Road Tripping in 2020

By Bob Tagert

Road Tripping in 2020

As most of you know, we take a road trip each month and write about our destinations in this space. I has been our custom to highlight our previous year’s treks in the January issue each year. We do this for two reasons. One is that it is fun to remember last year’s destinations and the other is, well, due to the holidays our production schedule for the January issue gets moved up so not a lot of time to take a trip.

Last February we went to one of our favorite destinations… the Boardwalk Plaza at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. If you grew up in the northern Virginia/Maryland area you probably spent your summers, or a part of them at Ocean City, Maryland or up the coast at Rehoboth Beach. Fifty years later, volleyball on the beach and other activities have given way to watching sunrises along the coast with a Bloody Mary in hand.

The wintertime is great in Rehoboth. The crowds are gone yet most of the businesses are open as Rehoboth is a year round town. There are no lines for dinner and there is always a seat at the bar. Although Fun Land is closed there are other venues open for your enjoyment as you walk the boardwalk. You may even get lucky and catch a 60-degree day in the winter and you will think it is spring. I have seen many sunburned faces after a couple of these kinds of days. In the evenings the firepits are lit and a nice cocktail under a complimentary blanket by the fire is a wonderful end to the day.

In March we took a trip south to Hollywood Maryland in beautiful St. Mary’s County.  Hollywood is famous for the letter “O” just like Los Angeles, except in this Hollywood the “O” stands for Oyster. Aquaculture has become a popular profession and is creating and industry of sustainable oyster farming.  The Patuxent River, which runs between St. Mary’s County and Calvert County, is the deepest river on the east coast and is over a mile wide where the Hollywood Oyster Farm is located. Also in Hollywood is Sotterly Plantation, a historic landmark plantation. If you are looking for something to eat while in Hollywood, look no further than Stoney’s at Clarke’s Landing on the Patuxent River. The best crabcakes anywhere and our friend Jeanie Cousineau-Stone, the owner, will be glad to meet you.

The pandemic reared it’s ugly head in mid-March and the protocols put the squelch on almost everything. The rules for social distancing, masks and reduced indoor seating for restaurants, small businesses closed and travel was totally discouraged. As we all began to feel the weight of the pandemic, all of the options for normal were no longer. Stay at home provisions, working from home and only small or family gatherings. Our whole world changed. This is when we looked at our road trip as a way for folks to get out of their houses and go to open spaces, however even those were changing as parks began to close and camping out became scarce.

In these uncertain times when we didn’t know what the rules were from week to week, we thought it a good idea and take a drive just to get out of the house. Make no mistake about it… I strongly support the idea of social distancing and that is the point of the article. If we could be sequestered in our homes, apartments or condos, why couldn’t we take a drive with those we are routinely in contact with or by ourselves. With all of these rules in mind, I encouraged you to get out to open spaces where you are not around others but for a brief moment and can enjoy the beautiful spring weather and refresh your soul. We took a drive through the Blue Ridge. You could get food to go but all establishments were closed to indoor dining. It was a tough time. We also took the back roads past blooming flowers and greening fields. Just to get away from the house and roll the window down was a treat. Last April was a month to get very creative for a road trip because all the destinations were closed.

 

In May we had to get creative again and wrote about “North, South, East or West & All Points In Between”. This whole virus thing had really “put a cog in the wheel” of our daily lives for the most part. It didn’t, however, prevent us from getting in our vehicle and taking a drive. We live in an area that offers the mountains to the west and the waterfront to the east with both in sight when you venture north or south. Even taking a spin around the community where we live checking out our neighborhood and driving by our favorite haunts proved to be therapeutic.

We normally have a particular destination in mind when we take off but in 2020 it was just a case of getting in the truck and deciding to head toward the Beltway or the Parkway and wing it from there. We like to take the back roads and are up for just taking a turn to see where it goes. After all, everyone pretty much has a GPS, Waze or another brand of directional application at their disposal so you can always find your way home.

In June a few restrictions were relaxed as businesses could partially open. After two months of lockdown, the world was getting a little brighter. We decided that a trip to Solomons, Maryland and Annmarie Sculpture Gardens to see the “Fairies In the Garden” exhibit would be the ticket. In addition to the fairy houses and gnome homes, the sculptures throughout are very impressive. Annmarie Garden is a fascinating destination and the themes change every so often which makes a return trip worthwhile.

The July Road Trip highlighted the annual trip our friend Chester Simpson and his extended family take to Ocracoke Island, North Carolina. Janine Breyel graciously offered to pen the column and this was a perfect destination in a “Corona Virus” world.

 

A trip to Ocracoke Island, like other things of value, requires some effort. From the D.C. area it is a little more than a four hour drive to reach the beginning of the Outer Banks in North Carolina, then another hour and a half on NC 12 to where the barrier island ends. From there you board the Hattras Ferry that transports you across the Pamlico Sound to Ocracoke, the last habitable island in the Outer Banks. Once you disembark, you are reconnected to NC 12 and for 13 miles you drive along the narrow strip of land, frequently catching glimpses of the Atlantic Ocean to your left over dunes before reaching the quaint village of Ocracoke. For those seeking crowded boardwalks, chain restaurants, busy putt-putt courses, and similar attractions that dominate so many beach towns on the Eastern seaboard, this is not the place for you. But for those of us who seek a quiet, relaxing vacation in a location with interesting history, friendly locals, miles of empty beaches and opportunities to enjoy nature, then the drive is worth every minute.

With the Corona Virus still creating problems, the R&D for the August column found us taking a drive to Skyline Drive on a hot July day. With Skyline Drive as our destination we also had the opportunity to stop by some of our favorite places. When we left Alexandria the temperature was beginning to reach 90 degrees. Once on Skyline Drive the temps dropped to 72 degrees. What a relief. We put the windows down and the fresh breeze felt wonderful. One of our favorite places to stop before climbing to Thornton Gap is the town of Sperryville with a stop off at Copper Fox Distillery. Despite the pandemic we could still get a sampling of their fine whiskeys and a couple of their original cocktails and sit out back by the gently flowing Thornton River. We have known these folks since they started the business and they are a class act. Check out their ad on our inside back cover.

Our September, written in August, took us all the way to Historic Yorktown Virginia. We had to go to Williamsburg to conduct some R&D for an upcoming business profile on Copper Fox Distillery (yes, they have two). After our time at Copper Fox we picked up the scenic Colonial National parkway toward Yorktown. The parkway runs along the shore line of the York River, across ponds and scenic overlooks. Before we reached the York River we turned right into Yorktown. The first thing you will notice is how clean and freshly painted everything looks. Historic buildings are now house museums, restaurants and small inns. It is just stunning!

The town is most famous as the site of the siege and subsequent surrender of General Charles Cornwallis to General George Washington and the French Fleet during the American Revolutionary War on October 19, 1781. Today, Yorktown is one of three sites of the Historic Triangle, which also includes Jamestown and Williamsburg as important colonial-era settlements. Yorktown is the eastern terminus of the Colonial Parkway connecting these three locations.

The month of October is Virginia Wine Month celebrating our wonderful Virginia Wineries. Today there are over 300 wineries in Virginia and as many vineyards. So….we decided to visit a couple of our favorites. Our first stop was Pearmund Cellars outside of Warrenton. The tasting room is smack dab in the middle of the vineyard with ample seating around the vineyard. The barrel room is in the same building as the tasting room and invites a visit to admire the stacked barrels. All pandemic protocols are practiced here and if you forgot your cigars, you can find a good one here at a reasonable price. Other wineries we visited were Barrel Oak Winery and Farm Taphouse. Owner Brian Roeder has created an open space winery that caters to guests with fresh oysters, pizza and fresh crafted brews in addition to excellent wines. Check out his ad in this issue for his Barrel Oak Bubbles! Other wineries included Rappahannock Cellars, Philip Carter Vineyard.

November found us returning to Berryville, Virginia and visit our friends Rachel and Jonathan Worsley and their beautiful Waypoint House Bed and Breakfast. We met them about five years ago when we wrote about the Bed and Breakfast. On this trip we decided to make a big loop by taking Route 50 out through Middleburg and horse country and back by way of Leesburg. Continuing on Route 50 we came to Millwood, home to many of Clarke County’s most historic sites including the Burwell-Morgan Mill, Carter Hall, The Greenway Historic District, Long Branch, Old Chapel and the River House. The historic Locke Store is a great place for a hearty sandwich and a bottle of wine. Berryville makes for a great base of operation to explore the northern Shenandoah Valley with Winchester Virginia to the west and Charleston, West Virginia to the north east.

December is always when we stay home and write about our delightful Old Town Alexandria. The Potomac River still flows at the bottom of King Street and the metro delivers folks to the west end of town. Old Town is a wonderful destination with an array of restaurants and one-of-a-kind shops. History was born here and the legacy lives on. The hotels are still welcoming travelers and adhering to all pandemic protocols. The pandemic has been just as lethal here as anywhere else but the holiday spirit still abounds. Working with heated outdoor dining and vending, the restaurants and shops have gone above and beyond with decorations and hometown spirit. We live in a marvelous corner of the world.

Note: These are brief descriptions of each road trip from last year. If you want to read the whole article go to our online version at oldtowncrier.com. At the top of the splash page hit Pets, Places &Things and then click on Road Trip. I hope you enjoy the publication.

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