By Bob Tagert
2016 – What a Ride!
Each month during the course of the year I write a road trip article in which I explore the neat places of our region. Each January I recap those road trips from the previous year. Last years road trips began with a three-hour drive to the New River Gorge in West Virginia and ended with the different Veteran’s Memorials that are in the D.C./Virginia local area.
Let’s head southwest to Wild and Wonderful West Virginia!
New River Gorge, WV
We actually visited the New River Gorge and the town of Fayetteville in December and published the article in February. Last December around Christmas time, the weather patterns of this area went absolutely crazy. Expecting cold temps and maybe a little snow in the mountains, we were instead greeted with temps in the mid 60’s the night we arrived and warmed to the low 70’s by the time we left.
Upon our arrival at the River Expeditions compound, the fog in the area hampered us, but we soon found our cabin. The campground is huge but at this time of year, we were the only ones present. In the summer months when folks are running the river I am sure that every cabin, safari tent and other accommodation is packed. The next morning we drove into the town of Fayetteville and on to the New River Gorge Bridge.
The New River Gorge Bridge was completed in 1977 and at the time was the world’s longest arch bridge. The New River is a steel arch bridge that spans 3,030 feet. The roadway of the bridge is 876 feet above the New River. It is one of the highest vehicular bridges in the world, and is currently the third highest in the United States. Construction of the bridge gave a boost to the state and local economy and the completion improved transportation in the area by cutting the vehicle traffic time from one side to the other from 45 minutes to 45 seconds. You can follow the river by driving along Route 60 for another adventure discovering the small towns of West Virginia.
Antrim 1844 Country House Inn
With the last of the winter snow melting, we headed north for our March road trip. This adventure took us north to Tanytown, Maryland. The Antrim is an historic property that was built in 1844 by Col. Andrew Ege on land inherited by his wife Margaret from her father Major John McKaleb. The estate was named in honor of the McKaleb’s family ancestral home in County Antrim, Ireland. An American treasure, Antrim is a classic example of a quintessential brick Geek Revival Mansion with Federal influences that exhibits a classic example of a mid-nineteenth century agrarian plantation. Nestled in the foothills of the Catoctin Mountains, this area abounds with immense rural beauty and is rich in history. Today, most of the original outbuildings, which supported the lifestyle of an important property of that era, are still intact. These buildings consist of the Carriage House, the Ice House, the Post House, the Summer Kitchen, the Brick Kitchen, the Overseer’s Wing, the Barn, the Spring House and even the double-sided outhouse.
This place treats their guest’s right. There is an afternoon tea in the drawing room of the mansion complete with cucumber sandwiches (no crust) and an assortment of scones and cookies help to set the tone. Guests are taken to dinner one group at a time. Our seating was at eight thirty so we decided to head to the Pickwick Pub. We settled into the bar stools and enjoyed the warmth of the wood burning fire on this chilly evening. We later enjoyed a five- course dinner in the former smokehouse that took the better part of two hours…it was a delight.
Springtime in the Mountains
Last April we had some warm weather and took a drive to the mountains. In so doing, it also gave me a chance to visit some of the small towns along the way. My first stop was Culpeper. The historic district of Culpeper gives it a small town feel but the rest of the town is spread out over miles. The historic district has some fabulous shops and a collection of restaurants to rival anywhere. Taking route 522 out of Culpeper I made my way past Old Rag Mountain to Sperryville. Sperryville is a classic town full of very creative folks. The Thornton River Grill is a casual restaurant serving a limited menu but covering all the bases. Across the street from the Grill is Hopkins Ordinary, a fabulous B&B if you are looking for a good nights rest and a delightful breakfast. A little over a year ago the owners took their home brewing to the next level and opened the Ale Works with specialty craft beers. On the other side of town you will find Copper Fox Distillery where Rick Wasmund makes his Wasmunds single malt American whiskey and Copper Fox Rye as well as some new products. Also in this part of town are Copper Fox Antiques, Pen Druid Brewery and a couple of retail stores.
Leaving Sperryville on Route 211 east you will once again come to Washington, VA. This is the home of the internationally renowned Inn at Little Washington. The Inn has long been a destination of the rich and famous from around the world. About a block from the Inn is Tula’s Off Main, a restaurant that is owned and operated by local Alexandrian’s Mark Allen and John McCaslin. If you are looking for a spa treatment, look no farther than The Little Washington Spa which is owned by Jackie Bogle Meuse, another Alexandrian.
Getting back on Route 211 heading east you will turn left at route 522 and into the little village of Flint Hill and over the mountain to Front Royal. Front Royal is a big little town with a lot to offer, including the Shenandoah River. Taking Route 66 east you will come to the town of The Plains. About two blocks long, this town has unique shops and some very good restaurants. The beauty of this trip is all of the fine Virginia wineries that you will pass along the way. Do a little research and visit a few and discover what they have to offer.
Solomons Island, MD
With warm weather driving out the cold, I went to Solomons, Maryland for the May road trip. On the way, I had to stop at Stoney’s at Broomes Island – just south of Prince Frederick – for my first crab cake of the season. This lets me know that summer is officially here. From here, I cruised on down Route 4 to my very own Key West…Solomons. The world famous Tiki Bar had recently opened for the season so shoes were tossed aside and it was full bore toes in the sand. There are a few small shops on the island like Carmen’s Gallery, which hosts the Plein Air Festival every fall. There is a bounty of great places to eat with crab cakes, rockfish bites and Myers rum the go to delights. There are a variety of hotels, Inns and B&B’s for an overnight stay. The Smithsonian-affiliated, Annemarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center is also located in Solomons. Most sculptures are on loan from the National Gallery of Art or the Hirshhorn Museum. A stop by the Calvert Marine Museum is a must as well. You have to see the live otter show if nothing else. Solomons is a year-round resort town and everything is open all winter.
Deep Creek Lake
For our June road trip we took a drive north to Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County, Maryland. Although we were there in the spring when the boating season was getting underway, Deep Creek Lake has always been associated with winter skiing at the popular Wisp Ski Resort. I can remember skiing there with friends twenty years ago and staying a short drive from the mountain at one of the many rental properties available in and around Deep Creek Lake. In the summer months the resort offers events including bonfires, kayak tours, paint ball, skatepark and disc golf, not to mention a full-size golf course. For the thrill seekers there is also the zip line tour that lets participants fly over the slopes and through the woods. During the warm months the drive to Deep Creek is beautiful if you get off of the interstates and travel the back roads. Spring is a great time for this drive as everything is in bloom and it is also transition season.
There is no Place like Home
In July of last year we stayed home and visited some of the cool places that are in our own backyard. We can move among the most modern to a rich history. Last July the 1.3 billion dollar MGM Casino and Resort had not yet opened across the Potomac in National Harbor…but it is now. Opening on December 8th, the resort drew capacity crowds their first few nights in business. We had an opportunity to visit on media day and it is spectacular.
Back on the Virginia side of the river, George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate awaits you. The wintertime is a great time to go, as there are fewer tourists from around the world thus making the lines shorter and a lot less crowded. Also located on the George Washington Memorial Parkway you can find Belle Haven Park and the Belle Haven marina. Although a bit cold now, this is a getaway for locals and one of the best places to learn to sail. A little farther from Old Town you can visit Annapolis, Maryland…the sailing capital of Maryland. Even in the winter you can catch hearty sailors competing on the water in the frostbite races.
Berryville Virginia & the Waypoint House
In August we wrote about our trip to Berryville, Virginia located in the Shenandoah Valley. This is a small town with some muscle. It is the largest town in Clarke County but the main street is still only 6 blocks long and anchored a one end by the Berryville Feed and Grain and he other end by the Battle Town Inn. In the middle of town is the Barns of Rose Hill, a location for the performing and visual arts.
While in Berryville we stayed at the Waypoint House Bed and Breakfast. Waypoint is a very clever name because a waypoint is a reference point that one puts in their GPS and marks the location for a return trip. Owned an operated by former Alexandrians Rachel and Jonathan Worsley, the Waypoint is a historic home built in 1884 that has been remodeled into a modern bed and breakfast. There are some very nice restaurants as well as unique shops in town.
Copper Fox Distillery, Williamsburg, VA
This road trip was a real winner. We got to visit the new distillery in Williamsburg, VA and had a chance to catch up with owner and friend Rick Wasmund. Although it is a 200 mile drive, if you avoid Interstate 95 and take U.S. 301, the traffic will be less and the drive more scenic. Williamsburg is located in the northern part of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. It is bordered by James City County and York County.
Less than two miles from Colonial Williamsburg is the new Copper Fox distillery. This is Wassmunds second location with the first one being in Sperryville. It sits on 6 acres on the former site of a 104 room motel. Ricks inspiration to convert these 8 buildings into a distillery is mind blowing. He is a true visionary. The new facility will give them much needed barrel storage and a new area where they can continue to hand malt their own barley. With a remodel of the main building this year production of spirits can increase. Take an overnight trip to Williamsburg and stop by for a taste of some of the best Single Malt American Whiskey and Rye in the country.
Northern Fauquier County Wine country
Last fall I had a chance to visit the wineries of Northern Fauquier County. The wineries I visited are located along Route 66 and Leeds Manor Road between the towns of Marshall and Warrenton. Route 66 is a chaotic drive but Leeds Manor road takes you across mountain tops and past horse farms and wineries. My first stop near the town of Warrenton was Pearmund Cellars and their newly opened Vint Hill Craft Winery. After grabbing a bite to eat in Warrenton, I made a right on to Leeds Manor Road and headed to Desert Rose Ranch & Winery near Hume Virginia. A rustic ranch-style tasting room makes for a western experience. Leaving the winery I retraced my tracks back on Hume Road to Leeds Manor and making a left preceded to Philip Carter Winery. Leaving PC Winery I made my way to Linden, VA and up the mountain to Fox Meadow Winery on Freezeland Road. My next stop was back towards Marshall and Naked Mountain Winery and Vineyards. After negotiating the windy road leaving Naked Mountain I make my way back on Route 55 to Route 17 and “a little bit of Tuscany” at Three Fox Meadow Winery. My last stop was back on Route 55 and Barrel Oak Winery and their newly opened brewery.
All of these wineries are very good and have just about anything you are looking for. To learn more go to our archives at oldtowncrier.com and pull up the October 2016 issue for the entire article.
Veterans Day & D.C.’s Memorials
As a salute to our Veterans I decided to visit some of the beautiful, and somber memorials that are nearby. My visit began with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a 2-acre national memorial that is located next to the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and pays tribute to the members of the U.S. forces that fought and died in Vietnam. The memorial consists of three separate parts: The Three Soldiers statue, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, or simply…the Wall! At the other end of the Reflection Pool you will find the World War II Memorial, which honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the United States, the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort from home.
On the other side of the Reflecting Pool stands the Korean War Veterans Memorial. All of its components, including the walls, stainless steel statues and Pool of Remembrance, are dedicated to the armed forces that served and sacrificed during the Korean War. Leaving the Reflection Pool area and venturing into Washington, D.C you will find the Navy Memorial and Naval Heritage Center that honor and commemorate the sailors of the United States Navy. The memorial is an outdoor public plaza and the Heritage Center serves as a place o learn about the history and heritage of the sea services.
The next three memorials are located on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. The Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial is located in Lady Bird Johnson Park on Columbia Island and is a monument honoring sailors of the United States Navy and the United States Merchant Marine who died at sea during World War I. Nicknamed “Waves and Gulls,” the memorial depicts seven seagulls above the crest of a wave. The monument can be seen between the G.W. Parkway and the Potomac River just north of I-395.
The United States Air Force Memorial honors the service of the personnel of the United States Air Force and its predecessors. The memorial is located right off of I-395 in Arlington on the grounds of Fort Myer near the Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery. The memorial is an iconic image on the Washington skyline. The three memorial spires range from 201 to 270 feet high and appear to be soaring: its array of stainless steel arcs against the sky evoke the image of “contrails” of the Air Force Thunderbirds as they peel back in a precision “bomb burst” maneuver.
The final memorial is probably the best known. The Marine Corps War Memorial, or the Iwo Jima Statue, located in Arlington, VA just off the George Washington Parkway. The United States Marine Corps War memorial represents this nation’s gratitude to marines and those who have fought beside them. While the statue depicts one of the most famous incidents of World War II, the memorial is dedicated to all Marines who have given their lives in defense of the United States since 1775. Semper Fi!
Home for the Holidays
Every December’s road trip is all about Alexandria, Virginia…where I live. We started the Old Town Crier here in January of 1988 and paid for our first print job with a credit card. No business plan, no financing…not anything but our desire. This town has been very good to our publication and me. Businesses stood by us early on in spite of ourselves and over the years we have gained their respect…and that is a two way street! To those of you who read us…thank you. For those of you who advertise…wow, couldn’t have done it without you!
So, as a new year begins take a road trip around our beautiful area but more importantly, take the time to shop, dine and enjoy this great city of ours. See you on the road.