Save The Depots - Benefit Poker Run
Save the Fort Mitchell and Keysville Depots
and Family Fun Day
at Green Cove Farm
It is nearly impossible to separate the history and culture of Southside Virginia from the history of trains. When we heard about a Poker Run to help raise funds for the renovation of two area historic train depots, we had to check it out. So on Saturday, November 1st, we headed out to the Fort Mitchell Depot for the 10:00 AM sign-in of “The First Annual Save the Fort Mitchell and Keysville Depots Poker Run”.
When we arrived, we were greeted by Doris Thompson, President of The Friends of the Ft. Mitchell and Keysville Depots inc., and her Husband Carter, along with some welcoming coffee and donuts.
Shortly after meeting the Thompsons, Jerry Robinson, one of the directors of the organization, materialized from somewhere behind the Post Office.
Jerry, acting as guide, tail gunner and even handling some of the check stations, seemed to do this magic appear-out-of-nowhere-trick all day.
The first riders to arrive were Kenny and Teresa Basset, who came all the way from Hampton, VA to support the run. The Bassetts were later recognized as the Long Distance winners.
For the next hour or more, motorcycles came in a steady stream. Events like this usually bring some interesting rides out for the day. Most were late models, with Wiley Royster's 1991 being the oldest. Two of the most unusual motorcycles we saw were; a Chevy V8 powered "Boss Hoss", owned by Jerry Robbins of Phoenix; and a 3-wheeled 2008 Can-Am Spyder owned by Ron Bernaldo of Charlotte Courthouse.
The registration, and drawing of the first card were well organized and went smoothly. By some time after 11:00 AM over 60 motorcycles were registered, all the riders had drawn their cards and were ready roll.
We followed the riders as they headed off for the first stop at the Depot in Keysville. It was a beautiful day, the kind of autumn day just made for a ride through country roads. With a clear sky and warm sun, the cooler temperatures from early morning had already risen to the mid-sixties. As we rode through the countryside, the fall foliage was in brilliant full color. The calm air left farm ponds still as glass, to reflect the tree lines beyond, and the sky above. There are only so many near perfect days like this.
The first stop at the Keysville Depot proved to be well organized, and the order of the day. Riders enjoyed a break in the sunshine and lined up to draw their next card.
After Keysville the ride headed to Drakes Branch, at the Pavilion, where the original depot once stood.
From Drakes Branch it was on to Saxe, at the site of Saxe Depot. Although the Depot building is no longer at the original site, part of it still remains in Saxe.
While in Saxe, as some riders were drawing their third card, a number of them wandered across the street to the Saxe Superette for refreshments. The Superette has a bit of old time general store feel to it. They have a grill with the usual fare, and shelves stocked with many items needed in a rural community. In addition to the expected items, they had some things you don't always see these days. In the cooler I found cream soda, which I hadn't tasted in a while. The cream soda was great, but I passed on the pickled eggs standing in a jar at the register.
After Saxe, the riders continued to Randolph to draw their next to last card at the nicely renovated Depot.
The Depot site is also at the entrance to the Staunton River Battlefield State Park.
After drawing cards at Randolph, Jerry Robinson called for everyone's attention. This is when we found out who had the oldest motorcycle, who was the oldest rider of the day, and who had traveled the longest distance. Jerry started the "auction" for oldest rider by announcing his age (I won't say how old Jerry is, but I think it surprized most of us when he said it.) After several "bids" the "winner" at 76 years, was John Killip from Charlotte Courthouse. John wanted to make sure we knew he earned the title, saying he would be 77 in March.
The high point came when Jerry called for the "Oldest Bike". Some joker in the deck thought he had said, "oldest wife" and hollered as he held up his wife's hand. This brought a real round of laughter from the crowd. Despite unseasonably warm temperatures, I bet he had a cold ride home.
Leaving Randolph, the ride headed for the festivities at Green Cove Farm to draw their final cards, and see who had high hand of the day. Half of the Ten Dollar per registrant entry fee went to the winning hand.
Several riders were in the running for high hand coming down to the final card. Marshall Harris of Skipwith, was holding a full house with three Queens and a pair of Jacks. You could almost see him rubbing his palms together waiting for the last cards to be pulled. In the end, Herman Wyatt of Lawrenceville pulled it out with his last card giving him four Jacks. "It’s all in good fun", said Harris. He and Wyatt are friends in a group of about eight who ride together all the time. He went on to say, "Horses or motorcycles, riding together is like a family thing. And this is for a good cause." In a gesture of goodwill, the winner donated a big piece of his prize money back to help save the depots.
After the ride and the drawing were over, everyone enjoyed the Fun Day celebration. Music by Back Street Band and the Gospel Gals provided entertainment.
On the food side there were the standards of burgers, dogs and soft drinks as well as a delicious stew. We talked to the stew maker, Melvin Woodson who told us they made 90 gallons of stew. Although Mr. Woodson said it is just something he does to help out the Friends of the Depots, he is actually state certified to make stew at events like this.
To wind down a wonderful day, one would be hard pressed to find a nicer place to do it. The Green Cove Farm is around 400 acres of some of the most beautiful scenery the area has to offer.
We had the opportunity to go on a hayride around the farm. David Bigger, another director of the Friends of the Depots, provided the wagon and chauffeur services.
As an added treat, Betsy Long who is Treasurer of the Friends of the Depots, and grew up around Green Cove Farm, rode along and gave us a narrative. The stories of how the farm developed over the years, and anecdotes from her childhood, made the ride much more colorful and memorable.
As the well-run event drew to a close, we had a chance to speak with some of the organizers. They said between 15 and 20 volunteers worked to make this possible.
To thank any one of them might unintentionally exclude some others, and the efforts of all were greatly appreciated. Although this was the third Annual Fun Day at Green Cove, they were calling it the First Annual Poker Run. Plans are already being made for next year. If this year was any indication, we are making our own plans to attend “The Second Annual Save the Fort Mitchell and Keysville Depots Poker Run”.
For more pictures of the event check out the
Poker Run '08 Photo Gallery
For more information, or to find out how you can help preserve some of Southside's Railroad Heritage, contact:
Friends of the Ft. Mitchell and Keysville
5570 Fort Mitchell Dr.
Chase City, VA 23924
Beverly P. Hawthorne
W. Carter Thompson, Jr.
Betsy N. Long
W. Thomas Rutledge, Jr.
Harvey L. Hudson