Waterfalls, wine and a "kissing bridge"
On our first
whole day in
America 2004, we would just relax and look at the local surroundings. So
after breakfast, we drove down to the Vienna, to look at the town and in order
for Annette to do some shopping. Then we relaxed at Jens' and Anette's home until lunch time.
After lunch we decided to visit
Great Falls of the Potomac, only about 15 minutes drive from Jens' and Annettes
home. Great Falls is located 14 miles (22 km) from Washington's downtown, and is
a major tourist attraction, and also many locals are visiting the area. The
falls were very beautiful, maybe not as high as other waterfalls I've seen (the
river drops about 70 feet over a distance of about 0.8 mile), but
We did not take the long walk through the park around the waterfalls, but merely
walked along the rivers edge and enjoyed the sight from a couple of viewpoints
along the way; also enjoying the sunshine and the 85 degrees. Then we returned to
house. Jens took his daughter Britt and her girlfriend, Louise to the airport, as
Louise was returning to Denmark. Before leaving Jens found a pay-per-view channel,
that showed the soccermatch between Denmark and The Czeck Republic and
when they returned, Jens and Britt joined us for the second half. Jens
could have saved himself the $ 25 though as Denmark lost the game :-(.
Before we went to America, I
had decided (with few protests from Dorte)
that I needed a new digital camera. I was convinced they must be cheaper in the U.S., so
after the match, we drove to
Tysons Corner Center. We
found a shop that had my desired camera, but I thought it was too expensive so
I decided to wait and see if I could not find it cheaper somewhere else. Instead
we walked around the mall, which must be every shopaholics dream or nightmare,
depending on perspective. The center includes 300 stores, including four
department stores, among others the world famous Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom and
Macy's. Other stores are located in the center, for example, Barnes and Noble,
Hennes and Mauritz and others. And for those who can not get
enough shopping, on the other side of the road you find another center, Tyson II,
with som slightly more expensive stores like Neiman Marcus and Saks
Fith Avenue. Moreover, branded shops like Hugo Boss, Bally,
Burberry, Lacoste, Ralph Lauren, Versace and many more.
We visited none of these shops but took a look at some of them, from outside
before we returned to the house once more. Once back home, Jens fired up the BBQ
and we had a nice dinner. Later Britt got a visit from a friend from high school.
A Brazilian girl called Ana. And once again we played Ludo. This
time someone must have cheated. I can not prove it of course, but someone must have, as Jens
and I lost the game.
When Jens and Annette earlier this year had been
home in Denmark, we had discussed going on a wine tour, when we came to visit them. Ever since I first discovered
that Virginia was a wine producing state, I had wanted to taste Virginia wine, but I was too
stingy to buy a bottle. At that time I, like most other Danes, only associated
North American wine with California, because it's whats is sold in Denmark, but now I realized wine was also produced on the East Coast
and anywhere else as a matter of fact.
This time I had to try wine from Virginia though, no matter the cost.
loves good wine too, had done some "research" at the local vineyards
during the two years, they had lived in the area. He divided the wineries into three categories: those
with beautiful sourroundings and views, those with
nice people, and those where the wine was drinkable! So we decided to visit
a winery from each category. Unfortunately, we only managed to visit two at that
time, as the third place
we went was closed.
The first two places we visited
though, were both situated in very nice surroundings, especially Hillsboro Winery, near the town of Purcellville in
Northern Virginia. Here the owners were of Turkish descent, but the wines are
inspired by Portugal, and winemaker, Kerem Baki, son of the owners, told us of
his dream of making a port wine type when the vines had grown somewhat older. The grapes, grown
at the winery were among other Petit Verdou and Cabernet Sauvignon, but the bulk
of the 4.5 hectares was planted with Tannat, Fer Servadou and Petit Manseng.
Furthermore the winery bought wine from other wineries, and also Viognier and
Chardonnay are blended in the wines produced. The wines we ended up tasting
were all excellent and we got a really nice chat with Kerem and his mother. When
we were done tasting, we asked the winemaker whether he knew a good place to
eat lunch nearby? Jens and Annette knew from the past that the town of Hillsboro
suffered from a serious shortage of places to eat :-). When he just could not think
of any himself, he summoned his mother. She knew of two restaurants, but she was
not quite sure whether they were open, as many restaurants in the area were
closed on Mondays. Both were outside the town of
Purcellville, so we decided to make the attempt. Jens and Annette bought a few
bottles of wine here, while we skipped. Before we left, we sat for a moment and enjoyed the view
from the terrace outside the tasting room.
It turned out that both restaurants were closed, but instead we found a small
place in the center of town. The restaurant was clearly mostly visited by the
locals, and they were not accustomed to tourists visiting, not to say foreigners, but the food
was impeccable (otherwise the locals would probably not have come back), and it was
certainly affordable. I think we paid $ 30 for lunch and drinks for all
four of us. After lunch we took a few pictures of the town, and then it was just time
to move on to the next winery.
The second winery we visited that day was in the same area, near Leesburg. The
views from there was nice, but not quite
so beautiful as Hillsboro. On the other hand the winery it self was very charming,
built into a hill, and the girl who was responsible for the wine tasting was
friendly and talkative. Tarara Winery as it was called was somewhat larger than Hillsboro with
20 acres planted with wine. Here were produced both wines from traditional
European grapes, but also from local grape varieties, which are quite unknown in
Europe. There are not many Danes who have heard of grape varieties such as
Norton, Catawba, Delaware, Elvira, Ives or Isabella. The winery strive to produce "pure"
wines, ie wines produced exclusively from a single grape variety. They had a few
blends, but otherwise it was wines like Cabernet Franc,
Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Gris that was produced.
Personally, I can vouch for their Viognier which was pretty good and their
Cabernet Franc which was excellent. Tarara has a reputation for making some of
the best wine in Virginia. Since I have not tasted that many, I can not vouch for
this, but it is by far the the best Virginia wine I have tasted that came from this
Well, all the way back to Vienna, we were taunting Jens because he had not
been able to present us with the wine "tasting like foxes piss" he had promised. He defended himself,
however, that the 2003 vintage that we had tasted, were significantly
better than the 2002 vintage, which he had previously tried. We did forgive
hime, as the wines we did taste were great :-).
When we got back to Vienna, Britt had a girlfriend Sophie over.
Sophie was a Danish girl, who had stayed with her aunt in the U.S.
for a year and attended the same high school as Britt. She was returning to Denmark next
day, so she was there just to say goodbye to Britt. But of course we tricked her
into being Britt's partner in a farewell game of ludo. Unfortunately we did not
have time to complete the game, but I'm sure that Jens and I would have won!
On we go
As we did not want to wear out
Annette's and Jenss hospitality, we left the next day for a two week round trip to Saint Louis
and New Orleans. When we previously traveled to Kentucky, we took a northern
route through Maryland, then south through West Virginia, and so on into
Kentucky. This time we would take a more southerly route, going through the
southern part of West Virginia and then north through Kentucky. Jens told us
that the fastest way to get out of Washington would be to take I-66 to I-81 and
then go south until we met I-64, which we then had to follow into West Virginia
and on through Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois until we reached St. Louis. The
easiest way to get to I-66, Jens said, would be to take Dulles Toll Road until
it met with U.S. Route 28 and then along this down to I-66. This would spare us most of
the rush hour traffic. And he turned out to be right, but we ran into
We had no trouble finding the Toll Road.I t was only about 20 yards or so along
Virginia Route 7 from the road, where Jens and Annette lived. Payment is due at
the end of your tour of the road, so we rolled quietly into the road, and headed
northwest. When we came to the right exit, there were large signs that told that
the price for leaving the road would be 35 cents, so Dorte prepared this amount
(I was a driver). At the booth there was a traffic light that is red when you
approach and then turns green when you have paid. This is accomplished by
throwing the coins in a pot-like container that then detects payment and ensures
that the light switches. So I threw the money in, but the light did not change.
We waited for a while, while the people in cars behind us began getting
impatient, honking their horns. So in the end I just decided to drive through. A
shrill whistle began howling and lights started flashing, but there was nothing we
could do about it, so we continued. Later we discovered that Dorte had mistaken
a 5 cent coin for a 25 cent coin, so we had only paid 15 cents. We decided to
call Jens, when we stopped for the night, as the car was registered in his name,
and if he was contacted by the authorities, we felt that it was better if he was
warned. We would later drive on several toll roads on the same day, and even
more later on during the trip, and payment went well every time. But when we
later got back to Dulles Toll Road, we failed once more. I tell you that story
in a later chapter. The road must in one way or another be cursed.
Well, we reached I-66 with no further problems, and sure enough we were spared
the worst traffic, so we continued across the Blue Ridge Mountains and into the
Shenandoah Valley to I-81, and followed that a few miles to the south. Then we
left the interstatea gain, taking the old U.S. Highway 11, running parallel with
I-81 south. The reason for this detour was, that we would see one of the last
covered bridges in Virginia. Not only Jens and Annette but also my
parents-in-law, Else and Carl, had visited it earlier, and now it was our turn.
Bottom Bridge or Meems Bottom Covered Bridge as it is called crosses the
northern branch of the Shenandoah River in Shenandoah County. The bridge is
named after a Meems family who owned the land west of the Shenandoah River when
the bridge was built. The bridge is 60 m long and approx. 5 meters wide and it
is listed in 1894. The bridge was originally
constructed from wood, but in 1976 the bridge was arsoned, and when it was rebuild,
it was reinforced with steel and concrete. There had previously been two other
bridges on the spot, but one was burned in 1862 during Stonewall Jackson's
campaign in the Shenandoah Valley. Another bridge was washed away during a flood
in 1870. The bridge was not far from the main road and it was very nice. The
bridge is dark and in Denmark we call it a "kissing bridge" because you can
kiss in private under the cover. So Dorte and I crossed the bridge a couple of
times and kissed a bit along the way. The bridge was also duly photographed
before we drove back to the main road and then back to the highway to the south.
From there we drove south to Lexington, Virginia and there we turned west on
I-64 and drove towards the West Vigirnian border. Here we visited a Welcome
Center. We continued through West Virginia's forested mountains to the town of
Beckley. Here the interstate turns right and leads north, even though it has an
east-west route number. And the road continued in a north-northwesterly
direction for the next 60 miles. Near Charleston the interstate again takes a
ninety degree turn, this time to the left so that it again heads west. We
continued past the hotel we had stayed at two years earlier and drove towards
the city of Huntington. Here we followed the Ohio River a while before we
crossed the state line and entered Kentucky.
Another welcome center was visited, and then we continued west. We had planned
to stop for the night fairly soon after the state line, but as it was not so
late as we had expected, and we were not as tired as we had thought we would be,
we decided to go on. We therefore continued to the town of Winchester, near
Lexington, Kentucky. We found a hotel, that later proved to be the cheapest
hotel on the whote trip, but definately not the worst.
guy at the front desk asked us if we had eaten, which we had not - at least not
since lunchtime. He recommended a restaurant a few miles away along the highway,
and he gave us his business card. If we showed that at the restaurant, we would
get a 10% discount, he explained. He probably got some 10% in kickbacks too,
but we didn't care. Before we left for dinner, we called Jens to tell about our
experience on Dulles Toll Road. He could however reassure us, by telling that it
had happened several times to him, and he had never heard anything of it.
We decided to try out the recommended "Cantuckee Diner" restaurant. We had a
little trouble locating it, but when we finally managed, it turned out to look
very nice, built entirely of wood. Dorte had a steak with coleslaw, vegetables
and mashed potatoes and I got hickory smoked ham, green salad, vegetables and
mash. It all tasted wonderful, and was very affordable. But hardly healthy. Like
many other rural locations in the U.S. the vegetables were cooked in butter and
the sauce was thick and sticky :-).
It turned out that the
restaurant that was owned by two sisters, and was mainly visited by locals. When
we had completed our meal and went to the cashiers desk to pay, one of the
sisters acted as cashier. We showed the business card from the hotel, and was
indeed awarded our 10% discount. While we waited for the credit card to
be validated in Denmark, Dorte fell into conversation with a girl, probably around
10 years old, who also sat at the checkout. She wanted to know where we came from,
so Dorte told her and then the girl asked Dorte whether she would have a
"teeth pick". Dorte thought it was called a "tooth pick" and she and the girl
had friendly argument about that while I paid, and just before we were about to
leave, the girl said "OK, it maybe be tooth pick ". So Dorte won the battle.
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