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!  

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