Kathy & I recently visited Roanoke, Virginia to visit with our friend Steven Norris and attend the opening of a gallery show that Exposure Roanoke is having at a gallery there. We had visited Roanoke many, many years ago, and had good but fading memories of the place. We had been intending to return for a long time, and this gave us a good chance to go.
We didn’t have a lot of time there, but we stayed at the Hotel Roanoke, which gave us easy access to the downtown area. With the expert guidance of Steven & Cheryl we visited some of the downtown highlights on Saturday night, and I returned for a little shooting on my own on Sunday morning, before meeting up with our friends for the sumptuous breakfast buffet at the Hotel Roanoke.
Roanoke is a railroad town, having grown around the success of the Norfolk & Southern, now Norfolk & Western. A lot of coal moves through Roanoke. With a population of just under 100,000 with 303,000 in the MSA, it’s a happening place without the sprawl and congestion of larger cities. Situated right near the mountains and The Blue Ridge Parkway and an easy drive from Charlotte, it’s a place we need to spend more time visiting, especially with friends there.
Despite the amazing number of railroad tracks, there are numerous bridges and pedestrian walkways, so getting around is easy. Our hotel had a walkway right across from the entrance, so we could be in town within minutes of leaving our room. And with the exception of going out to the gallery, once we parked our car we didn’t need it again until we left. My kind of place!
We didn’t visit the Transportation Museum, deciding to spend our limited time seeing more of the town. We did visit the O. Winston Link Museum on Sunday afternoon and learned the story of Link and is railroad photography. The Link museum is a fascinating place, located in the former N&S passenger depot. It’s definitely a must-visit for any photography and/or railroad buff.
The Taubman Museum of Art is across the tracks from the Link Museum, and provides an interesting architectural contrast with much of the older architecture in the area. I got the impression that there were only two opinions about the place most residents considering it either a hideous eyesore or beautiful. In my opinion there’s no point in making an art museum look like a Wal-Mart, so I guess I would fall into the “beautiful” camp. I’d vote for spending my tax dollars on it.
We had a nice weekend in Roanoke, a wonderful visit with Steven and Cheryl, and hope it isn’t another 30 years before we return for another look.