Why I Traveled: A Staff Writer Reflects on a Peculiar Year
By Kurt Jacobson
Senior Travel Writer
We travel writers get around and see fantastic places that provide much to share. Often we write up these travels in an end-of-the-year story titled Where I Went This Year. This year I’ve changed it to, Why I Traveled in 2021.
The reasons I traveled in 2021 were to meet interesting people, support the tourist industry, expand my world, explore new places, and reaffirm why I love life. It’s also tons of fun to travel, but you already knew that.
Since Covid reared its ugly head in early 2020, so much has changed in our world I thought it was appropriate to explain why I went to places throughout the year 2021. The tourist industry has suffered serious financial losses due to Covid.
My wife and I did our best to travel and spend to support businesses that feed, house, and entertain the traveling public. As I look back on our travels in 2021, there are many reasons why we hit the road.
January and February were a time to stay at home, waiting for better weather to travel.
When March brought warmer weather we were finally ready to hit the road. Our first trip was a short drive up to Kennett Square, Pennsylvania to visit Longwood Gardens, one of the coolest places in the Mid-Atlantic.
Pierre S. Dupont was one of the most powerful people of the 20th century and headed the Dupont Corporation and General Motors. Pierre saved a parcel of land that was to be logged of its precious trees and set about designing one of America’s greatest gardens.
Longwood Gardens showcases some of the original trees, the main water fountain that rivals the fountains at Las Vegas’ Bellagio, a conservatory, Italian water garden, open-air theater, and other features. Longwood is an all-season attraction.
March Road Trips
Later in March, we took a short trip for a staycation at the opulent Ivy Hotel in Baltimore. The Ivy is one of the most gorgeous hotels I’ve seen in all of my travels.
The stay made us feel as if we had traveled far away to a land of luxury for top-notch spa treatments, dining, and even afternoon tea.
Our last trip in March was to Loudoun County, Virginia, for wine and BBQ. We grabbed delicious BBQ from Jule’s BBQ food truck at Paige’s Pit Stop before heading to Casanel Vineyards and Winery.
The combination of Jule’s BBQ and a glass of Red Spark at Casanel is hard to beat.
Spring Has Sprung
In April, we found the doors wide open for traveling to Denver and onto Grand Junction. My family was finally able to hold a memorial for my father who passed away months earlier. We rented a large Air BnB with views of the Colorado National Monument.
In mid-May, family duty called again as I flew to Alabama to visit my 101-year-old aunty. Fairhope is a lovely town known for its artist and writers. I love hanging out in Fairhope for walks along Mobile Bay, excellent restaurants, and time with my Aunt Jule.
May held another trip as my wife and I drove to Woodstock, Virginia, to investigate rumors of an excellent café. The town of Woodstock is in the famous Shenandoah Valley and proved to be a great place to explore.
“Our Soldier’s Cemetery”
Our Woodstock trip held many surprises like the Mount Jackson “Our Soldiers Cemetery” and its copious rebel flags covering the ground. Love or hate this flag, it’s rare to see such a display in the age of Confederate statue removals all over the south.
The next surprise was Luray Caverns. We had set out to drive Shenandoah National Park on our second day in the area but were met with fog so thick high up in the park that we turned around. On the way down the mountains, we decided to stop in at Luray Caverns. What looked like a cheesy tourist trap, turned out to be totally cool underground caverns.
Based on the amazing meals we had at the Wood stock Café, excellent wines at nearby vineyards, and the natural attractions, I highly recommend seeing this part of Virginia.
Few folks seem to know that Kennett Square is the Mushroom Capital of the World. As a chef and travel writer, I’m drawn to this mushroom culture and visit often. Before Covid, I would sometimes provide chef services to Phillips Mushrooms in the form of cooking demos.
Covid squelched that cooking gig, but I often go to Kennett Square for the scenic drive and to purchase prized mushrooms. I recommend avoiding I-95 and taking Route 1 from Bel Air, MD to Kennett Square if you’re coming from the south. To taste Kennett’s mushroom culture, try Portabellos or Talula’s Table restaurants; both are on State Street.
July brought fresh produce and Chesapeake Bay crabs, two good reasons to visit Easton, Maryland. With my brother and his wife visiting us, we took an overnight trip to the Eastern Shore. We stayed at the venerable Tidewater Inn to put us in walking distance to most everything in town.
The morning after arriving in Easton, my brother joined me for a tour of Pop’s Old Place farm where I get most of my beef, lamb, and pork.
Co-owner Darlene Goehringer leads tours on select weekends that educate customers on how their meat is raised. It’s fun to watch kids introduced to the farm’s chickens, sheep, pigs, and cows on this free tour.
The last trip of July found us supporting the arts by going to a concert at Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts, a National Park! The group, War and Treaty gave a heart-felt concert to remember.
Hot August Trips
August found us taking trips near and far. The close-by trips included the Sunflower Festival at Mary’s Land Farm near Ellicott City and the SS John W. Brown Liberty Ship near Baltimore. The big trip was a drive to Maine for a four-night stay in the mid-coast area.
The drive-up to Maine was interesting due to hurricane Henri bearing down on the region.
Four blissful days were spent eating lobster rolls, hiking, shopping, and sightseeing from Damariscotta to Camden. The tourist industry was faring much better on this trip compared to the summer of 2020. Shops and restaurants were busy, and we were happy to help spend our way through the area.
Bigger Better Travel
September brought the opportunity for a big road trip to Colorado. With my dog Sophie as co-pilot, we drove to Hebron, Nebraska for a two-day rest at my brother’s home, then onward to Denver. Our first stop in Colorado was Golden’s Clear Creek Park. There we met my mentee Brandan for a cool off in the creek. Sophie was ecstatic to play in the cool water of Clear Creek, and I was happy to wade in to soothe my hot feet.
My wife flew into Denver the next day. I picked her up and drove to Boulder for lunch at Centro on the Pearl Street Mall. Fort Collins was our destination where we rented a rustic Air BnB cottage.
We spent our days walking the town, hiking mountain trails, eating well, and took a long drive up Cameron Pass.
The 2020 Cameron Peak Fire burnt around 200,000 acres of forest, making it Colorado’s worst ever. We saw miles of destruction but emerged up high in the remaining healthy forest and took a couple of hikes in the trees then let Sophie swim in a high mountain lake before heading back to town.
We closed out the year with trips to Santa Barbara and Charleston, SC. Both were fabulous for food, wine, attractions, and fun. In Los Alamos, California, we ate breakfast at Bob’s Well Bread, one of the best bakeries in the US. While standing in line to place our order, I met Sarah Love Nickel who works at Stolpman Vineyards and asked lots of questions about her winery.
That conversation led to a visit to Los Olivos, which might now be my favorite wine town on the planet. We tasted wines at Tercero, Story of Soil, and Stolpman in this tiny but fun-packed tiny town.
At Stolpman, our last wine stop, I spied a tall distinguished-looking man about 60ish greeting the customers. When Tom Stolpman found out I was a travel writer, he asked, “If you could spare 20 minutes for a tour of my property, I can take you there in a few minutes.” We were all in!
Tom treated us to a tour of the vineyard in an oversized 4-wheel-drive ATV telling us stories of the land. He said, “I swore I’d never owned a winery, but that changed.” He used to be satisfied with operating the vineyard and selling his grapes until the lure of making his own wine grabbed him. Since 2009 his son Peter has run the company since Tom’s a full-time attorney. And boy do they make some great wine.
I am hopeful this Omicron variant will let up in the next month or two and make travel plans for 2022. Owning a restaurant, tourist attraction, or winery might look like great fun and lots of profits, but I know better. These businesses are hurting and need our support.