Virginia Road Trip: Neighbors Become Friends
One of the great joys of older adulthood, for many of us, is the freedom to just pick up in the morning and decide to hit the road. And after the months of social distancing and isolation, the lure of the road trip is overwhelming, a new appreciation of the outside world.
Our own Camille LaCognata moved into a 55+ community almost a year ago. Amazingly, there are 14 single women like herself in a neighborhood of about 60 homes, and Camille has made it a point to introduce herself to most of them. This was an unexpected huge benefit of her move. Most of the women are retired so this newfound circle of friends gathers for any number of activities. These ladies are appreciating every minute of the aforementioned freedom and the other day did indeed wake up, reached out, and decided to hit the road. Just like Jack Kerouac….Well, maybe not exactly like. I don’t think there was weed or alcohol involved but it sounds like it was still a very groovy experience. Three ladies got in the car and just drove, heading west out of Richmond. Camille ended up putting over 300 miles on her car that day.
They cruised the Shenandoah Valley, headed for Staunton, off the 1-81 corridor and the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway. En route, there was constant conversation. The drive was beautiful on this warm summer day. They stopped along the way to enjoy the stunning scenic overlooks on the Parkway. Then they went in search of food and shopping.
First stop: Rocky’s Gold Silver & Antiques in Weyers Cave, VA. So much jewelry so little time! Rocky’s has “the largest selection of gold and silver in the Shenandoah Valley” and dealers come from all over the country–and out of the country–to buy their jewelry. Camille was not in the buying frame of mind since she has recently downsized and offloaded a lifetime worth of baubles. But she noted that the experience was fun because it was so big and there was so much to see. And the prices were good, so if you like jewelry you would be in luck. Her traveling companions did indeed like jewelry and were delighted. She also loved looking at the beautiful antiques, especially the incredible selection of Civil War memorabilia. She made one purchase this day: a framed original draft version of the lyrics of the Star-Spangled Banner.
Second Stop: The Cheese Shop in Stuarts Draft VA. The Cheese Shop is a locally owned store proudly filled with locally sourced goods. So many pickles so little time! Camille was impressed by rows and rows of homemade jams and jellies and pickles. Only one case of cheese! But it was an impressive selection, joined by homemade breads and baked stuff and all those things that make life worth living. The Cheese Shop also offers a large selection of hard to find items such as spices, etc. all at very reasonable prices—and by the way, these can be ordered online as well. There was also a nice deli on the premises, so snacking ensued.
Third Stop: Saunders Brothers Farm Market in Piney River, VA. Saunders also offers produce directly from their farm at this delightful location—can’t get more locally-sourced than that. Peaches and apples are their specialty. And…at this moment in time, their website notes Peaches are Ready! This enticement alone merits the trip out to Nelson County. Fresh peach season is precious and fleeting. Saunders’ web page features a fruit ripening schedule so visitors can see what else is in season. Their 400 greenhouses yield plants for sale plus locally sourced goods such as produce, meats and preserved jams jellies and pickles. One culinary item of special note: homegrown peaches soaked in red wine—an old Italian recipe that has been handed down from generation to generation. Oh, and the homemade ice cream: uncommonly delicious. Not surprisingly peach is a popular flavor. Camille also loved the lemon crisp ice cream—not sherbet as she expected but full-on ice cream. As an added attraction, there is even an antique farm equipment museum—for Boomers like me who grew up in rural USA, this would be an especially intriguing and sentimental blast from the past.
“We came, we saw, we bought!” says Camille of their day on the road. And they talked, and they laughed, and these new neighbors got to know each other better, and became friends. They talked about their families and their backgrounds and experiences. The conversation turned political, which seems inevitable in these times; Camille did not reveal the nature of the conversations, did say they fortunately found they were all on the same page.
Camille noted that it is rare for her to spend over 9 hours straight with anyone who is not family, but this trip really worked out. “I came away feeling like Ruth (a new neighbor) is my BFF!” Good friendship, fun things to see, good shopping: always a great day for three ladies on a lark. The destination was nice, and the road trip adventure is one of Camille’s favorite activities, but getting to know each other, the art of conversation, was the best part.
Would she and her friends recommend this adventure? Yes!
We Boomers have a special affection for the Great American Road Trip and the countryside of Virginia is one of the best.