Just like nothing (else) on earth: Tankerville Road
By Tim Jon
A remote place with general seclusion, abundant wildlife, mature trees grown into twisted silhouettes, a memorable, historic place of worship, and distinctive private residences: of course I recall all these particulars, but most of all, it was that tunnel-like passage I traveled down to see the whole thing. Tankerville Road in Northern Loudoun offers much for the spectator (if you’re anything like me, anyway); keep in mind, though – the primitive, gravel roadway shoots through a corridor so thin in some places that oncoming traffic (say, anything larger than a good-sized grasshopper) will present your main concern.
I’d had my curiosity sparked about this little, out-of-the-way segment of transportation on an earlier excursion along Lovettsville Road (Route 672), which connects the growing “German Settlement” to James Monroe Highway to the east, near Point of Rocks; I made a mental note at the time to get back up here and explore this beckoning, rural-looking, narrow dirt road.
So; here I was, at about the break of dawn, once again in virtually unknown territory, watching out for deer and other critters, fallen limbs from the overhead branches’ effects due to recent storms, the odd boulder strewn along the way, and fervently hoping I’d be the only one crazy enough to be out there at that time of day – just to take a look around at things.
And I was (alone, that is): the rewards of this early-morning drive included the aforementioned four-footed beasts – not quite tame enough for impressive photography, that hushed, nestled feeling I get when traveling under the cover of ancient greenery, a peek at some of the local residences that must date back over a century, and a chance to get out and stretch the legs at the small turn-off area leading to the parking lot for the Bethel Lutheran Church.
I took a few moments to appreciate the steeple, bell-tower, iron gates and overall sense of peace and isolation (except for a friendly squirrel, who may have been there for the same reasons). Moving on in a southeasterly direction, much of the leisurely sightseeing took a quick backseat to merely navigating the ever-narrower roadway – the trip now becoming a dark journey down a shrinking green tunnel.
I wondered about my alternatives should I meet, say, an early-rising horse-owner right about now – pulling a long trailer behind a monster pick-up. I tried to fathom all my so-called rural expertise in such driving conditions, and I’d have to say – no – I didn’t come up with any real quick solutions to that one; I assumed I’d quite possibly be backing up a considerable distance, should the situation arise.
Well, I was fortunate: I’d beaten all the daybreak traffic to the punch (or maybe they’d already beaten me.); I made it all the way to the end of the line, where Tankerville Road meets up with another little, local corridor – Taylorstown Road – Route 668 – (just think, “Middle of nowhere,” if you’re not sure – the area residents would probably be just fine with that), got my vehicle pivoted and headed back into the fray of green on three sides and brown on one.
At least on the way back, I had a sense of where the ‘land mines’ were, as well as the main attractions I noted in the mind’s eye for some quick images on the camera. My car and I squeezed through the one-lane portion of the road – just about like the proverbial ‘greased pig’ – and noted a greater sense of relaxation after we attained a more ‘comfortable’ width in the roadway.
Definitely not something I’d recommend for the idly curious; this may be my one and only trip down Tankerville Road (barring a nostalgic return in a decade or two, of course), and I have no wish to – literally – run into any of my favorite readers in the middle of the path (remember: it’s ALL the middle). But I am glad I saw those trees, and that Church, and those deer, and felt the sense of ‘oneness’ with the universe most easily achieved in places like a hair-raising primitive road in a remote section of Loudoun County, Virginia. Well, that, and my home computer desk…