Unless you’re traveling with someone other than your spouse of course.
I find myself traveling down a narrow road with trees overhead forming a makeshift tunnel of limbs and branches surrounding the car. As I peer into the rearview mirror, it’s almost as if the road is disappearing into the forest behind. I ask myself, is this sleep deprivation or is it real? It’s the wee hours of the morning and miles upon miles of white picket fences line the country road. My eyes are dreary from a long day of travel though I hasten to appreciate the authenticity of what surrounds me, a bed is all I crave.
We’re in a place called Orange County, Virginia: Population of roughly 33,000 and home to an estate of the 4th President of the United States, James Madison. Truth be told, if not for Meadows Farms Golf Course in nearby Locust Grove, I’d probably never know this place existed. The bed I’m set to lay upon is awaiting at the Inn on Poplar Hill, an 1890’s style bed and breakfast which served as a Southern encampment during the Civil War in 1862. The moment our host Marty answered the door well after midnight and greeted us with a tray of cookies and delectable treats, it was evident our time spent at the Inn would be memorable. Simply opening the door would have been enough for these weary travelers at that time of night.
Marty’s wife Victoria greets our crew each morning with a unique breakfast offering. I had no idea it was okay to eat shrimp this early. Apparently, shrimp and grits are a standard breakfast food in this neck of the woods. Immediately I’m brainstorming ways to make it “standard” back home in Haliburton where I’m from. The real charm of the accommodations are Marty and Victoria themselves. Each has their own set of tasks and it’s clear they are the kind of couple meant to thrive in the hospitality industry. If you want real and down to earth, that’s what you get at the Inn on Poplar Hill with 28 acres of beauty and a pet-friendly environment.
Admittedly, it took me well into my 30’s to reach a point in life where I cared to know (and learn) the history of the world beyond my doorstep in small town Ontario, Canada. However, now that I’ve “matured” as they say, a thirst for knowledge is what drives me on these adventures. Typically, when traveling into an area, our time spent filming each episode is fast-paced and exhilarating. This time around, it feels as if Orange County provides our crew with an opportunity to exhale and truly enjoy the pleasures of our surroundings.
Our first place of discovery was the Civil War Medical Museum, formerly The Exchange Hotel in Gordonsville. It’s no surprise that today is a rainy day and a crack of thunder greets our crew at the door. This facility is famously known as one of the most haunted places in North America, where slaves were hanged and soldiers laid to rest. As we stand outside the entrance to film our arrival segment it felt as if the 70,000 soldiers, who at one-time received care at this Civil War receiving hospital, were brushing arms with us on their way by. I’m the “ghost guy” in our group, but it’s going to take some convincing to bring the others in our crew over to the dark side. Shy of ruining the suspense of our show (watch the episode for that), it’s fair to say I have a few fellow passengers now on the bus of believers.
The golf course at Meadows Farms was as spectacular as the first time we visited back in 2010. The core difference lies in the new ownership group, more specifically the Dotson family. While “Farmer” was the man who put this place on the map, the Dotsons will be the ones to keep it there. It felt almost as if I had found myself a new best friend in General Manager, Josh Dotson, and at times I contemplated booting Charlie off the show and issuing myself a new running mate. Josh is as real as it gets, maybe one of the best “people persons” I’ve ever met in my travels. The course itself still features approximately 412 “unique factors”, this much remains the same. The most noticeable difference was the condition of the course, which has been transformed from farmers’ fields to a legitimate manicured and professionally maintained golf course. Safe to say, the Dotsons know what they’re doing. Josh has also created his very own signature hole, putting his stamp on things and (over many beers) he added a tee deck (eg. a piece of old turf) from the back patio (convenient) to a green over 200 yards on to another fairway (fore!). I encourage you to e-mail him and ask who won our fun-spirited competitive challenge: firstname.lastname@example.org – Go ahead, he’ll love that.
The adult in me assesses each area we visit within the framework of future vacations, because that is real-life and not a television show. What I mean by that is, my ranking system is not based on a scale of 1 to 10 it’s more based on my life back home … my family. Here are the criteria I consider: Is this a place I would (a) Bring my daughter and wife to (b) Just my daughter (c) Just my wife (d) Just myself or (e) None of the above. The answer for Orange County, Virginia is (c) Just my wife, and here is my reasoning. In the beginning, there was mention of Virginia being for Lovers. Ghost stories aside, the area is known for its vast number of wineries and copious number of people willing to drive you there FOR FREE! No wonder the place is for Lovers, there are more than a dozen wineries within shouting distance of the Inn on Poplar Hill. Did I mention the free wine tasting passes with accommodations, and Marty acts as your designated driver? Lest we forget these important points folks, if all it takes is a dozen wineries or so to make you more attractive after several years of being together, than so-be-it … it’s off to Virginia we go!