Most of us have had to stay pretty close to home with just the occasional day trip to those outdoor events which are still open to the public – a public well-armed with masks, sanitizers and correct social distancing.
Yet there are some possibilities for relaxation and pleasure that are close, free and often unexpectedly beautiful.
The country drive, or what I call the rural ramble, is such an opportunity. And you don’t even have to plan this outing: it’s one activity that can be delightfully spontaneous. Just pick any sunny day, climb into your car and strike out on one of the many, many country back roads that wind and meander throughout our region.
Partway into the COVID-19 shut down I began taking these rambles. At first going for a drive was just an opportunity to get out of the house before I started to tear my hair out in frustration and boredom. All I originally wanted was some open space around me.
A car trip for me had usually been a journey, by the quickest possible route, to a job, an appointment, a necessary shopping expedition. I never especially noticed the countryside: I was too busy speeding through it.
I missed a lot.
Pick any country road around here and be prepared to take in some spectacular sights.
Deep country, watch farmers, some with near Rube Goldberg farm equipment, out gathering in the crops from the ripe fields. It’s fascinating to see how men and machinery work together. And if you have kids in the car, it’s a great chance to talk about where food actually comes from, and how the land looks after us all.
Expect delightful animal moments.
I was held up for some ten minutes on one drive while two adult wild turkeys and two small ones leisurely sauntered across a road, completely ignoring any and all car horns. Another time (on the way to Kemptville) I spotted a vigilant collie, standing like a bronze statue on top of a stack of hay bales, with dozens of sheep milling around below him. No question who was boss in that meadow.
Especially be sure to watch for the showcase gardens everywhere you travel. They alone are worth the drive. You’ll come across some tucked into the little “villages” you pass through (three buildings side by side and a stop sign!). Other gardens are set out in big fields surrounded by trees and ponds.
If nothing else, COVID-19 seems to have given people the time and encouragement to be very creative with their gardening this year. The flowers and fountains, the hedges and trees you drive by are really impressive, even a little whimsical. The same with the homes you pass in your travels. They can range from the comfortable old stone and timber farmhouses, which may have been in the family for generations, to new, and very unique architect’s dream houses.
Since we can’t know what will happen by November 11 this year, I have also taken the opportunity to visit some of our war memorials in the height of summer: they are peaceful, beautiful places, and you can actually take time to read the names on the monuments.
Should you start feeling a bit peckish on your journeys, perhaps drop into The Village Pantry in Spencerville for a cinnamon bun, or Loughlin’s Country Store in Hallville for the butter tarts. (No such thing as calories on a rural ramble.)
In short, you don’t actually have to go to trot the globe to take in some beautiful scenery. History and nature collide spectacularly right here in our own back yard.
Pick a day. Pick a road “less travelled” and head out on a rural ramble.