Like most folks, I love traveling. Seeing new landscapes, new businesses, new plants and of course new foods gives me great inspiration. However, I am not free to travel for vacation purposes except for once or twice a year. This means I would miss out on seeing so much on our limited schedule.
Instead, Eric and I have decided that we would try to travel as many short trips every year that we can manage responsibly in addition to a couple complete vacation times. Since he works for a company that requires him to travel to a large area of the Eastern Seaboard, his business travel is a company expense. We use this to our advantage since his passenger seat is usually available and once his workday is finished, evenings are a great time to check out small towns.
Last week, he needed to check out several universities in and around Harrisonburg, Virginia and invited me to join him for the trip. I was happy to join him.
I was dumbfounded by the beauty of the area. For whatever reason, I don't think I have ever driven through the Shenandoah Valley Region.The Blue Ridge Mountain ranges dropping down to the valleys filled with beautifully prosperous farms and homes, sprinkled with small towns. Even though we visited in February and there were no leaves on the trees, the views were spectacular.
The actual town of Harrisonburg is definitely a college town. James Madison University has permeated through so much of the area and in a good way. The enthusiasm and creativity of the young folks brings life into the history of the area. Beautiful old architecture is alive with creative artists making new foods, showing off their artistry, using the old spaces in preference to building new construction. The character of the area is clearly visible and quite delightful. Folks had a politeness and charm that reminded me of the south but we were only a couple hours from Washington DC.
We visited an old mechanic's shop where the garage doors opened to reveal a brand new business, Wolfe Street Brewery. Bright shiny tanks and computerized panels show that a serious investor had helped the creative brewer find a niche spot to sell his tasty brews. Instead of painting over old concrete block walls, they decorated it with various sections of pallet wood.
From there, another brewery stop was in an old warehouse with thirty foot high ceilings and plain concrete walls, Three Notch'd Brewing Company.
Their craft beers were really good, although we didn't try all of them. I loved their natural wood tables formed of slabs of untrimmed wood. Again, pallet wood was a popular decoration and hand crafted hanging lights added their color and sparkle to the room. Although they didn't serve food, a bag of chips and sealed container of spicy salsa was available for sale. We loved the games set out for fun and played a couple rounds of Gin Rummy.
We investigated a restaurant, Clementine Cafe, for dinner after seeing some good reviews on Yelp. Again, the building was ancient, but the fresh new creativity was just abounding here. Instead of scrubbing off layers of paint, they painted them bright colors. The height of the old warehouse space was broken with various levels of lighting and the rough floors were covered in old Oriental carpets. The mix of brand new technology with the wisdom of the old construction was thoroughly inspiring. Of course, I will admit to trying a fig infused whiskey manhattan which only enhanced my enjoyment of the place.
Before heading out of town, we stopped at a little hole in the wall next to a town parking garage that opened up to be a wide open, fresh timber decorated, wood-fired pizza spot, Bella Luna.
The weather was balmy for February so we sat at a sunny table just in the doorway. We each ordered different thin crusted pizzas, mine a spicy marinara, red onion, kalamata olives, capers, parsley and fresh mozzarella combination and Eric's a peppery arugula, prosciutto, tomato puree and mozzarella pie. So delectable! The crust was thin with bubbles that had charred in the wood-fired oven. we ate our fill and washed it down with their local beers.
We continued our way home, freshly inspired by an area filled with history, educated and creative people, bounded with mountain ridges decorated with handsome productive farms.