! There were two rooms of paintings; each room was focused on one individual artist. We especially liked the artist in the front room (and they had great prices), so we'll soon have some new art to add to our collection.

The lady working at the art gallery was awesome (and I wish I'd gotten her name!), and after we had sorted things out with the art we wanted, she told us to follow her. We walked out the front door, around the side of the building, down the street, and into another building. She led us to the elevator, pushed a button, and when the door opened, led us through a small room and through a metal door, which popped out...

...directly onto this awesome stage.

Turns out it's the Academy of Music Theater. It was built in 1905 and last used in 1958. They're hoping to restore the theater; it's hosted such performers as Will Rogers, Ethyl Barrymore, Josephine Baker, and even the Ziegfeld Follies. You can learn more about the theater's history and the renovation at their website here.

It was really cool to be there on the stage and think about the history of the building. I hope they're able to restore it the way they plan!

The front of the theater. It was almost directly across the street from our hotel.

We thanked the lady from the art gallery for showing us such a cool thing, said goodbye, and went back to the hotel. It was pretty warm that day, so we had hoped to go swimming in the pool...but it was empty! We settled for drinking lots of water and hanging out in the room with the air conditioning turned way up. We wound up having dinner a couple blocks away at Jimmy's on the James, which was really good. I had shrimp and grits and an Old Fashioned, but I think the best part of dinner was the guy playing piano and singing in the corner. He sang really well, but his piano skills weren't quite as good; he'd start a track on the stereo, start singing along with it, and then kind of hunt and peck along with the recording on the piano. It was especially funny when the notes he was playing didn't match up to the recording. We made sure to tip him before we left. We made a quick stop at a chocolate shop down the street for some truffles and gelato for dessert, then walked back to the hotel and passed out. It was a good first day!

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