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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Western/Central Massachusetts
    Posts
    1,703

    Default Shenandoah Valley and Environs

    This year, my intrepid travel partner and I chose to head to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Normally we have two weeks to get out there and explore, but career changes for both of us have made that option unavailable for the time being.

    We left home Saturday morning, and the trip down was quite uneventful. We were both prepared and knowledgeable of what to expect. Taking a couple of breaks along the way helped our mood significantly during the two minor traffic incidents which we encountered.

    That evening we arrived at the campground, which was nearly full. We set up our tent and got about the business of relaxation.

    Sunday brought some serious rain due to a tropical depression coming up the East coast, so we decided to search for an inside activity. This led us to the P. Buckley Moss museum in Waynesboro. I seem to recall seeing her works somewhere. I did enjoy her take on newborn birds.

    That evening we ate dinner at the Pullman in Staunton. This is set in a restored train station, complete with large windows to view passing trains from the dining area. Fortunately for us, as we were getting ready to leave, a train passed by. Dinner, by the way, was very good.

    Weather patterns in Virginia are not the same as we are used to, and the rain was sent along its way towards New England. That left us with a refreshing Monday with which to take a nice long drive. We headed South on I-81 to county road 606, VA-252 and on to VA-39. VA-39 was a popular route with motorcyclists, of course it being a Monday and early in the travel season, traffic was very light.

    The Maury River flows through the Goshen Pass area. At a turnout, we looked down into the river and saw three kayakers testing their skills. From above, we were deceived into thinking the river was easy to maneuver. Further up the road, we saw the incredibly rough and rocky waters our kayaking friends had to navigate. Well, my travel partner saw most of it; I was busy trying not to end up IN it!

    High up in the mountains, there was a scenic overlook at the former site of a tollhouse. I can't remember seeing clearer skies in the area. The mountains to the East and West were clearly visible, the normal haze having been cleared out by the storms of the previous day.

    We stopped in Warm Springs near the old bath house, and drove up to the Homestead. A getaway of the Virginia House of Delegates was in evidence by the license plates on the cars in the parking lot, but I was having more fun checking out the collection of Corvettes.

    US-220 took us on a fun tromp through the woods, when out of the blue my travel partner said she saw a bald eagle. Ever the cynic, I didn't quite believe her, but her tone was convinced, and I turned the car around. Sure enough, there (s)he was, sitting in a tree in the Highland WMA. We watched this eagle for quite some time until it got bored with us and flew away, silently.

    Into Monterey for lunch at a local diner, which allowed us to find "Kilroy" in a booth. Five points on our scavenger hunt!

    US-250 brought us back into Staunton. This was a great road (if you're not driving a large vehicle). Up through the mountains, and into switchbacks, hairpin turns, up and down. And we loved every minute of it. There was only one behemoth on this road, a logging truck in a turnout, so we didn't get stuck behind anyone or anything.

    It was only Monday - one of the best Mondays I can recall, with an entire week ahead of us.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default "...It was only Monday - one of the best Mondays I can recall..."

    Mass Tim, I can't wait to read about Tuesday and Wednesday!

    Mark

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Western/Central Massachusetts
    Posts
    1,703

    Default Midweek Mellow

    Monday night was one of those times where we were glad to be in a tent, with a light breeze coming through the wooded lot and a calm about the campground.

    Tuesday brought us even more great weather, and a mostly deserted campground. A good day for hanging around the pool, and soaking in the hot tub. That was most of the morning, followed by a horseback ride in the afternoon. We went to a stable that we had been to before. The horses there are absolutely beautiful, and fortunately for us, well-behaved. The owner came out to greet us, now in his 80's and hard of hearing, but still very curteous. When he asked us where we were from, we answered truthfully, to which he answered matter-of-factly, "I've been there". The reader is left to come to his or her own conclusion about what that answer means.

    Upon leaving the stables, we noticed the land (what land!) was for sale. I imagine that by the next time we are in the area, the business will have been sold, the owner passed on, and changes will have taken place.

    Wednesday (another beautiful day) was reserved for hiking, so we took a ride up to Skyline Drive to hike to Lewis Falls. The route up was US-11 to VA-256 to US-340 to US-33. VA-256 heading East provides some great views of the mountains up ahead. The hike was more challenging than our guidebook suggested; either that, or we are more out of shape than we thought (probably a bit of both!)

    The high point of the hike happened almost immediately, as we turned a corner on the trail and I noticed two black bear cubs not more than 200 feet in front of us. The first reaction was to freeze, warn my girlfriend, and to not panic. Fortunately for both of us, momma bear wasn't nearby, and the two cubs ran into the woods to climb up a tree. They looked almost fake clinging on to the edges. We were happy they either didn't get a whiff of the food we were carrying, or, more likely, were more scared of us than we were of them. Now, had momma bear been closer, the situation may have played out differently...

    After that, we were careful to be a bit more noisy. Bears don't usually like to be surprised, either.

    The skies were still very clear, though not as clear as on Monday, and that afforded us many clear views to the distant horizon. We ate our lunch at the falls, watching the water fall 81 feet into the gorge below.

    The ride back to Staunton was a meandering jaunt along county routes that were numbered and signed okay, but just not in my map. We knew we had to go "that way", and pointed the car "that way", and eventually ended up back where we needed to be. The landscape reminded much of that of areas of Kentucky I have been, something either I hadn't noticed on previous trips or may have not paid too much attention to.

    We had our dinner at Wright's Dairy Rite, which was good as always. The banana shake, defying gravity and all laws of suction, was perfect.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default Tuesday Meanderings

    Quote Originally Posted by Mass Tim View Post
    ... When he asked us where we were from, we answered truthfully, to which he answered matter-of-factly, "I've been there". The reader is left to come to his or her own conclusion about what that answer means.
    I don't know what you thing that means either -- when I have a similar conversation, I am usually able to say the same thing -- I have been in thousands of places in the USA -- it is pretty rare for me to to be stumped much anymore.
    The high point of the hike happened almost immediately, as we turned a corner on the trail and I noticed two black bear cubs not more than 200 feet in front of us.
    I would be wiling to bet that Mama bear was around.... I have had 2-3 up-close-and-personal encounters with Mama bears -- they can get a bit cranky.... You were lucky.
    After that, we were careful to be a bit more noisy. Bears don't usually like to be surprised, either.
    A good policy -- I usually sing when I am walking in bear country.
    We had our dinner at Wright's Dairy Rite, which was good as always. The banana shake, defying gravity and all laws of suction, was perfect
    Sounds yummy -- thanks for this report!.

    Mark

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Keithville, LA
    Posts
    638

    Default Cool Trip So Far

    Sounds very relaxing and beautiful. I'm looking forward to that in a few weeks. Especially after the insanity and commotion of my past weekend. I can't wait to hear about the rest of it.

    Laura

  6. #6

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Editor View Post
    I usually sing when I am walking in bear country.
    Hell, that'd certainly work for me, if I were to sing it'd scare the bears into the city!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Western/Central Massachusetts
    Posts
    1,703

    Default Hey - things are still going well!

    Thursday was hang-around the campground day. This usually means that we have to do some laundry and will go swimming. We decided that instead of just swimming, we'd go tubing down the river. So, we did that four times. The water was quite shallow and slow moving, but it was nice nonetheless. I think we would have had a better ride had we gone on Monday, after Sunday's rainstorms.

    So, having done our fair amount of lazing on the river, we decided to treat ourselves to another hot tub soak. The air was cooling down towards evening, so sitting in the hot tub was the right thing to do.

    The nighttime air was almost cold, something I am not used to facing on a typical stay in this area. If I recall, the temperature bottomed out somewhere around 43 degrees fahrenheit.

    Friday showed that that weather adage that is commonly heard around New England, “If you don't like the weather, wait a minute” could apply just about anywhere. The temperatures hit the 90s early in the day, and the humidity had come in. That didn't stop us from going to the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton. This place has four farms from various locations and periods (Irish, English, and American). I figured it was time to stop in, having driven by the place on the order of 30 or so times in the last 12 years. I would recommend visiting this place on a cooler day; it would allow more time to spend investigating the houses if you find architecture interesting.

    Staunton for lunch at a favorite Mexican place - the Baja Bean - where, for about $5, you can get a plate-sized burrito that actually tastes good. The drinks weren't bad, either.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Western/Central Massachusetts
    Posts
    1,703

    Default Home again

    Friday night came around and the campground was packed with people. Somehow, our site managed to be in the middle of a group of sites reserved by a large party. Of the 7 or 8 sites near ours, all of them were occupied by related groups. I think we may have been unintentional interlopers in a family reunion!

    Even with that going on, we slept well and were able to get on our way mid-morning Saturday. We had to head home this day, but I was hesitant to leave, so I planned our route through an area of the state that we haven't been, the Fort Valley area. After a couple of missteps near Luray caused by missing one of the planned roads due to a large motorcycle meet, we were on our way.

    This turned out to be another hilly, twisty road, and in the heart of it, we ended up at the top of a mountain. Heading down this hill, we encountered a 5 MPH sign on a hairpin. Yeah - I bet we could have made it at double that speed! The road was narrow and definitely not built for speed. We encountered quite a few motorcycles heading in the opposite direction.


    Eventually, our route took us to the Virginia State Arboretum, which was an unplanned stop. In fact, the only reason I headed into the place was that I had a notion they might have a bathroom. The notion turned out to be correct, and it was also a nice place to take a break from the road by...driving on a short loop tour of the grounds.

    We took a route into Faquier County and travelled along some great country roads, at one point passing by a horse show (which, if memory serves, was the event's 175th anniversary!) We noticed some moneyed individuals taking their toys out for drives along the same route.

    We were near Hershey, PA when I decided to call up family and see how things were back at home. I learned that the weather in Central Massachusetts had been rainy and miserable all week. By the time we were near Allentown, we could see the line of clouds ahead of us in the sky, a wall of gray.

    The ride was mostly uneventful until we crossed the Massachusetts state line and I realized we needed fuel. A heavy fog was over the Mass Turnpike by this time. The plan was to stop at the Blandford rest area and fuel up, but in the fog, we missed it. For some reason, the sudden lights on the side of the road didn't click with me and I drove past it. "Well, that's ok. We can stop in Springfield. I know of a place that should be open." As soon as this thought had been processed into speech, we heard a chime and the low fuel light began to glow on the instrument panel

    By the time we got to Springfield, it was nearing midnight. I exited the Pike and headed to US-5 to the gas station I thought would be open in Holyoke - no luck. So, up the street to another place I thought sure to be open - closed. Uh oh. The needle was solidly on "E", with nowhere else to go.

    Back onto I-91 and heading South towards Springfield. A sign indicating a 24-hour gas station on US-5 brought some relief. The relief turned to slight worry as we passed the clearly closed service station that was referenced by that sign. We have been close to running out of fuel before, but never quite this close. We had gone about 25 miles since the fuel light had come on, and by this time I was starting to get a little worried, and driving while worried is not healthy. Wouldn't that be something to have traveled well over 1000 miles, just to run out of fuel 30 minutes from home?

    One last chance - a gas station near the multiplex. Salvation at Sunoco. Forty dollars later and the tank was full again. It was past midnight when we arrived at home, a beautiful night that put a nice cap on the trip. We came home without any major calamities having occured. No inaccessible locales, no crazy insect life hitchhiking, no long-term traffic problems, and having seen more of an area that we are quite familiar with.

    Only having one full week was somewhat different than what we were used to, but it was great that everything turned out the way it did. All the small things that weren't mentioned helped to make this trip one of the most enjoyable we've had in many years.

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