Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Summit Lodge at Riverbend Farm

By Bob Tagert

Summit Lodge at Riverbend Farm

This month’s Road Trip was a first….we invited guests to join us for a two night stay at The Summit Lodge at Riverbend Farm in Bentonville, Virginia. The Todhunter’s and the Condon’s were the perfect pals to extend the invitation to. Lots of good eats, drinks and laughs!

Bentonville is halfway between Luray and Front Royal along the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. The Lodge is a magnificent five-story escape nestled on 64-acres along a bend in the river. There is more to this property than a getaway, it was formerly the home of Tom and Bettina, a couple who started out in the cabin up the hill where their love story began and the concept for the Lodge was born. As I write about our adventure I will write some excerpts from a book we found at the property called The River Oak Suite by Tom and Bettina’s friend, Tony Baker. The excerpts will tell the story from the beginning.

“For years and years, in the minds of those who were privileged to visit there, River Oak was the small hunting cabin, which sits high on a hill above a wide turn in the Shenandoah and the lovely river meadow that runs alongside it. But always the plan had been to build a big fine house, just down the hill from the cabin. In May 2010, we few friends met at River Oak to celebrate the opening of this new house. On the river side of the house rises a fifth-story enclosed tower, which Tom and Bettina dubbed the Skybox. It would be, for the short time left him, the place where Tom would take Bettina and the dogs of an evening to drink wine, watch families of deer emerge from the trees to play beside the river at sundown, and celebrate married love.”

There are some fun back roads to Bentonville – through Warrenton, by Sperryville, over the mountain toward Luray and then take 340 north, however, we chose Route 66 because it was early and traffic was still light. We also stopped in Marshall and had lunch at the Old Salem Café. This downhome café is an icon in Marshall and has been around forever. This is country food at its finest and lots of it. If you are out that way make a point to stop in.

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After about an hour on Route 66 we picked up Route 340 south toward Bentonville taking a right onto Rt. 621 and followed it across the Shenandoah. It seems like you are in the middle of nowhere but eventually we drove up the hill, past the cabin and into the driveway of the Lodge. With wrap-around porches this structure is immense – 5 bedroom with baths and many inviting spaces to just chill. As you walk into the great room you notice the glass paned wall with a huge stone fireplace centered in the middle. Glancing to the left you notice the railing for the second floor that is open and where our bed room was for the two nights and the executive office space which is totally equipped for a board meeting. The bedroom was bigger than my apartment and had its own dressing room complete with ceiling fan and a shower that all six of us could have fit in. As you rise higher in the building (there is an elevator) the whole valley opens up as you get above the tree line. From here you can see the bend in the river and the river bottom fields.

“Tom phoned me, excited by an experience he’d had in the skybox, wherein he’d gazed out and down upon the backs of predatory birds as they circled above the river. It made him think of his life as a fighter pilot. I took the idea a step further, into a consciousness of viewpoint, and how a spiritual being may change viewpoint at will. Very soon after, Tom, age 55, died in his sleep, Bettina beside him.”

The huge kitchen is off of the great room and leads out to the porch with a covered dining area. The kitchen is amazing and made to prepare food for a group. The appliances are commercial grade and the cupboards and drawers contain pretty much everything you need to prepare a feast. The lower level is home to the party and game room. This expansive room opens onto the patio and fenced in yard complete with a Solo wood burning stove and an outdoor gas fireplace. The lounge is complete with overstuffed leather chairs and a couch, complete bar setup (you bring your own refreshments), a Ms. Pac-man game, a small basketball free throw setup and huge flat screen television. There is a bedroom, bath and a work out room on this level as well. Good place for teenagers to stay!

“Bettina is now a youthful seventy, but her sixtieth birthday was of sufficient import that I again found myself on the phone with her, getting her feelings on the matter. More than one person, upon hearing Bettina’s Song, has expressed the desire to know the person described therein. Once more I traveled to Washington to perform the song in a group of friends.”

In addition to the room we had on the second floor, the main floor has two bedrooms and the third and fourth floors house two more. The 5th floor is an enclosed “Skybox” topping off the tower. The Skybox offers a 360-degree view of the valley. There have been many times I have seen the Shenandoah Valley from Skyline Drive, but it is awesome to sit in a rocking chair in the valley and watch the sun set over the Blue Ridge Mountains.

This property is truly beautiful and has plenty of room. One of our friends brought up the movie The Big Chill while we were all chipping in on the cooking on our second night. It is that kind of place. Folks can gather in the great room or on the veranda and there is plenty of room in the kitchen for everybody. You can also find several places to experience true solitude. There is a place for everyone.

The town of Front Royal is only about fifteen minutes from the Lodge. In Front Royal you can find restaurants for dining and *Martin’s Grocery has just about anything you would need for the homemade meals. *Get the fried chicken.

If you are looking for a little river action, right before the bridge crossing the Shenandoah River is Downriver Canoe Company which offers tubing, rafting, kayaking and canoeing. They bus you up river for a lazy paddle or drift back. If you want to stay a few extra days or like the idea of camping, a short distance on route 340 is Shenandoah State Park. A very short drive south on 340 will bring you to Heard’s Market where you can find fresh vegetables and an impressive array of other local products. They even valley made guitars – yes, guitars.

If you want to do some exploring, Luray Caverns are only a half hour away. These are the largest caverns on the east coast and definitely worth a visit. There are numerous outlets for outdoor activities since you are close to Skyline and parks.

A million, a thousand, a hundred years ago, warriors and hunters had stolen among these trees in ambush for one another, and for the shy gray deer, those hard little feet now kicked noisily through all the scattered ashes, where one day his own ashes would also surely sift.

By the last light, as over head the first pinholes of galactic light perforated the blackening sky, he rounded the last turn above the gate, and his eye mined from the darkness his great treasure, standing patiently beside the car, fetching him back from his lonely reflections.

And as wind across coals of wood, the love flamed in him anew, and he apprehended the perfection of his life in this eternal moment. A hundred, a thousand, a million years hence, this love would rise again and again in a twilight wind from off the river, stirring the oaks into motion.

Come make your own memories at The Summit Lodge at Riverbend!

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