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One weekend at a time

Photo courtesy/ Elaine Jean “Carpe Weekend” is the first book by local author Elaine Jean. Her husband, Paul Jean, contributed the photography.

Author Elaine Jean always had the drive to get out and explore. She just never thought her wanderlust would develop into a regular column and an eventual book.

But four years after she and photographer husband Paul Jean launched http://www.romingtheplanet.com – and later hundreds of Day Tripper columns and feature stories for the Loudoun Times-Mirror and the Fairfax County Times – the writer is well on her way to becoming the authority on the interesting and sometimes bizarre places to visit in the area.

Her book "Carpe Weekend: 52 Day Trips and Adventures near Washington, DC" is a collection of some of her adventures. The book is a guide for anyone looking to explore and give guidance on everything from opening times to admission fees to where to get the free samples.

Q: How did you first get the idea for Day Tripper?
A: I’m serious when I say I’m plagued with wanderlust. For years Paul and I would pack up the kids and a picnic lunch and drive around whatever state we called home at the time, seeking quick adventures and a slice of another life. A couple of decades later, I’d become a writer and relocated to the Mid-Atlantic region. So it’s only natural that I’d want to share stories about my visit to a log cabin in West Virginia where the owners hand-zest lemons for their award-winning limoncello. And to a Buddhist monastery in Maryland where the residents truly have found dharma near D.C. To top it off, I happen to be married to a fantastic photographer. This all was just meant to be.

What was your motivation to publish a book?
We enjoyed making over 80 day trips that were distilled to the 52 that are included in “Carpe Weekend,” and it changed my attitude about life. One day I realized that the average weekend contains 60 hours – from quitting time on Friday to the squawk of the alarm on Monday morning – and that how we use that precious time defines who we really are. I had already written for three newspapers and developed a website (roamingtheplanet.com) and thought a book might further encourage people to throw caution to the wind, have a great adventure and learn a little about themselves in the process.

Of all the places you've visited, which is your favorite?
That’s a really tough question, because I’ve enjoyed every single minute of it. But I will say that I keep returning to the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, and it has a profound impact on me every time. The museum is, in itself, a grand work of art that shares the nitty-grittiest details of the human condition in a way that is remarkably delightful and life affirming. I’m a sucker for PostSecret, and since Frank Warren is involved – along with film maker John Waters and clown-for-peace Patch Adams – the museum usually features an exhibit of those tawdry little confessions.

Is there any place you haven't visited yet that you plan to see soon?

There are still some stones left unturned … literally. I haven’t seen Foamhenge yet, which is a full-size replica of Stonehenge that was designed and built on the property of the Natural Bridge in the Shenandoah Valley by Mark Cline of Enchanted Castle Studios. We live in a culturally rich and vibrant area; as soon as you think you’ve seen it all, more museums open and new sights crop up on the radar. That’s why I love it here.

What's your advice for any aspiring day trippers?
Just do it. Time waits for no one. First and foremost, buy my book and dog ear all the pages that interest you. Then extricate yourself from the recliner, put the remote control down, hop in the car and fill up the gas tank. For the best experiences, it’s essential that you get outside your comfort zone and talk to a few strangers … the stranger the better. In doing so, I’ve found that we’re all a lot more alike than we are different.

What's next for you? Perhaps another book?
For Paul and I, one thing almost always leads to the next. In the process of day tripping, we became friends with Jim Corcoran of Corcoran Brewing Co. who introduced us to the fascinating world of beer making. We joined HOWL (Homebrewers of Western Loudoun) and now brew on a regular basis. Paul’s the scientist, and I love to experiment with flavors – in our fermenter right now is a Peach Chili Ale for a Labor Day cookout. The next book might be about beer and food pairings, or perhaps about the virtues of craft beer. It’s enhanced our social lives, improved our health and given us a new common interest. I do know this: The title will be “So Hoppy Together.”

Where can readers purchase your book?
“Carpe Weekend” is available on amazon.com – it’s eligible for Super Saver shipping and can be on your doorstep in three days – as well as at Very Virginia in Leesburg, the Bloomery Plantation Distillery in Charles Town, W.Va. and at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C.


Natural Bridge - worth the trip! Foamhenge - not so much.

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