Several members of the Piedmont Driving Club had been cleaning harness, polishing carriages and scrubbing horses for days, in anticipation of a trip to King’s Gap Park in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. How far away is that? Well, not so far that PDC members and hosts Michael and Debby Frost haven’t been able to drive from THERE to HERE to join fellow carriagers on picnic drives! “If they can do it, so can we” was the prevailing sentiment. Sadly this trip was rained out…..a casualty of the same storms that flooded Texas and Oklahoma (worst in 70 years…) Not only did we miss the gracious hospitality that the Frosts had planned, we also missed the mountain laurel which, reportedly, was in full bloom.
What to do? The Baturays and the Coxes, along with Molly Savage, vowed not to stay home! Maybe there would be mountain laurel at the Virginia Arboretum? Nope….but there were plenty of beautiful trees and plants and lots of quiet roads to explore. Only two carriages and four horses, but we pretty much had the entire park to ourselves. The weather was perfect, with blue skies and white billowy clouds which were in evidence throughout the 7 mile drive. Ah….the peace, the tranquility, the beauty, the darkening clouds and – oops – the gathering storm! Could it be that since we avoided the rain in Pennsylvania, it came looking for us in Virginia? Whatever the case we made it back to the trailers just in time, so everyone unhitched and put up with lightning speed (no pun, please!) Fortunately our picnic tables were undercover so we were able to enjoy our lunch. Club President Anne Watkins joined the group. With the usual bounty of food and wine, and some very unusual cans of (grapefruit?!) beer that Vicki brought, we all had a wonderful time.
It was with the best of intentions that the Club scheduled a Spring drive at Oakwood – such a great place to get fresh horses out without the worry or bother of road traffic. Sadly the clouds rolled in dark and ominously and the weather forecasters spoke with great trepidation about a possible deluge, thunder, lightning and general storminess. Cancelling the picnic drive, which had been scheduled for noon that day, seemed the only thing to do. That, however, did not stop of few BOLD Club members from meeting to drive the Oakwood grounds at about 10:00 a.m. Vicki Baturay joined Caroline and Bertrand Collomb, along with a guest from Germany. They took out two carriages and managed to get over the fields, through the woods, down to the big pond and back before the rain hit. Don’t know, wasn’t there but I expect there was some Champagne consumed somewhere along the way, and probably a lovely luncheon afterwards!
Noted four-in-hand driver, coachman, speaker on all things “horse drawn” and GREAT friend to the Piedmont Driving Club, Doug Kemmerer, chose to celebrate his birthday by hosting the Club at Innisfree, in Bluemont, Va. It will never get better than this! Not only did we travel over 7 miles of well- groomed and historic roads, but we were treated to a magnificent panorama of preserved countryside from a grassy hilltop where we rested our horses. There were 10 turn-outs: Carl and Caroline Cox drove their “Music Boys”, with groom Molly and new PDC members Tom and Mary Kay Albert. Al and Vicki Baturay drove their Haflinger pair. Club President Anne Watkins drove her gelding “Czar”, with PDC member Pat McCann along for the ride. Judy Hahn drove “Buddy” to a Bronson wagon. Wayne Porter, with wife Elizabeth and another guest on board, drove “Tucker”. Mark Duffell (who was accompanied by the prettiest guest of all) brought out his handsome Standardbred gelding for its inaugural picnic drive. Leslie Yarborough and guest Emma drove one of her mares to a Meadowbrook. Alcinda Hatfield, with hubby on board, drove one of her large ponies. Wayne Humphries drove Bouncer (and if you don’t know who HE is, you don’t know your ponies…Bouncer won a World Singles Championship not so long ago!). Kitty Newman drove her Farnley pony Redwing, who like Kitty, is a veteran of many picnic drives.
The pace was leisurely, “go as you please” and designed to allow each carriage to take in the scenery, and whatever driving challenges presented themselves, at will. It was a perfect venue for an early Spring drive, our 7th of the current season.
Meanwhile – back at Innisfree—and unbeknown to those of us trotting the roads, Doug and Queenie had fired up their grill and were cooking burgers and “dogs” in preparation for our return to the farm. Coolers were released from trailer tack rooms and the backs of pickup trucks, and from out of these came chilled salmon, vegetarian dishes, casseroles, pasta salads, green salads, brownies, cookies and assorted goodies. There was a delightful jug of homemade lemonade, plenty of water and bottles upon bottles of wine! Saving the best for last, the Kemmerer’s guests presented Doug with a HUGE chocolate layer cake in honor of his birthday. Dough blew out ALL those candles on his first attempt – WOW! We don’t know what he wished for but we hope it had something to do with horses, carriages and us, the Piedmont Driving Club, because we’d really like to return to Innisfree!
Just because you don’t have a lot of carriages show up, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a great picnic drive! May 3 brought fabulous weather to a great driving venue, Sky Meadow State Park in Paris, Virginia. The lush trails were freshly mowed and although driving can be challenging here (because a wrong turn will take you right up the mountain with limited options for turning around!), if one pays attention and stays on the low-lands, it is a beautiful, tranquil and memorable place to be in a carriage.
Carl and Caroline Cox, along with groom Molly, drove their “Music Boys”, Pop and Jazz to a wagonette while Barbara and Tom Wolf found their way with Sheba put to her village cart. Leslie Yarborough and friend, Emma, rode Leslie’s driving mares astride. They followed the Wolf turnout and bonded well with Sheba, who is always so sure of herself. She provided a perfect role model for their future endeavors in harness….
That took care of the “driving” part of the day. Host Kitty Newman put so much effort into providing a scrumptious picnic that she had leave Redwing at home. Tables were set under big shade trees and when the carriagers and riders returned there was fried chicken, pork barbecue sandwiches, Barbara’s wonderful bean casserole, potato salad, pie……all that was preceded by Vicki’s selection of cheeses and crackers. Good as the driving was, it seems that Club members knew the picnic might even be better – Club President Anne Watkins arrived, along with Al and Vicki Baturay, and Wayne Porter – all without horses, but with plenty of enthusiasm. Sometimes you might miss the drive but NEVER should you miss the food and wine!!!! (Might that could be a sort-of unofficial motto for many of us in the Club?)