Go With a Purpose.
A blog about connecting through places that matter.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Wedding Anniversary Road Trip Through Places that Matter

Last month, Cole Stryker (Heritage Travel’s assistant manager, customer experience) took his wife on a weekend trip through the Shenandoah Valley to Charlottesville, Virginia to celebrate their second wedding anniversary. Along the way they visited quite a few places that matter.

Following is an excerpt and photos from his trip journal:

As the Washington, D.C. suburbs gave way to greenery, we sped along Interstate 66 until we arrived in Front Royal, a breezy small town located at the northern mouth of Shenandoah National Park. We stopped at a massive flea market to pick up some fresh strawberries and green beans—a nice supplement to the energy bars we had packed for the ride. We meandered into town, picked up a couple of chocolate malts and explored the main street, where vintage clothiers, wine tastings, and Civil War monuments vied for our attention.

We entered Shenandoah National Park and drove south along Skyline Drive, one of the nation’s most scenic drives. The route featured many pull-offs, which allow drivers to appreciate the vistas without traffic building up.

After exiting the park for the afternoon, we drove aimlessly among the hollers surrounding the park border, eventually coming upon a roadside diner, where we enjoyed (what else?) biscuits and gravy. We spent the evening hunting for antiques in Luray, a beautiful town known for its vast caverns. We enjoyed a restful night at the newly renovated Mimslyn Inn.

We spent most of the next day traveling the rest of the way through the park, pausing only to check out a black bear and her cub. Emerging from the thick forest at the southern end of the park, we drove west to Staunton. We strolled through Staunton’s historic downtown, visited Woodrow Wilson’s Presidential Library, and stumbled on a poignant memorial ceremony for fallen Confederate soldiers at Thornrose Cemetery. Before leaving Staunton we savored incredible barbecued ribs at the Mill Street Grille, polished off with complimentary peppermint ice cream.

After dinner we made our way to Charlottesville and checked in at the Boar’s Head Inn, a sprawling resort hotel just outside of town. That night we walked through the University of Virginia grounds to the downtown mall, a vibrant shopping center where we browsed the shops while buskers’ music filled the air.

The next morning, we started early for Jefferson’s Monticello. We were met by a delightful tour guide, whose whimsical oration brought the estate to life. Here we were introduced Jefferson’s daily routine along with the lives of the large slave community working the fields and gardens. After our tour we were able to explore the beautiful grounds at our leisure. We then departed for Madison’s Montpelier, which was less visually impressive but no less fascinating.

After our tour, we drove back north to Washington through gorgeous plantation country. On the return trip we seemed to come across Civil War battlefield markers every few minutes, reminding us that thunderous cannon fire once shook this bucolic landscape. Signs of battle crept into our view throughout the drive home, a sobering reminder of the area’s turbulent history. Still, I’m glad that these things remain a part of the American landscape so that we may remain mindful of sacrifices made and of the enduring spirit of freedom.

You can create your own trip journal and read the trip journals written by others when Gozaic launches later this summer. Learn more about Gozaic and the upcoming site features, including trip journals.

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