CONGRATULATIONS!

This post is dedicated to my happily married friends,Ted and Al, who live in my native state of California:

In my 53 years on this earth, I have never been as proud as I am today to be an American.  Congratulations to the five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court who made the right decision on gay marriage.  This day will go down in U.S. history as a great day for not only gay rights, but HUMAN rights.

Here’s to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for ALL Americans!

CHEERS!

ROAD TRIP DAY 46: GONE TO CAROLINA IN MY MIND

Today reminds me of that song by James Taylor. We left North Carolina this morning and headed to Columbia, South Carolina for one last day away before returning home.

Upon arrival, we headed straight to Riverfront Park for a walk along the Columbia Canal; however, it was too hot and humid to enjoy. After less than one mile of walking, we returned to the car and blasted the airconditioning to cool down.

Next, we thought we would see the state capitol. BIG MISTAKE. You should have seen the swarm of people and news vans around that place! The crowd was larger than when we lined up for our tour at the White House a couple of years back, and we wanted no part of any of it.

I’m sure by now you have figured out why: the Confederate flag.

Honestly, I was shocked to hear that the capitol had been flying that flag. We are 100% behind the One Nation, One Flag camp, and wonder why it took South Carolina’s governor this long to speak out about it. Hmmm, could it be that she was sticking her finger up in the air to see which way the wind was blowing? Just how long would that flag have been left to fly if it weren’t for the Charleston murders?

Between the heat and the crowds in downtown Columbia, we decided to call it quits and just head to our hotel, instead. Ahhh, a nice cold drink and airconditioning!

As I sit nice and comfy in our room, I thought I would reflect back on our past 45 days on the road. Here’s a “by the numbers” look:

4,939– Miles driven (including tomorrow’s drive home)

3,054–  Number of pictures taken.

46– Blog posts written. I thoroughly enjoyed our evening routine of editing photos and writing while Bruce read the newspaper, solved the Sudoku puzzle, and researched the place we would be seeing the following day.

17– States traveled (Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana*, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia). * very briefly!

14– Chocolate shops where I purchased chocolates. Yikes! In addition to eating some along the way, I’m bringing a cooler full of the stuff home with me!

15– Factory tours (Corvette, Maker’s Mark, Louisville Slugger, Rebecca Ruth Candies, Chocolate F/X, Konzelmann Winery, Bully Hill Vineyards, Magic Hat Brewery, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Martin Guitars, Hershey Chocolates, Julius Sturgis Pretzels, Harley Davidson Motorcycles, and Utz Potato Chips.)

7– Costco Warehouses we visited for a very casual and inexpensive dinner. (Their $3.99 Caesar salads are large, fresh, and delicious!) Our favorite? Lancaster! We loved seeing the horse and buggy parked in the special designated area in the parking lot!

1– Marriage still happily intact!

0– Times either of us got sick.

Would we do a trip like this again? ABSOLUTELY! Like with everything else, there are those negatives to go along with all of the great positives; however, that’s with anything else in life. You take the bad with the good, and keep looking at the glass as being half full.

The biggest negative is having to lug stuff in and out of the hotel each time, and I have to give credit to my sherpa, Bruce. He was a trouper! As the cooler grew heavier with each chocolate purchase, he still insisted on taking care of that task while I handled the packing and unpacking.

There were also those times we hit unexpected traffic caused by an accident, and times (like now) when the weather was out of whack for the time of year we were traveling. So what?

We saw so many amazing things and beautiful places, learned about other cultures (yes, right here in the U.S.A.!), had a lot of fun, and enjoyed our time together. Nothing can top that!

Until the next time the mood strikes to write and post to my blog, CHEERS!

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ROAD TRIP DAY 45: “PEACE”-FUL DAY IN NORTH CAROLINA

“Salem” means “peace”, and after a beautiful drive south on US-220, we arrived in Winston -Salem. Our original plan was to arrive via Blue Ridge Parkway, but we opted for an easier and quicker alternative after three days of driving on curvy mountain roads.

This morning’s drive was just the ticket. Although it may not have been quite as beautiful as Blue Ridge Parkway, it wasn’t to the other extreme either of driving on an ugly billboard-littered freeway. There were just enough curves to make the drive fun, and the scenery was much better than I expected. The abundance of gorgeous trees was amazing (once again!) to this California girl who grew up in a concrete jungle!

We scored on a room for the night; a “last-minute special” at the Brookstown Inn saved us $25 on a fabulous room. Wanting to make these last couple of nights a bit more comfortable, we bumped our budget up from the $65-$80 range to what turned out to be a $120 room for $95 by booking the room online last night.

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This historic inn, registered on the National Register of Historic Places, used to be the Salem Cotton Mill dating back to 1837. Fast-forward to 1984, and it opened as the Brookstown Inn. It was renovated again in 2013, so everything is quite nice.

Our room has exposed beam ceilings and an exposed brick exterior wall. The interior is huge; the bathroom alone we figure at 100 sq. ft. It has two queen beds (although we only need one), a refrigerator, microwave, Keurig coffee maker, and more space than we could ever need.

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If you ever plan on seeing Winston-Salem, I would recommend staying here at Brookstown Inn. The Winston-Salem Visitor Center is right next door, and there is a lovely shaded walking path just up the street that leads right to the Old Salem Museum and Gardens. As you make your way up Main Street through the museum buildings, you will end up very close to Brookstown Inn for the short walk back. (An interesting side note is that Main Street where the museum buildings are located is actually a public street. Many of the old homes sprinkled between the museum buildings are now privately owned; however, they have kept them very well-maintained.)

Private residence

Private residence

Private residence

Private residence

Another short walk from Brookstown Inn is a wonderful restaurant, Willow’s Bistro, located in an old railway building. Dinner was tasty, service was excellent, and it was a very cool place to relax and dine.

How nice to arrive in town late this morning, park the car for free at the inn, and leave it sit in the shade for the remainder of the day while we got some exercise! Spending the entire afternoon at the Old Salem Museum and Gardens was an enjoyable and very interesting experience.

Old Salem was incorporated back in the 1950’s by a group of volunteers as a way to begin preserving and restoring the town of Salem for future generations.

The town dates back to 1766 when it was founded by the Moravians- a Protestant religious group that first organized in what is now known as the Czech Republic in the 15th Century.

For 200 years the Moravians faced persecution, so they fled and first settled in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Their next settlement (in 1753) was 100,000 acres of purchased land in “Wachovia” (which means “creek”) in the back country of North Carolina. (Does that name “Wachovia” ring a bell? Yes, it was the Moravians who founded Wachovia Bank.)

Old Salem has done an outstanding job restoring the historic buildings and presenting them as they would have been back in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.

Old Salem's oldest house, 1771

Old Salem’s oldest house, 1771

According to their website, “The Town of Salem has a rich and deep history, with the restoration supported by many different sources of historical documentation and research. Core material is the primary source information published in the Records of the Moravians in North Carolina based on records held by the Moravian Archives, Southern Province in Winston-Salem. In addition, documentation such as private papers, historic photographs, and artistic renderings, as well as ongoing research of buildings, objects, and archaeological resources, have been critical to understanding the Town’s history.”

As we strolled from building to building we learned so much about the culture from experts dressed up in period attire who demonstrated the various trades as they were done back in those times. They included: a gunsmith shop, shoemaker shop, furniture maker, potter, and others.
We also toured a few Moravian homes including the Single Brothers’ House where we viewed trade demonstrations and heard music played from the Tannenberg organ dating back to 1798.

Shultz Shoemaker Shop, 1827

Shultz Shoemaker Shop, 1827

This gentleman demonstrated how shoes were made in the early 1800's.

This gentleman demonstrated how shoes were made in the early 1800’s.

This lady explained how sugar was processed. Sugar cane was brought in from the Caribbean, and the first pressing turned it into “sludge”. Molasses was the result of an additional pressing. The blue package shows how sugar was wrapped. The blue paper made the sugar appear more white. Chunks were broken off to place in tea. On the right, she is holding a dish of rock candy. The brown rock candy has brandy in it.

This organ dates back to 1798.

This organ dates back to 1798.

Touring St. Philips African Moravian Church and Graveyards was interesting, too. Before slavery, black and white Moravians worshiped together. It wasn’t until 1822 when the white Moravians buckled under the influence of “outsiders” that the races were separated in worship.

This log cabin was the original St. Philips African American church.

This log cabin was the original St. Philips African American church.

The church we toured is the oldest African-American church in North Carolina dating back to 1861. During worship, men and women were separated in the church by a partition in the pews.

It was interesting to learn that in the Moravian cemetary, all of the gravestones are flat as a reminder of equality in both life and death.

The Moravians were definitely ahead of their time regarding equality of the sexes, because they strongly believed in educating young girls and women. To that, I say, “Good for them!”

I was also impressed by the fact that although the Moravians were missionaries, their missions were not meant to convert; they were only meant to help others in need. Native Americans benefitted greatly from the help of Moravians, as did Africans and many others throughout the world.

Today, there are approximately 600,000 Moravians; however, 80% are in other countries. In the United States they reside mostly in North Carolina as well as Lititz and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Moravians are considered mainstream Protestant most similar to Lutherans or Methodists in beliefs.

Never having even heard of Moravians until we were in Pennsylvania, both Bruce and I were fascinated to learn about their history, culture, and beliefs.

On this trip, we have learned much about the Shakers, Menonites, Amish, and Moravians. Fascinating!

Ink well, 1810-183

Ink well, 1810-183

Moravian chair

Moravian chair

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Private residences

Private residences

Salem College was a school for girls and young women.  It is currently a college for women.

Salem College was a school for girls and young women. It is currently a college for women.

ROAD TRIP DAY 44: STROLLING STAUNTON AND BREEZING THROUGH BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY

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Staunton (pronounced “STANN-tun”) is another one of those charming towns that has landed on several “best” lists. Smithsonian says it’s “one of the best small towns in America,” and Travel + Leisure says Staunton has “one of America’s greatest main streets.” Go Magazine gushes that Staunton is “impossibly charming,” and Southern Living states, “With a downtown energized by locally owned shops and restaurants, the Shenandoah Valley town is one of the prettiest and most progressive in the South.”

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Founded in 1747, Staunton has one architectural advantage over most of other small towns in the Shenandoah Valley: it was unscathed in the Civl War, and many of its 18th and early 19th century homes and buildings still stand and are well preserved.

We spent a few hours walking the town on a self-guided tour of its five National Historic Districts dating back 250 years. While we saw one beautiful home or building after another, we found ourselves agreeing with what those magazine writers said about it. Staunton is a cool town worth a visit.

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Following our stroll around Staunton, we breezed through the Blue Ridge Parkway. I say “breezed,” because we only drove 50 miles of its 469-mile length before opting for a straighter route south. After a couple of days of driving the curvy roads of Skyline Drive (which was a lot of fun!), we decided we had enough on this third day of switch-backs– this time with few guard rails or barriers. It sure was a gorgeous drive, though.

Oh! That reminds me! As a footnote to yesterday’s post, we saw a young black bear crossing Skyline Drive perhaps 50 feet in front of us! Neither of us had seen a black bear in the wild before, so it made our day!

ROAD TRIP DAY 43: LONG AND WINDING ROAD TO MONTICELLO

When driving from Luray to Charlottesville, taking the long and winding road is the only way to go to enjoy the beauty of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Skyline drive, which runs north-south through Shenandoah National Park, covers 105 miles of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We drove the remaining two-thirds of the length of the road today.

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The sky was blue after last night’s thunderstorm, so we got an early start to take in the views at overlooks along the way. The Appalachian Trail runs through Shenandoah National Park as well, so we hiked a tiny portion of the trail.

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Since I hadn’t researched the park in detail (I only knew it was a highly recommended must-see scenic drive), I had no idea there were accomodations available other than campgrounds. Skyland Resort and Big Meadows Lodge are both located in the park, though, and offer accomodations we would have loved to have stayed at rather than at the motel in Luray. We saw the interior of one of Big Meadow’s cabins while it was being cleaned, and it was quaint and cozy, yet roomy. Both the resort and lodge have restaurants, evening entertainment, and plenty of great hiking opportunities to keep busy during the day. Skyland Resort even offers guided horseback rides.

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This was the view at the end of one of the short hikes from Skyland:

P1010618A trio of deer were helping themselves to the grass alongside the cabins, and they weren’t the least bothered by me as I slowly got closer to watch. I was no more than 20 feet away, and I’m sure I could have gotten even closer.

P1010598-1P1010602-1At Sun City Peachtree, we have to be much more stealth to keep deer from running off. If we move while we are watching from the window inside our house it will spook them!

The entire drive through Shenandoah National Park was gorgeous and so thoroughly enjoyable, today. We were fortunate to have nice weather, and I enjoyed driving the long and winding road.

After wrapping up our cruise along Skyline Drive, we made our way to tour Thomas Jefferson’s home in Charlottesville.

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Monticello was designed by Jefferson, a self-taught architect, and the tour of his home was very interesting.

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Not only was Thomas Jefferson an architect– he also founded and designed the University of Virginia– Jefferson was also quite an innovator, inventor, and horticulturist; in addition to being a statesman and author of the Declaration of Independence. Those are the impressive facts about the president who is the face on the $2 bill.

There are also very disturbing facts about Thomas Jefferson that make me wonder how on earth his picture wound up on that very bill in the first place.

Did you know that the man who wrote such inspiring words as “all men are created equal” and have a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” actually owned 600 slaves throughout his life? THIS from the man who promoted religious tolerance and freedom? I didn’t know this, thanks to my very basic education in U.S. history, but I wanted to scream, “HYPOCRITE!!!”

Another fact missing from my education about our third president was that Jefferson accumulated a great deal of debt, and was $107,000 in debt when he died. Strike two! (I will leave “Strike three!” to your imagination…”)

As it turns out, Monticello was built on land inherited from his father, run by slaves, and financed with other people’s money. The house is 11,000 square feet and originally sat on 5,000 acres; however, some of that land had to be sold off to pay down that $107,000 debt after Jefferson died.

The remainder of what turned out to be a blazing-hot day was spent strolling and having dinner at Charlottesville’s historic downtown pedestrian mall.

ROAD TRIP DAY 42: LOUNGING IN LURAY

Due to a day lacking in content, this post will also be lacking in content. It was just one of those days.

We initially had no intention of spending two nights in Luray; however, rooms in Charlottesville for tonight were either sold out or MUCH too expensive. I don’t know if it’s a big event happening there this weekend or just Father’s Day, but somethin’ is definitely up.

Here at the motel in Luray, a family reunion has consumed most of the rooms. Rather than dining out, they brought their own food with them, and have picnics on the motel grounds, instead. The coolers our neighbors brought seem to be attracting flies, so one of the men has been passing time by systematically eliminatng them with a fly swatter. With beer in one hand and the swatter in the other, I’m watching out the window while he keeps count outloud with every kill. “31…32… Oooh, a double! 47 and 48!”

At the moment of this writing (6:30 PM, June 20), I’m unplugged from the wall outlet, because we are in the midst of a thunderstorm– the other reason I am writing this in our room at 6:30 PM. Knowing the storm was coming, we had an early dinner and returned to hunker down. It seems as if our reunion group is waiting until the storm passes to have their picnic. “57… SWAT- 58…”

The day started out ok, though, and we took another drive through Shenandoah National Park along Skyline Drive. It was quite hazy, so I only shot a couple of photos:

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Meanwhile, the following are a few I shot yesterday and saved for today’s post:

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“61… 62…” It seems as if the remaining flies have a reprieve as Mr. Fly Swatter is now contently sitting in his lawn chair awaiting for dinner to begin. I’m rather disappointed, because I had planned on going out to congratulate him on his 100th kill. Oh well, I just hope those are raisins in that carrot salad on the picnic table.

The rustic cabin we had hoped to stay in; however the nightly rate was too steep.  We opted for the Trip Advisor-recommended motel across the street, instead.  Except for the flies, it was just fine.

The rustic cabin we had hoped to stay in; however the nightly rate was too steep. We opted for the Trip Advisor-recommended motel across the street, instead. Except for the flies, it was just fine.

ROAD TRIP DAY 41: SHENANDOAH VALLEY, ABOVE AND BELOW

When given the choice of driving to a destination, we would much rather take the scenic route and enjoy the journey along the way. Today was a great case in point. Trudy (our GPS) would have preferred we travel south along Interstate 81; however, if we had done so, we would have missed one of the most beautiful National Scenic Byways, Skyline Drive.

At 105 miles long, we only traveled on a portion of the drive before exiting Shenandoah National Park to see Luray Caverns. The drive runs north and south along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is the only public road through the park. Its a beautiful way to take in the scenic views of the Shenandoah Valley by utilizing the numerous lookout vantage points along the way.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t ideal for scenic photography, and the visibility was limited, so we mostly pulled off the road at overlooks to just enjoy what we could see. Take a look at this panoramic shot, and just imagine what this would look like on a clear spring day or during the fall when the leaves are changing colors:

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Luray was our next (and final) destination after descending the mountain ridges to explore the caverns below.

Best known for its Great Stalacpipe Organ, created there by Leland Sprinkle in 1957, the Luray Caverns are incredibly beautiful, and far more photogenic than Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.

Towards the end of our one-hour tour (uh, make that 1:20, because we hung back and joined the tour behind ours), we got to hear a hymn from the organ.

An entry in Wikipedia describes the organ as, “…a lithophone made from solenoid fired strikers that tap stalactites of various sizes to produce tones similar to those of xylophones, tuning forks, or bells.”

Look carefully for the organ.  You can see it close-up in the next photo.

Look carefully for the organ. You can see it close-up in the next photo.

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This is one of the strikers that produces just one note of the organ

This is one of the strikers that produces just one note of the organ

The tone sounded ethereal and unlike anything I had ever heard. Bruce and I both thought of our friends at Griffin Choral Arts– especially Steve Mulder, Bill Pasch, Cathy Willis, and Richard Chewning. We know they would have flipped over the worlds largest instrument that spans over 3 acres, including all its strikers.

Here are more scenes from inside Luray Caverns:

Just look at how large these formations are compared to the people touring the caverns!

Just look at how large these formations are compared to the people touring the caverns!

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The formations in the top half of the photo are reflected in the water below.

The formations in the top half of the photo are reflected in the water below.

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ROAD TRIP DAY 40: WALKING WINCHESTER

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Walking Winchester actually followed a wonderful much-needed and much-desired swim at this 50-meter pool at the Jim Barnett Park Pool. Available pools have been scarce on this trip; however, I was well aware of that fact after doing research prior to the trip, and I knew what to expect. No worries; this road trip has been well worth the time lost out of the pool!

Having said that, it was a nice surprise to arrive at this 80-degree long course pool and have a lane all to myself. Ahhh, what a great way to start the day!

Since it was hot and humid today, our only other activity was to do a self-guided walking tour in Old Town

Winchester, have a late lunch- early dinner, and call it quits. Temperatures have been consistently about 10 degrees above average the last several days, so we have been careful to not let it wear us down too much. Besides, when you’re on the road for 40 days, little breaks now and then are much appreciated!

Walking Winchester was lovely. We found the town to be quite clean, tidy, and well-maintained; and, they did a great job restoring the historic downtown.

Dating back to 1752 when Winchester was founded, this charming town is filled with many beautiful stone buildings that have survived through the centuries. They are now cafes, attorney offices, or other businesses; however, each one has been restored and preserved meticulously.

A pedestrian mall was created from one of the historic streets, and it is a wonderful place to stroll, dine at an outdoor cafe (although we opted to dine inside due to the heat!), and browse the shops. I sure wish the city of Griffin, Georgia would do the same thing with Hill Street!

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This 1899 Queen Anne house was owned by W.H. Baker of Baker Chocolate.

This 1899 Queen Anne house was owned by W.H. Baker of Baker Chocolate.

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ROAD TRIP DAY 39: HISTORIC HARPERS FERRY

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I was so confused. Within a five minute span (at most!) we were in three states– one of them twice! We drove from Frederick, Maryland to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, West Virginia; however, I kept seeing “Welcome to…” signs! “Welcome to West Virginia” one sign read. A couple of minutes later, another greeted us with “Welcome to Virginia”. Before we knew it, we were back in West Virginia with another sign greeting us once again. Whewww!

Situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers where the states of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia meet, Harpers Ferry is located roughly at the half-way point of the Appalachian Trail. It is named after Robert Harper who established a ferry service (Get it? Harper’s ferry?) in 1761.

Thomas Jefferson visited Harpers Ferry in 1783 and stood on these rocks (see below) to take in the view of the rivers. Jefferson called the site “perhaps one of the the most stupendous scenes in nature,” and also said it was “worth a voyage across the Atlantic” to see. This is now known as Jefferson Rock Overlook, and pillars have been inserted to stabilize the rock formations:

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In later years during the Civil War, Harpers Ferry changed hands eight times between 1861 and 1865. Suffice it to say the history of Harpers Ferry could (and does) fill volumes of books.

Some of this history was shared with us by Creighton Waters, an incredibly knowledgeable park ranger. By pure luck, we happened to stumble upon him and his tour when we arrived at the visitor center at 10:55 and noticed an 11:00 “From the Top Down” tour getting ready to depart. As it turned out, the 90-minute tour is conducted just once per day, three days each week. Wow, were we lucky!

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The tour departed from the top of Harpers Ferry where the views took in Maryland and the Potomac River to the left, and Virginia with its Shenandoah River to the right. By the conclusion of the tour, we were in Lower Harpers Ferry at the river’s confluence.

In between, in addition to taking in the views from Jefferson Rock Overlook, we visited this very historic cemetary dating back to the 1700’s where Robert Harper was buried:

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This is what remains of a church dating back to the 1850’s:

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Adding a little humor to the tour, we learned the history of the sign that is still visible on the side of the rock face of Maryland Heights across the river. See the square above and to the left of the train tunnel? It used to read, “Mennen’s Borated Talcum Toilet Powder,” and the painted sign dates back to 1903. It was the last thing train passengers saw before entering a long, pitch-black tunnel, so the marketing geniuses at Mennen thought it would leave a lasting imprint on their minds, and make them run out to buy some of their product upon disembarkation.

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Walking across the bridge, we took in the views and noticed those tubers below who had floated down the Shenandoah River from Virginia. Meanwhile, out of the picture frame there were two other tubers who had floated down the Potomac in Maryland. They met up in the middle while we watched from West Virginia.

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By the time we had reached the other side of the bridge, the sky grew dark and threatening, and it started to sprinkle just enough to warn us to take cover. So much for continuing our “hike” on the Appalachian Trail. We returned to explore the historic pre-Civil War- era buildings of Lower Harpers Ferry, instead, and ducked in to enjoy a Hershey’s Ice Cream (no relation to Milton S. Hershey of Hershey’s Chocolate, and the company dates back to 1894).

Now, that is good ice cream! “Moose Tracks” was LOADED with goodies, and the ice cream was creamy and delicious. YUM!

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Tonight, we are staying in Winchester and will explore more of the Shenandoah Valley tomorrow. Hopefully, it won’t rain like it did today!

ROAD TRIP DAY 38: FABULOUS FREDERICK

All was not lost when we set out for Hood College this morning with plans to get a swim in before driving through the countryside to see three covered bridges. Although the college recently changed their policy and no longer allows non-members to swim, the campus was beautiful and well worth the short detour from the highway. The surrounding residential community had gorgeous homes, and many of the campus buildings looked similar to this one:

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The drive through the countryside was lush and green with rolling hills and beautiful farms. Of the three covered bridges we saw, Loy’s Station Covered Bridge was the nicest:

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Following our countryside drive, we spent the remainder of the afternoon on a self-guided walking tour of Frederick’s historic downtown which covers a 50-block area. Established in 1743, this town south of the Mason-Dixon Line is indeed historic with many of the original buildings still intact and well-maintained. We found this small city of 67,000 people well worth the visit!

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Now, look at this “window”. Why did I put this in quotes? Look again, because it’s not a window at all. This is a wall mural painted in the same style as the bridge photographed in my previous post.

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