Hi! I’m Karen McKenzie from Charlottesville, Virginia. I’m the founder and creative director of Rhyme & Reason Design and avid runner, soccer player, triathlete and aficionado of all things outdoors (when the weather’s warm at least!)
This Thanksgiving, my husband Ben and I took a 6.5-mile ‘Good Run’ through Charlottesville in an effort to earn our turkey and share some love. Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, Charlottesville is home to the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and a number of other local landmarks that are near and dear to my heart as a native ‘townie.’ On our run, we thanked those who sponsored us by donating to one of two organizations that we’ve worked with in the past: Mother’s Heart, an organization that seeks to bring girls out of the nightmare of sex slavery in Nepal, and Soccer in the Streets, a non-profit which empowers kids who lack opportunities to become independent young adults by building character and self-reliance through soccer.
At a crisp 23 degrees, we bundled up bright and early Thanksgiving morning. Our first stop was just around the corner at the local high school’s graffiti wall. Who better to thank at this institution of creativity and public (legal) expression but my company, Rhyme & Reason Design. Thank you R&R for being a wonderful place to work, for fostering professional growth and for being a constant outlet for beautiful and smart design.
Stop Two :
Just another half mile up the road, we stopped at our second destination–the whale tail–to thank John and Ida Swenson. Part of the local Art in Place program, the whale tail has become one of the longest running installations (although replaced and repaired a couple times). Thank you John and Ida for being such supportive family members, for the delicious pies (did I count 7 this year?) and for always being a little quirky.
Our third stop was a bit out of the way, but worth it. We ran through the University of Virginia grounds to Klockner Stadium to thank AtlantaBen, my husband’s real estate company that offers amazing real estate services to Atlantans. We snuck on to the field and took a celebratory lap on turf that’s been graced by the likes of Tony Meola, Claudio Reyna and John Harkes. As an extreme lover of soccer, there was no better way to say thank you to AtlantaBen. Goooooaaaaallll!
Stop Four :
Probably our most recognizable stop along the way–the Rotunda. Originally designed and built in the 1820s by Thomas Jefferson as the academic heart of the “academical village,” the Rotunda is one of the best known buildings on grounds, perched atop the lawn that stretches down to Old Cabell Hall. Here we stopped to thank my nephews, Cade and Jesse, the two coolest (and cutest) dudes on the planet. Thank you for sharing your lasers with us and playing Star Wars all holiday long, for your love of cheese pasta and for sweet hugs. Also, thank you to Scott and Cindy for donating on their behalf!
For those of you familiar with the University of Virginia, you know that streaking the lawn is part of college life and practically required as a right of passage during the undergraduate experience. Ben and I have not actually streaked the lawn, but Ben got about halfway there! Perhaps if it had been a touch warmer, we would’ve committed.
Stop Five :
Just a hop, skip and a jump down the lawn, we stopped at one of the many statues of Thomas Jefferson. As the figurehead of the university, he is one of the most highly regarded historical leaders in Charlottesville. Sponsored by my brother and sister-in-law, Andrew and Tiffany, thank you Powerline Dale Davis Pearson for being the most lovable King Charles pup around.
Stop Six :
For our sixth stop, we headed to the Corner to the famous White Spot, a classic diner known for its Gus Burger, a burger all the way with a fried egg on top. Popular in the wee hours of the night, this is always on a visitor’s must-do list. When Ben and I got married in 2010, we sent my in-laws there, and they’ve been talking about it ever since! Thank you Cheryl and Carl for being wonderful parents, for always keeping us well fed and for sponsoring all our crazy endeavors!
Books are cool. Sponsored by my librarian mom, we headed another mile to the University’s Health Sciences Library where she works in Historical Collections. Thank you Mom for being you, for encouraging learning and reading at all ages and for joining the rest of the Pearsons on the good side. Go Blue!
Stop Eight :
We didn’t have to go far for our second-to-last stop at one of the newer buildings on grounds, the Claude Moore Medical Education Building where my dad works. Thanks Dad for your dedication to medical education, for shaping med students into top-of-the-line doctors and for running with me no matter how cold it is outside.
Home stretch! With only a mile and a half to go, we left the University and headed towards Fry’s Spring Beach Club, another local landmark steeped in history and personal memories. This is the pool where I made some of my closest friends, spending each summer swimming laps, playing spades, and saving up quarters for grilled cheese sandwiches and chip burgers from the snack bar. It’s where I held my first job and even had a surprise faux wedding with friends in full costume. Fittingly, this stop was sponsored by my best friend, Kate, who shared in most of the memories listed above. Thank you Kate Sparkle Pants Merriam for being the best friend on earth, for being cooler than anyone else I know and for your endless appreciation of adventures and shenanigans.
A fun historical snippet about the club (don’t worry, it’s chlorinated now)
“The Fry’s Spring Beach Club opened for business in the summer of 1921. The late local writer, Booten Herndon, recalled going through the gate on opening day. He was six years old at the time. His mother signed him up for swimming lessons. The pool water was unfiltered and untreated. People loved it. Going to “The Beach” became the thing to do. Mr. Dettor expanded his offerings to include changing rooms. Out-door “bathing”, evening dance parties, moonlit strolls along shadowy lanes, all offered among the trees at the town’s outer edge: it is no wonder that a common joke from this time was, “Charlottesville is divided into two parts: Charlottesville proper, and Fry’s Spring improper.” The Club prospered through the next decades.”
With our journey complete, we headed home to shower and stuff our faces with a delicious Thanksgiving meal. What a perfect start to a day dedicated to thankfulness. If anyone’s ever in the ‘ville, feel free to follow our steps. It’s not just a Good Run, it’s a great run.
If you’d like to learn more about the non-profits sponsored, you can visit their websites.
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