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Cold and Colder: Touring Antietam by Topless Z4

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Cold and Colder: Touring Antietam by Topless Z4

Postby Rick F. » Mon Dec 13, 2010 11:52 pm

Touring by BMW (bike or car) is always a good thing to do. Even if the temperature is only 32 degrees. And even if, by car, you want the top down so that you can spot Interesting Stuff more easily. Thus, I set off on December 5 to see what I could find at the sites of two major Civil War battles (South Mountain and Sharpsburg, MD) as well as points East, South, and West, including such major cities as Jefferson, Lewis Mill, Broad Run, Burkittsville, Trego, and Mount Briar in Maryland, not to mention Shepherdstown, Kearneysville, Leetown, Gerrardstown, and Omps in West Virginia, and, just for good measure, Frog Hollow, Indian Hollow, Dicks Hollow, Harpers Hollow, Mountain Falls, Mount Pleasant, Hayfield, Gainesboro, and Silar in Virginia. I learned that not all of these places even exist any more, but the roads named after them live on.

As I went through Jefferson, MD, I remembered "discovering" an old mill on Catoctin Creek while riding my Yamaha 180 in 1968. Wondering if it was still standing, I headed for where I thought it had been, couldn't find it, tried again, and finally ended up on Poffenberger Road in the right vicinity. With a newly washed Z4, I was hoping that the road had been paved sometime within the last 42 years—but it hadn't.
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Lewis Mill was still standing, however, and had even received a fresh coat of paint a few days before. It's now owned by a well-respected potter and serves as her studio and the home of Catoctin Pottery. ("Catoctin," incidentally, is an Indian word meaning "much wildlife.")
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This little log springhouse stands just behind the mill owner's house.
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Catoctin Creek had more water in it than I would have guessed and did a nice job of reflecting the blue sky. The forecast called for partly cloudy and temperatures increasing to 43. 'Twas not to be.
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As I continued along the creek, I spotted several magnificent old houses that I did not recall from my teenage motorcycling and canoeing days in this area. (Maybe way back then they weren't considered "old"!)
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Eventually, I wound my way across Middletown Valley and to Burkittsville, MD—setting for the Blair Witch Project, in case anyone was wondering. Spook Hill sits just outside of the town and was working just fine: it pulled the Z4 backwards up the hill without a problem. I can't pass by here without stopping and trying it, although my hair no longer stands on end like it did the first couple of times I experienced this gravity-defying hill. The theory remains that ghosts of Civil War soldiers don't want you to stop in the middle of their battle site and will push your car out of the way.

At the top of South Mountain, I came to Crampton's Gap. In September 1862, it was the scene of one-third of the battle of South Mountain. Here, 500 Confederates held the Gap for a full day against 12,000 Union soldiers (honestly!). As many of you will remember, Lee's battle orders (wrapped around two cigars) had somehow fallen into Union General George B. McClellan's hands. McClellan, learning that Lee had split his forces, sent his troops in pursuit. Lee's scouts discovered their approach and placed a skeleton force along South Mountain to prevent them from crossing. At Crampton's Gap and three other passes, some of the fiercest fighting of the war took place.
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If it hadn't been for the Battle of Antietam three days later, the Battle of South Mountain could well have been famous, since it was the first engagement during Robert E. Lee's first incursion into the North. At South Mountain, the Confederate casualties totaled 2,685, while the Union's were 2,325. Antietam, of course, was the single deadliest day of fighting during the entire Civil War, with 28,000 total casualties. Without the time gained at South Mountain, Lee would not have been able to reunite his forces in time for Antietam, and the war might have ended then and there.


Today, Crampton's Gap is the setting for Gathland State Park. One of the best Civil War correspondents, George Alfred Townsend, used the pen name "Gath." In 1884 he bought land and built an estate consisting of as many as 20 stone and wooden structures. Several of them still stand and are used for the visitors' center and other park functions. Gath also built this dramatic monument to war correspondents:
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In this photo, George Alfred Townsend is pictured at the left, with David Gray (a poet and editor) on the right, and some fellow named Mark Twain in the middle.
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The scaffolding used to build the monument may not have quite met today's OSHA standards… Perhaps as a result of the risky nature of the scaffolding, the workers appear to have had excellent balance!
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Here's is what's left today of Gath's 14-stall barn. It once featured a raised front porch that offered a great view of both Middletown Valley to the East and Hagerstown Valley to the West.
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As I descended South Mountain on the West side, I passed by so many scenic lanes, houses, fences, and streams, that I made only about 2 miles progress in the space of an hour. Here are just a few of the sights I enjoyed:
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I'd toured the Antietam Battlefield many times over the years, but I was anxious to get an HDR photo of Burnside's Bridge. To get there, you drive by the Sherrick Farm. If you look carefully, you can see the stone foundation of Sherrick's barn in the background.
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In this Alexander Gardner photograph of Sherrick's Farm, the full barn is visible.
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While hiking down the hillside to Burnside's Bridge, I remembered to call my friend Greg to wish him happy birthday. We had a good chat, while I noticed that snow was beginning to fall! So much for my bright, clear day and rising temperatures… Greg, who is quite a photographer, urged me to get a good shot of the bridge. So what do you think, Greg?
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This modern painting by John Paul Strain shows what the battle action may have looked like from approximately the same vantage point.
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As a youngster on a canoe trip down the Antietam with my brother and father, I sat on the bank next to Burnside's Bridge, digging into the ground in search of Civil War bullets. I failed to find any but uncovered a Union belt buckle instead. Nowadays, of course, any such prospecting is strictly forbidden.
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The bridge was named after Union Gen. Ambrose Burnside, shown here in a Matthew Brady photograph with his trademark whiskers. (And now you know where the expression "sideburns" comes from—seriously!)
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In this photo, four Union soldiers are standing on the bridge, following Lee's retreat back into Virginia.
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Burnside's Bridge was open to traffic through about 1930. Remember that Yamaha 180 I mentioned? Back in 1968, when no one was looking, my buddy Lew and I rode our matching bikes across the bridge and back. On my visit in the Z4, it might have been tempting (but there were park rangers all over the place).
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An awful lot of the old historic bridges in this area have been destroyed or heavily damaged by floods. Burnside's Bridge is an exception, thankfully, despite any number of inundations.
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As I was leaving the battlefield, I noticed this tree and stone wall. Not something you see every day!
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I crossed over into West Virginia at Shepherdstown and enjoyed the scenery between there and Kearneysville, including this barn that would never be visible in spring or summer…
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…and this once-stately home that has fallen on hard times (but appears to be a useful shelter for Assorted Junk).
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A little farther on, near Leetown, I happened across Prato Rio, the home of General Charles Lee. Lee had been a general in the British Army before throwing his hat in with the Colonial Army for the Revolutionary War. I believe that he built the stone part of the mansion in about 1774, with the log cabin part having been built as far back as 1731-1733 by Han Yost Heydt.
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Old homes were everywhere in this part of West Virginia. This one didn't look totally hopeless until I walked around to the side.
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Shortly after crossing into Virginia, I found this once-handsome home sitting at the foothills of North Mountain, at the intersection of Frog Hollow and Peeper Roads, looking abandoned but restorable. Note its construction, with some very large stones forming part of the second floor wall and sitting on much smaller stones. I guess they used whatever was handy, but wouldn't it have been easier to leave the big stones closer to the ground?
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I purposely took Old Bethel Church Road to see whether there might still be an Old Bethel Church. Sure enough, not far from the junction of Indian Hollow and Dick's Hollow, there it was.
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On trips like these, one goes by a great many driveways, farm entrances, and so forth. On an otherwise cloudy and gray day, this driveway certainly brightened things up. Be sure to note the festive purple plastic buckets adorning the fence posts.
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Near the impossibly small town of Mount Williams, VA, I found this forlorn building looking out over the Appalachian Mountains. It might have been a former schoolhouse or church, but a peek through the windows showed that it was filled with unremarkable flea-market items. (If anyone is looking for vintage Mountain Dew bottles, let me know.)
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Still the old place had quite a view out the back.
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By 2:00 PM or so, the temperature had warmed up all the way to 33 degrees, so it was finally time to put the top down. It was also a very windy day, with gusts blowing randomly from all directions and threatening to send dead tree branches (or entire trees, for that matter) across my path. Fortunately, none of the threats materialized. Once the top was down, I immediately spotted this house with the unusual bay windows and roof extension. (Okay John, what is this sort of design called??) ("One off" is my guess!)
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Stately old farmhouses and farm buildings, presumably dating back to the early-to-mid 1800s, were a common sight.
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This mammoth farm complex, however, was no longer quite so stately:
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Since it was clearly abandoned, I was tempted to drive up its lane to take a closer look. Once I saw the lane, I changed my mind. Although my faithful Z4 has carried me just about everywhere, I drew the line at traversing this long path of frozen mud!
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A little further on, I encountered one of my favorite abandoned farmhouses of all time. Between the sullen sky, rickety fence, deteriorating bricks, and vines covering many of the walls, it provided a perfectly somber view. If Heathcliff and Cathy had shown up, I wouldn't have been surprised.
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Even the footbridge was abandoned. How sad is that?
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As best I could tell, this brightly colored house has the grandest porch addition in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia. Note the semi-circular stone stairs with matching stone columns.
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So the top was still down, although the sky was getting progressively cloudier and the temperature had dropped back down to 32. I continued along the route, getting startled looks from the other drivers. Not surprisingly, I only saw one motorcycle during the whole trip. Surprisingly, it was not a BMW, but a Suzuki V-Strom. (The fellow riding it looked even colder than I did.)
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The little town of Silar, VA featured old barns and streams…
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…plus a classic country store, open every day except Sundays, unfortunately. As you can see, I put the top back up (to avoid frostbite and terminal shivering).
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In the prior picture, the Z4 is pointed directly toward a picket fence with a small sign on it. A more careful look revealed that I probably shouldn't have parked there. Note the for-real, classic Redneck spelling!
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My final stop before heading back to Catonsville was a brief look around Cacapon State Park. When I was growing up, my family used to vacation here every summer. I loved the rustic old one-room "efficiency" cabins—but they're gone, replaced by more upscale units, with separate bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, etc. However, the dam's spillway was unchanged, as was the lake, beach, and diving board. Somehow, it all looked smaller than I remembered…
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Despite the cold weather, it was a fun drive. Many of the roads were perfect for motorcycle or sports car touring, with elevation changes, continuous curves, and relatively little traffic. Wardensville Grade and Back Mountain Road were my favorites. And, as never fails to happen in this area, there were interesting things to see everywhere I turned. Winter is coming fast—get out there and tour before you become snowbound!

Rick F.
Last edited by Rick F. on Tue Sep 15, 2015 5:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
For all my tour articles, check out rsftripreporter.net.

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Re: Cold and Colder: Touring Antietam by Topless Z4

Postby Yellowjacket » Tue Dec 14, 2010 12:33 am

Rick Thanks for yet another nice write-up. Riding with the top down? You mensch!
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Re: Cold and Colder: Touring Antietam by Topless Z4

Postby JimVonBaden » Tue Dec 14, 2010 11:45 pm

Nice photos and dialog Rick. Your HDDR is coming along nicely!

By the way, I am gaining an appreciation for quick little roadsters, even in the cold!

Jim :brow
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Re: Cold and Colder: Touring Antietam by Topless Z4

Postby Unity » Wed Dec 15, 2010 2:09 pm

Rick F. wrote:(Okay John, what is this sort of design called??) ("One off" is my guess!)

:idk: I'm of the old form-follows-function school, and I can't imagine a function for that protrusion. :roll:

--John
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Re: Cold and Colder: Touring Antietam by Topless Z4

Postby Rick F. » Thu Dec 16, 2010 10:29 pm

Yellowjacket wrote:Rick Thanks for yet another nice write-up. Riding with the top down? You mensch!

Moz,

My pleasure!

As for driving with the top down in 32º weather, what can I say? I rode the GS in temperatures as cold as 28º but I had a full set of Gerbings jacket liner, pants liner, and gloves to help. (No socks, but, unlike Tina, my feet never got cold.) Besides, in the Z4 I wimped out after an hour or two and put the top back up.

Rick

PS: I had to look up the word "mensch," which I'd heard before but didn't know the meaning. Thanks for the compliment!
For all my tour articles, check out rsftripreporter.net.

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Re: Cold and Colder: Touring Antietam by Topless Z4

Postby Rick F. » Thu Dec 16, 2010 10:32 pm

JimVonBaden wrote:Nice photos and dialog Rick. Your HDDR is coming along nicely!

By the way, I am gaining an appreciation for quick little roadsters, even in the cold!

Jim :brow

Jim,

Thanks. The HDR photography is completely addictive. Now I just leave the camera set on the auto-bracket mode all the time.

I'm glad you're enjoying your roadster, too (and I'm not at all surprised). (Actually, I'm surprised only because you haven't started a Sky modification thread, featuring extra lights, circuit breaker boxes, P3! taillights, a custom seat, and the perfect tool kit...)
For all my tour articles, check out rsftripreporter.net.

2013 BMW 335i convertible
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Re: Cold and Colder: Touring Antietam by Topless Z4

Postby Rick F. » Thu Dec 16, 2010 10:34 pm

Unity wrote:
Rick F. wrote:(Okay John, what is this sort of design called??) ("One off" is my guess!)

:idk: I'm of the old form-follows-function school, and I can't imagine a function for that protrusion. :roll:

--John

John,

Yes, I wondered about the function also. Perhaps it's to provide extra headroom for someone on the second floor who's even taller than I am??

Rick
For all my tour articles, check out rsftripreporter.net.

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