Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Virginia country textures: Millwood and Middleburg

Take me home, country road.

One of the elements from my own life that I sprinkled into NAILING IT is the ass-flattening amount of backseat window-staring time I logged during weekend excursions with my parents. After having lived in cities or suburbs for most of their lives, my parents were enchanted with the unmanufactured charm and beauty of the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge foothills that surrounded our town. On any nice weekend when we had nothing more demanding to do, we were off and exploring. Back roads were preferable - the backer, the better. You always have a better chance of seeing something lovely along a road that doesn't look like it has anywhere important to take you. 

A favorite destination that we visited more than once was the wonderful Burwell-Morgan Mill in Millwood. The building dates from 1782, and is still operational as a mill - they do grinding demonstrations every few weeks and sell the mill-ground cornmeal and flour on the site. The mill interior, with its immense wheels and cranks, is a wonderland for any mechanical engineering buff or history nerd (of which I am firmly the latter - I mean, I was the kid who was actually excited to go to Colonial Williamsburg). I stopped to visit it when we were in the area for my friend Katie's wedding last fall, and though it wasn't open for touring that day, we still got to explore the grounds. On a crystalline autumn afternoon, it was as serene and lovely as I remembered. It's one of those places where the weight of history is palpable, as if the essence of the people who worked and lived in the building before is somehow just out of reach around the corner of time.

Antique store across the road from the mill

 The mill building

Lichen on the split-rail fence

Sun grazing the stone wall of the building

The glass panes are old enough to be ripply and uneven.

Reflection and sunbeam in the millstream

After our Millwood stop, we continued the drive back toward DC, and stopped for lunch in Middleburg. If you're familiar at all with Northern Virginia, you probably know of it - it's the ultra-tony epicenter of Virginia horse country. The hilly roads leading into town are lined with massive multi-million-dollar historic estates where some of the finest horses in the country are bred and trained. The town itself is lovely: sort of a smaller Southern cousin to Greenwich, Connecticut, it has that same genteel, WASP-y grace. And a generous sprinkling of beautiful 18th-century buildings with irregular mortar walls and bowlegged roofs.

ivy and black berries on the side of an old tavern

The list of this roof is so enchanting to me.

Allen and I gave serious to consideration to purchasing a six-million-dollar horse farm, but we figured we should probably hold out for something closer to home. Also we don't know anything about horses. So for now we'll probably just stick with our imaginary Hudson Valley farmhouse. Hell of a lot less upkeep on it.

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