Archive for the ‘Recreation’ Category

With summer in America, baseball is sure to follow. Any more, the major leagues get the limelight and dominate the coverage in nearly every market. To a point, they should. It is important to remember, though, that the other tiers of the sport are just as important, if not more so to the future and growth of baseball. All of the great young draftees and trades get the first shot at any given position, but where do the pros turn when their starters are forced onto the DL list? You’ve got it — Minor League Baseball. This is a level of a great sport that fields a team in just about every major city in the U.S. It’s easier to access, the prices are more affordable and sadly — they’re practically forgotten in today’s bustling societies. You can spend upward of fifty dollars for you and a date to go to a Major League game, and that’s just for the seats. Once you throw in some snacks and souvenirs, the damage to your pocket book is likely to top $100 in a hurry. If you’re attempting to take a family of four out for a day at the old ballpark, it will be five times as much money.

For a fraction of that same level of family funds you could take our family or date out to a local Minor League ballgame and enjoy the sport on more of a pure level. It can be argued that juicing and illegal enhancers will find their way into any level of any sport, but the majority of the players on the Minor League rosters and those of the Class-D farm teams in particular are playing for the love of the game. There are scores of teams to choose from and follow these days, and with the improvements in modern technology you can have your teams at your fingertips.

This is merely an example of what I am referring to: I follow the Martinsburg Bluesox in the Class-D semi-pro Blue Ridge League. You can go to any of their home games for free. Yup, absolutely free. In Class Single-A, I follow the WV Power. Again, you could go to one of their home games with drinks, hats, and snacks included for under $30. In Class Double-A, I’m a fan of the Tennessee Smokies. Their tickets are $8 for adults, and $6.50 for kids. Their gift shop prices are a little steeper, but a day at their park for a family of four would still be well under $50. If you plan your trip right, you can stay at the Hilton Inn and Suites on the hill behind the park. Then you can walk out to the front hill on any home game night and watch the game for free. The last tip that you can use to follow the majority of these teams is to download a free app to your device or phone called ‘Tune-In Radio’. From there, you can search up your favorite team, and then listen to their radio stream live on game nights. Tonight, for example, the Smokies try to even their series with the Huntsville Stars at 7:46 PM. The bottom line, our favorite pastime doesn’t have to drain your bank account , nor is it limited to the big boys under the bright lights.


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Queen City Creamery. Courtesy of Queen City Creamery.

Queen City Creamery. Courtesy of Queen City Creamery.



Nestled in the Appalachians in the city of Cumberland, MD is one of the region’s hidden gems: the Queen City Creamery. Located at 108 Harrison Street, this little restaurant offers quite a big surprise. This establishment makes chocolate, vanilla and strawberry custards from scratch every day. This is why you’ll only find the big three flavors at Queen City. Not to say that their custards are out of this world, but they won blue ribbons for both their chocolate and vanilla custards  at the National Ice Cream Retailers Association convention this year. Yeah, they’re REAL good.

Their menu offers everything from sundaes to floats and milkshakes. If you’re watching your waistline you can opt to indulge in one of Queen City’s many fruit smoothies. Aside from their well-known frozen treats, Queen City Creamery also has a nice menu for both breakfast and lunch. They offer an assortment of eggs, French toast, sausages and coffees. For lunch the restaurant serves up pitas, wraps and an array of sandwiches, soups and  salads. Take a blast to the past with their old fashioned 1940s styled soda fountain atmosphere. It’s a short hop off of I-68, and is a stop well worth it.

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courtesey of William Brandon. All rights reserved.

courtesey of William Brandon. All rights reserved.

This time around, we’ll take a look at a hidden gem nestled in the small town of Buckhannon, WV.

courtesey of William Brandon. All rights reserved.
The Sir Charles Inn is an elegant Bed and Breakfast located at 85 West Main Street. The Inn was once a regal Victorian era home, and has since been refurbished into a business. The Sir Charles offers three palatial guest room, a huge continental breakfast, fine dining and a large wrap-around porch for that morning cup of coffee or evening tea.

The Inn is located in one of the best small towns in America. Buckhannon, WV is one of the few small towns left that have a functioning Main Street district. With the annual Strawberry festival quickly approaching, their rooms will book quickly. The Inn can be reached by phone at (304) 472-1415.

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Nestled in the hills of West Virginia is one of America’s best kept secrets — the city of Buckhannon. This quiet little town is home to one of only a few remaining Main Street districts in the nation and one of the best festivals. The West Virginia Strawberry Festival draws spectators from all over the country every year to the small town of Buckhannon, and it’s quickly approaching. This year the festival is set to happen between May 15 and 19th, and is sure to have something fun for everyone.

As is customary of the Strawberry festival, it will host a fireman’s parade, a carnival, a muscle car parade/show, a plethora of baking contests and stands, and the feature parade. This year the festival committee has added a few pre-festival items to its repertoire to enhance the experience. If you get into town on May 11th, you can get a horse-drawn carriage ride through town, and watch the carriage parade later that evening. After its huge success last year, I’m certain that it will draw another big following this time around, too.

Some of the events that will be happening every day during the Strawberry Festival include: Courthouse entertainment (Strawberry Idol, Opening Ceremonies, the Sweetest Berry Competiton and various musical performances); the carnival hosted by Gambill Entertainment; the quilt exhibit; the photo expo; the art exhibit; Concessions Alley (people come from miles around just to get their mitts on some Chapel Hill sugar cookies!) and various other contests. Speakin’ of Chapel Hill Methodist Church, on Thursday and Friday during the festivities they will be offering some homemade strawberry ice cream, shortcakes and, of course, their world-famous sugar cookies.

Whether it’s the sights, the smells, the sounds or the hospitality of the folks in town the Strawberry Festival will be an event well worth the trip. If you’re looking to experience all of the local charm that this town has to offer, then stroll on over to the ‘Great Finds’ page on this blog. There you will get some great info on a wonderful inn full of charm and flavor. Only being located a few blocks from the courthouse, I’m sure its vacancies will fill up fast for the week.

For more details and information on the Strawberry Festival, please click on the link below:


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It has been a while since I last posted on here, and for that I must first apologize. I guess writing (among other things) can pull you in one too many directions. In this installment, I want to share a phenomenon that has remained close to me for a long time. Some folks talk of Memory Lane in the abstract sense. What if I were to tell you that mine existed? Not only that, but I can give you its physical location: Stephens Run Road just off of WV State Route 20 on the other side of a small hamlet called Craigmoore. My Gram’s old homestead was right across the street from Stephens Run, so I spend a lot of time out this way as a kid. So, walk along with me if you’d like. I’ll give you a little tour of one of the many hidden gems in the state that I call home.

When you first come upon Stephens Run Rd. it would appear very unassuming and ordinary. Don’t let this fool you, though. It’s merely a deterrent for those passersby that like to judge things by their covers. Once you cross over the one-lane bridge you will find yourself standing at the fork in the middle of a gravel road. To the right is Hasting’s Run, and to the left is our destination. A small barbed-wire fence stumbles off into the distance up the left hand side of this little worn path. The once mighty Elk Creek still gargles lazily past that over the left embankment. If you’re lucky you might run into a small group of folks still out atop the massive moss-covered boulders fishing in the creek. There were many days that I would come down this way to go fishing on that very spot. Still rather unassuming, but hang in there. We’re just getting into it.

You then follow the little worn road down past a couple of open properties before it winds down among a few of the holes at Belle Meadows Country Club. To our left is the green for hole number twelve as I recall. To our right is the tee box for the thirteenth — a par four with a mild dog leg to the right over a pond for you fellow players. I still have many fond memories of playing this course in school. It used to be our home course in competitions. Nothing beat the smell of the fresh-cut hay in the fields beyond thirteen, or the way the sunset lay on the pond’s wakes as you approached. As I alluded, next you come across a large open field. In the late spring and early fall the waves of golden weeds dance in the summer breezes creating a majestic scene. By now, the fresh air is filling your lungs and the sun has gone to hide behind one of the billowing cumulus clouds that now sails on its unending voyage across the deep blue skies.

As you round the next bend in the road, you’ll come upon a rare real estate find. It’s an old two-story home made entirely from stone with a small wine house just behind it. I would always stop here and pick an apple off of the trees in the side yard when they were in season. The woman who lives there was an old family friend, and on occasion, I would let their little shepard dog tag along with me on my walks. As you walk farther down Stephens Run, you will hear the bubbling of a small nearby brook to your right. Several elms and wild cherry trees call this stretch of the journey home. If I timed the walk just right I could pluck a handful of blackberries from the bushes that grew down this quarter-mile stretch of the road. Beyond this, you will come across an old two-story farm-house on your left. It’s old and worn, but the white paint is applied every year. There’s an old tall windmill that lazily spins in its yard. The old fella that owns the place will likely toss you a wave as you wander past his piece of Heaven.

Once you make your way over the small hill in the distance, you’ll come down the other side into what is my favorite part of this whole experience. I often used to gather inspiration from just the sight of this wonderous settlement. The road opens up wide on either side into huge meadows of golden grass. Several head of cattle lumber along the banks of the brook that has still tagged along with you to this point. There is a long row of mighty oaks that march off into the distance on the right. What tales could they tell if they could talk? Beyond these guardians of the glade stands a large hill with a lone tree adorning its crown. What I would give to be able to set in its branches and just stare off across the rolling hills that surrounded this place. As you come to the end of Stephens Run Road, you will notice a bee farm on your right and an old two-level barn on your left. The smell of the open farm might overwhelm you if you’re not used to it here. The view of raw beauty that lies here is well worth the small sacrifice. I always wanted to buy a couple of jars of the fresh honey, but I could never catch the owner when his hives were flowing. Then, you’d get to turn around and repeat the process to walk back. It’s an eight mile trek roundtrip, but it was always just right for gathering thoughts and getting some fresh air.

So, that’s my Memory Lane. I don’t know if anyone else out there relates to this or not. I feel a bit odd having a real embodiment of this concept. Do you have someplace like this, too? Feel free to share.

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New Weekly Feature Page

Do you have a business or product that you would like to have promoted to the readers here? If your business or product is located in, or is related to Appalachia then leave a comment on the page with your contact information and the product or business description. If chosen, you will be reviewed and your business or product will be featured on the Feature Page for the week! Good luck

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I’m no expert on this subject, but I can tell you one thing for certain. The cup of dark chocolate hot cocoa that I had over this Christmas was probably the best that I’ve ever had. It all started when I was figuring out what to get my wife for Christmas. She loves hot chocolate. I did some research to find what is considered the best hot cocoa mix in the world. Most of the critics and fellow chocoholics came to a consensus on a company based out of New York called Chocolat Moderne. I’ll give you a head’s up. This ain’t your momma’s hot cocoa. They had several varieties of cocoa to pick from, but I settled on two potions that I thought my wife might enjoy — Midnight Oasis and Snake Charmer. They were a success. My wife loves the Snake Charmer cocoa because of its blend of cinnamon and other Mediterranean spices. I tried both, of course. Wouldn’t want anyone getting a bad batch of cocoa or anything. The Snake Charmer blend had a slight hint of earthy undertones to its palate. I went for the Midnight Oasis blend more myself. It’s over 70% pure cocoa, and is heaven in a cup for any chocoholic.

While we’re on the subject of chocolate, I have to take a few minutes to let y’all in on a little secret that even few native West Virginians know about. It’s a small town nestled in the mountains near the border between Upshur and Randolph Counties called Helvetia. It is a small Swiss community founded back around the Civil War period. There may not be a lot of residents in this little village, but what it lacks in numbers it more than makes up for in culture and tradition. If a wayward traveler were to venture out County Route 46 in the direction of this hidden gem, you would discover a piece of Switzerland tucked away in the spine of the Appalachians. The Helvetia Hutte Hotel and restaurant is one of the top rated eateries in the region. With its buffet-style layout, the hungry adventurer can find an assortment of soups, cobblers, meats, salads, breads and homemade jams. The Beekeeper Inn is a cozy little bed and breakfast that you can find comfortable lodgings with generous hospitality. You will find a great many historic things to see and do if you visit this area of the world, but the best thing to see while you’re there (as a chocolate lover) is the European-style chocolate factory, Shakolad. They’ve been making hand-dipped European chocolates for over 30 years, folks! This is a great little getaway for any chocoholic.

There. I fell better now. Whew! Sure, the Chocolat Moderene is more expensive than your run-of-the-mill hot cocoa packets, but it’s well worth it.

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