On the Road Again

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When I left my law job for full-time life on the farm, one of the things I intended to do was take lots of weekend day-trips, partly to compensate for the loss of long vacations, which farm life doesn’t permit. But that never really panned out. We did give up our two-week vacations, but we added very few day-trips. The best time for hiking and sightseeing is when the weather is warm, and when the weather is warm there’s a seemingly endless list of farm work that needs doing. So while we did (and still do) take long post-supper walks most days, we rarely left the farm.

For years I’ve been resolving to do day-trips on Sundays, but it never seemed to happen. But with three under our belt in April I’m hoping we finally have the momentum to make them a regular part of our life.

A couple of weeks ago we visited Natural Bridge. It’s only two hours from here, but I’d never been. A stunningly beautiful place, the bridge has been carved out by a gentle creek, patiently over a couple of million years.

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To get a sense of the size of this, notice the people standing beneath it.

There is a living history Indian village in the park. I was very interested to see how they made their roofs and fences.

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Afterwards we visited the Natural Bridge Caverns, also a first for me, then made a quick stop in Lexington, home of Washington and Lee University, the Virginia Military Institute, and a lot of fascinating history.

On Sunday, April 9, a friend and I visited Appomattox Battlefield National Park, on the 152nd anniversary of the battle and surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. The surrender occurred on Palm Sunday, and this year was only the 7th time since then that the anniversary has fallen on Palm Sunday.

Cherie isn’t much interested in military history, but she was out of town, so I visited with a childhood friend. He and I have been fascinated with local and Civil War history since our boyhood days, so visiting with him was a lot of fun.

It was a gorgeous day, perfect for the event. We were impressed with the skill and knowledge of the park historians, and we attended several of their talks. There was also an impressive group of re-enactors present. Despite the beautiful weather, and the historic anniversary, I’d estimate there were no more than a few hundred people in the park that day, with only a few dozen at each of the talks we attended.

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The place has some special meaning for my family. My grandfather’s grandfather and his brother were paroled here, being among the handful of their original company who survived the entire war. It’s actually something of a wonder that I’m here to tell about it.

The previous Sunday we traveled part of a driving tour of the “lost communities” of southern Virginia, created as part of a larger project called the Lost Communities of Virginia. We discovered lots of interesting places right in our back yard, but came nowhere near finishing the tour. We plan to take it up again soon.

We had a picnic lunch at the nearby Staunton River Battlefield Park.  Here the Battle of Staunton River Bridge (often called the Battle of Old Men and Young Boys) was fought in June, 1864. With a force of 5,000 Federal cavalry bearing down on the bridge, intent on severing a vital lifeline to Richmond and other parts north, the commander of the 300-man unit protecting the bridge issued an urgent call for local volunteers. Four hundred and ninety two old men and young boys answered the call, arriving with whatever weapons they had. The makeshift defenders were able to repulse the Federal attacks.

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We enjoyed hiking over the bridge (the current bridge uses the same supports but unlike its Civil War ancestor, it isn’t covered), as well as hiking the park’s nature trail. It was a beautiful way to spend an afternoon and we saw only two other people there.

I’m looking forward to more trips like these. We’re fortunate to be surrounded by lots of interesting destinations for lovers of nature and history. I’m determined to make the time to enjoy them.

And, after breaking our 12-year hiatus last year, we’ve booked tickets for another two-week trip to Europe this fall. As much as I love our quiet life on the farm, it’s good to start getting a little travel back into our lives too.