Welcome to our first installment of Road Trip 2020, a two-week trip from Knoxville to Gettysburg to the Eastern Shore and back! Unable to stay home and indoors for months at a time, we decided to break out and try road tripping — just the two of us navigating the backroads, old roads, and places off the beaten path trying to see America while staying healthy in the time of coronavirus.
Our route took us out of Knoxville on I-40 up to Bristol, Virginia, where we left the interstate behind to follow Highway 11. This historic highway, extending 1,645 miles from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Rouses Point, New York, served as a conduit past farmlands, through small towns formed along old stage coach routes and some of the prettiest scenic land in the eastern part of the U. S. — the Shenandoah Valley.
We took few pictures, concentrating mainly on the freedom of traveling by car and the calming presence of farm animals, vast fields of corn, and old, somewhat modest homes still serving small-town populations. When we needed a break, state-operated rest stops welcomed us to their rest rooms. (Be aware: Most had closed off their lobbies and ceased distribution of travel brochures and maps.)
If you’ve never driven this route but you love antiques, quaint homes, and little shops, we can recommend stops in Abingdon to check out the Barter Theatre (check first to see if they’ve re-opened), ride your bikes along the Virginia Creeper Trail, and stay at the Martha Washington Inn & Spa. Other favorite small Virginia towns we love to visit are Wytheville, Radford, Roanoke, and Hollins where pretty, old homes and small colleges await.
One regret we have about our road trip on Hwy. 11 was not booking a night at The Georges in Lexington, Virginia, home of Washington and Lee University and Virginia Military Institute. But after an unplanned stop at the Lexington Visitor Center (highly recommend) where the volunteer told us about its new honor — being named by Travel and Leisure as the No. 2 small hotel in the U. S., we decided another trip just may be in the works.
After a quick drive through a town we’d visited years ago — Brownsburg, Virginia — to visit Old South Antiques (regrettably now closed) — we headed to our destination: Staunton, Virginia. We agree with their website: Staunton is a perfect base for visiting the area. But be sure to check out the Travel Advisory for what’s open, what’s not.
Staunton is a town of delightful old buildings and tight city streets flanked by shops, churches and restaurants. Blu Point Seafood served up my first (but not my last) crab cake of the trip, and Frederick House, where we stayed for two nights, dazzled us with breakfast served by the innkeepers. The menu, printed on the mug, offered almost too many choices, but we forced ourselves to eat every bite of something really good: Granola with Yogurt and Fruit for me; Homemade Waffle for Bert.
That good breakfast helped us walk through Mary Baldwin University, up and down steps to check out the lovely campus of painted yellow buildings and stately architecture.
It was the owner of Frederick House who gave us two valuable suggestions for what to see next (Can you tell we’re serendipitous travelers at heart?): Pebble Hall, a wildflower farm in nearby Weyers Cave, and Harpers Ferry National Historic Park at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. Our next two posts will feature these great places to see!
Hope you’ll join us as we wend our way up Hwy. 11 for more sights to see. And if you’ve traveled this area, let us know your favorite memories of life in the Shenandoah Valley.
Traveling the old routes,
Rusha & Bert