Vesuvias, Virginia: Like many old Valley towns, Vesuvias is a narrow strip of buildings strung along a railroad track. Thr track crosses Main Street directly in front of the General Store, which was probably close to a depot which was once the hub of the village.

Although the cardboard "Library and Community Center" placard appears obsolete, the old store is certainly not being trashed or abused. It would be nice to think that it hasn't been repainted because the owner enjoys tracing its history through the faded signs, including the ghostly Coca-Cola logo to the right of the upper window.

Longdale Station, Virginia: Late on a dismal rainy afternoon, the cicadas singing on the shadowy edge of the woods and the skeletal rocker on the front porch add a spectral touch to this tattered homestead.

Today Longdale Station is a hamlet of a dozen trailers and small bungalows. In its glory days, it was the railroad terminus for Longdale Furnace, an iron-smelting community which once cast cannon balls for the Confederate Army. Perhaps the masons who put up the foundry's twin smokestacks also built the massive chimney that will one day survive this house.

Route 151, near Lowestown, Virginia: At first, I was suspicious that Roberts' Store was the stage set where they shoot kitschy "country crafts" calendar illustrations. But the building is genuine, down to the rusty sign that advertises Coca-Cola in a thick-as-a-greenglass-telephone-insulator bottle. The only false note is the stove on the porch, which is too modern to be picturesque.

Roberts' probably went out of business when Route 151 was by-passed by divided, high speed Route 29. Ironically, new-found isolation has probably preserved this store and a dozen of Ropute 151's other ancient business buildings, as Jiffy Lubes, and fast food steadily spread out the arteries from nearby Charlottesville.