I first saw this stretch of road a little over eight years ago when we began thinking about moving out here to the valley. On that day, we had first driven out to Martinsburg, West Virginia–which is on the MARC train line–because we wanted there to be an easy and reliable way to commute back to the city. A local real estate agent showed us a few houses in Martinsburg, but for one reason or another we found the town depressing. We then decided to look on our own in Front Royal, Virginia. For commuting purposes there was no train, but they did have a bus line.
We drove down Interstate 81 from Martinsburg, then switched over to 522 to get there. The road seemed to go on and on, but the scenery was beautiful. When we got to Front Royal we looked at a place we’d seen online. A hundred year old Victorian, it was a house we never could have afforded if it were anywhere close to DC. As we walked around it and peeked inside, we met a woman from a few houses down who turned out to be the daughter of a nationally syndicated, right wing columnist. I’d seen his work now and then over the years, usually when I was in some waiting room that had nothing else but The Washington Times to read. The words that went through my head whenever I read his columns were never pleasant.
His daughter, however, was nice and told us about the house. How the first floor used to have wall to wall carpeting but now had hard wood floors, how this family of eight had previously lived there, and that they’d left a piano behind and how the piano now came with the house—things like that. That the first person we met here was the daughter of a Washington Times columnist might have given us a clue as to some of the issues this town has. Or that she explained how she never ate at Soul Mountain—the African-American owned restaurant that became our favorite restaurant in town—because she was allergic to seafood. It’s not a seafood restaurant.
Eight years later, the commuter bus line went out of business, and the right wing columnist’s daughter is no longer in the neighborhood, though her father keeps writing his columns. Some things change, some things don’t. We’re still here, in the house that she told us about. The town is now home, and we’re home. But I love taking pictures of the road.