My sister sent me an article from Saveur magazine a couple months back that inspired us to take a little road trip for our anniversary. We used the article as a guide but ultimately only went to one of the places listed. The rest of the trip we sort of planned choose-your-own-adventure style: we would make a decision between two things and then follow a loose plan based on that choice. In this case: to hike or not to hike Old Rag. And if we did hike it, on which day.
We chose to hike Old Rag on Saturday (more on that in the next post) so that we could ease into it a bit, but also because we both knew that if we pushed it off until the next day we would probably talk ourselves out of it — as we have every single time we’re in the Shenandoah area.
So Friday was spent meandering along winding roads lined with trees bursting at the seams with bright reds and oranges and yellows witnessing Autumn in all its colorful glory. We stopped for lunch at Fulks Run Grocery hoping to sample their fried ham sandwich but discovered they ran out long before we arrived. We purchased a few snacks for the road and some lunch for the next day’s hike and continued along Skyline Drive hoping to find some inexpensive hole-in-the-wall motel near the Old Rag entrance. We didn’t have much luck — of the places we found, two were haunted house creepy, and I think (or hope) were not open and one was too expensive for just a night’s stay.
We continued on to Culpeper, googled a cheap motel, checked in, explored town a bit, and ate some take-out Mexican food back in our hotel, watching the crappiest of all crap tv — some show called Buck Wild (???) on MTV. (wtf) — before finally switching to some Food Channel competition type show. We don’t have cable tv at home so watching tv in a dinky motel was pretty much the bees knees. Not that there was a ton to do out there anyway, though truthfully, knowing that we had to get up early the next day, we didn’t exactly try too hard either.
Fulks Run Grocery // On Fridays they fry a couple of hams and make fried ham sandwiches. Ham is not my most favorite thing in the world to eat (generally speaking I try to avoid pork products on the account that I’m obsessed with pigs) but we were curious and in vacation mode. Plus it was in Saveur, it had to be great, right? What you should know is that they sell out really early — like before noon — especially if tour buses (!!!) decide to stop by. If you can’t make it early enough, call ahead and they will save a sandwich for you. For those that don’t like ham, the grocery store has a small deli counter where you can order from a list of other options. Or you can just pick up some snacks from the grocery section. There are only a few small tables in the way back if you’re planning on eating in.
Maria Bonita // Mexican food, inexpensive // Cute family-run Mexican restaurant in Culpeper with small bar. Large portions for reasonable price. Definitely a million times better than Taco Bell. Overall the food was good, not mind blowing. I would eat here again if it were convenient but I wouldn’t go out of my way.
The Ole Country Store // bakery, deli, prepared foods, dried goods // If you are looking for a sandwich, a snack, dried fruit, or a pie, this is the place to get it. You can also find some local dairy items like eggs and milk here. Or, if you’re in the market for some log tables, carved bears, or adirondack chairs, you can find those here too. Bonus points: there is a soft serve truck in the parking lot next door.
Red Carpet Inn // Culpeper, VA / $65-$70/night //If you plan on hiking Old Rag you’ll find that the options for inexpensive lodging is pretty limited. Basically you can choose from cabins, a lodge-resort type place, b&bs or a historic hotel — all were a bit pricier than what we wanted to spend and many required more than one night’s stay. As for motel options, the two closest places are Luray and Culpeper with Culpeper being marginally closer timewise. If you’re planning on staying at one of the lodges in the park keep in mind that Old Rag is on the opposite side of the park and as such, takes over an hour to get to the Old Rag parking area (more on this in the next post). Which led us to Red Carpet Inn. If you look it up online you’ll see a lot of negative reviews, but then there weren’t many budget motel options in Culpeper with great reviews. All things equal, we chose this place because it was cheap and we planned on getting up early so it was not worth it to us to a lot of money on a room. We were a bit nervous because of the reviews but after snooping around a bit determined it was good enough. The best way I can describe this place is: sad. The grounds were very well kept — and it seemed like the owners/caretakers’ talents lie in this area — but the rooms could use a major overhaul. They were shabby, dated, and equipped only with the very basics. No hairdryers, no kleenex, no remote, but we did have wifi and a mini fridge. That being said, it was cheap, the owners were nice, there were plenty of rooms available and it was far from the worst place we have ever stayed. The linens were clean so I felt ok about things overall. I wouldn’t exactly recommend going out of your way to stay here, but if budget and location are considerations and your expectations are realistic (this definitely is not the Ritz), then this is an adequate enough place.