Plan A was an excellent plan. I had learned from the 2013 Million Bees Roadtrip if I leave Portland at 7:30 am and drive steady on, the timing works perfectly to miss rush hour traffic in any major metropolitan area all the way to Washington DC. Plan A was to make this drive on Friday May 15, 2015. As the saying goes, man plans and God laughs.
The nucleus colonies I am going to get need to be inspected by the West Virginia state apiary inspector before they can change hands. As I was making preparations two days before the 15th we received word at The Honey Exchange the inspector was unavoidably delayed and our pickup would have to wait a week, till Memorial Day weekend. I should have made a new plan but I really liked Plan A. It had me passing through the D.C. area with a little cushion of much-needed leisure time when I could stop and see my sister, who lives in Arlington, and drop in on my friends Karla and George, who live in Gainesville, and pick up some of their wonderful honey.
I got a late start. I had to use the trailer to take our old microwave to the dump. It had been tossed unceremoniously on the side lawn after the fire three weeks before and the neighbors were starting to talk. And I was able to secure a glazed chocolate donut from the Cookie Jar for good luck. I don’t think an earlier start would have saved me; I’ve lived near the small city of Portland so long I’d forgotten what big city holiday traffic really means. But we’ve covered that subject and I shan’t speak of it again.
Saturday I awoke in Fairfax, Virginia to a gorgeous early summer day. Over a cup of exceedingly bad hotel room coffee it was time to reinvent my plan.
Let me provide a bit of family background before I go further: My brothers and sisters grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, where our parents still live. We are now scattered about as far as a family can scatter. I have a brother in Texas, my sister Cathy lives in Arlington, and my other sister lives in Uganda. [For my Maine readers, that is in Africa. So many Maine towns are named for other places one might reasonably believe there is a Uganda, Maine. I assure you there is not.] It might seem like we were all getting as far from our parents as possible but it simply comes down to genetic wanderlust. We are a wonderfully loving family, if not demonstrably so. We suffer from (as Strother Martin once put it) “a failure to communicate.”
So when my sister learned via Facebook I was within miles of her in Virginia, she sent me a quizzical text. I explained I was cobbling together a plan and we arranged to meet for a proper cup of coffee then go see George together.
You may remember Plan A involved seeing Karla, who is married to George. As my bad luck would have it Karla had to be out of town this weekend for an astoundingly dull sounding conference on qualitative research, the subject of her day job. I know Karla as a beekeeper, and she’s an amazing one. I met her through the friend of a friend who went to college with Karla. We connected on-line and it turned out she was already a friend of my beekeeper friend, Erin. Karla seems to have a supernatural ability to meet people and she has impressed the beekeeping world locally, through her involvement with the Prince William Regional Beekeepers Association, nationally through the Eastern Apicultural Society, and even internationally at the British Beekeepers Association. Her hives make delightful honey but more importantly Karla makes nucleus colonies, and she teaches others about how this is the future of sustainable beekeeping.
I was sad to miss Karla but I’ll always gladly go out of my way to spend some time with George. George seems to have lived his life by his credo, “If it ain’t fun I ain’t doing it,” and has achieved the rank of raconteur. He spent his formative years as a horseman, has traveled extensively, and now spends part of his time as a beekeeper and part of his time as a winegrower. He manages the vineyards for the Winery at Bull Run and Cathy and I were eager to spend a beautiful day visiting there.
We stopped in at Karla and George’s home to pick up a case of Backyard Farms honey for the Honey Exchange and were treated to a walk around some of the hives and the gardens at said backyard, and an hour or so of lively conversation on the screened porch surrounded by a truly flawless Virginia summer day.
Then he took us over to the winery. I found it remarkable how one person after another locked eyes and exclaimed, “George!” and came to him for a hearty two-handed handshake or a big hug. Apparently it is impossible to not love George. He showed us around the grounds, treated us to a few tastes of delicious wine, toured us around the winemaking facility and brought us up to the vaunted General’s Club that overlooks the breathtaking and sprawling property at Bull Run.
After a perfectly relaxing and congenial afternoon I bade farewell to my fine company and drove off in the bright sunshine with the GPS pointed toward Shepherdstown, West Virginia. I fell back in love with the landscape and have a feeling my luck there can only improve.