Taproot Farm

On Sunday, September 29, carriages gathered at Taproot Farm, located in historic and picturesque Unison, Virginia.  In all there were 7 turn-outs including 2 teams of 4, 1 pair and 4 singles.  Although the leaves hadn’t reached peak color, a touch of autumn was apparent in the changing shrubbery and the third and final cutting of baled hay we viewed along the route.  No need yet for our “woolies” the temperature was most agreeable for driving.

We traveled on gravel roads, up and down hills and over bridges, stopping for rest (and Champagne — thank YOU Deb Bauserman!) at Poor House Farm, a charming Bed and Breakfast, whose proprietors are habitually welcoming to our Club despite the very brief notice they sometimes get!

We were charmed by the Village of Unison, with its quaint but beautifully restored buildings.  Mums were in colorful profusion at each doorstep.  It is a place where time seems to stand still.  The experience was enriched for us by the sounds of our horses’ hooves on otherwise quiet roads.
The sumptuous picnic that followed was hosted by PDC member Kathleen Malone, who brought platters of roast beef and ALL the fixing’s for sandwiches.  Looking back, I think that perhaps we should have had a contest to see who could create the “biggest“, the most “creative,” the “healthiest,” the “most delicious” or the “most decedent” sandwich using ingredients from the bountiful platters that were laid out before us.  Perhaps we could have supplemented the fun with a wine pairing contest as well since the selections available were varied and delicious. 


ADS Meeting

At the ADS meeting dinner on Sept. 28 in Aiken,  some former PDC members
gathered for a mini reunion and “shout out” to their driving friends in
Front row:  Kim Allen; Elizabeth Cummings; Wendy Ying; Muffy Seaton
Back row:  Ben Cox; Bill Allen; Doug Seaton

A hot rumor is, Morven Park is leading the selection targets for next
year’s ADS meeting.


PDC Reunion

Ride To Thrive Exhibition Rehearsal

With eager anticipation for the upcoming Ride To Thrive Polo Match and Carriage Exhibition, scheduled for September 21 at Dr. and Mrs. Seager’s Chetwood Park, in The Plains, Virginia , five turn-outs met at Mary Munster’s Glen Bolton Farm.  Since she’s practically next door, it was a pleasure to drive from her farm (up and down and down and up the gravel road) to Chetwood on what turned out to be a beautiful autumn morning.  

Once at Chetwood, whips Mary Munster, Carl Cox, Al Baturay (driving pairs), Barbara Wolf and Wayne Porter (driving singles) assembled at the staging area.  Striving to get it all “just right” for the big day, we timed our route through the stunning farm over to the area where we would be exhibiting our carriages at the event. We carefully practiced our entrance, our pass before the “crowd” and figured out how to line up perfectly.  Satisfied that we’d represent our Club well, we enjoyed a brisk trot back to Mary’s.  It was time for lunch and Mary never disappoints!

Her dining room table was already laden with “starters”, salads, warm biscuits and the “piece de resistance“, Mary’s beef bourguignon.  There was plenty of sweet tea and wine, too!  There was even apres lunch entertainment in the form of Mary’s new baby, a 3 month old Great Dane puppy, “Diana”. It was amazing to see something that big, that young, that happy and that adept at racing ’round the table and throughout the house (rubber octopus hanging from her jaws) do so without disturbing a thing! 

Texas Farm

Over the years, Tom and Barbara Wolf have collaborated with a number of people to host picnic drives that have been variously described as “enjoyable”, “fun”, “well organized” and even “perfect”.  They always seem to choose the right venue with routes that are carriage friendly and offer spectacular scenery, with a gourmet spread afterwards.  The drive from Texas Farm enveloped all of this and more.  Still, neither Tom nor Barbara could have possibly foreseen what was to be…

Here’s an excerpt from a recent Carriage Association of America (CAA) e-news: News from CAA members  “The Piedmont Driving Club of Virginia (a CAA chapter) is pleased to announce the marriage of CAA member Maryalice Larkin-Matheson to her long-time beau, John Dale Thomas.”They were wed on Sunday, September 15, at the home of William Staples and Butter Strother in The Plains, Virginia. Before the service, the happy couple participated in a club picnic drive that included eleven turnouts, which traveled more than ten miles on roads adjacent to the farm. Maryalice and John Dale rode with fellow CAA members Carl and Caroline Cox on their Roof-seat Break. Bobby Dryer was also on board to sound the horn.

“To the astonishment and delight of all who attended the picnic following the drive, a minister stepped forward and performed the ceremony on the terrace of Mr. Staples’ quaint cottage. The wedding was not only a well-kept secret, it was also extremely moving. Both Maryalice and John Dale are virtual pillars within the worlds of driving, foxhunting, and Thoroughbred racing, so it was particularly meaningful to all present that they chose this venue as the perfect place to exchange vows. One of the guests was Anne Watkins, president of the Piedmont Driving Club and former state rep for the CAA.”

As PDC member Cynthia Daily remarked, “Suppose someone organized a picnic drive and a wedding broke out?”  That’s pretty much what happened.  Those of us who were there will never forget it — the surprise, the wedding feast, the beauty of it all.  Certainly Tom and Barbara, and co-hosts William and Butter, might wonder what ELSE could happen the next time they invite the Piedmont Driving Club to their neighborhood! 


Belle Grove Plantation Exhibition

The Piedmont Driving Club accepted an invitation to display carriages during the Virginia Wine Fest on the grounds of the historic Belle Grove Plantation in Middletown, Va.  Six turn outs came to enjoy the day and to be viewed by hundreds of jovial wine enthusiasts, who sampled some of Virginia’s very finest yield from eight different wineries.

Belle Grove is the perfect venue for carriages because it is not only beautiful to look at, but substantial and enduring.  As stated in its website….. “Outlasting weather, war, family triumphs and tragedies, Belle Grove testifies to the persistence and courage of those who strove to excel and who built their houses to make a lasting mark on future generations.”  Thus we were part of a timeless blend, creating a unique visual memory for all who attended.

Following the drive ‘round the manicured grounds, participants sampled wine, abundant food and – yes – went shopping!  To the strains of traditional music, we strolled through vendors selling hand painted wine and beer glasses, jewelry and other items crafted from natural stones and segmented wooden bowls/cutting boards to name just a few.

It was a beautiful autumn day and a lovely experience for the Club.  We are indebted to Club member Lisa Anderson for her vision and hard work in putting this together. 

Shenandoah River Labor Day Drive

“Oh Shenandoah, I long to see you.  Away, you rollin’ river…..”  Some know it as an early sea chantey, others remember it as a 19th century folk song, still others hearken to it as the VMI theme song.  My favorite version was sung by Harry Belafonte. Some of you may remember hearing strains of it played throughout the Jimmy Stewart movie of the same name.  But, beautiful as the song may be, it cannot match the majesty of the river for which it is named.  How fortunate was the Piedmont Driving Club to again gather near its shoreline for the final picnic drive of the summer.  It was our Labor Day Weekend drive and it was HOT, so without the breezes off the river and the well shaded road that stretched along side, it would have been a rather miserable day for a carriage ride. Indeed it turned out to be quite pleasant and we  were graced by a somewhat overcast sky even after we left the river and headed towards Long Branch where we stopped to rest.  There we enjoyed iced rum punch and little cups filled with an assortment of cheddar bunnies, mini pretzels and freeze-dried string beans (who KNEW there was such a thing? Yum!)

Long Branch is so much more than just a shady place to stop.  Built by Robert Carter Burwell in 1811, it sits on land that was surveyed by George Washington and has been owned at times by Lord Culpepper, Lord Fairfax and Robert King Carter.  The mansion was designed in concert with the classical principles suggested by Benjamin Latrobe, who is best known for his work on the U.S. Capitol, and who seldom designed private residences. This house is a particular treasure because it has been extensively renovated over the years and contains rare furnishings and art work from all over the world.  While the 400 acre estate was a major supplier of wheat in the past, it has long been known for raising thoroughbred horses.  Today its expansive fields are home to many retired race and show horses, as well as other private boarders.

In all we had 5 carriages:  Al and Vickie Baturay with their Haflinger boys (Kitty Newman on board.), Carl and Caroline Cox with their “Black Boys” (Club President Anne Watkins and guest Don Ritter, retired 6 term MOC from the Allentown, Pa. District on board — and, oh, yes, his Tibetan Spaniel “Tibby“, carriage dog extraordinaire!), Barbara and Tom Wolf with “Herself”, aka, “Sheba”, Wayne Porter with “Sweetie” and prospective member Sue Ellen Johnson on the groom‘s seat, and Sam Davis with “Hazeldon’s Perseus”, her Connemara stallion (and her guest Cynthia Hill).  The trip back from Long Branch was leisurely, allowing for views of the glistening river as well as the opportunity to read some of the historic markers along the way.  In keeping with the rustic theme, we gathered lawn chairs around a table beneath large shade trees.  Out came the Champagne, the wine and the ice cold Margaritas (thank YOU, Vicki!). We then enjoyed a huge variety of summer dishes — turkey “pastrami”, red cabbage slaw, Barbara’s inspired pasta salad (chock full of summer veggies), pickled baby beets, stuffed grape leaves, potato salad, green salad, curried chicken salad, and on and on and on!  No, desert was not over-looked! There were strawberries with yogurt and sugar for dipping, cookies, and tasty doughnut holes, to name just a few items.  Once again we need to thank the Baturays and Wolf’s for stepping up to create a tasty and weather-appropriate menu, as well as the rest of the group for their generous contributions.  Best Labor Day picnic ever!

PS:  While this may have been our last tribute to “summer”, it will hardly be our last drive.  Meet us next Sunday at Belle Grove Plantation in Middletown, Va.  We’ll be ushering in our fall schedule with (what else?) a drive at a Wine Festival!