2017 Was A Whirlwind of a Year!
As most of our readers know, every January I take a look back at the Road Trips of the previous year, and like our cover has said for 30 years…”From the Bay to the Blue Ridge”. Knowing full well that there is no better place to be than in Old Town Alexandria, from time to time we all just want to get away. This column can give you some good ideas and some good information every month of the year.
Febuary:Cambridge Maryland & the Hyatt Chesapeake Resort
Our first adventure last February took us to Cambridge, Maryland and the impressive Hyatt Chesapeake Resort on the banks of the Choptank River. We usually like to keep the waterfront trips closer to the warmer months, but spring was right around the corner and the Chesapeake Resort makes for a great winter escape. Getting to Cambridge is easy. Take the Beltway to Route 50 and head east. Within two hours you will cross the bridge that spans the Choptank River into Cambridge. The Choptank is a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay and the largest river on the Delmarva Peninsula. The $155 million Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa & Marina is situated on the east shore in Cambridge. Completed in 2002, the resort is the only one of its kind in the Mid-Atlantic.
Settled by the English colonists in 1684, Cambridge is one of the oldest colonial cities in Maryland. During the colonial years, the English colonists developed farming on the Eastern Shore. The town was a trading center for the area. Cambridge was designated a Maryland “Main Street” community on July 1, 2003. In town there are many fine restaurants and shops…our favorite was the Portside Seafood Restaurant. Originally an oyster house, Portside has been a family owned and operated restaurant since 1997. In this neck of the woods, oysters are king. The oysters produced from the waters of the Choptank are some of the best around. Old Town’s own Fish Market Restaurant has partnered with a local oyster company to supply the Old Town eatery with Eastern Shore oysters.
The Hyatt Resort sits on 342 acres leaving plenty of room for their 18-hole golf course designed by Keith Foster, a 150-slip marina and a full service spa. There is a path that winds its way through the property making for a relaxed stroll or a bike ride. The path meanders over wooden bridges that span the wetlands below your feet. Here you are likely to see Blue Heron, Bald Eagles and a few of their resident deer. Other wildlife abounds in this natural wildlife rookery. The 400-room hotel is massive, but because of the crescent shape you feel like you are in the midst of something special. The infinity pool in the courtyard sits dead center in the crescent and from ground level it appears to overflow into the Choptank River, which lies beyond the pool. There are fire pits and fireplaces scattered around for that cool spring or fall evening. There is also a huge indoor pool that lies adjacent to the infinity pool. There is also an indoor/outdoor Jacuzzi (for those of you who have been to the Boardwalk Hotel in Rehoboth, this is a mini version of theirs) that was a welcome at the end of the day! Something else that we found to be a lot fun was that they show movies on a huge screen at 6pm and 8pm at the far end of the pool. While the little kids are watching the movie on a floaty, the big kids can enjoy an adult beverage from the poolside bar and grill. This place is user friendly and they most certainly want you to enjoy yourself.
Like Alexandria, Annapolis is a seaport town, and like Alexandria there are many great shops, museums and restaurants. We timed our trip to Annapolis so that we would be there when our good friend, Kevin Brooks and his band The Eastport Oyster Boys, were playing their music at Castlebay, a traditional Irish Pub. Just like Cambridge, getting to Annapolis is very easy although traffic can be heavy around rush hour. Get on the Beltway to Route 50 and head east. In less than an hour you will hit the turn of for “Naptown”, a favorite moniker used by the locals. Also like Old Town Alexandria, the main drag in Annapolis runs perpendicular to the water. The main street is one way so all traffic begins around Ego Alley, the canal that runs from Spa Creek into the city. Here is where you will find all of the sailboats and powerboats that are first come first served at City Dock. Others will be on moorings or anchored in the harbor.
There are numerous shops, restaurants and bars in Annapolis and we usually begin on the waterfront and the Annapolis Market House, a food court of sorts with open vendors. Opened in the 1780’s the old Market House was destroyed by hurricane Isabel in 2003. It took 10 years to reopen and is thriving today. Next to the Market is a favorite, McGarvey’s Salon and Oyster Bar. Mussels and little neck clams are always a favorite in this popular restaurant, which was established in 1975. Next to McGarvey’s is Middleton Tavern, which has always been a popular destination. This tavern is one of the oldest continuously operating taverns in America and was originally established in 1750. As it is with a lot of places in Annapolis, there is usually live entertainment to be found. Other restaurants along Ego Alley include Mission BBQ, Dock Street Bar & Grill and Pusser’s Caribbean Grille, situated on the other side of Ego Alley, is a great place to people and boat watch and home to the famous Soggy Dollar Pain Killer! Get the Pain Killer here because Hurricane Irma Wiped out the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke. The 74-foot Wooden Schooner Woodwind is usually docked next to Pusser’s. Woodwind offers day and evening cruises during warm weather.
April:The Secret of Havana
The April road trip to Havana was written by Adam Morel and the photos by his brother Glenn Morel. It was probably one of the best pieces written all year. Here are some excerpts:
An old woman living in a tiny home, working slavishly over a hot stove, making strong coffee for three strangers. A middle-aged man with a tattered shirt and bloodshot eyes, giving a bear hug, speaking emphatically in a language his newfound friend cannot understand. A single mother with bright eyes writing directions in broken English to a neighborhood gathering later in the evening. A plump, optimistic neighbor serving bread and eggs, fruit and ham, walking gingerly through a buckling hallway without a ceiling, to a table set with pewter and lace. An old man laughing in the street, refusing to help with directions until the lost soul first “makes friendship” with him as he shows off prized photographs hung carefully on the splattered walls of his collapsing cantina. An elderly, well-to-do couple, pointing with pride from building to building, watching the reaction of their esteemed guests, eyes misting as they describe the loss of their beloved Fidel. A busy driver with a tiny American flag hanging from his mirror, lustily sharing his black market successes, talking politics while racing between towns to show off the countryside. A gangly, weathered farmer nervously clutching a cardboard box in a dilapidated barn, fearfully selling clandestine cigars for three pesos each. A tourist with a make-believe beard and an anxious heart, overwhelmed.
You can read all the books, look at all the photographs and watch all the documentaries. Nothing prepares you for Havana – or reveals its true nature.
Yes, the classic automobiles, the majestic colonial architecture and the pulsing music are there, all of it more vibrant, more splendid, more everything than depicted. And yes, the cobblestone streets and the crumbling asphalt ones too, literally teem, day and night, with life – the local poor, wide-eyed tourists, friendly hustlers, hookers, joyful children, multitudes of dogs and cats, purveyors of bread and goats and cheese and nuts, all that life undulating as one, ribbon-like, down narrow, dusty streets, tree-lined boulevards and along the gulf-soaked sea wall, the furtive, famous Malecon.
If Havana is anything in mid-February 2017, it is anxious with a bounce in its step. Walk its neighborhoods from Miramar to Vedado, from Cojimar to Habana Vieja. Stop and look. And listen. Like the cafecito which rivals rum as the most popular libation for residents and visitors alike, you can hear Havana percolating with ambition. Spend a little time with them. Don’t worry about the language barrier. Extend your hands and your heart to them. They’ll tell you the secret of Havana with their eyes.
May: Frederick Maryland and Beyond
The Merry Month of May took us to visit Frederick, Maryland. We were already headed that direction to attend the Frederick Craft Spirit Festival organized by the Maryland Distillers Guild so decided it would be a good idea to combine it into the column. Frederick is the gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains heading west. Located where the Catoctin Mountain meets the rolling hills of the Piedmont region, the Frederick area became a crossroads even before European explorers and traders arrived. Founded before1730, Frederick has survived revolutions and wars and today is a beautiful revitalized town. The single most dynamic feature that ties the heart of Frederick’s historic district together is Carroll Creek Park. The park began as a flood control project in the late 1970’s. After the Great Frederick Flood of 1976 left parts of Downtown Fredrick under three feet of water, it became clear that something had to be done to remove Frederick from the 100-year flood plain. The creek was rerouted underground in 1993 and has eliminated any future flooding from the streets. A 40-foot wide canal waterway was created that runs 1.3 miles rough the heart of town. This beautiful centerpiece has water features, brick pedestrian paths and bridges and a 350-seat amphitheatre.
Among the historic buildings and tree lined brick-paved sidewalks, visitors will find a bustling downtown. Frederick’s main streets are Market Street and the perpendicular running Patrick Street. These are the prime areas for shopping and dining. East of downtown you can find Everedy Square and Shab Row, downtown Frederick’s largest cluster of special shops, eateries and services housed in beautifully restored 19th century buildings.
After our spirit sipping and walk about and a visit to the fantastic Visitors Center, we decided to discover the Monocacy River and its three covered bridges. The Utica Mill Covered Bridge was built around 1850 and is located on Utica Road over Fishing Creek. The bridge originally spanned the nearby Monocacy River but was washed away during a severe storm in 1889. Local citizens gathered the remains and reconstructed the 101-foot long Burr arch truss bridge at its present location. If you try and stay off of the interstates and take the back roads you will discover a beautiful area of farms, fields and mountains.
June: Camp Runaway
So you remember those days long ago when your mom and dad would drop you off for summer camp? I do… whether it was Boy Scout camp or Safety Patrol school camp. It was always a wonderful adventure and I always came home with cuts and bruises and memories. I thought that those days were gone, until our friend Shannon Koprivich told us about a camp for adults that she and a friend were organizing…Camp Runaway…how appropriate!
Shannon and Co-Camp Organizer, and longtime friend, Cristin Moor were campers at Tall Timbers Campground in West Virginia when they were in the 5th grade. The two of them as well, as other former Tall Timbers campers have remained in contact to this day. Camp owner Glenn Smith was the camp director back in those days. Glenn’s father had established the camp in 1970. In May these organizers brought to fruition the first Camp Runaway at Camp Tall Timbers in High View, West Virginia. At the age of 70 I thought that I might be biting off more than I could chew and may not be up to those physically challenging days of yesteryear. I was right! Although the desire was there, immobility is not a strength in dodge ball. The average age of the 25 campers was probably in the mid to late 30’s and all in good shape. As I mentioned earlier, some were former kid campers who came back from as far as California, Colorado and Florida. Old friendships were rekindled and new ones made.
After registering on Friday we all just kind of hung out, introduced ourselves and had a few adult beverages – this is a huge benefit of “adult” camp – until someone brought up the idea of dodge ball in the pavilion. The weather didn’t really cooperate with us – rained off an on the whole time so events that would normally be held outdoors were taken to the pavilion. This didn’t stop the fun. Several of the guys and gals headed up the hill to arrange the benches in a circle for a tame game of dodge ball. It didn’t take long before I saw the ladies coming out of the pavilion door and heading back to their cabin and I resigned myself to the fact that they had enough. How wrong I was! They all emerged a few minutes later changed into their workout/fitness attire and double-timed it back to the pavilion. I grabbed my camera and followed.
July. Keepin’ it Cool in the Mountains
The expression “A picture is worth a thousand words” appeared in a 1911 newspaper article quoting newspaper editor Tess Flanders discussing journalism and publicity. I applied that principle to this month’s Road Trip. I attempted to limit my words and let you enjoy the scenery. With the warm summer months upon us I took a drive down I-66 through Northern Fauquier County wine country into Front Royal and across the mountain to Rappahannock County. The drive begins west on I-66 to Marshall and Route 55 to Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane. This winery is a very popular destination with mountain views, a wide selection of wines and, for beer lovers, the Farm Taproom that opened this spring. A couple of miles down Route 55 to Route 17 and across Crooked Run Creek you will discover Three Fox Vineyards. The winery has out door seating on the mountain as well as down by the creek with a few hammocks by the stream. Other wineries on this drive include Aspen Dale Winery, Naked Mountain Winery and Philip Carter Vineyards.
The drive continues down Route 55 past Fox Meadow Winery and into Front Royal. Taking Route 522 out of Front Royal will take you through the quaint village of Flint Hill and on to Little Washington and Sperryville, Va. Where you can enjoy the likes of the Griffin Tavern, Tula’s Restaurant and the Little Washington Theater as well as Copper Fox Distillery and Pen Druid Brewery in Sperryville.
August. Solomons Island, Revisited
We received a submission from one of our loyal readers, Beth Jannery, asking if we had an interest in publishing her take on her own Road Trip to Solomons and we said sure. Here is an excerpt:
We are a disconnected nation. It’s summer and there is no wacky, oddly fun ice bucket challenge happening on social media to connect us all. We are tired, torn and frustrated. We are fighting one another. I suggest a road trip. We need an adventure. Something to relight our inner American flame before she flickers out. I propose disappearing to quiet Solomons Island, Maryland embracing an American Adventure. Road trips give me a sense of freedom and I’m off, leaving the rest of my hectic world behind to renew my spirit. I wonder what it will take to renew our countries’ spirit. I find the simple answer for all of us on Solomons Island. It’s the tip of the iceberg, but it is a start. I make my way toward a restaurant on the pier and devour a dozen raw oysters with extra lemon There s plenty to do – if I have the desire to go,go,go – boat rides, fishing excursions, you name it. But I don’t. I want to keep it simple. Anything I do on shore involves fresh seafood. There are fresh oysters from The Pier at Solomons as well as very tasty rockfish bites and crab cakes to be eaten.
Food connects us. But this isn’t enough. I’m still feeling the grip of my torn America. I explore an offering of fresh crabs (medium and large size) covered in old Bay with hot drawn butter, lemon and vinegar as tasty options. I talk to locals about their unease in our divided America. I soon discovered a little known monument hidden away on the island dedicated to those who trained here and served. I ask to be taken to see it even in the dark. I get into the local’s car and we drive onto the island’s back roads and make our way to the “Protector”. That’s what I decided to call it – the lone man keeping watch –the Protector. It is the On Watch statue that I never knew existed. In the moment I jump out of the car, leaving the door open and my purse on the floor mat where my flip flops sit. There is a single spotlight shining on the monument and I walk up to him and feel a sense of obligation to be silent and respectful.
September. Baltimore Museum of Industry
We were invited to attend the Distillery Showcase presented by the Maryland Distillers Guild on June 25th. We had tickets to see the Steve Miller Band and Peter Frampton perform at the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons that Sunday so we decided to make a two-day excursion…Saturday at the Museum and Sunday in Solomons. As it turned out, I misread the information. The Distillery Showcase was also on Sunday. The embarrassment grew as we reported to the museum receptionist that we were there to taste and write about whiskey. All was not lost. We had discovered the Baltimore Museum of Industry by mistake. Last month we went back to the Museum as our September road trip. What a cool place! Even though we who live in the Washington D.C. area have access to the greatest museums in the world, this one about industry in Maryland brings the experience so much closer to our lives. I have heard of these names. I use Maryland inventions like Sweetheart straws every day. I remember some of these exhibits from when I was a boy. I can’t remember a World War I tank, but I do remember the AM radio in my dad’s car. I knew about the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, America’s first railroad. I had heard of Stieff Silver, Crown Cork and Seal Company and Black & Decker, and it is all here.
The entire museum is a hand’s on experience. In addition to early electric cars, trucks and fire engines, you will find galleries that recreate parts of a cannery, a garment loft from 1900, a machine shop from 1900, a print shop, Dr. Bunting’s Pharmacy (where Noxzema was invented), as well as exhibits on the food industry in Baltimore (McCormick Spices, Domino Sugar, Esskay). Who can forget Cal Ripken’s commercials for Esskay ballpark franks? In the Decker Gallery, the Milestone Wall documents inventions and processes discovered first in Baltimore and other parts of Maryland.
October: Exploring Winchester, Virginia
With the season changing to fall, we thought it a perfect time to take a drive to the mountains of the Blue Ridge and the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. Our destination was Winchester, Virginia and the beautifully restored George Washington Hotel, a Wyndham Grand Hotel. The drive from Alexandria is also a beautiful journey this time of year as you pass through small towns, rolling hills and Virginia Wineries along Route 50, where travelers from the ports of Alexandria and Georgetown followed it to Winchester at the lower end of the Shenandoah Valley for trade. As with any new and growing area, the history of the Shenandoah has been steeped in conflict, turmoil and growth, from the Shawnee and Iroquois Six Nations, the arrival of European settlers, the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Today this history still lives on in Winchester, and waits to be discovered.
Winchester is the county seat of Frederick County. The rolling hills and rich farmland makes for absolutely beautiful country, particularly in the fall. If you plan to make the trip I would recommend spending at least one night and there is nowhere better to stay than the George Washington Hotel. Situated in the heart of downtown Winchester, it is close to many historical landmarks as well as old Town Winchester’s pedestrian mall…the first of its kind in Virginia.
November: Woodstock, Virginia
The November road trip really worked to our advantage. With the leaves beginning to turn yellow we drove at the beginning of the fall season to Woodstock, Virginia to hear our friends “The Eastport Oyster Boys” play their music at the Woodstock Café. Our tag line on the cover has always been “From the Bay to the Blue Ridge” and after almost thirty years it all came together…our friends from the “Bay” entertained our new friends in the “Blue Ridge”. Our buddy Kevin Brooks and founder of the EOB’s happened to stop in the Woodstock Café while visiting the Blue Ridge last spring. He met Coe Sherrard, the owner, eventually the conversation turned to Kevin’s band and their music. Coe invited Kevin to bring the band back in the fall and that was the beginning of “Bay Days in the Blue Ridge”. On the last weekend in September the Woodstock Café was alive with music and a wonderful Bay-style dinner including oysters on the half shell, Chesapeake chowder, crab cakes and a seafood boil. It was great! Kevin mentioned his friends who own the Old Town Crier and that they may want to write about the event…thus it became our November road trip.
Route 11 runs parallel to I-81 and passes through the small towns of Strasburg, Toms Brook, Woodstock, Edinburg, Mt. Jackson and New Market. Valley Pike or Valley Turnpike is the traditional name given for the Indian trail and roadway which now approximates as U.S. Rote 11 in the Shenandoah Valley. Route 11 runs down the middle of the valley with the Appalachian Mountains to the west and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east. On this stretch of Route 11 you can visit each of the five towns and each has a story. Note: The East Port Oyster Boys will be coming back to the Woodstock next fall. Check the Crier for dates and in the meantime check out the Woodstock Café ad about other entertainment packages this January, February and March.
December: Home for the Holidays…Old Town Alexandria.
I always write about Alexandria in our December issue. It is a great town and you are already here. To read the whole article or the complete article of each month please go to our web site at oldtowncrier.com and check out the archived issues.