Driving Through Dixie, Part 4
From Lynchburg to Arlington, Virginia
We pulled out of Lynchburg just after 10 a.m. on a mostly sunny, pleasant day. Traffic was surprisingly light and we enjoyed the drive through Virginia’s heavily wooded, rolling hills and occasional stretches of pastureland. This is horse country and wine country. Here and there, the state
|Casey and Caroline in his new loft|
|Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo
It was 60 miles to Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia. UVA is the alma mater of our son, Casey, and his girlfriend of two years, Caroline Cardon. We were northbound on U.S. 29 and thankfully were largely routed around the bustling town and its extremely congested traffic. The southbound lanes were not so fortunate as opposing traffic was backed up for several miles, possibly because of the widening of a small stretch of road. Oddly, the speed limit on U.S. 29 is only 55 or 60 mph despite the excellence of the four-lane, divided highway.
We paid $2.19 a gallon to fill the gas tank at a Sheets station in nearby Culpeper, part of a small chain with an amusing name. Culpeper is the Virginia town where my late mother’s family, the Fords, left in the early 1800s to settle in the southwestern part of the state now called West Virginia. One of my ancestors, John Ford, is buried in a small cemetery at Culpeper. The Daughters of the American Revolution placed a marker on his grave in the 1950s to honor his service in the Revolutionary War.
It is interesting how the family history cycle continues and repeats itself. Casey spent four years at Charlottesville and now lives in Arlington. Betty and I lived at Triangle, Virginia for nearly a year when I was stationed at the Marine Corps base at Quantico. We frequently drove through Arlington to visit Washington, D.C. in 1968-69. In late 1970, my father was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Later, I spent a fair amount of time in Washington when I had government relations responsibilities for Schering-Plough Consumer Operations and related organizations from 1984 until I left the company in 1996.
Traffic grew ever busier the closer we got to Washington. Betty and I marveled at the development of office parks and expensive housing around Manassas, which was mainly pastureland when we lived nearby more than 35 years ago. We spent many enjoyable hours poking around the then-rural countryside on a Lambretta motor scooter. We both remember the farmhouse rooftops giving evidence of a very active and successful seller of lightning rods and also the prevalence of horses on the farmland.
We got on I-66 East near Gainesville, Virginia. Washington’s Metro rail and subway is extending its reach far out into the now-booming, distant suburbs. Tracks and stations are being installed in the broad median strip that separates the multiple lanes running north and south. A paved bike lane (supposedly extends more than 20 miles out from the District of Columbia) is on the east side of the interstate. The asphalt lane is screened from the highway by plantings and concrete noise barriers. Lights are made to look like street lamps of the early 20th Century. New homes in these suburban communities sell for $800,000 and up and sometimes way up - despite the hour-long commute.
We arrived in Arlington at 2:45 p.m., 3 ˝ hours after we pulled out of Lynchburg, Casey’s directions made it easy. We got off I-66 at the Glebe-Fairfax exit and drove about a mile on Fairfax Boulevard to our meeting point, a Hess gas station several blocks from his apartment building at 1200 North Herndon.
Casey’s company, Clark Capital Realty Investment, developed
|Betty (left), Casey & Caroline on concrete floor|
|Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo
At Casey’s building, underground parking is provided at no charge. A second, assigned space rents for $200 a month. Some of the late model, luxury cars parked behind the locked entry doors are covered with dust, evidence that their owners have them as second vehicles or ride the Metro subway to and from work. The underground station is less than a half block away. The building carries the name of the neighborhood, The Clarendon. Its amenities include 24-hour security/reception service, a pool and a well-equipped fitness center.
Casey’s apartment is on the 5th floor. It is quite modern, built to appeal to Casey’s age and income demographic. The open stairs to the loft bedroom and bathroom are made of maroon-painted steel and would look at home in a factory. A closet to house a washer and dryer plus a second, walk-in closet are upstairs. The heating and air conditioning ductwork is suspended from the ceiling in the full glory of polished sheet metal.
The concrete of the main floor is unfinished (Casey negotiated installation of carpeting in his upstairs sleeping area). The apartment is quite spacious and the loft architecture provides the sense and reality of a lot of open space. The kitchen is equipped with high quality appliances and a high counter that serves as a breakfast area. A small, windowless room on the ground floor could serve as a guestroom or home office. The ground floor also has a bathroom with tub-and-shower.
Casey has purchased several rugs for his living/dining area and I’m sure he will buy some runners for the long stretches of bare concrete hallway. The furniture Betty bought to furnish his first place in Palm Desert, Calif., about seven years ago is showing its age. He plans to replace most of it. Three striking paintings by his girlfriend decorate one of the living area walls. Caroline lives with another young woman in an apartment building a couple of miles away. Some of Casey’s artwork and posters with special meaning that he collected over the years are also displayed on the walls.
Missing is a signed print of a painting made at our favorite golf course at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Miss. It was among the stuff that went missing on Casey’s move from Santa Barbara, Calif., to Boston three years ago. He had been working as a project manager for Clark Construction at nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base when he decided to pursue an MBA degree. With his academic prowess and business experience (plus some rave recommendations written by people he worked for and with), Casey was admitted to Harvard Business School. He graduated in 2004 and went to work for a company affiliated with his former employer.
Casey left work early to greet us and escort us to his apartment from the Hess gas station meeting place. He and Betty went out to buy some food at a fancy, organic grocery near his building. They paid about double the price charged by Kroger and other food chains. With scullery help from me, Betty cooked a delicious dinner of Chicken Tenders Schnitzel, roasted asparagus, Caesar salad and brought-from-home Pound Cake and Tiger’s Milk Cookies. Caroline joined us for the meal and some delightful conversation after dinner, making for a very pleasant evening. She is a beautiful and charming young woman we like a lot. She’s twice stayed in our home and we look forward to seeing her more often.
Caroline, whose neatness about her person seems to mirror that quality of Betty, feels the same way we do about the unfinished concrete floors. In the face of the three-way onslaught from the people he most loves, Casey may back off his fascination with the “construction site” décor of his floors and make some improvements. The fact that the developer didn’t finish the floors with tile and carpeting says a lot about the Washington area real estate market, where demand has outrun supply for several years.