by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
November 30, 2004
THE HOUSE BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- When Joseph Conrad quoted Edmond Spenser's line "Sleep after toyle, port after stormie seas, Ease after war, death after life, does greatly please," I sensed he was taken with the warmth of those suggested feelings. So taken was he with the little verse, it is engraved on his tombstone where, I suggest. he was laid to rest in Canterbury with a contented smile on his face.
And now, I know the feeling. We drove to Washington, D.C., for our Thanksgiving weekend, sharing it with John's sister Patricia. It wasn't as simple as that line infers. It was a 650-mile drive, 520 of those miles on one beautiful stretch of I-95. However, it wasn't until 80 miles outside the District that our speed slowed from 70 miles per hour to 10.
With Patricia finally settled in with us, our cheerful chatter soon slowed to tense concerns about our eventual arrival time. Our plans for a leisurely dinner catching up on our lives this night before Thanksgiving changed from elegant to on-the-run. We were in constant communication with our hosts, the MacPherson's, at their highly recommended Foster-Harris House, a Bed and Breakfast in Washington, Virginia - still 60 miles further.
As we made our way around traffic circles, up and down hills, across bridges, we spoke to those at the Inn through wireless connections "Can you hear me now? . Can you hear me now?" and kept squinting toward street signs on darkened rural roads. Finally, we arrived at what had to be the inspiration for Sam Walter Foss to write "The House by the Side of the Road."
That part of the trip - oh, did I mention the rain? - was the stormy sea and when we opened a door that sounded bells on the hinges, we would be in the port, the warm and welcoming port that poet Conrad took to his grave.
John and Diane came to the door from the dreamy state of waiting up for us. Unlike what I expected, they were not the apple-cheeked, robust, innkeepers of old; hardly. They are a young couple so totally in command and self-assured that I felt - well, happy. Happy to be there, no thought of calling anyone "just to keep in touch."
So pleased were we with our accommodations that if this were the end of the line, we would have been satisfied. Actually, we made the trip to have dinner at a neighboring inn of such high repute that dinner guests travel from all over the world to experience dining at the Inn at Little Washington.
I'm strictly a "check the Yellow Pages" person when it comes to finding a restaurant near Patricia's home so we could enjoy Thanksgiving with her. John, on the other hand, keeps files on places he wants to see and things he wants to do. A five-page article featuring the Inn at Little Washington in Travel and Leisure was in his file and this was the time to go.
Our reservation couldn't be made sooner than one calendar month before Thanksgiving, and then the Inn recommended MacPherson's Foster-Harris House as a place we'd find comfortable. There was no need to finger-walk through the yellow pages this trip.
There are places that are nice; there are places that are really good; there are places that you want to tell your friends about and then, there is the Inn at Little Washington - and it's perfect. Their charming website is: www.theinnatlittlewashington.com
The Foster-Harris House bears the mark of its original owners when the house was built as their family home in 1905. And, its owners today, Diane and John, are leaving their mark - theirs is the mark of an enterprising young couple as comfortable in a Boardroom as in turning down quilts in bedrooms before placing Ghirardelli chocolates on the guests' pillows.
The MacPherson's jumped out of the rat race of high stress and even higher income to open a B & B. It was as simple as that. They are equally content, not just one helping the other to follow a dream. I have seldom seen two people working in tandem as they do - effortlessly! www.foster-harris.com
As all tension washed away and thoughts of Internet and Cell phones and email disappeared entirely, I started to wonder about this town of Little Washington. The population is 250, and I learned it was the very first "Washington" in the United States.
The town certainly can lay claim to that distinction since it got its name directly from the future president, himself. It was 17-year-old George Washington who surveyed, plotted, named the streets and the little hamlet itself as it lay protected at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.
John and his sister, Patricia, caught up on Daley family lore and watched football; I read from the well-stacked library at the Inn. The fireplace roared and Diane placed the Christmas Tree in the Parlor while John MacPherson offer Port, Champagne, or whatever was to our liking. And the sparkling wine in the crystal glasses was indeed to my liking.
On our last day, Laurie and Malia were also guests and our conversations continued as if we were all known to each other. Just as we had been cleansed of the cares in our work-a-day worlds, so also had they. John MacPherson not only cooks breakfast but he is a culinary artist. I've never been served meals so closely resembling the fare photographed for Gourmet Magazine.
John and Diane are in the enviable position of being paid for what they love to do. Their wholesomeness is catching and it carried me all the way home, and then some.
We stood in the hall hesitating to say goodbye, sharing warm hugs and promises to be back for their home's centennial, 2005. As the others lined up for hugs, I saw a needlepoint canvas framed and hanging on the narrow wall behind the opened door. I leaned in closer to read the embroidered letters, stitched, I'm sure, on a long winter's night so long ago. It said: "Let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man."
I wonder if the young girl conscientiously piercing the needle in and out of the canvas, keeping the letters straight the way her Mama taught her, realized she was designing an anthem for all those coming in and out the door to her house by the side of the road.
Visit AR Correspondent Constance Daley at www.skylinetoshoreline.com.