Having found our way to Virginia we now realized that we were in the south - something about all the Confederate flags hung from front porches tipped us off. In Fredericksburg we visited Spotsylvania National Military Park, an educational center designed to inform folks about the four battles fought on these grounds back in the Civil War. A couple hours in the small museum taught us more about the Civil War than we had learned in all of our years of formal education. Fascinating were the Union and Confederate uniforms and firearms, the tidbits about life as a soldier, the use of drums for battlefield signaling, etc. In all of the chaos we found ourselves sympathizing with the Confederate faction - I had to remind myself that the proper side won! After a fascinating ride around the park (essentially a battlefield tour) and snapping a bunch of pictures, we headed on towards Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s Estate. Note: make sure to head over to the photos page for pics relating to items described throughout this post.
Shortly after arriving at the Mt. Vernon visitor center, we were safely escorted back out to the entrance gates with the helpful staff explaining that bicycles are not allowed on the premises. Furthermore, they explained, purchase of a $20 ticket is required to set foot on any of the grounds. What excellent service - so much so that I felt no desire to part with my money or return to the site again. Not far down the road the same held true for Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s abode. To rewind momentarily, between Mt. Vernon and Monticello we had the pleasure of meeting a delightful cyclist named Joe. He happened to be on the exact same route as us, headed toward San Francisco. We welcomed his company that afternoon and rode with him up until Charlottesville the following day. Here we continued on toward Afton while Joe stayed in town to have some bike maintenance performed on account of his rear wheel acting up.
In Afton we had quite the treat awaiting us. This was the beginning of the Blue Ridge mountains and more importantly where we planned to meet up with Dave and Maggie, family of the Thompsons, the kind folks that practically adopted us in Whitefish, Montana. We marveled at the mountains on both sides of us, thinking to ourselves how indistinguishable the landscape appeared from terrain at home. As we rolled up to Dave and Maggie’s house we were greeted warmly by the couple and their two adorable children. Little did we know, Maggie had prepare a feast in anticipation of our arrival. For an appetizer we were served homemade salsa and chips. The main course included homemade soup (made from vegetables out of their very own garden), and dessert was a marvelous peach cobbler. We ate until our stomachs nearly burst, saving just enough room to sample some delicious beer produced at a nearby brewery. Conversation went late into the night - we so enjoyed hearing about Dave and Maggie‘s work and life experiences. Both of them were fascinating, incredibly down to earth people (literally), with trade skills in stone masonry and sustainable agriculture respectively. In the morning Maggie made us some tasty breakfast burritos and Clancy lent a hand by fixing Dave’s Volkswagen door handle. We eventually hit the road once again (reluctantly), this time to begin the real ascent up the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Nearing midday we met up with Joe once again at a very important landmark on the Transamerica route. Nicknamed “The Cookie Lady,” June Curry has been providing assistance to cross country cyclists since bikecentennial in 1976. The route map boasted that June’s free bike hostel contained a single room of bicycle memorabilia (pictured: Joe, Clancy, and myself outside of said hostel). To our surprise, there were four rooms jam packed with items left by bicyclists over the course of 30+ years. We left some items to add to the collection and walked around the corner to speak with June herself. Though she has been healthier in years past, June was full of fascinating and inspiring stories and positive energy. She told us how she considers cyclists her family and how they had come to her aid in hard times. A remarkable lady with a motivating presence, we were certainly glad that we stopped to visit with June.
Our climb up the Blue Ridge Mountains rewarded us with panoramic views of Virginia’s most gorgeous vistas. Unlike other roads designed to provide a means to get from point A to point B, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469 mile road with no other purpose than recreational touring. Featuring an abundance of turnouts and magnificent overlooks, the byway certainly delivers. Our first stop on the parkway was the pioneer farm museum, also home to the Humpback rock hiking trail. At the pioneer museum we were afforded a glance back in time - a time when manual labor and protecting livestock from natural predators were survival norms. After checking out the exhibits we started trekking up the hill to catch the sunset from Humpback Rock. From the craggy precipice on top we were gifted with one of the most beautiful sunsets that I can recall. The following day we journeyed to Crabtree Falls, the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi. Though the water flow was relatively low, the impressive overlook at the top was worth every step.