Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Abingdon, Virginia: Music, Theater, the Town Character and Wine: Wrapping Up My Virginia Visit

My final full day in Virginia in search of music and art drew to a close. Boy, am I tuckered out.

Much of yesterday and all of today was spent in Abingdon. It's a town of about 8,000. You would never know it by the buzz of activity and the amount of stuff to do.

Yep, we enjoyed more music. You can't swing a dead cat over your head and not hit someone playing a guitar or fiddle.

I spent my two nights in Abingdon at the Creeper's End Lodge. It is so named because the head of the Virginia Creeper Trail is right across the street. This is a former railroad line that has had the tracks and ties ripped up and replaced with a sort of very fine cinder material.

Running for about 34 miles from Abingdon to White Top Mountain, it teams with joggers, walkers, bikers and horseback riders.

Any way, the Creeper's End Lodge is a brand-new bed and breakfast -- without the breakfast part -- that is ideal for couples or small families. My cottage -- all the accommodations are in individual cottages with a unit upstairs and one down -- was beautifully furnished.

When I mentioned to the property manager that I needed an ironing board, she took my shirt and ironed it. I'm not sure everyone can expect such service -- it was me after all -- but this is the sort of friendly attention I found throughout Abingdon.

Yesterday's highlights included a hike along a mile or two of the Creeper Trail. Some of our group embarked on a 17-mile bike ride on the trail. Moi? Yeah, not so much. I haven't been on a bike in at least 15 years. Tearing down hill for 17 miles, I thought, was not the way to get back on the horse. Walking was just fine.

We also had a wine tasting at the Abingdon Winery and lunch at its outside courtyard. The wines were pretty good. I even bought a bottle of their Cabernet Savignon for a little mid-afternoon rendezvous I had scheduled later with a former flame I hadn't seen for about 15 years. But enough said about that. In any event, the wine was good.

Dinner last evening was at The Tavern. Built in 1779 -- everything in Virginia is old -- it is a terrific eatery with a bar I could sit at every night. My filet was grilled to perfection. The local tourism folks arranged for a trio to serenade us as we dined. No surprise, the music was as good as the food.

We wrapped up the evening and the trip by attending a play at the reknown Barter Theatre. When "theater" is spelled "theatre," you know it's classy. This is where some serious actors, such as Gregory Peck, Ned Beatty (squeal!), Hume Cronyn and Mash's Larry Linville, among others, got their start.

One of the hits of the entire trip, though, was a 90-minute guided tour of the Star Museum. Every small town needs at least one character and Abingdon's is the curator of the Star Museum, Robert Weisfeld. The former editor of the Abingdon newspaper, he spent several years in New York City where he began collecting movie memorabilia.

His collection boasts lots of personal items from Jackie Gleason, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Mansfield, Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, James Dean, and on and on and on. Literally hundreds and hundreds of items.

It's not the memorabilia, however, that's captivating; it's Robert's stories about the artifacts he has collected. Each has meaning for him and a story to explain it. He is a fount of celebrity information and gossip. He gives tours during operating hours and by appointment during off hours.

It was 90 minutes that virtually flew by.

Now it's back to South Carolina, reality and too many deadlines to contemplate.

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