Riding Through Civil War History

My weekend ride continued on Sunday morning and the route that I chose took me through Appomattox Courthouse.

You will most likely recognize the name Appomattox as the site of Lee’s surrender, effectively ending the Civil War.

It was quiet that morning, and all I heard were the birds singing and the leaves rustling in the breeze.

I could not help but think about the 620,000 souls who died during that terrible time when our country was so divided.

The peace that morning was such a contrast to the violence that was seen in those fields.

A solemn walk through this small confederate cemetery revealed the story of a soldier who joined the army on day one of the war, April 12th, 1861, and after serving for 1,458 days, was killed on the last day of the war, April 9, 1865.

Standing there that day, I could not help but think about how divided our nation is now, and how desperately we need a leader who will unite us.

Somehow we must learn the lessons of past tragedy and move beyond the divisiveness.

Riding ‘Round Virginia

While it can be a challenge to be away from home for several weekends in a row, the benefits include the opportunity to visit with family and friends.  Two weeks ago I was in Williamsburg celebrating my mother’s birthday.  Last weekend, for a mix of meetings and fun, I rode the bike from Blacksburg to Fredericksburg to King George to Richmond and back home.  The weather was bright and beautiful and I enjoyed 600 miles of happy!

My meeting was in  Fredericksburg, an historic town that I had not visited in decades.  Sadly,  I wasn’t able to do much exploring since I arrived late on Friday and had to be in meetings first thing the next morning. I did stay in a hotel that I now hear is haunted, although I saw no sign of ghosts.  The Inn at Old Silk Mill was built in the 1930s and was one of the largest motor lodges on the east coast.

The Silk Mill was built in 1889 and was a factory that employed over 200 women. The women spun silk that was imported from Italy to go around spools for sewing. Originally the C.W Tholtz Throwing Company, The Mill has been recently renovated to host weddings and events.

All the meeting attendees were able to attend Senator Mark Warner‘s annual BBQ.  Located in King George, Senator Warner’s home is located right on the Rappahanock River.

The Senator, and Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor, and current candidate for Governor, Ralph Northam, and Attorney General Mark Herring stood in line for hours greeting the many hundreds of people in attendance.

What a wonderful way to say thanks to the many people who have worked to keep Virginia blue.

Next post: Riding Through Civil War History

College Gameday in Blacksburg

While it wasn’t the first time that College Gameday had been to Blacksburg, the crew had not been to Virginia Tech since 2011, when they came to bring a sense of normalcy back to a vulnerable community after the tragedy of April 16th.  Saturday’s visit to Virginia Tech was the 6th appearance in Blacksburg, and the 10th featuring Virginia Tech.

Thousands of fans lined up early to be a part of the excitment, and even though our team did not win the day, we had an absolute blast!

Co-host Rece Davis commented that “this place has been special in the history of College Gameday, and it’s also been special, I think, in the evolution and growth of college football in general on ESPN”.

Virginia Tech’s famous Hokie Stone made for the perfect backdrop.

Davis continued “I think a lot of the Virginia Tech brand was built by the willingness to play on Thursday night. This is a place that I think is unique and special to both our show and to our coverage of the sport as a whole.

One of the hallmarks of Gameday are the signs, and I thought I’d share just a few that I saw.  They may not make much sense if you are not a VT or Clemson fan but perhaps you’ll appreciate the creativity.

Gobblers – a reference to our mascot

Dabo Swinney is the Clemson Head Coach

Bud Foster is Virginia Tech’s beloved Defensive Coordinator and Associate Head Coach

Howard’s Rock is touched by every Clemson player as they take the field; Hokie Stone is traditional to Virgina Tech

Kirk Herbstreit is a long time co-host of College Gameday

Enter Sandman by Metallica is the song played as the team takes the field.  Check out this link to get a feel for the joyful insanity that reigns in Lane Stadium on game day.  Seriously! Check it out!

Despite the loss, it was a great day in Blacksburg.

Proud to be a Hokie!

Go Hokies!

Birthday at The Winery

What better way to celebrate my mother’s birthday than at the Williamsburg Winery.

My parents live in Williamsburg, Virginia, a place that many people visit for the shopping.

I visit for family.  And history.  And the food and wine, of course.

We started with a visit to the tasting room where Calvin, the young but knowledgeable wine steward, not only introduced the wines but offered the history behind the labels and names.

This bottle of Acte 12 of 1619 was named after the Act that was passed by the 1619 House of Burgesses requiring all male households in Virginia to grow ten vines of the imported vinifera grapes from Europe.

How’s that for encouraging the growth of the wine industry in the new country?

How fortunate am I to have such incredible parents?

Once done with our tasting, we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Gabriel Archer Tavern.

Gabriel Archer was one of the first settlers to set foot on land near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in late April 1607, moving on to Jamestown in August that same year.

We were having so much fun that I barely pulled out the camera, and the images in this post are a mix of camera and phone.

I wish I’d had more time to shoot the scene,

but really, I was just glad to have been able to spend the day with my parents and celebrate my mother.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

A”maze”ing Channels

We knew that we’d have a great hike and incredible views when we visited The Channels Natural Area Preserve, and we even knew that there would be some interesting sandstone formations to explore.  What we didn’t know was just how very cool those formations would be.  We simply could not help ourselves and kept exclaiming out loud with every turn.  As Karen said, the place brought out the inner child in all of us.

According to several online sources, the sandstone outcroppings were formed 400 million years ago.

Geologists conclude that the Channels were likely formed while the high elevation sandstone cap was under the influence of permafrost and ice wedging during the last ice age.

 The expanding ice fractured the sandstone and water slowly spread and smoothed the breaks over millions of years.

“What is left is a labyrinth of slots and crevices through the rocks. The pathways range from 20 to nearly 40 feet deep and wind their way through damp, moss-covered walls of stone” (https://virginiatrailguide.com/2016/10/23/great-channels).

Aren’t the colors incredible?

Check out the way these tree roots are stretching for moisture,

and the ferns growing amidst the cracks in the rocks.

We laughed and exclaimed and explored and were utterly happy with the experience.

For more information about The Channels, visit the previous two posts.

Haytors Knob Fire Tower

Once a Wildland Firefigher, Always a Wildland Firefigher.

At least that’s how we feel in our hearts, and I’ve written about this in a previous post.

It’s been over 30 years since I worked a fireline, but when I saw this fire tower at the halfway point of our 6 mile hike to The Channels, I felt that old firefighter excitement deep inside.   The tower, built in 1939 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, was registered with the National Historic Lookout Registry in 2014.

According to the Registry, the tower construction materials were carried to the construction site on mules and on men’s backs.

When laying underneath, and looking up through the stairs, it truly seemed that the tower was moving against the clouds and sky.

Per the registry, the tower commands a view of over 60 miles on a clear winter day and fewer than six feet when the fog settles over the mountain.  Research did not reveal the height of the tower, but for some reason 100ft seems about right.  Oh, how I wanted to climb it but between the sign that said “No Climbing”, the lack of time, stairs (and probably the lack of muscle), I didn’t get very far.

The tower was in use from 1939 until the spring of 1970, and was the inspiration for a book called Fire Tower by Jack Kestner.  The late author wrote this adventure story in 1960 after serving as a lookout himself at the Hayters Knob fire tower.  “With this book, Jack honored the men and women of the Virginia Division of Forestry (now the Department of Forestry) who work tirelessly to protect lives and property during fire season”.

The tower itself is in much better shape than the cabin once used by the former lookouts.

As we turned to head back down the mountain, I took one last wistful look behind me.

The heart of a firefighter remains.

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See the previous post for more about the hike to the top of The Channels.

The next post will reveal images of the sandstone formations that give The Channels it’s name.