Oh Shenandoah | Part 3

Last time in the Shenandoah Valley, Ben and I visited the Luray Caverns before our early anniversary dinner. Today, we finally see what we drove down to Shenandoah for…

By the way, here’s the song, “Oh Shenandoah”, that I hum every time I write these posts.


We awoke for our final meal at By the Side of the Road: the breakfast soufflé.

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I sat on the porch swing one last time and we were off, back to Skyline Drive. We drove down Skyline Drive from the northernmost entrance southwards just one week prior, before a Halloween party, because we weren’t sure when peak foliage was going to happen. The reports were unsure, the leaves were already late with turning, and we didn’t want to miss it this year.

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Driving up from the southernmost entrance, we were a little worried. While the trees were mostly green when we came down a week ago, most of the trees by this entrance were browned or, worse, bare. Did we miss peak foliage within just one week?

We saw a few disappointing views from the overlooks that indicated that, if nothing else, maybe the southern parts of Skyline Drive had already passed peak. This was terribly disappointing until we started seeing much more promising views.

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While stopping for lunch, we noticed that one of the hiking trails had waterfalls! It was listed as a challenging hike, and Ben and I were literally both wearing jeans, but whatever! Hike for a waterfall!

This was indeed a very strenuous hike. It was about a mile to the first waterfall and very very steep. We don’t hike much at all, so I was definitely huffing and puffing on my way back up the steep incline. I only got a break to catch my breath because Ben finally got signal on his phone and was able to conduct some fantasy football trades. Whodathunk I’d be grateful for fantasy football?

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After catching our breaths and letting our body temperatures come back down, we were in time for sunset! I really thought we would miss golden hour because I was so tired during the hike that I didn’t think we’d last long to still be in the park.

But we made it.
And it was so worth it.dsc02219dsc02229dsc02231dsc02246dsc02250

I have so many photos from the brief half hour when the sun dipped below the Blue Ridge Mountains. With everything bathed in this sumptuous golden sunlight, I felt so content and at peace with the world.

Happy anniversary, Ben. I had a truly fantastic weekend exploring Shenandoah Valley with you, and I look forward to many more adventures together.

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Where are your favorite places to hike? I am super new to hiking and am not sure where to start, to be honest. Any tips would be really appreciated!

What are the best places to see foliage, aka “leaf peeping”? (I swear this is a term that I read on the foliage report and not one that I made up!) Next year, we might look into going up to New York to check out the gorgeous foliage in the Catskills. I remember the leaves looking spectacular back in New Jersey, too, so we’ll see!

Oh Shenandoah | Part 2

Happy Veterans Day. Thank you to those who have served to defend our nation and our freedoms.

The results of the US presidential election have people feeling a lot of things.

Regardless of who you voted for, it is important that we actively work together to effect positive change. Voting for president is not the best that we can do as far as making this country or this world a better place. Whether you’re happy or upset about the outcome of the election, we can all agree there is a lot of work that needs to be done.

I’d also like to recommend this post by Tim Urban on Wait But Why and this video by John Green on vlogbrothers.

Back to your regularly-scheduled programming.


After checking into our B&B and filling up on fried chicken, Ben and I were excited to explore the beautiful Shenandoah Valley to celebrate our anniversary a week early!


We set an alarm so that we’d be awake for the lovely breakfast set outside our door: apple & sour cream pancakes with sausage and fruit and orange juice.

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If you don’t like thinking about what to get for breakfast and like the idea of someone making that executive decision for you and then bringing it to your door, you’ll love bed & breakfasts. 😉

This was a vacation, so Ben and I lazed about sleeping a little more and watching videos on our phone before we headed out to see the Luray Caverns! But first, lunch! And being able to finally see the B&B and the properties in the daylight!

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Although we were tempted by the many Burger Kings we saw driving out to Luray (we just don’t have enough BKs near home…), we went to Triple Crown BBQ for a delicious barbecue lunch. While I was still shaking off the sleepy not-really-hungries when we arrived, by the time I was breathing in the smoky barbecue scent next to the truck, I no longer wanted to share a meal with Ben.

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He got a pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw and I went in with the seasonal smoked turkey (with bacon!) with cranberry sauce served alongside two perfect little corn muffins and potato salad. All washed down with a cup of sweet tea. So tasty! (Really glad that Ben didn’t go to Burger King when I sleepily mentioned it as we pulled into the BBQ parking lot…) I perked up immediately after our lunch and was excited to hit up the Luray Caverns!

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We were nervous that we wouldn’t be able to actually see the caverns because we wound up arriving quite late and the line was very long. However, we lucked out and managed to grab our tickets and hop on one of the one-hour tours.
Bonus: Your admission ticket includes admission to:

  1. Car and Carriage Caravan Museum – awesome museum with vintage cars, from old horse-drawn buggies to swagged-out Rolls Royces from the ’40s – definitely stop by!
  2. Toy Town Junction – collection of antique toys and trains throughout the years that we were unable to visit this time around
  3. Luray Valley Museum – learn the history of the this part of the Shenandoah Valley, including its role in the Civil War and how the people here lived

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And of course, the actual caverns themselves! You can definitely spend a few hours here on top of the one-hour tour with the additional attractions that are included on your ticket, but this is what you came for:

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“Fish market”!
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This looks like an alien planet and I’m not convinced it’s not

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“Bacon” in the curtains
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A seasonal formation that I thought looked like an ice cream cone!
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A wedding was being set up down here, surrounded by the stalactite organ
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Wishing well (with a lot of paper money in there and even more gleaming coins)
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“Fried eggs” that I thought looked more like oysters

So glad that we were able to visit the caverns on one of the last tours, we drove from Luray back to Harrisonburg while the sun set. It was a really gorgeous autumn day, and we were almost a little sad that we spent so much time in a cave! But off we went for our early anniversary dinner!

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Dinner was at Local Chop & Grill House, which we found great reviews for when looking for places to eat in Harrisonburg. It was a really delicious meal and a super awesome value. You pick your meat, the way you want it seasoned, a sauce, and two sides for a very reasonable price. After a few disappointing higher-end meals, we were super happy with this one.

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Duck rubbed with gremolata served with mushroom bordelaise, roast broccoli, and mushroom risotto
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Filet with house rub served with gravy, mashed potatoes, and asparagus
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Crème brûlée with a little message

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Quick stop for some bubble tea before flopping on the bed after a big day!

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I am currently in Cincinatti at a conference (and giving a quick 5-minute talk that I’m super nervous about!) but there is one more Shenandoah post coming your way!

Have you visited caverns like Luray before? I visited a really cool one in China once that had a lot of multi-colored lights to light up the formations!

What was your favorite nice meal out? This was a pretty good one, and last year was also very nice, but I want us to not do a steakhouse for our anniversary next year. (This year we had a geographical constraint to take into consideration.)

Oh Shenandoah | Part 1

US citizens: make sure you vote today if you haven’t already! It is one of the most important things you can do that affects you and the people around you! What else can bring people together with a free sticker like exercising your civic duty?


Ben and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary a little early this past weekend because I am actually going to be out of town for a conference during our actual anniversary. (I felt so guilty about it, but Ben was so supportive in encouraging me to apply and attend for my career. I’m so lucky!) We started brainstorming a way to celebrate this milestone anniversary and began by thinking of a staycation in DC… which led to us thinking of bed and breakfasts in the area…

… which eventually led to us booking a bed and breakfast in Shenandoah Valley for the weekend!

After driving for a few hours, we ended up at By the Side of the Road, which has a place in the rich history of the region including the burning of the Shenandoah Valley during the Civil War and the beginnings of the Mennonite Church. We had a truly lovely stay here for our first-ever B&B experience!

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Photo courtesy of By the Side of the Road, whose website is definitely new and improved since we last checked it out about a week ago!
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Photo courtesy of By the Side of the Road

 

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Flutes + champagne = celebration!

As soon as we were checked in, we booked it to Bojangles, one of our favorite fried chicken joints that is really difficult to find the farther north you go. As we were driving the short distance to Bo’ Time, I started wondering… wasn’t the Bojangles we visited on our way back from Roanoke near some JMU (James Madison University) stuff? Like an athletic stadium or something? And Harrisonburg, the town that our B&B was in, is home to JMU. Proceeding down the street, even though it was much darker than our drive up from Roanoke…

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… it was very familiar. We were back at the same Bojangles! That was nice. Almost as nice as digging into that delicious fried chicken.

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Belly full of Bojangles and sweet tea, I took a nice little candlelit bath to get settled in and got ready for our weekend away! I haven’t taken a bath in a long time, and it really set the tone for a relaxing weekend with my favorite person.


Pausing here so I can get things ready for my conference this week and the rest of the recaps from the weekend!

Have you stayed in the Shenandoah Valley before?
Have you stayed at a bed & breakfast before?
And maybe most importantly, where are your favorite places to get fried chicken???