West Virginia is justifiably famous for its mountains, rivers, and (among driving enthusiasts) its superb mountain roads. My goal in late April was to sample more of these roads—and to see what was left of the coal mining industry that used to predominate in the southern part of the state. In addition, I was pretty sure that I could find a good story or two among the forgotten towns and beautiful rural scenery. In the process, I went far underground twice (although the BMW stayed topside and out of trouble, for once!)
Wherein Yr Fthfl Srvnt recounts the second day of exploring the New Jersey Pine Barrens in his intrepid BMW 335i, on some of the worst roads imaginable. Fortunately, no BMWs—or Fthfl Srvnts—were harmed in the making of this story.
I’d heard all the sensational stories about the New Jersey Pine Barrens: how the company towns had all died out, how the residents were “feeble-minded, uneducated drunkards” (to quote a 1912 heredity study), and how the infamous winged “Jersey Devil” had terrorized the area for more than 200 years. It all sounded too good to be true! Keeping in mind the cautionary advice of the Soothsayer to Julius Caeser in 44 BC (“Beware the Ides of March”), I set off on March 15 to see these things for myself. I was not disappointed…
I couldn’t wait to start the second day of my search for Virginia’s “fortified houses” from the 1700s. As detailed in Part I of this report, early settlers often built stone houses designed to protect their families in case of Indian attacks, and a few of these places still exist. After a hearty breakfast at the Mimslyn Inn, I was eager to find more of them. Little did I know how very lucky I would be on this second day: a guided tour of the finest such property in the state, by a (probable) descendant of its original builder.
A few weeks ago, with Christmas rapidly approaching and much yet to be done, I decided to squeeze in a BMW road trip to Virginia. Practicality be danged! On December 20, I set off in search of forts, both natural and manmade. In particular, I was looking for any remaining “fortified houses,” built in the mid-1700s as protection against raids by hostile Native Americans. The result was 2 fun-filled days of driving, exploration, and photography—the perfect antidote to the “holiday blahs.”
BMWs are great for spirited riding or driving—and if you use that ability to visit scenic and historically interesting places, then you have an unbeatable combination. With that goal in mind, I set off in late October to find out whether Pennsylvania or West Virginia had the best Fall Colors. Along the way, I encountered no small number of historical haunted houses, just in time for Halloween. My path first took me through Gettysburg.
In fairness there aren’t really all that many castles or palaces in West Virginia. But on my trip through the upper panhandle of the State, I managed to find one of each—along with many other scenic places and a host of interesting roads.
As I hurtled the 2013 BMW 335i through the unending corners of the “Tail of the Dragon,” I thought of my friend Phil. I pictured him in his 1957 Porsche Speedster, executing a flawless heel-and-toe downshift and sliding the beautiful black sports car through similar corners. Before riding in Phil’s Speedster, and in his father’s 1962 Austin-Healey 3000, I never knew that cars could perform like this. Those rides were an awesome revelation to a car-crazy 14-year-old. This trip to Tennessee and North Carolina was in honor of Phil—and, sadly, to attend his funeral.
Rodney Dangerfield: In my house I can’t relax. I told my kid, “Someday you’ll have children of your own.” He said, “So will you.”
Like George Burns, Woody Allen, and many others, Rodney Dangerfield was a regular performer throughout the Catskills “Borscht Belt” circuit. Now the resorts are closed and the stages are in ruins. But there is beauty, even in yesterday’s forgotten and deteriorating places, not to mention the mountains, lakes, and rivers for which this area is famous. The second half of my tour was every bit as exciting as the first.
A man is hit by a car while crossing a Beverly Hills street. A woman rushes to him and cradles his head in her lap, asking, “Are you comfortable?” The man answers, “I make a decent living.”
Milton Berle got laughs from that joke on stages throughout the Catskills Mountains in Sullivan County, New York. In 1952, the prime of the “Borscht Belt” Golden Era, Sullivan County had 538 resort hotels, 1,000 rooming houses, and 50,000 vacation bungalows. By the late 1960s, the great majority of these buildings were abandoned, burned, and/or bankrupt. But the land, the walls, and their stories remain—making for an extraordinary modern-day tour.
As I gazed at the vintage racing car, my thoughts immediately turned to the late actor and racer Paul Newman—and a conversation I’d had with him about this very car. My trip through Connecticut was to evoke many fond memories of cars and acquaintances, here and gone, as well as generating some new ones.
With a beautiful Spring day beckoning, I was anxious to gain more experience with the new BMW 335i and to locate several historical sights in Washington County, Maryland, that I’d never visited before. And major flooding was not going to slow me down. Game on!
The Delaware River beckoned for this trip… You just know a BMW tour is off to a really good start when an attractive toll-taker bats her eyes and says “I love your car. And you look really good in it!” It was the first of perhaps a dozen compliments I received. (Okay, all of them but one were for the car…)
I trust you all know that “Delmarva” is short for “Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.” It is one of the oldest settled areas in the U.S., with Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, and England settlers squabbling over the land starting as far back as 1566.
My trip began on the Friday before Christmas and quickly became a vivid reminder of the gross differences between the “haves” and the “have nots” in Colonial and Civil War times in the United States. As always, my faithful and ever-willing BMW Z4 conveyed me from one destination to another in comfort and style—a far cry from the horses, wagons, and carriages that plied these roads in years gone by.
And what better way to get there? I even got a tour of the place, and I didn’t have to move in. But let’s start at the beginning. On November 10, I set off to explore the eastern panhandle of West Virginia. I was expecting interesting and challenging roads, beautiful (and hilly) scenery, and little-known historical sites, and I wasn’t let down.
Based on my usual lack of good judgment, I set off to tour Tidewater Virginia in the midst of Tropical Storm Karen’s pouring rain and the recent government shutdown. I got plenty wet, and—for the first time ever—the Z4’s top remained in place throughout the tour, but I had a super time.
You never know what a BMW/Z4 road trip will lead to. My latest one involved missing shadows, ringing rocks, a beautiful young Mexican cliff diver, The Blob, and a search for Indian Hannah and the Stargazer’s Stone, which sounds suspiciously like a Harry Potter novel. And, of course, the usual historic ruins and tragedy.
The hills of southwestern Virginia are a wonderful place to relax, enjoy the outdoors, go sightseeing, and try the mineral springs. In the late 1700s and most of the 1800s, people flocked to the resorts and spas around Roanoke for exactly these reasons. Today, however, only a handful of these places survive. What happened to the others? And where was Dirty Dancing really filmed?
My most recent Z4 tour started with the top of a mountain, a sudden rainstorm, and two new friends, and it ended with a world-class collection of BMW motorcycles and automobiles. In-between were some of the most interesting and beautiful sights I’ve seen on any of my GS and Z4 trips. Continue on, faithful readers, and see if you agree…
Great driving roads in Ohio? You bet! Along with covered bridges, Indian burial mounds, massacres, ghost towns, Mothman, and an extraordinary haunted house. What more could I ask for?
With a beautiful day in store, I couldn’t resist the temptation to jump in my 2006 Z4 3.0i roadster and seek out new and interesting roads, scenic areas, and historical sites. With the expression “seek and ye shall find” running through mind, I set off for Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where I managed to find all of the above.
What could be better than a BMW ride or drive through the twisting mountain roads of West Virginia in the Springtime? Add in some pursuit of Civil War and other historic sites, and the decision was easy.
Serving in the cavalry during the Civil War must have been rather like riding a motorcycle: Adventurous, challenging, the wind in your face, and a wide variety of paths to follow. The chief difference was probably the proportion of the nearby population that was actively trying to shoot you…
The Civil War led to many thousands of heroic actions by dedicated and fearless soldiers who believed passionately in their cause. They were all Americans, before and after the war, but they were bitterly divided by their beliefs. The wisdom and tenacity of President Abraham Lincoln ultimately held the nation together, despite these divisions that are virtually unimaginable today (even in view of our own current political situation). In this report, I focus on one legendary leader, Colonel John Singleton Mosby—the “Grey Ghost”— and his partisan Rangers.