As if from a movie, a bald Eagle soars through clear blue skies and circles above our heads.
The road is in front of a group chipmunks, while nearby locals grill on the roadside, listening to radio baseball games.
This was Virginia’s heartbeat. And it was exactly the USA I’d come to see.
I’d been touring the Capital Region by car, hopping from one quaint town to the next, rolling along Skyline Drive and through the breathtakingly scenic Shenandoah National Park.
In six action-packed days, I’d sipped on home-made apple cider, tucked into doughnuts from a local farmer’s market and soaked up views of rolling hills and dirt roads from the back of an SUV.
That’s the beauty of travelling on these country roads – you can make a pit stop anywhere you like and the scenery in these parts is like nowhere else in the world.
From the moment we left Washington, we were immediately thrown into the action. We drove through vast parkland and on endless twisting roads. Soon I was up to 1,300m above the clouds, gazing out at the vast open space.
“Over there is the Blue Ridge Mountains,”The tour guide pointed out important details. “And that body of water flowing through it is the Shenandoah River. Sound familiar?”
It did. Bruce Springsteen fans might recognize the flowing waters in the lyrics to his country hit, Shenandoah.
But it’s not just the mighty river that stands out, these country roads in the national park were the most beautiful I’d ever seen – rugged landscapes surrounded by lush tall trees and craggy rocks. The park seemed so rural, it was hard to believe all this was only an hour’s drive away from the bustling streets of Washington DC.
Winchester was the first stop in our All-American Experience. This small city is nestled in the valley, and is surrounded with vast apple orchards.
The town is so quaint, it’s easy to see why George Washington chose to spend more than a decade of his life here.
We headed straight for the main street. It was once home to a Native American trading route but is now well-known for its authentic American restaurants.
We were stuffed to the brim in everything, from Jamaican jerk chicken and Bavarian hot dog. Then we drank home-made cider by a gallon to wash it all down.
Film nerd’s paradise
If there’s one thing I can guarantee, you won’t go hungry in Winchester.
And you’ll be grateful for all this fuel when you venture further south, to Luray.
This town is home a 400-million year-old cave network that was formed from crystals of natural acid water. You can spend hours clambering along the magnificent walkways through mighty rock caverns, and that’s exactly what we did, rewarding ourselves at the end with a tipple at the historic Mimslyn Inn.
The Inn itself was opened by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1931 and now it’s the perfect pit stop for travellers, with a huge outdoor deck where you can sip on cocktails as you watch the sun go down over the mountains.
It’s worth heading elsewhere for dinner though. About 40 miles north is Schaffer’s BBQ, an absolute must-try for any foodie wanting the full American experience, with BBQ brisket, pancakes with bacon, biscuits and gravy and pumpkin pie.
From here we headed east on a loop known as the Chesapeake Bay circuit to the real hidden gem of this region of the US: Maryland’s state capital, Annapolis.
About 40 miles north is Schaffer’s BBQ, an absolute must-try for any foodie wanting the full American experience, with BBQ brisket, pancakes with bacon, biscuits and gravy and pumpkin pie.
This nautical playground is not to be missed, with many scallop and lobster restaurants — check out Carrol’s Creek Café which serves up generous portions.
Make sure to book a boat trip on the Woodwind II too — it’s the same yacht that transported Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn to the Cleary family’s Maryland home in The Wedding Crashers.
It felt like we were living the American dream as we watched the sun sink behind the blue horizon.
If you‘d rather stick to dry land, then Havre De Grace, just over an hour’You can drive north to find a quieter and smaller version of Annapolis.
While it may not have been on my bucket list, stumbling across Washington Street Books & Music was a delight.
Despite it’s name, there’s not only books and music up for grabs here. The shop is a self-professed film nerd’s paradise with authentic costumes from films including The Hunger Games and Star Trek.
The highlight of our road trip was a visit to Washington DC. Here we rode through the city on a guided bicycle tour and passed key landmarks such as the White House.
Yes, DC is a bucket list destination, but much to my surprise this wasn’t the main attraction of the trip.
It’s the long country roads with dreamy views and delicious crab cakes we had at the seaside that will leave me dreaming of the Capital Region.
GO: CAPITAL REGION
GETTING/STAYING THERE: Six-night trip with two nights in DC, two nights in Maryland and two nights in Virginia costs from £1,749pp, including flights from Heathrow on October 20. Purely America at 0800 336 335 or See purelytravel.co.uk/usa.
OUT AND AROUND:More information on Capital Region USA can be found here capitalregionusa.org.