A Slow Journey To Nowhere

Old Tractor
Some of the most picturesque farmland in the country can be found along Virginia’s Route 50. [Click photos for larger versions]
Horse farms and polo grounds dot the Virginia countryside along Route 50.
Horse farms and polo grounds dot the Virginia countryside along Route 50.
Red Barn
Beautiful, old barns have been restored all along the picturesque town of Middleburg.
Bird House
An old birdhouse adds to the charm of one of the rustic yards in the town of Middleburg.
Bails of Hay
Bails of hay dot the fields along Route 50.
Covered Driveway
Long, covered driveways are extremely popular with the folks who live along Route 50.

I think our parents were up to something when they hauled the entire family into their vintage cars for the purpose of doing a little road tripping. And as rare as it sounds today, the habit of going out for a family ride in those old cars was one of the things some of us remember fondly from our youth. No agenda, no plans, and no particular destination in mind. Cruising around to check out what was happening in town had its own rewards. It was pure automobile zen. Right turns, left turns, slow down here and speed up over there, an unchoreographed dance where everyone’s performance became the stuff of family legends.

This sort of nostalgia is what led me recently to get in my car and hit the road, so to speak. All I knew was that I would drive down Virginia’s Route 50 for as long as I felt like it and that at some point I would perform a Forrest Gump-like turnaround and come back home. So along I went, music playing on the radio, windows down, and no destination. With my camera sitting next to me, I did tell myself that I would stop at whatever site caught my attention, even if it took all day to complete my journey. I knew this would be a problem because Route 50 is one of the most scenic country roads you’ll encounter anywhere in the US. But here was a unique opportunity to try out some of that “slow travel” concept that the Europeans have mastered so well over the years. Would it really be possible to do away with all notions of time while driving into the sunset of our minds? Well, the short answer seems to be no, but if it’s impossible to do away with that old torturer time, it is definitely possible to ignore it for a while.

Route 50 may just be the perfect place for this. And while I’ve written about this area before, the sheer beauty of this American landmark makes it the place you keep coming back to, over and over again. Hard to think of a better place in the area for a road trip, although admittedly, Route 211 past the town of Warrenton comes close. BBQ’s and horse farms are big in the area, as well as quaint, little towns where you can find everything from Amish patio furniture to Alpaca socks. But it’s the landscape that will make you forget all notions of time for a while. The green meadows just seem to go on forever until they reach the distant Blue Ridge Mountains, while happy horses graze on grass so green that it looks as if it has been painted recently. It is easy to loose yourself in this scenery and the delicate touch of a morning breeze. Who knows, perhaps it is possible to make time stand still after all, even if for that brief moment when nothing else mattered but what was in front our my eyes.

 

A Winter Day Along The Virginia Countryside

Even in winter, horses roam freely along the rolling meadows of the Virginia countryside near Middleburg.
Even in winter, horses roam freely along the rolling meadows of the Virginia countryside near Middleburg.
While relatively close to Washington, DC, the stables and farmhouses of the Virginia countryside appear to be worlds apart on a winter day.
While adjacent to Washington, DC, the stables and farmhouses along Route 50 are worlds apart from the Nation’s capital.
The ever-changing Virginia weather can go from intense snow to idyllic weather in the course of a morning.
The ever-changing Virginia weather can go from intense snow to idyllic weather within the course of a single morning.
The incredible beauty of the Virginia countryside near the community of Middleburg is intensified during winter months.
Some of the most beautiful farmhouses in America are only an hour away from Washington, DC.
Adjacent to the million dollar properties and vineyards along Route 50, old Virginia continues to be alive and well.
Adjacent to the million dollar properties and vineyards along Route 50, old Virginia continues to be alive and well.

It is virtually impossible to get tired of the Virginia countryside, specially if you are a photographer.  Even in winter, when local weather services constantly struggle to get their predictions right, a slow journey along the rolling landscape near Middleburg will reward you in ways that are hard to describe.  Manicured horse farms with dark wooden fences, historical dwellings side by side with million dollar mansions, gorgeous horses lazily wandering along undulating meadows, and tree-covered country roads gently disappearing into the horizon.  It is an incredible landscape constantly displaying the rich heritage of the state.  During the snowy, winter months the city-slicker crowds with their late-model BMW’s are gone and the place finally slows down to its more characteristic, rhythmic crawl.  It is the slowness, surrounded by incredible beauty, that nourishes your photographic soul.