Buena Vista

Virginia is an impressively diverse state.  Drive a few miles in any direction, and the topography and demographics change noticeably, if not drastically. The 1:20 drive from Staunton to Richmond, for example, will take you through 5 counties, 2 USDA zones, 3 geological provinces, and the full spectrum of the state’s socioeconomic scale.  And every little town along the way has its own unique story and adds just a little more color to the state’s collective identity.

I’ve lived in Virginia for the majority of my life, yet I estimate that I’ve seen 1/20th of it.  I know outsiders who have seen more of the state than I have.  But isn’t that the way it goes?  Always looking to faraway places and ignoring what’s in your own back yard?  I’ve decided it is high time I do something about that.  Time to re-acquaint myself with my home state – one town at a time.


Buena Vista is one of those towns you’ve heard of but don’t know why.  It just kind of pops up in conversations, as in my neighbor’s son lives here but works out of Buena Vista, or one of my co-workers transferred here from the Buena Vista branch.  But if you asked me, I couldn’t tell you where it is.

SVUCome to find out, it is a gateway town to the Blue Ridge Parkway, just outside the city of Lexington.  Six square miles and 6700 residents (as of 2012).  And as with so many towns here in the valley, it’s chock full of gorgeous buildings.  Forgotten or neglected for decades. Reclaimed by some, ignored by most.  And here’s the craziest thing:  there’s a university there I have NEVER heard of.  Southern Virginia University.  I’ve since read that it is Mormon with a whopping 777 students. [Just thinking of being at a school that small makes my heart palpitate.  Social claustrophobia!! ]  However, its main building is pretty spectacular. I hope those rooms with a porch are dorm rooms.  Just imagine morning coffee on that veranda.

I’m having a hard time coming up with a word to describe the town itself, so I’ll settle on “quirky”.  Grand Victorian houses painted a garish purple, a massive transformer-esque metal statue, and my absolute favorite: a coffee pot house! I figure if nothing else, these folks must have a great sense of humor.

Coffee Pot House

After making a couple of passes through town, I headed towards the Blue Ridge just to see what was out there.  Ivy, ivy Kudzu everywhere!  Fascinating but scary – ecologically speaking.  A few miles over the crest I came across what I suppose was an actual town at some point.  Forks of Buffalo, Virginia. The town (of one building) is long abandoned (residents devoured by kudzu, I’m betting), but still compelling.  And a pretty darn cool name, too!

And, of course, I had to snap some shots of local flora.  Thistle,Chickory and Queen Anne’s Lace dominate here, and blackberry vines line the road to the crest. All-in-all, a delightful little road trip.  The vista is indeed buena.

Buena Vista vista

10 thoughts on “Buena Vista

  1. Are you sure that is ivy? It looks like the kudzu that at one time had completely engulfed Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. It’s a plant that was brought from Japan because it was a good ground cover. As often happens, someone didn’t realize that it might behave differently in a different climate. Even though it certainly looks like kudzu to me, I can’t say I have ever seen it in Virginia. If it is ivy, it is a really sturdy strain. The pictures are gorgeous and I appreciate knowing where Buena Vista is.

    1. My first thought was that it was kudzu, but it’s not supposed to grow at this elevation. And I checked the state park service site and didn’t see any mention of a kudzu invasion up there. I’ll have to look at my picture more closely. It could be Virginia Creeper.

  2. I looked at the vine that is on the wood shed and the leaf is not kudzu. Virginia Creeper has 5 distinct leaves but I can’t tell from the picture exactly what the leaf is. Maybe you could enlarge the picture enough to get a good look at a single leaf. Now I am very curious.

  3. It’s not a skill. I grew up trying to run away from kudzu which always threatened to overtake me. Oh, and I learned about Virginia Creeper at Girl Scout camp.

  4. Ahem, it’s Queen Anne’s Lace. I know because I worked at part-time delivery job for a florist’s shop while I was in high school. We ran out of it one day and the owner told me to go grab some from the inner median on I-285. It was all over the place. Then the cops arrived and cited me. Owner apologized and paid the ticket, which specifically referenced “Queen Anne’s Lace. Judge was nice enough not to assess any points, as he said he delivered flowers when he was in college and had done a similar chore.

  5. Oh, lordy. It’s the Vowel Nazi! 🙂 At least I spelled it correctly in the photo gallery (in my own defense, I hadn’t had my first cup of coffee yet). And leave it to you to dodge Atlanta traffic for a handful of invasive weeds!

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