Sunday, July 17, 2011

Route 11 Road Trip - Day 2: Winchester to Harrisonburg

On the second day of our trip, we spent most of the morning exploring Winchester. There's one nice thing about not having a set itinerary -- no pressure. We didn't have to be anywhere at any particular time. So no matter how fast or slow traffic moved, I didn't worry about it. When you're not in a hurry, no one's really in your way.

From Winchester we made our way south down the Valley Turnpike (Route 11). Near Stephens City we saw the first of many drive-in theaters along the road. In the heyday of car culture, drive-ins were everywhere. But changing tastes, and the rerouting of traffic from 11 to Route 81 killed many of these businesses. The Family Drive-In Theatre was still thriving, though.

If you look carefully to the left, you can see part of the reason why -- they borrowed a concept from the cineplex and put in a second screen!

Stephens City

Stephens City (named after founder Peter Stephens, so there's no apostrophe)  is still a small, fairly rural community. One thing we learned pretty quickly --  Sunday is a good day to travel, and a bad time to shop. We rolled into town around 10:30, while most churches were still holding services. The shot below as taken standing in the middle of the main road -- try that in a major metropolis!

Stephens City, Sunday morning.
I didn't intend to, but at the end of the day when I transferred my pictures, I found I had taken several of the various churches we saw. Most of them were  Protestant, many United Methodist (there's a reason for that), with various types of Baptist churches running a close second. Lutheran and Presbyterian were less common, and I didn't see any Catholic churches along the road.

Most of the church architecture was the same: a large meeting area for the congregation to worship in, a steeple with bells to call people to worship, and perhaps an adjoining fellowship hall. We saw many variations on these themes as we traveled along.


The next town we entered was Middletown. It was a short distance from Stephens City, and was also shuttered up tight. The shot below was taken in the middle of the main street before 11:00AM.

Although we couldn't explore any of the shops, we did visit the famous Wayside Inn, which has been in continuous operation since 1797. I'm sure readers living in Europe might not think much of such a young building, but here in the U.S. such a structure is steeped in history.

Close up, it was easy to see how the original structure and been added to and expanded throughout the centuries. And the rocking chairs on the porch were a nice touch. While they may be an affectation at a Cracker Barrel, in the Valley they're on almost every porch big enough to have one. And as we drove along in the 98-degree heat, we saw many people rocking in the shade of the porch roof, watching the cars go by.

Cedar Creek

Cedar Creek was the site of the last engagement of the Valley Campaign in 1964. Philip Sheridan's Union Army met the Confederates under the command of Jubal E. Early. Over the course of two days the rebel forces were crushed and driven back in disarray, leaving the Valley unprotected (George A. Custer's calvary division was part of this battle, at one point breaking through the enemy lines.

From where we stood, it looked like a significant portion of the battlefield has been preserved, including the farm house that was there at the time.

We've visited Strasburg before on shorter day excursions. This time we were able to take in more of the downtown, which had some very nice shops. As we traveled down Route 11, the small towns we drove through either had thriving antique/boutique/tourist areas, or were just empty storefronts -- there didn't seem to be anything in between.

 Light shining through vinegar bottles in a shop in Strasburg, VA.

"Follow me, boys!"
Woodstock, VA is the county seat for Shenandoah County. Like many other towns in the Valley, it was greatly affected by the Civil War. But there are historic ties to the Revolutionary War as well. In front of the courthouse is a bust of  John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg.

Muhlenberg was a Lutheran minister serving in Woodstock. January 21, 1776 he preached from Ecclesiastes. After reading "a time for war, and a time for peace," he said, "and this is the time of war." He threw off his robe, and the congregation saw he was dressede in a colonel's uniform of the Continental Army.  He marched down the aisle, encouraging the men to follow. With a few hours, 162 men had enlisted.

The United Methodist Church, Mount Jackson, VA.
The courthouse not only has a bust of this warrior/cleric, but a statue as well. The statue shows Muhlenberg throwing open his robe, dramatically calling others to follow.

Mount Jackson
The community of Mount Jackson is small, but proud. And also mindful of their heritage. The Confederate Cemetery is a quietly dignified space. Its still carefully maintained, as is the memories of the war (not uncommon in Virginia).

The United Methodist Church was formed by the
merger of the Methodist Church and the  Evangelical United Bretheren Church.
This building is a capsule history of that change.
By way of contrast, another church in Mount Jackson.
Note the difference in architecture between it
and the United Methodist wooden church above.
Just south of Mount Jackson was the covered bridge at Meems Bottom. This is the oldest covered bridge in the Commonwealth, was well worth the slight side trip. The bridge has been reinforced with steel beams and concrete pillars, but you don't really see them as you drive up to the bridge. The truss work inside the structure was amazing, with hand-cut lumber throughout.

Underneath flowered the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. This was a very calm and peaceful spot. The water rippled past at a gentle pace,  crystal clear and bright. We stayed for quite a while, just watching the river roll past. I have to admit I took a souvenir -- a small, smooth river rock in the shape of a triangle. It should make an excellent worry stone.

Inside the covered bridge at Meems Bottom

The cool water of the North Fork.

We arrived in Harrisonburg in the late afternoon, found a place to stay, and turned in early. This is a town we're both familiar with, and we would explore it tomorrow!

#route 11

Route 11 Road Trip -- The Plan

Route 11 Road Trip -- Day 1: Winchester

Route 11 Road Trip - Day 3: Harrisonburg to Lexington

Route 11 Road Trip - Day 4: Lexington

Route 11 Road Trip - Day 5: Lexington to Christiansburg

Route 11 Road Trip - Day 6: Christiansburg to Abingdon

Route 11 Road Trip: Day 7 Abingdon to Bristol

1 comment:

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