Okay, if you have a fabulous BMW roadster with 215 horsepower, outstanding handling, and flowing lines, what would be its best use? That’s right, you travel in search of a Potato House! No, it’s not like a Pizza Hut, Waffle House, or even an International House o’ Pancakes. A Potato House is something altogether different. And, as best I can tell, there are only two or three remaining in the U.S. Given their questionable historical significance, naturally I had to try to locate one.
Scenic history is a wonderful thing, and my faithful BMW Z4 roadster can find it better than almost any other conveyance. But sometimes, history gets moved around. On this trip into Pennsylvania, a number of rather large, unwieldy historic structures were found in the “wrong” places. Fortunately, Yr Fthfl Srvnt is not easily befuddled. Despite what everyone says…
On October 14, I set off to see what I could find in the way of Fall Colors. My route started in Harrisburg, PA and followed a large, clockwise, circular path to the north. As usual, I was also in search of scenery, history, truth, beauty, and driving pleasure—and the faithful BMW Z4 3.0i has never failed to deliver on all of the above.
Halloween reminded me of a recent trip through parts of West Virginia and Pennsylvania. There were plenty of good haunted houses, some with open doors as if to invite the unwary inside. And then there was the eerie black Mercedes Benz SLK that showed up, challenging me, daring me to chase it through the night, only to disappear in the fog.
Other than that, it was a normal BMW jaunt through the countryside.
Well, yes—I suppose I do qualify as a “Maryland Relic” myself… 😮 But that’s not the point of this report. This is about a BMW trip through some lesser-known parts of Maryland and the numerous old places that are rapidly disappearing. And a few that are still thriving.
Okay, so Toad Hall wasn’t really all that historic. It was merely fascinating, for sports car afficionados such as me (and many of you). The rest of the trip was historic, with sites involving John Adams, Daniel Webster, Plymouth Rock, Myles Standish, General Tom Thumb, and a ghost named Penelope.
I approached the grave with hesitation, knowing that, within, lay the body of Mercy Lena Brown, buried in 1892 at the tender age of 19. Minus her heart. The people of the town where she lived—and probably even her own, desperate father—believed she was a vampire. You can decide for yourself…
Okay, so it wasn’t really Sherlock Holmes, and it wasn’t really a castle—but that’s not to say that the owner and dwelling were uninteresting! Read on and decide for yourself, as I continue the saga of my BMW Z4 ride to Cape Cod.
To get from Catonsville, Maryland to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, anyone with any sense flies. Enter Yr Fthfl Srvnt and his trusty BMW Z4 3.0i roadster from the lunatic fringe… Yes, with the prospect of 2 weeks on Cape Cod, I decided to fit in as many Z4 tours as I could. After all, it would be a grand opportunity to explore new sights outside of my usual Mid-Atlantic region!
Let’s face it: Some tours are better than others. This one was spectacular, from start to finish, and it had everything: Historical sites, exceptional scenery, and winding, climbing, and diving roads throughout, with smooth surfaces and minimal traffic. In fact, it would have been perfect but for the fact that Churchville had run out of their famous apple butter. But I’m quibbling already…
After an 11-week layoff from touring, courtesy of a string of 70-hour work weeks, I was anxious to get back out on the road. On April 21, I pointed the impatient Z4 3.0i toward Pennsylvania with a GPS-full of sights to see—but I wasn’t expecting to find either the country’s first roller coaster or New Jersey’s last covered bridge.
For Christmas, the Intrepid Buzz gave me a box of very old maps of the Mid-Atlantic area. The idea was to use them to plan some routes using the older, original roads in the area. As it turned out, this was a pretty good idea. One of the maps, in particular, was a 1956 National Geographic map entitled “Round About the Nation’s Capital (with Descriptive Notes),” and it proved to be a treasure trove.
On a cold, bright, day-after-Christmas, I fired up the trusty Z4 roadster and headed, once again, for that awe-inspiring state of West Virginia. My hopes were high that I would find Rippon, Capon Bridge, Blue Beach, Paw Paw, and all the places I’d planned, and a whole lot more. And in the process, I got to exercise the BMW on a great collection of interesting roads.
Yeah, I know—it sounds like a Hardy Boys book. But the Blackberry one-room schoolhouse was definitely an enigma. I never did find it, and yet I saw it over and over again. Moreover, I ended up driving around a pre-war dirt oval racetrack—strictly by accident, I’m sure…
With a stress fracture in my left foot and strict orders to stay off of it as much as possible, I decided to limit this BMW Z4 tour to just half a day. Carroll County (Maryland) was calling me, and I thought I would see how many mansions I could find in what is practically my own back yard. Despite the abbreviated time, this tour was far more fun than usual.
While I am occasionally prone to exaggerating the things I see on my BMW Z4 journeys, I’m not making this one up. Curious? Read on…
Yes, I thought that would get your attention. And I’m not kidding—this trip led me to Virginville, Pennsylvania and to the “Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic,” as it was originally known. For some reason, there was a serious shortage of residents in Virginville—and no one at all at Pennhurst…
As I forced my long-suffering BMW Z4 up a narrow, steep, rutted, rocky dirt path, around switchback corners and with the tops of trees visible next to the guardrail-less road, I wondered how Frankye and her husband Howard had ever managed to tow a motorboat up this mountain in the 1950s with the family sedan. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
My Z4 trips invariably lead me to beautiful old churches, homes, battlefields, rivers, lakes—you name it. But this tour of Southern Maryland had a major surprise waiting for me. One that brought back many treasured memories of a past that has guided my avocations ever since.
My 2006 BMW Z4 can find abandoned houses, lost churches, forgotten forts, and other remnants of cast-off civilization practically all by itself. And the Mid-Atlantic region is the place to look. But once in a rare while, one of these decaying places is brought back to life. On this trip through Pennsylvania, I was lucky to stumble across several such revitalizations—not to mention signs of Christopher Columbus himself.
Interested? Read on!
On any tour of back roads and rural areas, you will encounter the unexpected. The ratio of unexpected-to-expected goes up considerably when you enter West Virginia, and that’s a big part of the fun. Moreover, rural Virginia can hold its own in this regard, too. In addition to a multitude of historical and scenic sites, my WV-VA trip offered some of the best driving/riding roads I’ve been on in a long time.
On May 31, 1889, a major rainstorm caused significant flooding in downtown Johnstown, Pennsylvania—and, at 3:10 PM, the earthen South Fork Dam at Lake Conemaugh gave way, allowing 5 billion gallons of water to come crashing 14 miles down the mountain, destroying the city altogether. At least 2,209 people lost their lives, making it the worst flood disaster in U.S. history. I returned to Johnstown for further historic exploration—but, unlike my first visit, I didn’t see Chelsea Clinton this time.
By bike or by car, interstate highways are fast, efficient, safe—and boring. Fortunately, virtually all the pre-interstate roads are still out there, providing scenic, historic, sometimes challenging, and always interesting paths into the past, in the process depicting what life in the U.S. used to be like.
My goal for this Easter Monday trip was to find the very northeast corner of Maryland, where Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware all join in a three-quarter scale replica of the famous “Four Corners” of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. Along the way, I observed that the countryside is positively littered with reminders and remnants of how life used to be.
Having often explored the Maryland side of the Potomac River, I thought I’d try the Virginia shore for a change. And for good measure, I decided to work in the Rappahannock River, since I knew little about it. The river was originally named by Native Americans, naturally, and is said to mean “the river that rises and falls” or, possibly, “river of quick, rising water.” The Rappahannock runs roughly 195 miles before emptying into the Chesapeake Bay.