The road never ends: A trip from Delaware to Virginia
Wednesday, 04 September 2013 14:42

Sightseeing and history in three states

by Eddie Applefeld

    The last time I was on the road, I had so much fun (and hopefully you did, too) that I decided to re-pack the car, fill up the tank and hit the road one more time. 
    The first stop this time is our neighbor to the east, Delaware — specifically the Cape May Lewes Ferry.
    How many of you have actually been across? Okay, not many. It is basically the best way to get from Lewes, Del., to Cape May, N.J. — he best way regarding time and sights.  It offers great water views and is much more relaxing than driving that distance.

    The terminal itself is a nice place. There’s a food court, video games, a souvenir shop, a bar and grill and entertainment on the deck during the summer.  And you’ll find plenty of free parking.
    Even if you have no real reason to go to Cape May, the ride makes for a great day trip. The ferries operate year-round but offer more crossings in summer.

    There are five ships.  (Don’t call it a boat.) The crossing is about 90 minutes with smooth waters— something that is never guaranteed. I took this journey not long ago on one of those lazy days of summer.  I loved it. 
    Prices vary with time of year. Oh, by the way, the terminal is said to be haunted. (See cmlf.com.)
    Let’s turn the car back to the south, hop on Interstate 81 and head to Roanoke, Va. The city lies between the Blue Ridge Mountains on the west and the Alleghenies on the east.  It is the 10th largest city in Virginia. 
    It was originally known as the Big Lick, named for the salt deposits. At one time it was a very important link in the railroad industry, when the Norfolk & Western had its headquarters here.
    Interesting museums include the Eleanor Wilson Museum at Hollins University, the Harrison Museum of African American Culture, the History Museum of Western Virginia, the O. Winston link, the Taubman Museum of Art, the Science Museum and the Virginia Museum of Transportation.
    There’s also a zoo, albeit small, as well as the City Market, a minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox that plays nearby, shopping in quaint stores on streets like Campbell and Market Square and on occasion symphony, ballet, theatre and opera. Big attractions, like the circus, play at the Civic Center.  For lodging, I like the Hotel Roanoke, a Double Tree by Hilton Hotel, probably the best property in the city.
     It was originally built in 1881 as a railroad property of the Norfolk & Western. It was at that time a centerpiece of the railroad’s development of the city.  It has 331 rooms, an outdoor pool with hot tub and jacuzzi, fitness center and a pedestrian bridge connecting it to downtown.  It is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and on Virginia’s Landmarks Register.  (See visitvablueridge.com.)
    Roanoke is known as the Star City. There’s a good reason for that. On Mill Mountain stands a giant star, 1,000 feet above the city, that is lit every night as a symbol of the progressive spirit of the city.
    We’re now making a right turn and heading east. We’ll be staying along the Allegheny range but moving to Bath County.  Here, we’ll be stopping at The Homestead in Hot Springs, a 4-star hotel covering about 3,000 acres with 483 rooms. The first building was a wooden structure built in 1766.  A fire destroyed the main building in 1901.  With the new construction, a tower was added in 1928.  The tower has become the logo of the resort.
    Today, the resort is owned by Omni Hotels and Resorts.  It has known its share of history. It has been visited by 22 presidents as well as heads of state, show business folks and little ol’ me.  The name comes from the word “homesteaders,” basically the people who established and developed the resort.
    If you like golf, one very good idea is to get one of the golf packages. Eight national championships have been held here.  The “Old Course” has the oldest first tee in continuous use in the country.  
    Golf, however, is just one of many activities, which include archery, indoor and outdoor swimming, a gun club, horseback riding, kayaking, canoeing, a kids club, walking trails, skiing and a spa. 
    The concierge can make all the sports reservations and all your dinner reservations. There are also daily hotel tours at 10 am.   For retail, there are nine outlets off the Great Hall.
    For dining, there are eight dining locations.  Most guests opt for the more formal main dining room for breakfast and dinner, or Sam Snead’s across the street, described as a “gastro pub.”
    Rates vary with time of year and location of room.  You can select from the European Plan or the Modified American Plan.   The Homestead is indeed one of America’s finest resorts. (See thehomestead.com.)
    We’ll be making one more stop on this trip, and this one is in our backyard. We’re now arriving at Fort McHenry to hop aboard a boat ride that is new this summer — the New Fort McHenry Boat Ride, a Star-Spangled Experience — a 45-minute narrated tour on a special water taxi vehicle that leaves dockside every Saturday and Sunday from the outer perimeter of the fort, with hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 
    You’ll learn some history about what happened there in September 1814, a little about the battle of Baltimore and the fort.  The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 3-10. 
    At the conclusion of the tour, you’ll find yourself at the fort, so you might as well walk in.  The experience was created in partnership with the Friends of Fort McHenry, Baltimore Water Taxi, Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine and supported by a grant from the Maryland War of 1812 Commission’s Star-Spangled 200 Grant Fund. (See friends offortmchenry.org.)
    Time to rest until the next adventure. See you then — and don’t be late.   
•Eddie Applefeld is a longtime Baltimore radio personality who can be heard on WCBM and WNST.