And Other Words Of Wisdom From West VirginiaDear Reader:
On Saturday morning, Hubby, the Teen, and I sprang the F-150 from the bowels of Underground Parking Lot 2 and promptly lost ourselves in the maze that is the D.C. roadway situation. You know those maze puzzles in magazines found on the racks of convenience stores? Looking at a map, that’s what you see. Instead of finding your way out with a no. 2 pencil, though, you are navigating a big red truck.
But forget the map . . . we didn’t bring one.
So what was the first stop on our trip? A convenience store somewhere over near Georgetown for a two maps (just to make sure). I was impressed by Hubby’s ability to parallel park the truck on city street between two smaller vehicles. Lucky for us, traffic was really light on Saturday morning. Soon, we were on the George Washington Parkway heading in the right direction and enjoying views of the Potomac through the trees.
I was able to snap a picture of Georgetown through the window as we rolled along, heading for the highways and byways of Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia on our way to Charles Town, WV.
Twenty minutes later, the city and suburban landscape gave way to farmland. Driving down I-495 didn’t seem that much different from I-295 back home. I had to snap this picture of a farm, and an hour and fifteen minutes out of the city, we crossed the Shenandoah River and saw the long, wavy, blue line of the Blue Ridge Mountains ahead of us.
Seeing this sign, I had the feeling that, if necessary, I could get out and walk all the way home to western Maine.
Charles Town, West Virginia is named for George Washington’s brother who had inherited some land here and who laid out and founded the town. Charles Town is a small city with a cute and thriving Main Street filled with shops, churches, library and a courthouse. On the outskirts near the highway, a casino has recently been built, and this is where you see the strip of chain stores and fast-food restaurant franchises. Wisely, the citizens preserved the historic downtown to retain its charm and character.
We zipped through town, me gawking out the window and wishing we could stop and explore, and soon reached farms and cornfields and finally the housing development where our friends live. The development is ten years old and built around a golf course. I have to admit, the houses are beautiful and spacious with generous, rectangular back yards and large, wooden decks for the outdoor furniture and brick patios for the barbeque grill.
Hubby and A___ decided to hit a bucket of neon-yellow golf balls over on the green. I liked watching all the electric carts zipping around while grilling R_____ with questions about her life here.
We stood in the shade of a tree and discussed women’s golf-fashion (I love the little plaid skorts and the saddle-shoes) and whether or not she enjoyed living here. She said they did—though everyone commutes to work in the city on the train and works long hours, and they still don’t really know too many neighbors even after two years.
R_____ works in town, though, and said she’s met some nice people there. “They did all warn me not to accidentally drive ‘down the hollers,'” she said. “You know, those dirt tracks that lead off the road?” I nodded. “There’s lots of family clan territories down there where they’ll shoot you if they don’t know you.”
And how easy would it be to get to town without a car? R______ said she could, if necessary, ride her bike, but the road leading in doesn’t have a breakdown lane and the drivers don’t pay much attention to what they’re doing.
Would it be better to live in town, I wondered? She said the houses in town cost about three times as much as out in the development . . . and are ten times as old. I can see how tempting it would be, if moving to this area, to buy in a development where you have a new, huge house and a nice back yard and neighbors in the same socio-economic slot as you.
The downside is, like most exurban housing developments, this one doesn’t allow retail and there are no communal gathering spots other than the golf course/clubhouse. Everyone is so tired from commuting, anyway, that all they want to do is chill in front of the big screen television on the weekend. We sat out on the deck for hours and saw only one neighbor venture out her door. It felt like a ghost town–albeit a well-manicured, nicely-landscaped, upper-middle-class ghost town. If I hadn’t been drinking and eating with friends all afternoon, I would have wondered if any real people actually lived here.
A____ and R_____ have picked out some houses for us for “when we move down here” (not that we are seriously considering it), and we took a look at them. Part of me is drawn to this kind of pretty, quiet neighborhood. I could do so much with a big, flat, sunny fenced-in back yard in a climate where the flowers are already blooming by the first week of March and the growing season extends into November. I was impressed by their neighbor’s raised garden beds with drip irrigation system (I saw cucumber plants, carrots, and feathers of asparagus gone by).
But I do wonder if I’d want to move into yet another housing development just a little too far removed from the center of town, where, let’s face it, the real community-stuff happens and you can walk to the grocery store and return your library books and grab a cup of coffee at the java hut.
I’m not even sure that I’d want to live this far from the city now that I’ve had a taste of urban living.
Of course, I had to ask about R_____’s spinning wheel and was delighted when she told me it belonged to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s great-grandmother! R_____’s great-great something grandfather was a brother to Charles Ingalls, so she and Laura shared this common ancestress. Made me itch to get back to my spinning . . . and reread the Little House books.
A___ and R____ were wonderful hosts. It was delightful to see and talk with them again. The Teen didn’t even complain too much as her new phone is keeping her in touch with her friends back home, and she was able to sit and watched movies in the air-conditioned house all afternoon. She even came outside to join us for dinner and practice her conversation skills with us “old” people. As the sun sank, we reluctantly headed back to the city after securing promises that our friends would come see us for a D.C. weekend before the end of the summer.
All in all, it was a nice trip out of the city.
Sunday, we went back to Alexandria, and I this time I remembered to bring my camera! Read about it next time, Outside the Box in D.C.