Last September when we left Selinsgrove, PA we headed south to Virginia with a stop in Harrisburg. It was an early Sunday morning and we passed a couple of Amish families in their buggies going to worship. We were doing the same, going to worship with friends from Tallahassee who moved to Harrisburg a few years ago. David and Lindsay have had two more little ones in that time and are now a family of six! We found another long curb for parking near their church and had a few minutes to give them a quick tour before heading in to worship. Our time together was oh so brief, but oh so sweet!
We saw that Gettysburg was just slightly off our route to Reston, VA and that presented a brief dilemma. Should we go to this vast, historic military park with only a couple hours to spare or bypass it for a future visit when we can really give it the time it deserves? Again we said, “well, since we’re this close…!” Of course, we went and we are so, so glad we did. You simply cannot get anywhere close to Gettysburg and not go. Even in just a couple of hours, and even in our big rig, we were able to traverse a lot of ground and history. It really is hallowed ground, mesmerizing and sobering. We chatted with some Sons of Confederate Veterans who had been doing maintenance at one of their monuments; they showed us an unmarked grave site nearby. In some spots, we left our rig on the side of the road to walk out among the monuments, memorials and cannons and to climb up lookout towers for the sweeping views. Those couple of hours in Gettysburg were memorable indeed.
It was just a couple hours further south to Lake Fairfax Park, a county park in Reston, VA. It’s tucked into a beautiful neighborhood and has lots recreational opportunities within its boundaries—a water park, marina, skate park, ballfields, hiking trails, an historic carousel, picnicking and camping. The campground was nice enough, but no water hookups which was unusual. Good thing we had enough in our tank going in! The campground is wooded all around and I saw deer on my morning walks.
The best feature of the park was its proximity to our friends in Fairfax (just minutes away) and Maryland and Washington, DC (about an hour away). We rolled in with just enough time to set up and then head out to meet our friends, David and Leslie, for dinner. Leslie is more like a sister to me; she was my older brother’s girlfriend when I was in high school and we became very close. I always say that even though she and my brother broke up, we never did! We’ve stayed in touch all these years and always visited each other at our various moves—hers, around the country and mine around the state! She and David were extraordinary hosts and tour guides! They both know how to pick amazing restaurants, wineries (Leslie is the expert), and fantastic, historic photo op destinations (David is the expert). We ate at The Counter, a great build-your-own custom burger and salad restaurant. The menu is on a clipboard so you check off your choices of toppings, and I don’t think there is a topping on the planet that isn’t listed!
Tom’s birthday was the next day and they came to pick us up so they could see our home before treating us to a celebratory meal at J. Gilbert’s in McLean. Oh. My. Goodness! That is one fabulous, fancy, steak and seafood restaurant! We had all of the above, plus wine and dessert—what a gift that meal was! On our driving day of adventure, we covered a lot of miles including a stop at the Chateau O’Brien Winery. It was a quiet day there and we had a personal wine tasting with the owner, Howard, before enjoying a glass out on the beautiful veranda overlooking the vineyard. We then continued our tour of the surrounding countryside with lots of photo stops at old churches, cemeteries, homes and barns. We concluded in historic Middleburg at the Red Fox Inn and Tavern, a magnificent almost three-hundred-year old inn constructed in 1728 of local fieldstone with walls thirty inches thick! It was a lovely evening so we dined outside on the patio and Leslie and David treated us to yet another gourmet meal!
Another night, Tom and I drove across the border to Maryland to visit my college roommate, Cathy and her husband Tom. We hadn’t seen them since our last visit to their area over 20 years ago! But it seemed as if no time had passed at all. Cathy is an elementary school teacher and she is the best storyteller–animated and so funny! I know her students and their parents must absolutely love her. She and Tom took us on a beautiful 20-mile drive to the shore of Chesapeake Bay at Galesville and treated us to a wonderful seafood dinner at Pirates Cove. It was a breezy, almost full moon evening so we enjoyed eating on the patio. The crab cakes were excellent, as you would expect in Maryland!
We took the Metrorail into DC just one day, which was fine because we have visited much of DC on other trips, and this trip was for visiting friends. In this case, we were visiting Tom’s former boss and colleagues from Volunteer Florida who are now at the federal level. We got a great tour of the CNCS offices (Corporation for National and Community Service) and then walked a few blocks to 701, an elegant restaurant bordering the Navy Memorial Plaza. It would have been lovely to sit outside amidst the memorial fountains, but it was too warm. We appreciated the cool and quiet indoors where we could chat easily with Wendy, Amieko, and Alex. And we especially appreciated Wendy treating us all to a delicious lunch!
We parted ways after lunch so the working folk could get back to it and we retired folk could spend the afternoon strolling around The Mall. We toured the Navy Memorial just outside the restaurant and then walked across the street to the National Archives. We especially enjoyed the displays in the Public Vaults and in the Rotunda which houses the founding documents of our country—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Trivia question, do you know what these documents are called collectively? I didn’t, or didn’t remember. They are the Charters of Freedom and I was also fascinated to learn that their huge, sealed and bulletproof display cases are kept out for public viewing by day and put in multi-ton, bomb-proof vaults by night! At the curb just outside the Archives I noticed the bronze equestrian statue of Union Army General Hancock that looked so familiar. As I read about him I realized that we had just seen his statue at Gettysburg a few days earlier! After some more photo ops across The Mall it was time to catch the Metro back to Reston, to rest, which we are getting good at!