hamnerhomeWith the increasing costs of airfare and luggage limitations, more and more families are considering road trips as a cost-efficient alternative. Because we are a large family, we try to limit our air travel (tickets for seven are just outrageous – and then I’ll need to rent a large vehicle as well). And, in all honesty, we’ve learned to love our road trips, because we can travel at our leisure and make frequent stops along the way, exploring offbeat sites as a family.

Last November, we traveled to Pensacola to visit my brother and his family. On our way back, I changed our route to make sure we could make a special sidetrip: to Schuyler, VA, site of the iconic American homestead, Walton’s Mountain.

Now, just to clarify, there is no real Walton’s Mountain. After all, the Waltons are fictional (yes, even John Boy), based on the novels of Earl Hamner, who fictionalized his real life experience growing up in a large family during the Depression. Schuyler is Hamner’s hometown, high in the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Rockfish River. (No, I am not making this up.)

Okay, first thing I learned as I ventured up the mountain – we’re talking rural, people. Seriously, there were moments on that meandering single-vehicle dirt road that I was convinced a car moving downhill would turn the next curve and we’d all be goners.  Don’t look for luxuries like paved roads or stop signs on this trip. (I doubt you’ll find Luxury Traveling Mom on this road any time soon!)

But once we arrived at our destination – Earl Hamner’s childhood home and the area around it – we could stop holding our breath. Instead, we admired the beautiful mountainside, the quiet surroundings and the changing colors of the oak and elm. Our first stop was the Walton’s Mountain Country Store, where we stocked up on autographed books (by Hamner and the cast), paper dolls,  and genuine “recipe” mugs (just like Miss Emily and Miss Mamie would use).

churningbutterWe left the Vue in their parking lot and walked over to the Hamner homestead to check out the digs. Although it had obviously been modernized (we discovered a dishwasher behind a gingham curtain), it was still easy to imagine Grandma, Jim Bob and the rest gathered around the long table or tuning into the old-fashioned (or was it new-fangled at the time?) radio. Although how they fit all those kids – not to mention Grandpa and Grandma – into three bedrooms is beyond me.

Finally, we stopped at Walton’s Mountain Museum , a converted elementary school within walking distance of the Hamner home. Unlike the homestead, which focuses on author/creator Hamner, the museum pays tribute to the family we remember. Inside visitors are treated to a video about the Walton phenomenon, featuring the cast. Then we walked through recreations of the show sets – John Boy’s room, the family kitchen, and of course, Ike Godsey’s store (where souvenirs can be purchased). There are also a script room, genuine props, and a Recipe Machine.

Although we hit the road after visiting the museum, I’d like to visit again. There are many bed and breakfast inns nearby, and S&H Grocery, the prototype for Ike Godsey’s store, is still open. This is definitely on the bucket list for any Walton’s aficionado, and is a great long weekend for just about anyone who appreciates fresh mountain air, rural countryside and a bit of nostalgia.

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