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.

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19 comments on “On the Road Again

  1. I have always been fascinated with the Civil War too. Thanks for sharing this.

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    • Bill says:

      I’ve recently rekindled my old interest. I’m reading through Shelby Foote’s 3 volume history now and it has helped inspire me to learn more.

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  2. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, there’s always so much more to history than what is taught in school. There are never ending stories to be told about pioneer life in Nebraska. The older I get the more I wish I had listened closer to my great grand parent’s stories about settling in Nebraska back in the 1800s. My interest in history is not so much about wars but just about what every day life was like. Some years ago a grand daughter chronicled stories of her grand mother in a blog who had lived in the outback of Australia. Her grand mother died many many years ago but it was fascinating to me to read about her life and hardships they had to endure.

    I’m glad you are able to get away on short day trips. Farm and homestead life is relentless and requires daily attention especially with animals. It’s the reason my pets are wild and free and don’t need care from me. My grandson would love to have a dog but I’ve been able to hold the line with no more pets for me. It sure makes like simpler when vacations come up. I’m really not a traveler but still I do spend time away from home visiting friends and family. It seems as though I’m surrounded by dogs. Almost everyone in the neighborhood has a dog so my granson son still gets exposure to dogs without having to care for them. The best deal ever in my opinion.

    Have many more history days in the future.

    Nebraska Dave

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    • Bill says:

      Social history was badly neglected until recently. But nowadays there are lots of good “living history” parks. We have several that aren’t too far away. There’s one that replicates farm life in the 1930’s and I’m hoping to visit it soon. The Indian village at Natural Bridge was fascinating and some of the interpreters are members of the tribe. They were demonstrating tanning, building and other things and were gracious with questions. If I stick to my plan to get out more this year, I’ll probably do more posts about this kind of thing in the future.

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  3. Sounds like some pleasant times with more to come. We haven’t taken a vacation in years either and I am determined we will do something this year!!!!

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    • Bill says:

      I used to have to travel so much on business that I was sick and tired of it. I definitely didn’t mind staying home for a while. But no vacation at all for 12 years was too far in the other direction. I’ve come to realize that some time away experiencing new things is good for us. Hope you’re able to get away soon. 🙂

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  4. shoreacres says:

    Travel’s good — even day trips can be fabulous, as you’ve made clear in this post. I certainly enjoyed my big trip last fall, but I generally prefer a rhythm of three or four day trips interspersed with long periods at work. That’s part necessity, of course, but not entirely. If I can swing it, my next one will be a trip up to Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas for a Chihuly glass exhibit. I’ve admired his work for years, and the chance to see it isn’t easily passed up.

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    • Bill says:

      Over the years your posts have often stirred my desire for day trips/travel but it seemed I always had some excuse/rationale for putting them off. I don’t think I’ll ever look back at my life, regretting that I didn’t spend a Sunday weeding beets (for example). Still…

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      • shoreacres says:

        If you ever were to make it to Danbury, the site of the wreck of the Old 97, that would be cool beyond words. As I recall, there was a complicated copyright suit involved with that song, too — it’s not the Civil War, but I think the battle got heated!

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      • Bill says:

        I’m smiling because that’s my hometown (Danville–15 miles from here). I’ve driven past the site of the wreck thousands of times. There’s a big mural nearby now celebrating it.

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  5. Joanna says:

    We too are committed with the farm. Sure could do with some folks who can help share the load a bit, but not found anyone yet. We’ll keep looking. Although I suspect it is me who feels the need to travel, more than my hubby.

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    • Bill says:

      It’s important to find a balance I think. We have good friends who enjoy farm sitting for us, but of course they can’t spend all day every day taking care of things. There is a cost to traveling, but we think it’s worth it, at least at this point in our lives.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Joanna says:

        I hope we can find some good farm sitters too, but then again we haven’t got a house on the farm itself yet. I hope we can have a cabin at least soon, but that is looking like pie in the sky at the moment.

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  6. BeeHappee says:

    Wow Bill, cool stuff! Before we know it you will be announcing your purchase of the RV and your move here to Arizona with other snow birds? 🙂
    It is amazing how many things are in one’s backyard. We never seemed to run out of new things to see in Illinois, new people, history, civil war reenactments, etc. and now in Arizona it is simply impossible to see it all in one lifetime. Indian ruins are everywhere, one of them right here a walking distance from the house. Petroglyphs, native american cultural centers, historic ranches, birding, horseriding, swimming holes, mining towns, museums, over 2000 canyons on the state alone, etc.
    Enjoy your trips!!!! Where in Europe are you heading this time?
    Kristina

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    • Bill says:

      I’ve enjoyed following along on all your amazing day trips. You’re definitely an inspiration.

      We’re very seriously considering buying a small (very small) travel trailer and taking a year off to travel around the country. So many places I haven’t seen. Cherie is especially excited about that prospect. We’ll see. Maybe in 3-5 years we’ll do that.

      We’re going back to France. Cherie is a Francophile. 🙂 As before we’re going to stay in Paris a week (her preference), then rent a car and tour around the countryside a week (my preference). We’re going in September.

      Liked by 1 person

      • BeeHappee says:

        Bill, that is super exciting!!! Both about France and about the year off!! 🙂 Keep me in the loop. In case you need a farm sitter for a year while you guys wade the Pacific and climb the mountains, you know who to ask. 🙂

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  7. hilarymb says:

    Hi Bill – I enjoyed seeing these … and noting your reference to your grandfathers (distant) – wonderful to have that connection. Lovely photos and notes – I enjoyed the read .. history and social history are fascinating. Enjoy those day trips and also the trip overseas – well done on booking up. You deserve a break … the veggie and fruits are doing so well … cheers Hilary

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks Hilary. Trying to find a good balance. On the one hand, I’d be perfectly happy to stay here the rest of my days. On the other hand, why not look around a bit if we can? 🙂

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