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Road Trips – Traverse City MI, Middleburg VA, Etc.

It’s been a busy month!

I’ve been a fan of Michelle Tock-Yorks ceramic sculpture since I discovered her 7 years ago and purchased my first piece. When I heard she was having a workshop in Traverse City I had to go, the only downside was the fact that it was at the end of March. I never want to go to Michigan in the winter but since she never does workshops I could not pass it up.

The trip up was uneventful, but the day of the workshop it snowed 7 inches. Thank heavens she decided not to cancel it and we had a great day watching her demonstrate then using some of her techniques to do some work of our own. By time time we were ready to leave the plows had been out, it was still snowing but the roads were clear enough for me to get back to my hotel once I got out of the parking lot. I remembered enough about getting stuck in snow to think to back into the parking spot. By the next day it was sunny and bright.

Here are two of her pieces I own, I love them!

There are some places I cant be wirhin 100 miles of and not visit. Its often just a drive – like the Tunnel of Trees north of Harbor Sorings, MI. Other places like that I can’t pass up are driving around Ocean Point near Boothbay Harbor, ME, driving ”around the lakes”, Devils and Round lakes where I grew up in southern Michigan. Driving down the Keys, Front Street in Beaufort, NC. To name a few. Some of that need to take these drives comes from my Dad. Like the Tunnel of Trees and driving around the lakes. Interesting what we inherit from our folks, from my dad, wandering, love of maps, interest in photography. From my Mom writing, obsession with paper, love of reading and researching, disorganization. Whenever I return to Michigan it it sends me off on a journey of nostalgia.

The trip home was not so great, I made it to Chicago but then next flight was delayed delayed delayed then cancelled. I had to fly to LaGuardia then home. Missed that flight too but did finally make it home at one in the morning, well to Rdu anyway, I was wired so ended up driving home and got there at about 3 am. The good part of it was I got to see the renovations they have done at LaGuardia, The last time I was there it looked like a bus depot. Now its beautiful.

I can’t seem to sit still for too long so I headed to Virginia a couple weeks later.

On the way up there we stopped in Norfolk to drop off my Shades of Green painting to a national show that takes place every year during Virginias Statewide Garden Week. I was honored to get in since there were 772 submissions from 39 states, 65 pieces were selected from 53 artists from 23 states! I haven’t entered shows like this in 25 years but since I’m kind of retired I thought it would be fun to try. I also entered a national juried show in Hilton Head, and my Charleston College Painting got in there as well!

Oil painting By Jan Francoeur at Bok Tower in Florida
Shades of Green Oil painting By Jan Francoeur at Bok Tower in Florida

I don’t know how Middleburg, Virginia got on my radar, or why it never got on my radar before, but My friends and I drove up there for a couple days, what a treat! The weird thing is ever since we moved here in 1989 and I visit family in Michigan, 95% of the time go to Fredricksburg, then go west through Winchester, to Berkley Springs , etc to Michigan. I’ve made this trip about 20 times.

So I’ve been very close to Middleburg, that many times but never knew any thing about it. What a neat town and the whole area is full of horse farms, neat side roads, old mills, stone fences, rolling hills, lots of wineries, and beautiful homes.

We could not have picked a better way to enter Upperville, we took Delaplane Grade off of Hwy 17 and the first thing we saw was Delaplane which consisted of these few buildings. Then as we headed north we were on this beautiful country, winding road.

Out of the blue we started seeing very large contemporary sculpture in a field. We hoped it was a public garden but it turns out it is a private collection that belongs to St. Brides Farm. We could not see all of the sculptures but could see a few of them.

We rented a vrbo in Upperville, a nice little cottage , 2 bedroom, 2 bath, with 3 beds.

Upperville is a tiny town with a population of 178, but it’s full of neat old buildings. And we were lucky that we just happened to be there when the red buds and dogwood were in bloom. The entire town of Upperville is a Virginia Historic Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  It is affectionately called the town that is “a mile long and an inch wide” because most of the houses line Route 50. 

Down the block from our house I saw this sign!

Middleburg is about 8 miles from Upperville, it has a beautiful main street lined with shops and restaurants. Many of the shops cater to the horsey crowd.

They were having a fund raiser called Foxes on the Fence. There were a bunch of painted foxes and rabbits! Proceeds benefit beautification projects and promote the arts for the Town of Middleburg.

We ate dinner at the Red Fox Inn, which was established in 1728, before the town itself was established. Some of the notable people that have dined there, besides us (!!) include President John F. Kennedy, who held a press conference in the upper Tavern and Jackie frequently overnighted there while on foxhunting holidays.

I always like taking photos of quirky signs.

We headed west on 50 and stopped in Paris and Millwood.

One of the nicest things was just riding through the countryside.

Another directional sign to add to my collection from The Plains.

The Aldie Mill was certainly worth a stop.

Built between 1807 and 1809, the Aldie Gristmill was once the largest factory of its kind in Loudoun County. The mill’s tandem metal waterwheels are operational and they offer grinding demonstrations certain times of the year. It was pretty impressive.

Our last evening was spent at the Hunters Head Tavern almost across the road from our cottage. It’s an authentic English Pub that serves local farm meats and produce harvested from neighboring Ayrshire Farm. The town of Upperville was founded by, and originally named for, Joseph Carr, a grandson of John Carr who had emigrated from Ireland to just south of Leesburg in the 1750’s. Joseph Carr purchased McPherson’s farm, mill and log cabin, and later opened a general store, the building that now houses the Tavern. He established the town of “Carrstown” in 1797, and eventually it was renamed Upperville, no one seems to know why.

Our dinner was great and the atmosphere lovely, and service outstanding. After packing up the next morning we took a leisurely drive south through Warrenton and Culpepper, stopping at a couple nice plant nurseries, down to Interstate 64 avoiding being on I-95 altogether. Two days later I was on the road again to visit my niece in Rock Hill, SC.

It was a quick trip. A stop along the way in Pinehurst, then Waxhaw. I haven’t been to Waxhaw in many years, wow, it’s really taken off.

I arrived in Rock Hill and got a major tour of the town. It has a population of 70,000+. The Downtown is not huge but it has some nice shops. The Center for the Arts had a nice display of abstract paintings and mixed media sculpture.

Right next door is a small museum (free) dedicated to Jail No Bail – How 30 Days impacted the Civil Rights Movement. In 1961, young African American students from Friendship Junior College in Rock Hill staged a sit-in at the segregated lunch counter of McCrory’s Five and Dime. These young men were immediately arrested after ordering their food and sentenced to pay a $100 fine each or spend 30 days in jail. They chose jail. Very interesting and sad commentary on civil rights in the USA.

We toured the White House where five generations of the White family lived between 1837 and 2005. Over the years, the home transformed from a one-room cottage into an eighteen-room, two story house. You can start your walking tour of the neighborhood and Downtown here.

I guess two thinks really stand out for me about Rock HIll is that there are 31 parks in the city, my nephew works for the Parks Department and says there are 200 employees in the Parks Dept. He currently oversees Glencarin Garden.

A gift of love, Glencairn Garden’s roots go back to 1928 when David and Hazel Bigger received a gift of a few azaleas from a friend. By 1940, the private garden at their residence, 725 Crest Street, was said to contain some 12,000 azaleas and camellias.

By 1958, Dr. David Bigger had passed away and his widow deeded Glencairn Garden to the City of Rock Hill. Then, under the expert direction of renowned landscape architect, Robert Marvin, Glencairn Garden was transformed into a botanical experience with thousands of azaleas, complete with a tiered fountain, Japanese footbridge, and trails passing beneath canopies of dogwood, stately oaks, cherry trees, Japanese maples, winding past camellias, crepe myrtles, day lilies, lily ponds and thousands of bulbs.

Refurbished in 2006, the Bigger House serves as the administrative office for the Come-See-Me festival and as an office for the York County Master Gardeners who offer garden services on Friday mornings during the warmer months of the year. It is a beautiful park more like a botanical garden and is free and open to the public.

It is beautiful with fountains, streams, and flower beds.

The other thing about Rock Hill is all of the outdoor and indoor sports venues and they seem to be adding more all the time.

Here are a few shots from my trip home, I always have to take the scenic route.

Whats next? It’s going to be a busy summer with a lot of traveling. My next small trip will be to go see the 28th Annual Sculpture in the Garden show in Hillsborough, NC. Then the next big trip in early June will be to the San Juan Islands, Bellingham, Seattle, Portland and the coast of Oregon. Oregon is the only state in the lower 48 that I have not been to!