On Friday we embarked on a good-ol’ fashioned road-trip into the depths of Virginia. We should probably mention that our brother lives in DC and so helped arrange the trip and did all the driving. Neither of us have the driving skills to navigate the USA alone. We’ve only ever had one experience of driving abroad, in Greece, and it went horribly: think steep cliffs, a wildly veering car and lots of screaming.
It might seem a little strange that as tourists visiting DC we chose to have a day out to a few non-specific towns in Virginia state. But for a long time, Laura has harboured a fascination with traditional middle-town America. Once, on a visit to the US with our school, whilst most of us were busy doing teenage things on the coach, Laura spent her time with her nose pressed up against the window absorbing all the suburban American goodness. She fell in love. So to help feed this obsession, we decided to plan a road trip to similarly small towns.
Armed with a Sat Nav, a tube of Pringles and a family saloon car, we headed out of the bright lights and onto the highway. Our first stop was to a tourist information centre in a town called Front Royal. This might seem like a strange thing to mention, but this was a total highlight for Laura, who became totally obsessed with the old man behind the tourist information counter. His name was Don and it was love at first sight. To say the man knew everything about the area would be an understatement: he gave us ideas for walks, hikes, drives, alongside several hundred years worth of local history. After quite some time with Don (an hour) and now laden with a teddy bear that Laura insisted we bought, we headed off on our first stop: Shenandoah National Park.
Located along the Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenendoah National Park is beautiful. Filled with waterfalls, woodland and amazing views, we are sure it’s spectacular in the summer. Unfortunately, we visited in the winter. Due to snow and ice, only a small portion of the northern part of the park was open; a part containing only sad, cold, leafless trees and creepy winding paths. Undeterred, however, we headed up there and walked for around an hour, hoping not to encounter either a bear or axe murderer.
After our hike and starving hungry, we set off for another all American experience: lunch at a Cracker Barrel. Again, this was an experience Laura was ridiculously excited about (me, Claire, not so. In fact, if I’d had my way, we’d still be in DC taking in the power of Capitol Hill). Anyway, being the kind sister I am, off we went for our first ever Cracker Barrel experience.
This whole lunch experience was a confusing one. Taking in the vast menu (how many food options do people actually need in the US?) alongside translating what things actually were (biscuits or scones?), was quite overwhelming. In the end, I (Claire) went for chicken and dumplins’, aka a creamy gloop, and Laura had a burger with cheese grits, aka cheese flavoured oatmeal. The meal was a bit of a disappointment but we still had a walk around the strange country-themed store, to help digest whatever was now sliding around our bellies.
Feeling a little bloated, we headed onwards to our final town: Winchester. Our brother is a journalist and wanted some information on this town for an article, so we had a roam around before visiting the local library. Upon entering the library and opening our mouths to reveal our ‘accents’, we were surrounded by very helpful librarians who spoke to our brother like he was a semi-god (Queens’ English, darling!) It was an entertaining scene. Winchester itself was very sweet, particularly the Old Town, and definitely worth a stroll around if you’re in the area.
To summarise our mini road-trip out to Virginia? It was very uneventful yet very eventful. We now know the difference between a cookie and a biscuit , and hell, we’ve even pumped gas. Sometimes, when you travel, it’s not all about the glitzy tourist sites but the small things: like lovely Don, or the woman with two teeth at the service station, who looked like she’d been dug out the ground . Those are the kind of memories we treasure.