Some of my earliest memories of travel are less about a trip, more about a destination that my family frequented when I was young.  My father worked a ton of hours when I was growing up.  He would often leave before I woke up in the morning and come home long after I'd gone to sleep.  I always knew when we were about to embark on a trip because dad would dress more casually and his countenance would relax.  Of course his transformation had the opposite effect on me as I became an excited ball of energy.

Mystery trips, he used to call them.  He would come home and tell my mother and me that we were going on a trip, the length of the trip and for what weather we should pack but he would never tell us the location. That was the mystery.  My favorite mystery trips of all were those that took us about three hours west of my hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia, out into the Blue Ridge Mountains and a small resort called Wintergreen.

It is the drive that I remember most, which may seem strange.  I guess I remember the drive because it was the only element that remained constant as we always seemed to stay in a different house or condo.  I also remember the drive because it was generally at night.  Dad would get off of work early and we would set off straight away.  Somewhere around Richmond we would stop for a meal- usually burgers or barbecue.  After dinner it was straight back on the road again.  At some point roughly an hour after Richmond, I'd be expected to go to sleep.  Our old Jeep Wagoneer was spacious enough for me to stretch my small body out and get comfortable but the excitement often kept me up the entire ride.  I even remember the soundtrack as if it were yesterday.  My parents would listen to music a bit more folk oriented-- something like John Denver or Joan Baez-- to "get into the mountain mood".  Sometimes we just listened to a book on tape.  I have a particularly fond memory of listening to J.R.R. Tolkien's, Lord of the Rings.

Whether I managed to fall asleep or not, the stop at the Wintergreen guard gate with its bright lights always let me know we were near the end of the trip.  From that point on, I was allowed to sit up and enjoy the ride as we wound our way slowly up the mountain.  For added effect, the windows were rolled down to let the fresh mountain air sweep scents of evergreen and fall into the car.

Today, Wintergreen still stands and is in fact a much larger resort.  I have visited just twice in my adult life but still find the place remarkable.  The old guard gate still welcomes visitors at the bottom of the mountain and those same scents await other open windows.  I plan on going to Wintergreen again this coming fall.  Maybe I can even convince my parents to make the trip once more-- for old time's sake.  Somehow though, I feel like I will be the one driving while they are asleep in the back. 

Find out more about Wintergreen Resort at:

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    Brian Sonberg

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