FLYING NEAR SHENANDOAH
By Andrea Sachs
WHAT: In a Piper Cub built for two, you can behold the changing leaves from the top down--almost 2,000 feet above the Virginia countryside. No traffic, air or otherwise: Just you, the birds and the pilot drifting in blue space above a red-and-gold panorama.
BEST FOR: Plane folks and other air-o-philes; bird's-eye-view voyeurs who like to spy on their neighbors; adventurers of the Amelia Earhart variety; and city types sick of ground-level traffic and want the earth and the sky all to themselves.
|Click on the picture to see the original article.|
Who should be grounded: Anyone who can relate to Erica Jong's book "Fear of Flying" (for different reasons, that is) or freaks out in small, tight spaces where the walls feel as if they're closing in, closer, closer . . .
THE PEEPING: Harold "Bo" Bogert flies with one hand on the wheel, leaving the other free to point out the sights. "You can see everything from the air," says the former United pilot, flapping his arm from side to side as he points out areas of interest 2,000 feet below.
We are soaring in a 1945 Piper Cub, with the Virginia countryside spread out before us like a topographic map. We pass over unkempt battlefields near Manassas and plowed horse farms in Fredericksburg, regal estates sitting aloof on hilltops and cheery suburban yards in need of a good raking. But best of all are the copses of trees stretching from Route 66 to the Shenandoah foothills and off into the horizon.
During our 60-mile loop of the neighborhood, we both sit snugly inside the Cub, shoehorned into a vessel as narrow as a canoe. But the quarters still feel spacious and peaceful. Through the skylit roof, we watch the clouds shuffle overhead. There is little noise, only Bogert's occasional, muffled narration through the headsets and the hypnotic drone of the engine, which is no louder than an old-model lawn mower. He offers a running commentary of the scene below: the spot where the Piper, hauling a robust passenger, once struggled to clear the horse jumps; the cornfield maze where children find themselves lost; the race track; and the well-manicured country club.
Bogert then circles over Kelly's Ford to show me the negligible tombstone of a young Civil War general. But I see only the trees. They seem to outnumber the homes, with the red rash of foliage camouflaging barns, stables and the muddy Rappahannock River.
We never reach the Shenandoah foothills, due to the whimsy of the wind. Too bad, since another pilot had earlier told me about a party trick local fliers like to play: They head to Skyline Drive, zipping over the peaks and ridges, then lower their wings to wave hello to the cars snarled in traffic. The drivers usually wave back, since they have nothing better to look at.
DETAILS: Bogert offers rides by appointment in his World War II-era Piper Cub, departing from the Flying Circus near Bealeton, Va., off Route 17 about 14 miles south of Warrenton. Though a lot depends on the wind and weather, foliage fliers can suggest sights or regions they would like to see. Cost: $120 an hour. Info: 800-579-7245.
LODGING: You can wave to the innkeepers as you fly by the Inn at Kelly's Ford (16589 Edwards Shop Rd., Remington, Va., 540-399-9980; www.innatkellyford.com). Located on the historic battleground, the inn offers dining under the stars, a pub, horseback riding and other earth-bound activities. Rates range from $175 for a room in the house to $200 for a cottage suite, breakfast included. Nearby Warrenton also has a smattering of accommodations, from the luxurious Black Horse Inn (8393 Meetze Rd., 540-349-4020, www.blackhorseinn.com; rates from $125) to the grittier Fantastico Inn (380 Broadview Ave., 540-349-2570, www.fantastico-inn.com; rates from $89), which also houses a Northern Italian restaurant and piano bar.
OTHER OPTIONS: For a quickie flight over fields and farms, opt for a 10-minute plane ride Sundays at the Flying Circus: $20 for a Cub, $40 for Stearman biplane, $80 for aerobatic (seat-belt your stomach) or two-person Waco. The Flying Circle is a one-hour drive from D.C., off Route 17 near Bealeton, Va.; look for the faded orange wind sock. Details: 540-439-8661, www.flyingcircusair.com.
Or, if seeing the foliage at a sloth's pace is more your speed, then go up in a hot-air balloon at sunrise or sunset. United Balloon Ventures leaves from Midland, Va., and goes wherever the wind blows. Cost: $350 for two for an hour. Details: 540-439-8621.
© 2000 The Washington Post Company