Old Town

Saturday around Winchester (26)

Old Town in Winchester, Virginia is one of the most charming places I’ve had the pleasure to visit.

The entire downtown is gorgeous and all 45 blocks are on the National Historic Register. However, the crown jewel is a street turned pedestrian mall that is lined by one beautiful  building after another.

Check out this Masonic Temple.

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There’s a fantastic variety of architectural styles from across the decades and some neat signage. You’ll also see German influences which made it all the more fun that I was visiting during Oktoberfest.

I really liked this couple.

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There are some offices mixed in with shops and restaurants geared toward getting visitors to stay a while. And the city government wants people to spend their time downtown – they’ve made it pedestrian friendly, have a nice public restroom, offer free parking on weekends and evenings and make a concerted effort for the city to feel safe.

 

There’s nothing like wandering around an old city where history is preserved, buildings are repurposed and no one thinks it’s odd that you’re taking pictures of clock towers.

There are some good places to stay in downtown and a few museums to take in. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about Stonewall Jackson’s Headquarters, located on a hill overlooking downtown.

Thinking about a stay here? Click here to visit their tourism site.

Did you see the story on the Patsy Cline House  or the one about this road trip?

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Patsy Cline Historic House

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The point of making the five hour trek to Winchester, Virginia was to pay my respects to Patsy Cline. She is buried there and you can visit her home for a modest $8 admission.

People today know her as Patsy Cline, that woman with the smooth voice who is most famous for singing “Crazy.” But she was actually born Virginia “Ginny” Patterson Hensley in Winchester in 1932. Her family moved around a lot throughout her childhood but they lived in this home the longest – for about five years when she was an adolescent and young adult.

They have some items that belonged to Patsy and her family but most things here are simply period appropriate furnishings. They’ve done a fine job creating an atmosphere that feels authentic. In some ways, it feels like you’ve really walked into someone’s home.

I was there for the first tour of the day and that tour consisted of me and two other people so it was an intimate experience. The house was originally a two story log cabin that has been added onto over time. The downstairs tour guide was a delightful British retiree who came to the States as a nanny years ago. She gives off a hippy Mary Poppins vibe and is such a fan of Patsy’s that her enthusiasm is contagious.

The upstairs tour guide is equally delightful and previously ran the local Civil War museum. She is informative, not just about Patsy but about the area as well.

There’s something timeless and sophisticated about Patsy Cline but there’s also something innately vintage and simplistic about her. I think this may be part of the reason she appeals to me so much. That and her silky smooth singing voice that just makes me want to close my eyes and absorb the music.

What I didn’t know was that Patsy really wanted to sing honky tonk music and to yodel. It was Owen Bradley, an architect of the mid-century Nashville sound, who convinced her to embrace the style we know today.

I was also surprised to learn that she played piano by ear. The family owned a piano while they lived in this house and she took some lessons. Her instructor refused to teach her to read music because she didn’t want to ruin the gift that young Ginny so clearly had.

Patsy’s mother was a skilled seamstress who made all of her daughter’s stage costumes. You can see replicas of some costumes and one original on display in the house. Since the house doesn’t have space for proper UV protected display cases, much of the collection is kept in storage while other pieces are displayed at the museum in Nashville.

Truth be told, if you’re interested in the artifacts – the clothes, the handbags, boots and home furnishings – the Nashville museum is the place to be.  If you want to go back to the beginning and to see where her story started to become interesting – in a modest home, square in a middle class neighborhood of a historic town – this place is pretty special.

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One of my favorite moments of this tour took place in the living room. They played a recording of Patsy singing “Walking After Midnight” on Arthur Godfrey’s tv show. You get to hear Patsy’s speaking voice as well as a chilling version of this song that I hadn’t heard before.

Patsy’s family sat in this very room and watched her performance on television.  This isn’t an experience you’ll find in a museum.

Following the plane crash that cut short her young life, Patsy was brought home to Winchester for burial in a local cemetery. You can visit her grave if you wish. Sadly, her children were quite young when she passed away. Her son, just two at the time of her death, doesn’t remember her at all and the staff at the house said that he doesn’t understand what the fuss is about. Her daughter, though, has maintained an active role in the telling of her mother’s story, making sure the gifted singer and the music she made are not forgotten.

I’m so glad there are places like this home and the museum in Nashville to keep the music going.

FB6The Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau operates a visitors’ center where they offer a small display about Patsy. The most outstanding piece in this collection is a piano, once owned by the local radio station. Patsy played this piano and posed with it for publicity shots. Someone acquired the piano and donated it to the visitors’ center where you are invited to sit and even play a tune. Had I known, I might have brushed up on a little Patsy tune to play there!

Want to visit the Patsy Cline Historic House? Click here for info!

Check back tomorrow as we continue our road trip through Virginia and Maryland!

 

The Perfect Long Weekend (And Some Free Advice)

Nothing says freedom like a solo road trip. I hit the road Friday afternoon for a trek down to Winchester, Virginia where I made my home until starting the leisurely trip north Monday.

When planning this trip, more than a dozen scenarios were on the table but nothing really excited me. I was studying a map of Virginia when Winchester caught my eye and a vague recollection that Patsy Cline was from here made me pause.

A visit to her museum was one of the highlights of my trip to Nashville this spring and I had to wonder if there were other things to do around Winchester. Turns out this was a silly question. The area is rich in history and natural beauty and there is no shortage of things to do.

In fact, I packed a lot into my long weekend but needed far more time to do everything that looked interesting. I did hit the highlights and saw a lot in places along the way as well.

Sometimes I wish that I had a specific interest- a certain period of time or a field like aviation or rock collecting. It would be nice to be an expert in something.

But that’s not how I’m wired and trips like this make that especially clear.

My activities ranged from Civil War era attractions like Stonewall Jackson’s Headquarters and the battlefield at Mannasess to a flying circus, an awesome cavern and the childhood home of Patsy Cline.

The good news about having such a broad range of interests is that there’s always something to learn and a lot of surprises to enjoy.

The highways were useful when I just needed to make time but secondary routes were more fun when the goal was to sit back and enjoy the view. It was about 50/50, a ratio that worked well given the mountainous terrain of West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia.

This trip was memorable despite the fact I’ve been battling a sinus infection for weeks and still wasn’t feeling my best. For this reason, I took it easier and rested more than normal but still finished each day satisfied with all I had done.

This also helped some with the mental fatigue that’s been dogging me for a few months. I didn’t know what time it was most of the weekend and did not care.

Regardless of how fast or slow I move, I have a knack for attracting people who want to talk.

At the flying circus, I was befriended by a 74 year old gent with a soft Virginia drawl and a curiosity about the sign he saw me taking a picture with. He listened with interest as I told him why solo travel is fun. I also explained that it’s a necessity as I’m not prepared to stop going places simply because I don’t have a mate or someone to go along for the ride.

He gave me two pieces of advice:

1. If you want to retire early, live well below your means and lower your expectations. He should know – he retired at age 54.

2. To never lose my sense of adventure and bravery.

I liked him and appreciated the advice.

On the other hand, a younger man in the same conversation said that no wife of his would be out running around by herself like I do.

I smiled and told him it’s a good thing I’m no one’s wife. Jerk.

I’ll stick with the wisdom of the older man, thank you.

Sunday Mannassess and the road there (95)

After leaving Winchester Monday morning, I followed the recommendation of a friend and took a detour to Lurray Caverns about an hour south of Winchester. Then it was a meandering journey to Clarksburg, West Virginia by way of Oakland, Maryland. My use of Hotels.com finally paid off and I cashed in a free night’s stay at Clarksburg before heading home the next day.

This was a perfect long weekend. With no real schedule and no one to please but myself, it was easy to just enjoy the adventure without pressure or worry. There are several stories to share including some unexpected things from along the way. Those usually make for the  best stories, those things you don’t plan.

We’ll get started tomorrow with a visit to the Patsy Cline House!

Headed Home

I’m wrapping up a road trip so that means fresh material is coming soon!

In my world, the best trips include some cool diners….

A little history and nature ….

Great buildings….

And some unexpected details…

I have so much to tell you guys! I can’t wait to download my camera pictures so we can get busy talking about it soon.

Just a Cool Picture

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This is a close-up of details on a friend’s biplane. I love the color and the shapes and just think it’s a neat picture. If you’re an airplane enthusiast, it’s a 1929 Travel Air that he calls Ace and you can take a ride in it if you’re inclined. I rode in his other plane this summer and thought it was great! Read about that here!

Have a pleasant day, friends. And don’t forget to look closely for the beauty in the world around you. It’s there – you just have to see it!

American Sign Museum

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Have you been to the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati? It’s one of my favorite places in the Queen City and a fun way to pass an afternoon. They display about one hundred years of signage and in such a thoughtful way that you see something different from every angle.

They have about 20,000 square feet of display space that’s packed full of interesting things.  Of course, I prefer the mid century stuff but there’s plenty of other fun pieces from advertising history.

Want to visit? You’ll find all the details on their website.