Thursday, July 9, 2009

Farewell to the Shenandoah Valley

Today was our last day in the valley. We've really enjoyed having so much time there. It started to feel like home! After packing things into the car, we drove to the Dayton Farmer's Market for some more lunch meat for sandwiches, and then we went to see Ft. Harrison (the home of Daniel Harrison), which we hadn't managed to do all week. When we got there, we realized that Ft. Harrison was where the guys had hung out with the 10th VA during Dayton Days when we were here last time -- stone house with white picket fence around it.

The Harrison House. Daniel played the fiddle in front of it for several hours in 1999 raising money to restore Gabriel Shank's flag.

We also realized a couple days ago that you marched between Bridgewater and Dayton on Route 42 that we have been driving back and forth on over the last week.

Then we went into EMU to say goodbye to Dr. Nafziger and headed out of town toward Cross Keys and Port Royal (by way of Kline's Dairy Bar), two battle areas that Gabriel Shank and the 10th VA had fought on. We were trying to use a driving tour route recommended in a book, but we ended up with several detours. We went to Cross Keys Vineyard at Dr. Nafziger's recommendation and had our first experience at official wine tasting.

CrossKeys Vineyard. It was big.

Not being too interested in drinking very much, I just paid for Joseph to try them, and I tried to get a picture of him looking so adult, but apparently I didn't push the button hard enough, because there was no picture in the camera. Alas...Fortunately the young lady helping us was very laid back, not at all stuffy or wine-snobby. She did rattle on about oaky tastes and so on, but she didn't snicker or anything when Joseph swallowed wrong on the first sip. We will see if we can get the two bottles home without them breaking.

The winery was probably bigger than all of Cross Keys. It had a very imposing Spanish-looking sort of building on a hill, surrounded by all the vineyards. Cross Keys was much harder to find. We missed it on the way down and ended up in Weyers Cave, going on to Grottoes where the Grand Caverns are. We thought it might be fun to see the caverns, but $18.50 each to see some holes in the ground was more than we wanted to spend. We looked at some rather worn looking displays, watched a squirrel and chipmunk, and left.

Bats. We didn't see any.

Port Royal was another step back in time. It mainly amounted to two streets that ran parallel with each, with some old houses on them. It was here that we saw the first goats we have seen on our trip! We have actually seen very little evidence of small hobby-farm livestock raising in Virginia -- no small areas with a handful of animals in them, hardly any chickens wandering about, very few sheep, no goats until today. We mostly see (and smell) dairy cows scattered between fields of silage corn.

Goats and an old log cabin in the background.

Somehow we managed to miss most of the historical markers for the Cross Keys and Port Royal battles, but it was fairly obvious in both places where the battles would have been fought. This farm land is so beautiful. It's hard to imaging battles in the middle of the fields, or the fields strewn with dead bodies, or the loss the farmers must have suffered. I tried to imagine what it must have been like to have dear ol' Sheridan coming through burning crops and barns and destroying the livestock.

Cross Keys and Port Republic. We didn't see much, but we were there.

We followed one silly rabbit trail from our guide book that led us to a fenced off bridge and the obstructed view of an octagonal barn, and another that led us to the back of a school bus service and parking area to see what was supposed to be the remains of some historic tavern. It looked like a worn-out barn to us, and we felt very silly sight-seeing in the middle of a bus lot.

The Cross Keys tavern, supposedly built in 1800. It kind of looked like it had been used for a barn since 1810...

It sprinkled here and there through the morning, and we started to wonder what Skyline Drive was going to be like. Dr. Nafziger had said that sometimes it gets pretty foggy on the ridge when it is raining. But we decided to go ahead and at least try one section of it. We're so glad we did. It was beautiful. I have always loved blue hills fading away, layer after layer, in the distance. We saw about 3 hours worth of one beautiful vista after another. The roads were lined with stone walls (like they have in portions of the Columbia Gorge) and there were lookouts all along the road. Sometimes the view was layer upon layer of blue hills (we counted at least 12 layers at one point) Other times it looked out over the tiny fields and villages below. One view showed the Shenandoah like a shiny mirror winding through the valley. We played bluegrass music and a cello CD of Joseph's and stopped for picture after picture.

The Blue Ridge Mountains


Layers and layers of blue mountains.

We saw a little black bear skip across the road at one point and desperately tried to get his picture before he trundled into the brush. We also saw a deer, and tried not to swallow the little bugs that rushed to surround us when we got out of the car. The birds and the wild flowers were wonderful.

It was kind of a rude awakening to leave the peaceful valley and the quiet, secluded mountains to drive into Manassas, but we're here now. This motel room looks almost exactly like the one we left in Harrisonburg. The bedspreads and refrigerator are a different color, the bathroom is a bit bigger, but less light, and the dresser only has 2 drawers instead of 4.

Our new Super 8 room which is just like our old Ramada Inn room. (It is not that messy now. We were just starting to put things away...)

Otherwise, it's pretty much the same. We're actually sleepy and it's only 11:18! Tomorrow is the start of the homeschool conference. We'll sift through our 150 shots of the Blue Ridge Mountains, put up a few for you to see, and quit for now.

Our super-hardy bouquet

Question-of-the-day: How many times did we end up going to Kline's Ice-Cream Bar in the week we were in Harrisonburg?


  1. Bev says: You were there 7 1/2 days.....skip Sunday...and I think you missed one day....but then you might have gone twice in one day....but...I will say 6 times. The mountain pictures are amazing. I google mapped the route and it was really cool looking from space...but Oh so winding...glad you don't get car sick :) Enjoyed Bethany's pizza tonight...yummy....and laughed a lot at "The Pacifier" Have a great time at the fair.

  2. Pretty flowers! You guys are missing out on the crocosmia (sp?) is absolutely gorgeous!
    Have fun at the curriculum fair!

  3. 5 times. Blech, I'm drooling just thinking about it.....yummy.... :)