Road Trip

Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Take A Road Trip Down Memory Lane in 2021

By Bob Tagert Take A Road Trip Down Memory Lane in 2021 In keeping with tradition, I like to recap the Road Trips that we took the previous year in this space. With February being Valentine’s month, we took a drive over the mountain at Thornton Gap to visit Shadow Mountain Escape, the dream of Karen and Ralph Riddle (really great people). You will find Shadow Mountain about three miles on the Luray side of the Thornton Gap entrance to Skyline Drive on Jewell Hollow Road. In an attempt to provide an environment conducive to happiness and fulfillment, they focused on exposing the beauty and spirit of the natural landscape and the remarkable life that flourishes there. The use of Timber Frame construction in all of the buildings adds to that theme. Ralph wanted to create the “Old World” charm that comes from his German heritage. There are four cabins on the fifteen acre property. In celebration of the abundant wild life, all of the cabins were given indigenous “bug” names. The SME Bear Dance Lodge was the first rental built on the property and the two cabins were named the Dragon Fly and Bumble Bee. The Butterfly loft opened in 2003 and the final rental, the Ladybug, was completed in 2011. Our March issue took us to Ellicott City, Maryland. Ellicott City sits in a Maryland valley and the Patapsco River runs through it. The historic town is subject to flooding when heavy rain visits the area. There were devastating storms in 2016 and 2018. In spite of this rare occasion the town is thriving and is a great destination. Ellicott City was founded in 1772 and is located 10 miles west of Baltimore. Walking is the best form of transportation as street parking is minimal but the town…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Home for the Holidays 2021

By Bob Tagert Home for the Holidays 2021 Every month we write about fun and inviting destinations in the DMV. Some are close to Alexandria and some are states away, however, every December we stay home and write about our beautiful city. Recognized by Oprah Magazine as one of the most magical Christmas towns across the World in 2020 and by Southern Living as the perfect southern town for a Hallmark Christmas movie in 2019, Alexandria brings an old fashioned sense of holiday wonder to the area with centuries-old brick-lined streets, twinkling with holiday traditions that make visitors feel transported. Step back in time and enjoy Colonial Christmas programming at George Washington’s Mount Vernon or skate through Ice and Lights: The Winter Village at Cameron Run. Dozens of independent boutiques are going above and beyond to make their shops dazzle. Stroll among al fresco dining spots along 18th and 19th century streetscapes or pick up gourmet goodies to go. Under a canopy of sparkling lights, a stroll on historic King Street is like being in a real life Dickens Village, complete with a European flair. Recognized as a Top 3 Best Small Cities (up from #5 last year) in the U.S. 2021 for the fourth consecutive year by Conde. The Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards are the longest-running and most prestigious recognition of excellence in the travel industry and are commonly known as ‘the best of the best of travel.” More than 800,000 Conde Nast Traveler readers across the globe submitted responses rating the travel experiences across the globe that they long for most when they couldn’t travel and decided to visit first once they could. This year’s awards reflect the ways the world of travel has begun to welcome back guests and the travel professionals that have never…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

The Return to Blue Rock in Rappahannock County

By Bob Tagert The Return to Blue Rock in Rappahannock County   Actually…Blue Rock has ties to the city of Alexandria. Many years ago, two brothers, Bernard and Jean Campagne-lbracq, owned La Bergerie Restaurant on North Lee Street – La Bergerie was a very popular French Restaurant for many years whose doors have since been closed. These are the same brothers who opened the original Bleu Rock Inn, which became a popular destination for Alexandrians back in the 80’s and early 90’s. The business has had a few different owners since then and the property eventually deteriorated until the recent purchase by Chef Bin Lu, formerly of Pineapple and Pearls, Bourbon Steak and Cityzen in D.C. After watching the restoration of this beautiful piece of property over the last year, we finally had a chance to pay a visit when they opened their doors in late October. Although the Blue Rock is not “new”, it has had major renovations all the way around. The old “Tavern” is now the “Tasting Room”, the main dining room and terrace have all been revamped and there are now rooms available for those who want to spend the night/weekend. The old stables are gone and the landscaping has taken on a whole new life. (You will see, however, that the arena polo field is still in need of some TLC. We were informed that bringing it back to life is on the agenda but it may be awhile down the road.) Located in the heart of Rappahannock County, Blue Rock is a modern take on the classic country inn. The 80-acre equestrian themed property, set against the Blue Ridge Mountains, features five uniquely designed inn rooms, an on-site restaurant lead by esteemed chef, Bin Lu and the aforementioned Tasting Room. An adjoining five-bedroom farmhouse,…

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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…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Havre de Grace Waterfront – Drawing Waves of Visitors

By Ashley Stimpson Havre de Grace Waterfront – Drawing Waves of Visitors Before it was a capital city contender, Havre de Grace was called Harmer’s Town. But when a visiting Marquis de Lafayette mentioned that the town reminded him of a charming French seaport called Le Havre-de-Grace, residents honored the Revolutionary War hero by incorporating under that name in 1785. (No need to channel your high school French when in town. Locals pronounce it HAV-er-dee-grace.) While the quiet charm Lafayette admired is still on display, Havre de Grace also feels very much like the busy crossroads that garnered the Founding Fathers’ attention. During my visit on a hot day in May, cars poured down Market Street, many with kayaks and stand-up paddleboards strapped to their roofs. Pleasure boats roared by on the wide Susquehanna River, which hugs the east side of town as it flows into the Chesapeake Bay. Trains rumbled over bridges. Joggers pushed strollers along the waterfront promenade, and weekend revelers spilled from seafood shacks and antique shops onto crowded sidewalks. While there are many modes to see the sights, Havre de Grace is a pedestrian’s paradise. To get from one end of town to the other only requires a trek of about 1.5 miles, a pleasant walk punctuated by museums, murals and gorgeous vistas. To make it simple, the city has continued to improve its self-guided walking tour along the Lafayette Trail, which meanders past just about every attraction Havre de Grace has to offer. Visitors who would like a narrated experience can download the DISTRX app and learn about each of the 57 stops along the route. One of those stops — and a good place to begin digging into the area’s history — is the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum and Environmental Center. Among the museum’s permanent exhibits, The John Smith Trail and the Susquehannocks is particularly enlightening for visitors curious to know what the Upper Bay and Lower Susquehanna looked like before European settlement. The…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Blue Ridge Whiskey Wine Loop – It’s a Trip

By Bob Tagert Blue Ridge Whiskey Wine Loop – It’s a Trip With the warm weather and summer upon us, we decided to retrace our steps over the years in the Blue Ridge and follow the Blue Ridge Whiskey Wine Loop. The “Loop” is the brain child of Karen Riddle, who along with her husband Ralph own Shadow Mountain Escape, an adults only getaway. More about that when we cross the mountain. The Loop actually runs along the east and west sides of the mountains and Skyline Drive. Coming from the D.C. area along Route 66, the jumping off point for the loop will be Front Royal. Taking Route 522 south the first stop will be Chester Gap Cellars. The winery site is over 1,000 feet in elevation. The views are fantastic while you taste estate grown Viognier, Roussanne, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and other fine wines. The site provides high elevation with an eastern exposure and well-drained rocky soils. Perfect growing conditions. The next stop on Route 522 is Dida’s Distillery and Rappahannock Cellars. This sprawling estate is one of Virginia’s most popular wineries and in the past four years, one of the most unique distilleries. Twenty five years ago John Delmare left his winery in the Santa Clara Valley and moved his family to the Blue Ridge and started his next life with Rappahannock Cellars. Four years ago John’s son Allan spearheaded the founding of Dida’s Distillery. Living the mantra “Pressed not Mashed” Allan took what they already had and started making small batches of Brandy, Vodka and Gin. With the necessary ingredients readily at hand, Allan began to use their award winning grapes to make his new product. After four years, This “Hidden Gem” has found a life of its own and attracts folks from all over the…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Re-Discovering St. Mary’s County, MD

By Bob Tagert Re-Discovering St. Mary’s County, MD Now that the pandemic is winding down, folks are beginning to get out of the house, roll the windows down and hit the road. We have been writing road trip articles for 34 years and after this last year’s confinement, it is time to revisit some of our favorite destinations. This month we returned to Maryland’s history capital, St. Mary’s County. St. Mary’s County is the southernmost county in Maryland. The county is actually a peninsula bordered on the northeast by the Patuxent River, the east by the Chesapeake Bay, the southwest by the Potomac River and the west by the Wicomico River. As you might guess, the county is noted for its’ water attractions whether it be boating, crabbing, fishing or just spending a lazy day hanging by the water. St. Mary’s County was named after the Virgin Mary. The first landing of English settlers was March 25, 1634 at St. Clements Island. The island was too small to support the growing town so they settled on land nearby and established St. Mary’s City the first Maryland Colony and the first capitol of the Colony of Maryland. St. Mary’s College is also located near the historic St. Mary’s City. Traveling the back roads of St. Mary’s is a real treat. It is truly a trip back in time. There are thriving Amish and Mennonite communities and chances are good that you will encounter a horse and buggy sharing the road as they commute about the county. Loveville is a town known for its Old Order Mennonite community, who have farmer’s market/produce auctions as well as craft shops and an annual quilt auction. Tobacco, once a major crop in Maryland, is no longer grown but you will see vacant tobacco barns that…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Outdoor Adventure, Iconic Homes Make the Laurel Highlands a Must-visit

Outdoor Adventure, Iconic Homes Make the Laurel Highlands a Must-visit By Vanessa Orr I’ve always thought of the Laurel Highlands as a magnet for those who love outdoor adventure, from skiing at Seven Springs Mountain Resort to whitewater rafting at Ohiopyle State Park. But as I recently realized while enjoying a peaceful outdoor picnic and lightly oaked Chardonnay at Greendance-The Winery at Sand Hill, it’s also the perfect place to relax and just take in everything nature has to offer. Even before the pandemic, people were flocking to the Laurel Highlands, located about an hour’s drive east of Pittsburgh, PA, to enjoy its spectacular natural scenery and outdoor recreation. The area is also a huge attraction for those who love iconic buildings as it is home to four Frank Lloyd Wright masterpieces. And since the establishment of the Laurel Highland Pour Tour in 2019, it’s become even more popular as a place to spend reinvigorating time away. The Great Outdoors There are so many ways to enjoy the natural world in the Laurel Highlands that you may never want to go back inside. From its almost 700 miles of hiking and biking trails to whitewater rafting, ziplining and shooting sporting clays, there is something to attract every kind of outdoor adventurer. Not only is the area home to Ohiopyle State Park, Pennsylvania’s largest park, but it also encompasses Laurel Hill State Park, Laurel Ridge State Park, Linn Run State Park, Kooser State Park, and Keystone State Park, along with four state forests. Ohiopyle is especially beautiful in the spring and fall when its many waterfalls are at their most scenic; from massive Ohiopyle Falls, which plunges 20 feet into the Youghiogheny River, to the more serene Cucumber Falls with its 30-foot drop. One of the most photographed waterfalls in Pennsylvania,…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Bikes, Mannequins, Music and More in Steel City

By Vanessa Orr Bikes, Mannequins, Music and More in Steel City When you think of a museum, what first comes to mind? Priceless art? Imposing dinosaur skeletons and “taxidermized” beasts? Civil War relics or Revolutionary War cannons? While Pittsburgh has all of those and more, it is also home to some odder—but still just as intriguing—museums that cater to more specific interests. Bicycle Heaven Shop & Museum, for example, has more than 6,000 different types of bicycles on display; Johnny Angel’s Ginchy Stuff is filled to the brim with rock-n-roll history and collectibles from the 1950s. And Randyland pretty much defies description—part art museum, part Pittsburgh social hub and one of the happiest places in the ‘burgh, it’s main attraction is its owner and artist-in-residence Randy Gilson. While all of these museums are well worth a visit simply for their cool factor alone, the fact that they are all free, and located on the Northside of Pittsburgh, makes them a must-visit when stopping in the Golden Triangle. Bicycle Heaven Bicycle Heaven is what happens when a guy likes to collect things…and then he rides that passion right into Trip Advisor’s #1 spot of things to do in Pittsburgh. Back in 1991, Craig Morrow found a bike in the trash that he decided to repair; flash forward three decades, and Morrow is now the curator and owner of the world’s largest bicycle museum. You’d think that if you’ve seen one bike you’ve seen them all, but nothing could be further from the truth. Two floors of a massive warehouse are filled with everything from Howdy Doody and Donald Duck kids’ bikes to the red-and-white striped racer that Pee-Wee Herman rode in his big adventure. And while you may consider bikes playthings, they are serious investments, too. Bicycle Heaven is the only…

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Historic Ellicott City – A Pleasant Surprise!

By Bob Tagert Historic Ellicott City – A Pleasant Surprise! This month’s Road Trip took us to Ellicott City, Maryland. Unfortunately, over the last five years the biggest publicity that Historic Ellicott City has gotten has been the devastating news of the floods of 2016 and 2018 but one would never know it was so severely affected by the looks of this quaint little town today. Ellicott City was founded in 1772 and built along the Patapsco River. It is located 10 miles west of Baltimore and at the site of the Tiber River, along with other connected tributaries, causing it to be vulnerable to severe flooding. Before the 2018 flood, Ellicott City was pretty much submerged during the 2016 Maryland flood on July 30th. That flooding was considered an oddity, likely only occurring once every 1,000 years. When we recently drove to Ellicott City we did not notice any residual problems from the floods. The town is nestled in a small valley that lies along the Patapsco River. It is what you could call a “vertical” town. Walking is the best form of transportation as street parking is minimal but the town does have large free parking lots. This quaint city is a picture perfect little place with many shops, restaurants, galleries, salons and museums. Most of the shops are situated on Main Street which runs through the center of town. There are also many shops, etc. located on the side streets that intersect Main Street and they are walkable as well. On the snow covered day that we were there the town had a vibe of a ski resort nestled at the bottom of the mountain. Indeed, on snowy days the 150 foot elevation from the town can make for a nice short ski run. The city is…

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