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Accessible Appalachia - Exploring Virginia's Crooked Road

Dec 8, 2007
Located in Southwest Virginia, the Crooked Road is more than just a driving route. This 200-mile heritage music trail winds through Appalachia and connects music venues and heritage sites that highlight the traditional music of the region; the gospel, bluegrass and mountain music that's been passed down for generations by local families. Along the way you'll find stage shows, outdoor concerts, festivals, Appalachian crafts, galleries and some great scenery; however it's the locals who bring the Crooked Road to life. Be it the banjo maker in Galax or the quilter in Floyd, they all have a story to tell. And part of the whole Crooked Road experience is simply taking the time to listen.

Technically the Crooked Road isn't just one road, but a route composed of many state routes and local roads. The best starting point is the eastern terminus, Rocky Point; which is located 25 miles south of Roanoke. Just take VA 40 west towards Ferrum and follow the Crooked Road signs. Not only is this the easiest access point, but Ferrum makes a great first stop; as the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum offers a good overview on the regional heritage.

Located on the campus of Ferrum College, the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum features indoor gallery space plus an outdoor heritage farm museum. The gallery space hosts exhibitions which highlight the people and heritage of the region. There is level access to the museum, barrier-free access throughout the galleries and plenty of accessible parking outside.

Across the street, take some time to look through the Farm Museum which has gravel and dirt pathways, ramps up to the barns and a few steps up into the farmhouse. The pathways are doable for most people in dry weather and even though you can't access every display, you can still get a good feel for what Virginia farm life was like back in 1800.

Traveling west on the Crooked Road, you'll cross the Blue Ridge Parkway and enter Floyd County. Here's where a little diversion is in order. Although it's not on the official route, I highly recommend at least a short drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, as it's very scenic. Either way, a stop is Floyd is a must; and if you are looking for overnight accommodations, look no further than the Oak Haven Lodge.

Opened in 2003, this 10-room rustic lodge features ramp access to the front porch and office, with accessible parking available in a gravel parking area next to the office. Room 1 is located downstairs and has wide doorways, two double beds, good pathway access and a 5-foot turnaround in the bathroom. Access features in the bathroom include a low-step shower, a roll-under sink, grab bars in the shower and around the toilet and a portable shower chair. A commode chair is also available upon request. All this for a very affordable $65 per night.

Continuing west, you'll pass through Galax and Abingdon before coming to Bristol. Here you'll find the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance Museum, which features exhibits on the roots of country music and the musicians that helped shape the genre. Access is excellent throughout the museum, with a level entrance and barrier-free access to all the exhibits. Best of all, admission is free.

There's plenty of live music to be had in Bristol too, with weekly concerts at the Birthplace of Country Music Mural on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights and a Thursday morning jam session at the Star Barbershop on State Street. All of these musical events are free and open to the public. And as far as access goes, there is good wheelchair-access to the seating area at the mural and level access to the Star Barbershop.

Finally, no matter what you do on your Crooked Road adventure, save time for a visit to the Carter Family Fold for a Saturday night concert. Granted some advance planning is required to plan a Saturday night stay near the Hiltons, but fortunately it's only about 20 minutes from Bristol.

Located on the AP and Sara Carter homestead, the Carter Family Fold is actually a large theater; and in keeping with tradition, only acoustic instruments are allowed and no alcohol is served. That said, each week there's a different headliner, so no two shows are exactly alike. The energy however, is ever present.

Accessible parking is located near the theater with level access to the entrance. Accessible seating (with companion seating) is available up font and it's the only reserved seating in the house. Indeed the front seats are the ones with an up-close look at all the action, because once the music starts, the area in front of the stage turns into a massive dance floor. But again, that's all part of the show. All in all it's great place to mix with the locals and an excellent opportunity to enjoy a real slice of Crooked Road culture.
About the Author
Candy Harrington covers accessible travel and is the author of 101 Accessible Vacations; Travel Ideas for Wheelers and Slow Walkers. Visit Accessible Vacations, or her blog, Barrier Free Travels.
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