Venturing Outside the Beltway

People in D.C. talk about “life inside the Beltway,” the I-495 loop that encircles Washington and the closest-in Maryland and Virginia suburbs. The term is usually used to describe a geographical bubble inside which conversation leans to politics and topics that have little interest elsewhere.

Being dependent solely on public transportation, I don’t venture out much into the immediate environs just outside the Beltway. I’ve been hiking plenty of times in the further-out rural areas, getting rides with friends or with local outdoors clubs, but not to areas just slightly out of reach.

So it was really fun to head out with some women friends today to Howard County, which is northwest of where I live and closer to Baltimore than to D.C. Our destination was the Sheep and Wool Festival at the county fairgrounds.

There must have been hundreds of stalls selling all colors and textures of yarn along with samples of finished shawls, sweaters and socks and patterns for making them at home. I didn’t have any illusions of being able to actually complete such projects — I still have an unfinished prayer shawl that I’ve been knitting for the past couple of years — so I just admired those who do take that time and effort.

Of course, they also had all kinds of lamb dishes for sale, and I enjoyed a version of sloppy Joes on a bun. That and a couple of cookie cutters (they’re used for felting projects, I’m told) and a cute maaaaaather’s day card were my only purchases. But if was so much fun walking around on a lovely spring day.

I brought my bike and so enjoyed taking off to explore some back-country roads nearby, cycling up and down the rolling hills and by new, modern mansions that sit side by side with horse farms and cow fields. The bike trails all around D.C. are fine for getting out for a spin, but there’s nothing like the more freeing feeling of cycling around an area and just choosing roads to turn onto on a whim and admire changing landscapes.

Imagine my surprise and delight to come upon High’s Dairy, a Baltimore-based chain of convenience stores that so remind me of Stewart’s in northeastern New York. I popped my head in and saw the ice cream cases right away, and ordered a milkshake; it was quite the ordeal as it was the first time the employee of 4 months had made one, but it came out delicious.

After returning to the fairgrounds and meeting up again with Barbara and Cynthia, they were ready for an early supper and suggested we drive a little ways up the road to Sykesville, a charming village that retains some of its 19th-century heritage in the architecture and railroad tracks running right through it. We sat out on a porch at Baldwin Station, a restaurant right along a river. A delightful way to end the day.

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About mariannedc

I just moved from Albany, NY, to the Washington, DC, area and many friends and former co-workers want to hear about my life here. So this seemed like a great way to do that.
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