Big Meadows Campground
Shenandoah National Park
Melizza and I have been proud owners of the Troutstream for over five years. This past weekend we left the kids at home to enjoy our first romantic weekend in the Airstream. It is rare for us to travel without our children but I must admit it was paradise to relax in peace and quiet and focus on each other. There were no skirmishes to break up and the Airstream was always spotless. No one complained about our relentless pace. The weather at Shenandoah National Park forced Melizza and I to take it slow. The fall colors are a couple weeks from their peak and the park was shrouded in mist for much of the trip. The end result was a wonderful opportunity to relax and sleep in. There are no hookups at Big Meadows Campground so we were dry camping all weekend. We had no television or cell service. What a relief it was to be cut off from the world. When we wanted to do something, we could descend from the clouds and travel to Charlottesville, the Shenandoah Valley or the Virginia Piedmont region.
The entire escape was planned around a dinner at the Inn at Little Washington in Virginia. The plan was to stay in Shenandoah National Park to hike and unwind before dressing up and enjoying a truly gourmet dinner at one of the best restaurants in Virginia. The weather prevented us from hiking in the park. Shenandoah National Park is located on top of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Most of the park sits on top of peaks that are a little over 3000 feet in elevation. The main artery through the park is a mountaintop road called Skyline Drive that winds 105 miles through the park north to south. We stayed in the centrally located Big Meadows Campground at around mile marker 50. There are only a few exits from the park. In order to exit the park we had to drive 19 miles north to Thornton Gap or 14 miles south to Swift Run Gap. The roads are windy and the speed limit is 35 miles per hour. To add to the challenge, the visibility during our weekend stay averaged around 15 feet in the fog.
The drive to Virginia from Ohio brought us back through West Virginia where we had visited a couple weekends before. The Greenbriar River Valley was near the peak of fall colors and the scenery rivaled anything in Virginia. Now more than ever I realize that I need to explore West Virginia more. I have done a lot of research and plan on dedicating more time next year to the eastern portion of West Virginia. Since I am finally heading to the west coast with the Airstream next year, that may be limited to a couple of weekend trips. I highly recommend visiting in the fall.
After we were situated at Shenandoah, we headed down to Charlottesville, Virginia. This city is the home of Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia and Dave Matthews. The former are probably more important than the latter. We decided to check out a winery while we were in town and picked Blenheim Vineyards primarily because Dave Matthews is the owner. We went in for a tasting and it was surprisingly decent wine. The setting was very idyllic close to Monticello. We did encounter some drunk sorority girls who suffered from excessive personalities but that does tend to happen when alcohol is involved. I found it more amusing than annoying but I can't say the servers felt the same way. We strolled around the downtown area and had a nice dinner at an Asian tapas concept restaurant called Bang.
On Sunday morning, that persistent fog was still lingering so we headed east to the Virginia Piedmont area. Sperryville is a small town just east of the Thornton Gap exit. Melizza and I visited an orchard and picked up the most sweet and crisp apples I have tasted in years. That is what an apple should taste like compared to the bland products that pass for apples at the local supermarket back home. They tasted like autumn.
We also hit the antiques stores and art galleries in town. This is a quaint and sophisticated region. There is a lot of D.C. money around here because of the proximity to our nation's capital. Melizza and I were able to find a great table for the kitchen in our new house. We had time for a quick hike to Dark Hollow Falls before cleaning up for our dinner at the Inn. One of the great luxuries dry camping with the Airstream without kids was the ability to take a relatively long hot shower.
After cleaning up and dressing up a bit, we headed back east to the Inn at Little Washington in the tiny town of Washington, Virginia. This town was surveyed by none other than George Washington himself. This restaurant and inn have been around since 1978. It is a deservedly famous restaurant and inn frequented by foodies and sophisticated East Coast tourists. Melizza and I were just happy to be there and enjoy some great food together.
The decor is very flamboyant and whimsical. If Liberace had a cousin who had slightly better taste, then that is what it looked like. All kidding aside, it was really beautiful inside and out. The town is also a charmer.
We went for the food and it did not disappoint. I had the Enduring Classics Tasting Menu while Melizza ordered the Seasonal Menu. Some of the highlights were the so called "Tin of Sin" containing American Osteria Caviar over jelly and peekytoe crab, Rappahannock Oysters Four Ways and Truffle Dusted Popcorn. The attentive staff brought out course after course of delectable tastes. One highlight for Melizza was the Tea Master who made her tea from items in the garden. He was also the "Cheese Whiz" and brought out one of the best selections of cheese we have ever seen in the United States. He patiently explained all the different characteristics of teas and cheeses. My meal ended with a dessert called the "Seven Deadly Sins". We toured the kitchen and it was absolutely spotless and beautiful. The French Laundry in the Napa Valley has an edge on the food, but the Inn at Little Washington has the most beautiful kitchen. Chef Patrick O' Connell has served Queen Elizabeth, Several Presidents and cooked for Julia Child on her 90th birthday. That is good enough for me. Melizza and I loved every minute of our time at the inn.