Friday, November 5, 2010

Back Road to Farmville

Why would anyone go to Farmville? Furniture – kayaks – a romantic encounter? Like many places, without a good reason, you probably would never go. If you’re just passing through, this isn’t going to help. But if Greenfront is in your future, I have a shortcut.

A quick look at the map leads you south of Charlottesville on SR 20 through Scottsville and on to Dillwyn, from there, turn right and head south on US 15 until you cross paths with US 460. By now you’re about two miles west of Farmville and you get to decide whether to go in on US 460 Business or motor east on the 460 Bypass and then work your way back in from the south. This is one of those places where you find yourself muttering: “There must be a better way”…. And there is.

A few miles south of Sprouse’s Corner, where US 15 and US 60 intersect, an out of place, rocky hill juts out on the left side of the road. This is Willis Mountain. Amongst the rolling piedmont, it seems out of place, yet it holds a magic all its own. This little mountain is made of Kainite – a rare blue and white flakey mineral that’s used to make the porcelain found in spark plugs. They’ve been mining the mountain for years, slowly dismantling it, bit by bit. Geologists know it well; I once saw a small piece of the mountain at the Mineralogy Museum in Oruo Preto Brazil. It was a grounding experience to be so far from home, staring in a display case at a familiar friend.

About twenty years ago on the fourth of July, I was speeding down route 15 in my red pickup truck. I was late for my sister’s first wedding at my mom’s farm, and I still had another 70 miles to go. What I didn’t know was the wedding was running late too and I had plenty of time. Flying past Willis Mountain, I rounded a corner and passed a state trooper coming the other way. I knew he would turn around and come after me. So I pulled into the parking lot of an abandoned store, dropped the tailgate, sat down with my license in hand and waited. He saw me, slammed on his brakes and pulled in.

“Why did you stop? “ He asked. I told him I knew he would come back and pull me over, so why fight it. I said I was late for my sister’s wedding, and for a moment, he looked like he would give me a police escort. That faded when I told him where I was headed.

“Brunswick County’s too far for me to help you, but I’ll write you for six miles over; you may be able to beat that if your speedometer is out of calibration.”

Turns out it was, and the judge lowered the offence to improper equipment. But that’s another story.

The ceremony took place on a beautiful hot July day on the front steps of mom’s farm. Afterwards, folks got out of the sun by spreading out all over the house, and under the shade of the big oak trees. Grandma Neale was in the living room, by then she was in her late eighties. I sat with her and some others, eating and talking. The conversation drifted towards my sister’s new husband. One guest after another complemented him until it was grandma’s turn. “What do you think of Steve? “, someone asked; she looked up at us and said: “I think he stinks” and then went back to eating. An awkward pause settled in around us, then we all went back to lunch. She was a wise woman and I truly miss her.

Oh yes, the shortcut.

Once you are on US 15 South and have crossed US 60 at Sprouses Corner, go 6.6 miles to Evans Mill Road.

Evans Mill Road Turnoff

Along the way you’ll pass Willis mountain, and you might even see that abandoned store. Take a left onto Evans Mill Road (SR 621); it’s about three miles long and cuts over to Old Plank Road (SR 600) where it ends at a Tee. Make a right and follow Old Plank Road for a little over eight miles until it ends at a traffic light at North Main Street (SR 45). If you turn right, Greenfont is just across the bridge. Appomattox River Company is on your left. This back way cuts out over two and a half miles and a few traffic lights. My thanks to Bob Taylor at Appomattox River Company for showing it to me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

But now inquiring minds want to know if Grandma was correct!

November 5, 2010 at 8:01 PM  
Blogger Jay Neale said...

I did say I was on my way to my sister's first wedding...

November 6, 2010 at 7:54 AM  

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