Last night, Sally and I returned home from an overnight trip to Winchester, VA — one of our favorite sans children activities. It is reasonably close enough to make a 24-30 hour visit worthwhile, maintains an incredibly pedestrian-friendly downtown district with plenty of shops and restaurants we love to visit, boasts a great used book store, and possesses amazing, reasonably priced, historic hotel that we love staying at. If we had the money, it’s the type of trip we’d easily make more often.
This time, the highlight of our stay was our visit to Handworks Gallery in the downtown district. For reasons neither one of us can recall, in all our previous visits to Winchester we never entered this store. We approvingly noted some of the items on display in the windows or on the sidewalk outside the store, but we just never decided to properly look around. Our initial perusal left us wondering whether this was a good or bad thing, because we spent a lot of money there yesterday.
In our defense, a significant portion of that expense resulted from a few items that became, later in the day, our 50th anniversary wedding gift to Sally’s parents. They have a number of animal metal sculptures in their house, and Handworks happened to sell some that we thought would be great additions to their collection. However, we liked a couple “Gnome-Be-Gones” so much that we ended up purchasing a couple of them for our own home. In addition, the store also stocked some rather amazing coasters made from cracked glass and pottery. It just felt like the right time to upgrade from the generic, cheap coasters that have sat on our coffee table since we moved in together.
Our experience in Handworks nicely concluded what was already a great visit to Winchester. However, as much as we love our trips there, the area never lets us forget that its deep in the heart of red country. The city may offer plenty of things for us to love, but it also harbors a large number of people whose viewpoints seem positively alien. In particular, something I wished I took a picture of: a pickup truck with a personalized VA “In God We Trust” specialty plate bearing the characters “357 MAGM”. Seriously, I couldn’t make that up if I tried. Hell, I saw it, and I still don’t believe it; the cognitive dissonance necessary to create such a license plate is astounding. However, it wasn’t out of place. I literally lost count of the number of Trump/Pence bumper stickers and signs still gracing cars and lawns littering the place.
As much as we love spending time and money in Winchester, as well as many other small cities and towns in the Mid-Atlantic region, these things serve as a continuous reminder that living in one of them might be problematic. As it is, we currently live in in the purple region on the western fringe of the Northern Virginia suburbian sprawl — a region represented by a number of politicians whose views are way to the right of ours. I find them infuriating at times, but at least they also support a a few key liberal programs. I just don’t know if I could live in an area where the local politicians feel no such need.
It won’t stop me from visiting Winchester and other locales like it. The hearts of such places just offer too many pleasures. It’s just a shame that fantasizing about retiring to one of these places can’t be as pleasurable.