There’s Nothing Dismal About It


I was desperate for adventure today. I had two things in mind:

-Get real up close and personal with the mountains. Duh, that’s almost always a prerequisite.
-And go somewhere with a cool name where I’ve never been. That’s almost always a prereq as well, come to think of it.

I went into my old office, which now doubles as my sisters room and inspected my map of Virginia that is tacked to the wall and has pink heart pins in all the locales I have visited thus far. I knew I had close to a full tank of gas, $2 in my checking, $10.30 in my savings, and two folded ones in my purse. The money was a non-issue, as I can make adventure out of nothing. The tank of gas was my jackpot. I made sure to fill my stomach with a small potato, one egg and an individual honey Greek yogurt with some walnuts before I left, so as not to be tempted to eat on the road.

Who knew what I might need $14 dollars for and it probably would be better than food.

I wanted to go to Lake Moomaw, VA, because come on. Lake Moomaw. That’s fantastic. But it was four hours away, which meant eight hours total and that seemed to be pushing it for time and gas. I reluctantly let go of the Moomaw fantasy and left the house with no clear idea but headed West toward the mountains. I detoured to buy myself a mint chocolate chip cupcake as I happened to be passing my favorite cupcake place and what’s an adventure without a cupcake and coffee? Besides I needed the sustenance for researching my adventure. As I sat happily munching and sipping, I scoured a VA map again for another contender. And that’s when I spotted, Woodstock.

I was sold immediately but researched further to make sure Woodstock wasn’t just some unincorporated community I would drive through, but actually had a Main street or town hall. It had both. I grabbed my coffee, got back into my trusty steed, put on The Avett Brothers and was off.

I passed a sign that said, Dismal Hollow Rd. and got to thinking how I ended up in Virginia. My first encounter with VA was on a road trip to Myrtle Beach with my girlfriends in college and we stopped in Fancy Gap, VA for the night. We stayed in a terrifying motel with a door that opened to an unlit hallway and all the TV channels were Indian soap operas. We ate fried chicken in a local diner up in the hills and I bought a bag that said, Virginia is for Lovers. We laughed about Fancy Gap for years and that’s all I associated with Virginia, a creepy motel, fried chicken and that it was for lovers, which did endear it to me somehow.

The next time I made my way to Virginia was on a field trip with family friends who were teaching their children about America’s history. We went to the Jamestown and Yorktown settlements. I enjoyed myself and loved driving through the mountains, but I remember thinking, who would ever live in Virginia? It seemed to me at the time that all it amounted to was Fancy Gap, some Colonial re-enactors and a lot of strip malls.

Four years later and I was packing up my things in my boyfriend’s car to move in with him. To Virginia. I didn’t know what to think other than I loved him, so I might learn to love Virginia. I couldn’t find my Virginia is for Lovers bag and that saddened me.

That was over a year ago. As I passed Dismal Hollow, I wondered about who thought this place was dismal enough to name it so? And maybe they were just passing through and didn’t give it a fair shake. I at one time felt certain Virginia wasn’t worth a look-back and now I am happier than ever that I got the chance to be proven wrong. The Mountains. The Sea. The horses. The history. What could possibly be dismal about this place? Well, okay the traffic. The traffic could warrant a dismal.

I drove on to Woodstock and tried on crowns in Three French Hens. I walked up and down Main street where the parking meter lady smiled and nodded each time she passed. I delighted in Walton & Smoot’s old fashioned Pharmacy complete with soda counter. I found pictures of the sea and New Orleans in the local thrift shop, which touted a half off everything sale. I waved to the men in the barbershop who waved at me. I drove up into the mountains and George Washington National Forest and I drove back down spotting the valley below. I drove across the Shenandoah where a suspension bridge dangled above the river andĀ grape vines lined the hill. I got directions from a kindly woman who said, “warsh tub road” instead of wash and I did feel like I was in the old hollow.

I left Woodstock with my thrift store pictures, a 15 cent postcard and a free decal that said, “Discover Woodstock Virginia” for a total spent of $4.33.

And I could not have been more thrilled. Virginia and all its hollows and hills, mountains and vineyards and even lovers delights me so. I came home to a setting sun in my rear-view mirror, my apartment that faces the mountains and put on John Denver.