We just came back from a weeklong trip to my daughter’s mother in law who lives in Pennsylvania but is really a transplanted Virginian from the Shenandoah Valley.
Now the only thing I know about this valley is from the movie with James Stewart. Loved the movie but I didn’t know how beautiful it was. Lots of rolling hills and the George Washington National Forest with mountains surrounding it and the leaves starting to change color.
Arriving in Avondale, PA, we met with Lenee who was our host throughout the trip and had arranged our itinerary for the entire time and had taken time out from her duties as funeral director. We stayed at her two story house and shared the bedroom with the “phantom cat”.( That was his room but couldn’t come in while we were there and that’s another story for later.)
The next morning, we went out to visit Lenee’s daughter, Cari, who lives in Lancaster County where there are Amish communities. We met a few buggies on the road and we passed them as they move to the side. The roads in the country are all two lane roads and you have to be an expert driver to maneuver on it. Before arriving at their house, we went sightseeing and stop at a store called “Goods Store”, a very popular store in which Anita and I fell in love with a wood stove which could be placed in a fireplace and we wanted to buy it and ship it home. We reasoned it out and decided not to.
On the road again, I encountered a yellow jacket honey bee by the side window and promptly hit it with my cap. I thought I knocked it out. I put my cap on and heard a buzzing in my cap. I took it off and the bee went around my head and stung me on my neck. I hit it again and it laid there on the seat flipping its wing. Lenee stopped the car and calmly picked it and took it outside and laid it on the grass so the other bees can call 911 and care for it.
The meeting with Cari and the grandchildren went great especially if the grandchildren want to share their current toys and games with you. One of the games was with jelly beans of the same color which you’d have to taste to find out if it tasted like rotten eggs or a regular jelly bean. Cari shared her latest creation of Christmas ornaments with she had painted with pictures of loved ones which she sells. Also met with Mathew and Adam who hasn’t tasted a Big Red soda since he last visited the Alamo city and loved the taste.
The next day we left for Virginia to visit Lenee’s mother who lives in Bridgewater in the Shenandoah Valley. In between we lunched at a town called Woodstock and passed a town called Edinburg where a mill once owned by Lenee’s ancestors is located with a lot of civil war history. (more on this later) Arriving at “Momi’s house in the afternoon, we met my daughter Marie and Pat who we hadn’t seen since July. We stayed for supper and later left for the cabins where we were going to stay for the duration.
Going through the two lane roads at night is scary and I was kind of concerned of where we were going especially if my son in law Pat was driving and he had missed a turn. There are no street lights out there. We entered the George Washington Forest and I figured we will be going to a “Cabin in the Woods” deep in the forest. Now it sounded scarier because I envisioned a lone cabin next to a lake, something like a horror movie I’ve seen before.
It was nothing like that. For one, it was situated next to a diner and was owned by the landlord who happens to be a member of the family. They had the cabin prepared for us. It was a four-bedroom cabin complete with all the accommodations we needed for our stay. It was beautiful!
When we arrived at the cabin named Millstone, I didn’t know the significance of the name and what it meant to the Wilkins family. The Wilkins are my daughter in-law’s ancestors to Lenee Bryan. (a lot about that later)
I expected a rustic building and what we got was a lavishly furnish cabin with a large dining room, a kitchen with all the accessories, air condition, hot and cold running water and bedrooms like in a luxurious hotel. I loved it!
We arrived late at night. No TV, no radio and no phone except for our cell phones which I did not use to call anyone. Tired as we were, we didn’t stay up but, the next morning we woke up to a great sunny day with blue skies and a little cold crisp air. We ate breakfast at Jack and Mary’s diner called the White’s Wayside Diner and it has been in existence since 1929 founded by Mary Wilson, Jack’s family.
When we met Mary, she told us that there are bears in the area and she has two bears living out her way close to her cabin. I was wary about bears near us and thought about it the whole time we were there and even dreamed about fighting a bear like David Crockett. ( I have a vivid imagination in my dreams)
The next day we went out to visit the Green cabin, one of Mary’s rentals which was being prepared for tourist. Now this was a rustic living. It had an outhouse with two seaters. (You can visualize how two people can use it.) It even had a deer head on the wall. Water was available, but you had to go out to pump it. It looked similar to my first shanty where I lived in with my grandparents. But, this was way better with two bedrooms. What I liked about it is that it was way deeper in the woods. A commune with nature!
Now, meanwhile, Anita and Lenee had gone on to buy more ingredients for the meal she was going to cook for the whole family which included Jack’s son who was there temporarily and also works in the diner. Come evening, we all set down to a Mexican dinner of Enchiladas, Chicken with Mole, rice and beans. Drinks as tea and local wine from the Diner.
In the evening, we sat down and talk about Lenee’s family and found out a lot about the Wilkins that we weren’t aware of their historical roots. Also, my time I spent with Pat and Marie just conversing about things in general. That was the best time I had to talk with my own daughter which I had never had time to do before. We enjoyed it tremendously. Even the teasing and joking as adults.
One night, we were invited to Jack’s and Mary’s cabin for a night of stargazing. I’ll admit it was cold for me but we still went. It was dark and we had to use flashlights to get up on a deck above the roof. Jack had place lawn chairs which tipped back so we could lie back and see the stars straight up. We were promised to see a meteor shower. I saw one meteor but I was taken aback by the Milky Way in its grandeur and how I could see the forming galaxies. I sat still, amazed by the starry display, shivering, even with a blanket thrown over me. No matter, I enjoyed it and thank Mary for this wonderful opportunity which I hadn’t seen since I was 5 years old in the backyard of my grandfather’s house laying on my back on an old spring bed.
Every day was an adventure of sightseeing and shopping and eating at the diner. The diner is open only on Thursday through Sunday so we took advantage of eating lunch or supper every day. Jack was able to tell us about how he was born in North Korea and how his family were missionaries back in 1909 and how his grandparents lived and work with Lepers. All of Korea was governed by the Japanese back then and there wasn’t a problem traveling around the country. Also, they had no problems crossing into main China to do some shopping. All their children were born in Korea and even attended High School there. There is also a book written by their grandparent which tell the lifestyle of the missionaries in Korea. That book is printed by Jack at their home.
One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to a book fair at Rockingham County. It was sort of a very large one story building which housed all kinds of books. It also had a basement about the same size. Apparently it opens only on certain days and people flock to it when it does open.
On our last night at the cabin we were treated to a night with music at the Diner. A gentleman which I didn’t catch his name was doing a solo act singing some folk songs for the customers. After a while, he came over to our table and gave us a private show. He even sang a song which he had written about the diner which we all joined in on one part which as repeated in the melody. Being from Texas, we asked if he knew The Yellow Rose of Texas and he did and sang it to us. It was a grand time!
We left on a Monday. We had been there from Wednesday night week before. On the road back, Lenee told us that we were going to stop at mill which was owned one time by her family. The mill is located in Edinburg, Virginia and was the site of one of the cruelest period of the civil war. When General Sherman gave the order to burn all the building, farms and mills in the Shenandoah Valley, The Union Army complied and completely burned everything except this mill in Edinburg. The story is that two girls begged the General not to burn this mill and the General relented. How they accomplished this, nobody knows. We can speculate.
Entering the site, there was a mill house where Lenee’s grandfather lived back then. It had been transferred to another family because it wasn’t doing too good. When we went inside the mill, it had been converted to a museum of sorts which included civil war memorabilia, military, country tools and many more. To me, the most significant was the American Red Cross section which has all kinds of posters, dresses, badges and pins from World War I era. There was also a restaurant on the site where we stop to eat lunch.
On the way back to Avondale, I saw remnants of American history. We passed Carlisle, site of the Indian training school where Jim Thorpe, the famous Olympian, went to school. Antietam battlefield, Gettysburg. And on and on where the Union soldiers and Confederate soldiers fought and died. They travel these roads and here I am seeing for the first time and wondering how they were able to see these valleys as beautiful as they are now. From Pennsylvania to the Shenandoah, I won’t forget what I saw. I hope to be back.