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Corvette Club of Delaware Valley - Mountain High

Touring national parks in style

John Machaqueiro Jan 11, 2012
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Corvette clubs usually have members who share a wide range of tastes. With the larger clubs, you'll find a mix of "waxers," racers, diners, and day-trippers. Such is the case with the Corvette Club of Delaware Valley (CCDV), which is located in southeastern Pennsylvania. With more than 500 members, and a 50-year history, CCDV claims to be the second largest local Corvette club in the United States. Due to its large membership, the club's activities are frequent and varied. One that's enjoyed by many is the annual drive.

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When a trip is organized, CCDV members can point their Corvettes in any direction and enjoy a wide range of places to visit within a reasonable distance. In Pennsylvania, the majority of attractions can be found in and around the metropolitan areas of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. This year, the participating members decided on a 1,000-plus-mile, four-day trek that pointed west toward Pittsburgh.

Departing from the town of Willow Grove, the group hit the open road. Initially, the plan for day one was to travel on the scenic back roads across the state. However, that approach was derailed before it even started: Due to unprecedented flooding statewide, the group was forced to do the initial five-hour drive on the visually bland Pennsylvania Turnpike. After the long haul, the first leg concluded 75 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, near Fallingwater, located in Mill Run, Pennsylvania.

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For those you not familiar with Fallingwater, it's the name of an architecturally significant house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, arguably America's most famous architect. Built over a 30-foot waterfall for his clients, the Kaufmann family, it stands as one of Wright's greatest masterpieces for its integration with its natural surroundings. Completed with a guest-and-service wing in 1939, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976. However, it was originally the Kaufmanns' weekend home, serving in that capacity from 1937 to 1963. In 1963, Edgar Kaufmann jr. donated the property to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and in 1964, it was opened to the public as a museum.

There are tours that run continuously through the house. More than just walkthroughs, these tours give visitors a deeper understanding of the relationship between the design elements used in the house and their connection with the natural surroundings. Visitors will see the fireplace hearth in the living room, which integrates boulders found on the site, and upon which the house was built. The ledge rock, which protrudes through the living-room floor, was left in place to link the outside with the inside. All functional aspects of the house, including most of the furniture, were designed by Wright and can be viewed by visitors. There is also a nice café, a museum store, and a gallery in the visitor center as you enter the facility. For an overnight stay in the area, there is no shortage of lodging, as most national chains have set up shop in the vicinity.

After the morning tour at Fallingwater, the remainder of day was spent traveling southeast towards Waynesboro, Virginia. The CCDV caravan took a scenic route through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and finally into Old Dominion as it headed to the next leg of the drive. After a few hours on the road, the group bunked down for the night at a hotel in Waynesboro, Virginia.

While day two of the trip was filled with culture, day three took the CCDV group to the entrance of the Skyline Drive. This road runs 105 miles north-south in the Shenandoah National Park, and is laid out along the crest of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, just west of Washington, D.C. Once you enter the park, you're a captive of sorts: There are only four places to enter or exit along the entire span.

Something else that's important to remember is that while it may look and feel as if you're on the twisty roads of the Nürburgring, you most assuredly are not. The speed limit is 35 mph for the entire length of the drive, and it is strictly enforced by park rangers. While these speeds may not allow you to fully appreciate your Corvette's handling capabilities, they will provide you with ample opportunity to roll down the windows (or drop the top) and experience every curve at a leisurely pace.

The Skyline Drive boasts 75 overlooks that allow visitors to pull over and admire the stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley to the west, or the rolling Piedmont to the east. There is also a wide variety of wildlife, including the deer and black bears that may often be spotted along the road. The landscape fills up with a kaleidoscope of colors during the summer months, thanks to the many species of wild flowers found in the park.

After a leisurely drive with numerous stops to admire the scenic vistas, the CCDV crew stopped for the night at the northern exit of the Skyline Drive, in Front Royal, Virginia. Again, lodging wasn't an issue, as there are plenty of options here.

Day four brought the Corvette caravan back north, again through scenic back roads towards Pennsylvania. The final destination was the Gettysburg National Military Park. The site of the Civil War's bloodiest battle, and the setting for Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, this national park today welcomes visitors with its 22,000 square-foot museum and a gallery of interactive programs, multi-media presentations, and exhibits. While you'll need to pay to visit the museum, entrance to the park is free.

Once inside, you may explore the battlefield and cemetery on your own, or opt for a guided tour with a licensed guide. You may even drive your Corvette to many of the sites made famous by battlefield lore: Culp's Hill, McPherson's Ridge, Cemetery Hill, Spangler's Spring, Devil's Den, the Peach Orchard, Little Round Top, and the High Water Mark, to name but a few. The park also has hiking paths and a horse trail, and on-road bicyclists are welcome. On weekends during the summer months, living-history groups and bands may regularly be found performing at Gettysburg.

The CCDV group decided that a tour--conducted in a '30s-era bus--was the best way to get around. Several companies in Gettysburg, including some with Licensed Battlefield Guides, offer bus tours of the park. After the tour, the CCDV club members had the option to stay in the area overnight or drive home toward the Philadelphia area, which is only a two-hour drive from Gettysburg.

After a four-day drive with mixed activities, the task for the CCDV members began all over again with planning for the 2012 trip. But regardless of which direction they head next time around, they can rest assured that there's no shortage of things to do and places to visit in Pennsylvania and the surrounding states.

All Photos used with permission of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy


Blue ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive



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