This Fly-In Bed and Breakfast on Smith Mountain Lake Offers a Serene Weekend Getaway
We turned in on a bright afternoon, the main sign greeting us at the edge of the property.
“I wonder where we should…” I started to say, “park” when my eyes found the next sign: “Guest Parking” with an arrow pointing left. It was the last time I found myself saying, “I wonder where…” because at Bedford Landings everything has been taken care of, down to the very last detail; a visit here is an experience in true relaxation—the type of relaxation where you don’t have to find, fiddle or figure anything out.
Looking for a tranquil view of Smith Mountain Lake? Which seat would you like? Upper observation deck? Or screened-in porch, fireside, back yard, hot tub? The options—the comfort—abound. Grab a homemade cookie or a drink to go along with whatever book you’re ready to dive into (and if you forgot one—they have plenty to share).
Relaxation rules the day in this quiet corner of Smith Mountain Lake, an ideal weekend getaway just under an hour from Lynchburg. And it’s all possible because two people brought their shared dream to life with a lot of work and a whole lot of love.
A Home Made for Hosting
The exceptional design of Bedford Landings is visually stunning. Approaching from the road, one is first struck with its height and expansive windows—even more impressive from inside where soaring ceilings and the stone fireplace span 35 and a half feet up to the highest point of the Eastern White pine timbers, brought in from Northern Georgia.
The windows provide gorgeous views of the quiet lake and the sky as well. Four guest suites span the upper level and look down on the fireplace and comfortable couches below with the open kitchen and dining area directly off the grand room. Each of the four suites have their own unique themes—the Fishing Room, the Forest Room, the Flying Room (appropriate as Bedford Landings is a fly-in destination for pilots) and the Fourth Room, their honeymoon suite, where I was excited to discover a gas fireplace and a jetted tub for our stay there. All guests enjoy private bathrooms in each of the suites along with all of the amenities you may expect to find at a hotel; the difference here, of course, is the personal touch.
“I think it is personal service and uniqueness,” Karen DeBord says of what sets them apart. They offer a hot tub; a fitness room; in-room, specialty treats; hold an ABC license; prepare gourmet breakfasts (Cheddar Baked Apples, anyone?) and offer a home theater with dozens of movies and a surround sound system. Karen adds that “reservation forms come directly to me for personal responses, and we have the extras (like flights over the lake for guests), the cleanliness of our home and our unique room décor” all to put Bedford Landings in a class of its own.
And if it all seems ideally designed for a bed and breakfast, it’s because it is. Perhaps most impressive of all is that Jack Phillips and Karen built it all from scratch.
A “Match” Made in Heaven
Chat with Jack and Karen for only a few minutes, and you’ll find a couple very much in sync. Married for 10 and a half years, it’s surprising to discover that they found each other later in life, after first marriages, decades of careers and child rearing. Now, in their “second act,” they are both quite sure of their individual strengths, interests and, most importantly, how well they complement each other.
It all started when they found each other on Match.com, and Jack noticed that Karen had a special quality from the very beginning.
“Comfortable,” he says. “She has a gift for making others feel comfortable and welcome.” It was something that drew him in, and today, provides the foundation of their bed and breakfast.
This “welcoming atmosphere” is one thing that recent guest Tim Huneycutt especially appreciated. Flying in from Lincolnton, NC, this past winter, he says, “Karen and Jack were just fantastic hosts. We felt like family and enjoyed conversation and hangar talk. Jack is building the same experimental airplane as we are, so we instantly connected.”
As Tim also noted, these hosts make quite the pair: Jack, with his unassuming, quick sense of humor; Karen, with a warm laugh and easygoing demeanor. It’s hard to separate their roles at Bedford Landings since their individual tasks meld so fluidly from one to the other. For the hot plated breakfasts each morning, Jack prepares their signature pecan-crusted bacon; Karen, the granola and other specialty items on regular rotation. Jack prepares scratch-made biscuits and the eggs benedict while Karen handles all things omelets.
Reservations and booking inquiries are Karen’s department while bookkeeping and annual records are Jack’s domain. And so it goes, all the way to the very foundation of the home; both of their fingerprints can be found all over the project. Jack designed the plans, drawing on his background in engineering to incorporate unique and practical elements (such as passive solar energy), and worked closely with their builders to create the one-of-a-kind home. Karen not only oversaw the daily operations throughout the construction process, but also did the interior decorating, bringing in works from local artists, special antique finds from their personal travels and some of her own stained glass art pieces.
It doesn’t take long to realize that Jack and Karen have infused their life with purpose and passion as even the smallest choices belie their commitment to industrious, quality efforts. Both coming from well-established, professional careers (he an engineer and project manager; she a university professor and graduate studies director), they have now fused their hobbies into a sustainable and shared “retirement plan,” albeit unlikely: hosting a fly-in bed and breakfast.
A Shared Second Act
Ask Jack and Karen when they first decided to open a bed and breakfast, and they look at each other inquisitively. “Well…it just happened gradually,” Karen says.
First, they discovered an ideal plot on Smith Mountain Lake—one that borders a public airport. Next, their conversations about retirement and what that could look like brought them to the idea of designing, building and operating their own bed and breakfast on that land.
“We have always enjoyed staying at ‘B & Bs’ and have been curious about their design and services,” Karen explains.
“We knew there were particular things we did not like in a ‘B & B’ and wanted to address these; combined with enjoying entertaining and meeting new people, [that] led us to building and running our own ‘B & B’.”
The name “Bedford Landings” is rich with meaning; not only representing their home county (which conveniently includes “bed”), “landings” denote both boats and planes, which is perhaps the most unique aspect of all. An avid pilot from the age of 16, Jack has flown for decades and even built his own recreational planes from scratch, including an award-winning Pietenpol Air Camper, designed by Bernard Pietenpol in 1929, and his current project, a Van’s RV-10, which is currently halfway completed.
To find a plot by Smith Mountain Lake that bordered the public airstrip was nothing short of “karmic” Karen says. They decided their “B & B” would allow for fly-in guests who can land their own planes and stay for a visit. Such an option allows guests such as Tim the opportunity to fly his personal plane up for a visit that otherwise wouldn’t happen.
“Residential air parks are rare,” Tim says. “I know of only two on the east coast, and we were lucky to be close to one of them—and to find a bed and breakfast on one is a miracle! It was the main reason we visited the area, which is beautiful.”
And for guests who drive in, which I did and highly recommend for those in the Lynchburg area, Jack offers flight tours over the lake. Knowing this, I’ve already thought of excuses to return for another quick getaway.
Jack and Karen are also expanding their services; so far, they’ve offered paint classes, a biscuit-making school and murder mystery dinner parties. But whatever it is that draws you to Bedford Landings—a much needed escape or a weekend celebration—enjoy a fresh cup of coffee, fireside, and chat with Karen and Jack for yourself; there’s so much more to their fascinating story that you should hear.
Learn more about this regional gem at www.BedfordLandings.com.