Instead of going out of town for Labor Day weekend (which usually means sitting in holiday traffic for hours trying to get out of the DC area on Friday night/Saturday morning, and then getting stuck in holiday traffic again coming back on Monday evening), Larry and I decided to take a 'staycation' - not just a Let's-Lounge-Around-The-House-All-Weekend staycation, but an actual, Let's-Plan-Three-Days-Of-Activities-And-Do-Some-Cool-Shit staycation. (Is staycation an annoying made-up word? I think yes, but I can't think of a better term either.)
My goal was to make those three days actually feel like vacation, where you plan ahead and make the most of your time off, where you explore places you've never been, where you don't have a To Do list or house projects to work on. I wanted to do something different every day, all within a 2 hour drive of home. It was a lot to cram into one weekend and a lot of driving, but also a lot of fun to wake up every day and hit the road for a new adventure.
Our schedule included a little bit of everything in three states (VA, WV, and MD): live music, swimming and biking, walking around a small town, and trying local eateries. (Also, lots of time in the car together, which I actually enjoy now that we have a new car with more leg room and less dog hair.)
Saturday | Appaloosa Festival in Front Royal, VA
Sunday | Swimming and exploring Westmoreland State Park, VA
Monday | Exploring Shepherdstown, WV and biking along the C&O Canal towpath, MD
Saturday was spent at the new Appaloosa Festival held at the Skyline Ranch Resort in Front Royal. There were a couple dozen bands playing mostly Americana music (including bluegrass/country/celtic/folk). This was a smaller festival, and I hadn't heard of most of the bands - we just wanted to sit outside, relax and listen to music. We also got to see a performance by our current musical obsession: Possessed by Paul James. This makes me wish I hadn't quit violin lessons when I was 12!
We got to chat with Konrad Wert after the performance and he was such a nice guy. (In addition to being an incredible musician, he is also a school teacher and an advocate for special education.) Since we decided to check out Appaloosa Festival on a whim at the last minute, our expectations were pretty low, and all the performances far exceeded them. It ended up being a great day with great music. You can also camp out at the farm if you want to stay for the whole festival weekend, and we hope to gather a group of friends and do that next year. Music and camping? Yes, please! Also, there were singing monks and farm animals!
Pig tail, or Barbie hair?
Just some nuns petting a miniature donkey...
On Sunday, we drove two hours to Westmoreland State Park. All summer I'd been looking for public swimming pools to visit since we do not have a neighborhood pool. I'd wanted to visit Westmoreland's pool for months and this was the last chance before it closed for the season. So yes, we drove four hours round trip to swim in a pool! What we didn't realize was that the park's beach along the Potomac would be mobbed with families barbecuing, sitting in hammocks, playing games, and camping out on every square inch of space along the water. I wish I had taken a picture, because I've never seen so many people! Not relaxing at all! But we were there for the pool, which was large and overlooked the Potomac River. The pool was crowded but not as packed as the beach. (I'd expected a somewhat empty campground pool, but it felt more like a public pool.) There weren't many non-meat food options, so we ate some crappy nachos and ice cream sandwiches for lunch. After a few hours of swimming and lounging, we walked down a short nature trail to reach a more secluded beach with views of Horsehead Cliffs and the river. The Potomac is much wider along the Northern Neck than it is back up in DC - it really feels like you're looking out across the ocean.
On Monday, we loaded the bikes onto the back of the car and drove out to explore Shepherdstown, West Virginia. We spent a while walking around the small town and wandered through a residential area until we found a monument to James Rumsey with a panoramic view. We ate lunch at the Blue Moon Cafe, and then rode our bikes for 10 miles along the C&O Canal towpath. We stopped to take pictures on the bridge between West Virginia and Maryland overlooking the Potomac River, 160 miles from where we viewed the Potomac the day before. Towards the end of the ride, I tried to stop my bike at the edge of the path, went to put my foot down and there was nothing there but air! It was one of those slow-motion-but-can't-stop-yourself-from-falling crashes, and I tumbled ass-over-bike into a ravine. I was thankful for my helmet, which protected my melon, but not my knees. Made it back to the car, and knees stinging, we stopped in Town Run Brewing Company for some medicine, AKA, beer.
Our first real staycation was a success - so much better to have a plan than to waste the whole weekend trying to decide what to do! I hope we make this a yearly tradition, because it was a great way to see a lot of local-ish places that we hadn't prioritized visiting until we set aside a whole weekend for exploring.