In the words of the late, great Jerry Garcia: “What a long, strange trip it’s been!”
Last Saturday we explored the other Woodstock, traveled back in time through a covered bridge, stopped by a potato chip factory in the middle of nowhere and ended up at a warehouse full of parade floats. At one point, I seriously had to question the mushrooms I had on my pizza the night before.
Woodstock CaféBy the time we got to Woodstock … We were very hungry. And a stop at the Woodstock Café — known in the valley for yummy hot and cold beverages, breakfast pastries, egg sandwiches and an array of lunch foods — was positively groovy.
But first, the cinnamon roll. My flaky little friend.
I could go on forever about its yeasty goodness, its sticky-yet-not-sicky-sweet presence. For this reason alone I would recommend a detour off Interstate 81 to Woodstock, Va. But don’t miss the blackboard menu of other items — sandwiches, quiches, soups and salads.
They also stock an eclectic collection of gifts — some from Ten Thousand Villages, supplier of fair trade items and purveyor of a certain peace-love-happiness vibe. The Woodstock Café’s wine shop is impressive, with several bottles boasting scores better than 90 from the Wine Spectator.
Before rolling out of town, stroll Main Street and visit the Valley Farmhouse for gourmet goodies and giftees to bring home, as well as Three French Hens for antiques with country flair.
Meems Bottom Covered Bridge
Continue south on Va. 11, where time appears to stand still, to the town of Mt. Jackson. About one mile past the Shenandoah River crossing, take a right on Wissler Road to the 204-foot-long, single span Meems Bottom Covered Bridge.
The longest of five preserved timber-covered bridges on public property in Virginia, it effectively shuttled vehicles across the North Fork for 80 years until vandals burned it down on Halloween of 1976. The bridge was rebuilt from salvaged timbers, with the addition of fire retardant materials for good measure.
It has retained the geometric beauty of the original, and you’ll enjoy the same view as our counterparts in the 19th century if you take a few minutes to contemplate the ceiling.
Route 11 Potato Chip Factory
The folks at the Route 11 Potato Chip Factory are coming up on their 20th anniversary in business as one of Virginia’s premier micro-chippers. And although they’ve gained in popularity during the two decades, they still set a high priority on maintaining quality by producing America’s favorite munchies in small batches.
Visit the company store at 11 Edwards Way — just minutes from the covered bridge — for lightly salted, barbeque, dill pickle, sour cream and chive, salt and vinegar, Chesapeake crab, sweet potato, Yukon gold and Mama Zuma’s Revenge chips, sold in bags and tins.
If you time it right, you can observe the entire process, sans peeling, through huge windows. So if you’re visiting specifically to view the frying action, it is best to call ahead (540-477-9664).
American Celebration on Parade at Shenandoah Caverns
Earl Hargrove Jr. loves a parade. Lucky for us, he shares that passion in a 40,000-square-foot warehouse filled with nearly 30 of his favorite floats — spangly, sparkly works of art that tower over visitors in psychedelic glory. Subtle they’re not, but there’s more to these creative constructions than meets the eye.
The floats gathered here represent the collective pride we feel at the inauguration of our presidents, the celebration of our most important holidays and even the coronation of our beauty queens. You feel the love the minute you walk through the door.
Larger-than-life animated polar bears frolic in snow banks, and a sea serpent tows King Neptune’s chariot; both are veterans of Rose Parades held in Pasadena on New Year’s Days past. One of the most impressive pieces — a 30-foot-tall genie named Three Wishes — measures 47 feet from end to end and appears to be ready for your biggest commands.
Many of the floats are interactive and some allow passengers onboard, so bring your camera — this is one museum that welcomes flash photography.
A Dixieland style float features a banjo-playing pelican, as well as a clever cutaway that reveals the wizard behind the curtain. You’ll learn a little about parade float technology and a lot about the company that’s responsible for the whimsical worlds portrayed in the Rose Parade, the Miss America Parade, and the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Hargrove got his start decking department store windows for the holidays in the 1940s, and now his company is proud to set the stage for trade shows and special events such as both the Republican and the Democratic National Conventions. These folks are bipartisan party planners who know how to roll out the red carpet.
One admission price — $23 for adults and $10 for children 6 to 14 — gains access to American Celebration on Parade‘s floats, Main Street Yesteryear’s department store windows, the Yellow Barn’s tribute to farm life and Shenandoah Caverns unique formations.
Kids love the Yellow Barn’s indoor, working bee hive and the 35-foot-tall tree house that hosts a 5-foot-tall family of squirrels. Parents love the wine tastings, as well as a good selection of microbrews and Virginia food products. The Yellow Barn hosts special events, and upcoming is the Ozark Jubilee at 3 p.m. May 5 for an additional fee.
Elaine Jean is a writer with an incurable case of wanderlust. She and husband/photographer Paul are roaming the planet, starting in the Mid-Atlantic region. Learn more about this and other day trips at www.roamingtheplanet.com.