A month or so ago, we realized we were going to have a string of days without obligations and we decided it was a good excuse to take a mini-vacation. The only parameters we put around our planning were these: stay within our budget, plan for 4 overnights, do a good combination of resting and sight-seeing.
We had a book some friends had given us that listed Bed & Breakfast Inns all over the country which would honor a coupon for one free night, Bed & Breakfasts and Country Inns (http://www.iloveinns.com/ ). So we decided to first pick a destination and then work "backwards" with the accommodation plans.
We decided to visit Monticello in Charlottesville, VA, as we do love to see historical sites and neither of us had ever been there. We had heard they just opened a brand new Visitor's Center this year--there was a nice write-up in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on May 17. We were not disappointed! But more on that later.
What I found was many of the B&B's listed in the book have specified availability dates for getting the free night. So I did have to do some searching to find one that would honor the coupon since after Memorial Day seems to be the beginning of peak vacation season.
All the B&B's anywhere near Monticello were pricey, and I couldn't find a single one that would honor the coupon. So I looked over our route, and determined we would stay two nights in Charlottesville, and we would have to find another place to stay the first two nights where we could get the one free night. We took a chance on the Quill Haven Country Inn in Somerset, PA, about 3 hours from home. (http://www.quillhaven.com/).
This place was a real treat, and we highly recommend it to anyone. Innkeeper Carol Miller met us at the door and made us feel welcome right away. We told her we basically just wanted to rest for a couple days, and we knew we had found the perfect place. The circa 1918 home set back from the street on a beautiful and well cared for piece of property. It had a keyless entry system so we could come and go as we pleased without fear of inconveniencing anyone. We also enjoyed the outdoor whirlpool while we were busy relaxing!
Much to our surprise, we realized there were several important things we wanted to see while in Somerset:
1) Flight 93 National Memorial. The site of the crash of the hijacked plane is only about a dozen miles from the B&B. While there is only a temporary memorial right now, a permanent one is being planned. I cried when I signed the guest book as it was very emotional to witness the place where so many innocent people lost their lives. Very touching to say the least. Tax deductible contributions for the permanent memorial can be made at http://www.honorflight93.org/ .
2) Quecreek Mine Rescue Site. I well remember the national news coverage of the miraculous rescue of nine coal miners on July 28, 2002, so we were surprised to stumble into the location of the rescue, just 5 miles down the road from the B&B. The building of a memorial park is in progress, and again, it was with a sense of awe and emotion to realize what had taken place here, as the lives of ordinary people became world-wide headlines. (http://www.quecreekrescue.org/ )
3) Johnstown Flood Museum. Roughly 30 miles from the B&B, in Cambria County, we visited this very interesting museum that remembers over 2200 lives that were lost in the great flood of 1889. We learned a great deal about life before and after the flood, saw actual artifacts that were recovered, and watched an Academy Award-winning documentary of the event. The museum is operated by the Johnstown Area Heritage Association. (http://www.jaha.org/ )
4) Heritage Discovery Center. While in Johnstown, we spent some time in this museum also. It basically tells the story of how Johnstown was rebuilt after the flood by immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe who settled there in the late 1800's. The interactive nature of the museum brought it all to life and it wasn't hard to visualize what the daily lives of those people must have been like. We found ourselves feeling grateful to the folks who care enough to preserve the memory of the heritage of the building of America. (http://www.jaha.org/ )
While I realize that everyone's idea of "vacation" is not the same as ours, this leg of our little trip was not only a much needed get-away, but a step back into a heartland area where ordinary, people live, love, and work day in and day out. A coal mining town that would probably never have been much noticed but for the historic events its people have endured, Somerset is now a popular stopping place off the PA Turnpike, exit 110. We are so glad we decided to visit here.
And before I close this out, I want to mention an eating place where the food was just out of this world. The Pine Grill Restaurant (www.pinegrill.com ) is right off the Turnpike Exit 110, at 800 N. Center Avenue in Somerset. I highly recommend their lasagna. It's more "cheesey" than "saucey", is baked, and the portions are large and the price is very reasonable. Their tossed salad with home made dressings are excellent, too. So if you're driving on the Turnpike in southwestern PA and it's lunch or dinner time, hop off and grab a bite to eat here. If you're tired and need a place to stay, drive up the road a mile or so and see Carol at the Quill Haven Bed and Breakfast. (Her breakfasts were great, too!) And please tell her I sent you!
Next: off to Charlottesville, VA