Thursday, August 20, 2009

Harrisonburg, Part 2

We stayed at the Joshua Wilton House until the 11:00 checkout time, when they had to drag me kicking and screaming from the room. Well, almost. We had planned to leave for home after checkout, but then discovered that Tom Principato, a master electric guitarist, would be playing the “Fridays on the Square” concert series on the courthouse lawn. My husband was excited about seeing his concert, so we decided to spend another day in town, essentially killing time until the 7 pm performance.

Our first stop was the Shenandoah Heritage Market, a large building that houses about 20 different vendors. It’s kind of like the Virginia Bazaar, except much, much better. There were two highlights to the visit: first, the Country Canner, featuring jams, preserves, pickles, and relishes of all kinds, (with plenty of free samples) and then Grandma’s Pantry, which specializes in bulk foods (plenty of free samples here, too), including more kinds of grains than I knew existed.

Country Canner:

Grandma's Pantry:

The market was also filled with the usual gifts and collectibles vendors, with not much of interest to me. Except that now, I’m old enough (my 50's) that the collectibles shops are filled with mundane items from my childhood. Look, an Eight O’Clock Coffee tin bank! Look, Barbie dolls that don’t bend at the knee! Look, vinyl record albums! I’m trying very hard not to be the kind of person who goes through these shops pointing and saying, “I had that! And I had that, too!” Most of it really isn’t all that valuable. People who think they’d have a fortune if they’d only saved all their childhood junk won’t end up with a fortune, just a lot of old junk no one really wants. Still, it’s kind of nostalgic to see all this stuff, and I have to admit I was highly tempted by the coffee tin bank.

After the market, we let our GPS guide us to Purcell Park, where we set our ever-present folding chairs under a tree and read for a couple of hours. With still quite a bit of time till the evening’s concert, we decided to head “down the valley” (which is apparently how you describe going north, which is the direction the Shenandoah River flows) to see if we could find the new location of Rt. 11 Chips in Mt. Jackson. We had been to the potato chip factory years ago when it was a tiny home-grown storefront in Middletown, where we remember their small showroom with samples of every flavor of chip they made. And after visiting the Valley Turnpike Museum the day before, we thought a ride down (up?) scenic Rt. 11 would be a good way to pass some time. Well, Rt. 11 Chips are now so popular (you can find them in most of the Fredericksburg supermarkets) that they’ve had to move to a big charmless factory. Hard to find, not even on Rt. 11, and only a few samples to try. We struggled to find the place, and then were disappointed when we did. Nonetheless, we came home with a giant bag of salt and vinegar chips that lasted us about a week:

After dinner at Clementine, a casual bistro restaurant in downtown Harrisonburg, it was concert time. Fridays on the Square is like our Bluemont, except possibly better funded. Tom Principato is an award-winning guitar legend, and he put on a great show. I do believe my husband died and visited heaven for a little while. The weather was beautiful (noticeably cooler out there in the mountains), and by the second set, the crowd was up and dancing. And we bought one of Tom’s CDs for the ride home.

The only downside to visiting the Shenandoah Valley is the ride over the mountains. I’m not keen on twisty mountain roads with insufficient guard rails. I’m really not keen on them in the dark. And the rain. So our late night ride home was nerve-wracking for me. I had to lean back, pull a blanket over my head, and think happy thoughts.

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