Exploring the Old Dominion's
Eclectic and Unusual Sites
The Covington area's Humpback Bridge is one of five "Kissing Bridges" open to the public.*
By Judy Colbert
Off the beaten path in Virginia, visitors will discover covered bridges, stellar artisans, an unassuming restaurant mentioned in several novels and an award-winning winery. The key to discovering these and other idyllic, unusual or quirky diversions is to get off the Old Dominion’s 1,100 miles of interstate highways and hit the back roads.
In the early 1900s, more than 100 covered or so-called “kissing” bridges existed in the Virginia mountains. Today, fewer than a dozen remain. Five of those gems are open to the public.
In Giles County, the red wooden Sinking Creek Bridge spans 70 feet. Constructed in 1916, the tin-roofed structure is built in a modified William Howe design; it basically combines uprights with wooden supports. This is a precursor structure to more modern-day steel bridges.
Perhaps the most photographed kissing bridge is Covington’s (www.covington.va.us) one-of-a-kind Humpback Bridge. Built in 1857, it spans 100 feet across Dunlap Creek. Its center rises several feet taller than the ends, giving it that humpback look. An adjacent tree-shaded park and picnic area are a good reason to divert from nearby Interstate 64 for an hour or two.
Further north, crossing the scenic North Fork of the Shenandoah River, visitors will encounter the 204-foot-long Meem’s Bottom Bridge. Built in Mount Jackson in 1894, it was burned by vandals in 1976. Nicely rebuilt from salvaged timbers of the original span, it is now supported by concrete piers and steel beams. Yes, you can still drive across this single-lane bridge.
Two kissing bridges also remain in Patrick County. The 48-foot-long, oak Jack’s Creek Bridge was constructed in 1914. Just six years later, the 80-foot truss Bob White Bridge was built over the Smith River. On June 16, the two bridges will be showcased during a Covered Bridge Festival (276-694-8367 or www.visitpatrickcounty.org) in Woolwine.
What’s on tap for the festival? Visitors can expect bands, artists, savory and sweet food, old-fashioned wagon rides, tractor-pulled hayrides, and antique car rides to the two bridges.
Art, History, Great Grub and Vino
Several miles into what urban folks call the boonies -- on Virginia’s Eastern Shore -- is The Gallery at Eastville (www.thegalleryateastville.com). Situated within a restored 1908 Sears catalog house, this gallery is owned by award-winning designers Mary Miller and David Bruce Handschur.
Travelers may view, and, of course, buy 100 percent hand-loomed sweaters, jewelry, paintings, block prints, and fused art glass. Hours at the 16319 Courthouse Rd. gallery are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday through Monday. Still, call 757-678-7532 to confirm the open hours before visiting.
South of Washington, D.C. is the new National Museum of the Marine Corps (800-397-7585 or www.usmcmuseum.org) in Quantico. Opened last November, the museum displays aircraft, artifacts and memorabilia.
Among its iconic treasures are two original American flags raised by the Marines on Mount Suribachi in the South Pacific on Feb. 23, 1945. The two fragile flags rotate on display, protecting them from light damage. The larger one is from the famous 1945 Joe Rosenthal photo of Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima.
Not far from the museum at 18418 Jefferson Davis Hwy in Triangle is the cozy Globe and Laurel (703-221-5763). Thousands of military and law enforcement badges adorn this restaurant’s ceilings and walls. Major Richard T. Spooner (retired U.S. Marine Corps) and his wife Gloria own the eclectic spot You might even chat with Major Spooner about his book, "The Spirit of Semper Fidelis: Reflections from the Bottom of an Old Canteen."
Our inside secret? Try the Globe and Laurel’s tasty onion soup, prime rib and Caesar salad!
With nearly one hundred wineries in Virginia, any one has to be incredible to be singled out. Yet, the Prince Michel Vineyards and Winery (540-546-3707 or www.princemichel.com), 154 Winery lane, Leon -- just east of the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills – qualifies as exceptional.
Visitors may take self-guided tours of the winery, stroll through the vineyards or picnic on the lawn. Definitely head for the “see through” room atop the winery for complimentary tasting of award-winning wines. Children and even pets are welcome on some parts of the winery property. Daily hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
These are just a few of the off-the-beaten path delights visitors will find within the Old Dominion.
Judy Colbert is a native of Washington, D.C., and the author of "Virginia: Off the Beaten Path" and "Maryland and Delaware: Off the Beaten Path."
*The Humpback Bridge photo is owned, copyrighted and used with permission of the City of Covington, VA. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos. Thank you.