28 Degrees? No Problem!


After a frenetic trip to visit my in-laws in Boston for Thanksgiving, I was more than ready for another motorcycle sightseeing adventure. The only available day, however, was Saturday, November 24–with a predicted high temperature of only 40 degrees.

When I set off at 9:00 am, it was all of 28 degrees. Fortunately, with the Gerbings heated gear set to “Broil,” I was plenty comfortable. My destination was the historic Oatlands Plantation, near Leesburg, VA.

Getting there is half the fun, of course. And it’s always a good idea to swing by the ruins of the Black Rock Mill on Seneca Creek. It was built in 1815 and operated until 1920. Among many other jobs, it sawed the logs used to build the Liberty Mill in Germantown, MD–which subsequently put the Black Rock Mill out of business.

I crossed the Potomac on White’s Ferry (top speed, 2.7 mph according to Herr Zumo) and putted through downtown Leesburg, which cried out for a return visit. Before long, Herr Z. had me on yet another, secluded, dirt road–this time, the aptly named “Woods Road,” which led to Oatlands Mills Road. The Fall colors were retreating hastily, but it was a scenic ride nonetheless–especially with the occasional abandoned house to admire:

Almost next door to the abandoned brick house, there was the first of two interesting places that were for sale. This one, the “Carters Mill Home,” looked (and later proved to be) quite historic. (More about George Carter anon…) I didn’t ask the price, since “if you have to ask…”

Not much further on, I came to the Oatlands Plantation. It was built in the late 1700s by George Carter, who owned tens of thousands of acres in this area. His holdings presumably included Carters Mill, Carters Farm, and a number of other places with Carter in the name. Construction on the plantation mansion started in 1804 and was interrupted by the War of 1812. It was finally finished in the 1820s, and it remains largely unchanged–and striking.

I had arrived just in time for the noon tour. Unfortunately, photographs weren’t allowed inside, so I didn’t get any shots of the octagonal drawing room, dining room, library, and other ground-floor areas. In fact, the only shot I managed to sneak in was this one, of an upstairs bedroom–that was used regularly by Eleanor Roosevelt when she visited Oatlands to see her cousins.

Back outdoors, there were many other buildings and gardens to look at. The gardens were especially notable, even though winter is probably not the best time to tour them. This is the greenhouse, which is the oldest building on the plantation:

Other buildings and shots of the gardens:

Back on the road, I headed off to travel the famous Snickersville Turnpike, this time from south to north. Along the way, I encountered the strange sight of a wheeled fireplace and chimney. This obviously represented all that was left of an early, colonial attempt at a mobile home.

Blumont sits near the northern-most end of the Turnpike and features numerous Cool Old Houses, such as this one:

In my case, however, Blumont was mostly of interest because of the Blumont General Store–which had lunch. The temperature was still well under 40, and I’d burned a lot of calories so far. A sandwich and piece of lemon pie later, I was ready to tackle the rest of the trip.

Based on one of Ted’s Square Route Rally routes, I’d ridden through Waterford, VA once before. Since it was on my way home, I made a slight detour to visit it again. I just love this little town, which time has almost entirely passed by.

The houses range from elegant to a bit ramshackle…

…and this one is my favorite:

This other log home, however, was for sale. I got a picture of the real estate sign, and I’m really tempted to call and enquire. But I have a nagging fear that even a fairly basic place in such an historic town is likely to exceed The Jolly Old Budget [size=75](by a bunch!)[/size]

On the western and eastern outskirts of Waterford, respectively, were additional photo-op’s involving water, geese, and graves. What a great place! (Thanks, Ted, for calling it to our attention.)

From Waterford, I wended northeastward, recrossing the Potomac at Point of Rocks and hitting a few favorite backroads before ending up on Interstate 70 back to Catonsville. The trip was 175 miles and 7 1/2 hours. The temperature never did reach 40, and it didn’t matter a bit.

Rick F.

PS: As always, if anyone would like the MapSource route, just let me know.


Written by Rick

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