"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Inching Our Way North Through Virginia

It seems like we've been heading north for a long time, traveling just an inch or two on the map every time we move.  This leisurely pace has, however, allowed us to explore some pretty neat places here in the south. Our last two stops have been in the beautiful state of Virginia.

The picture above is from Fort Chiswell RV-Park, near Wytheville, VA. It's a great place for an overnight or several, and has beautiful grounds in the midst of rolling hills and farm country. It's an easy place to get to from I-81, which we are basically following north.  It's also very close to the New River Trail State Park, where we took a bike ride.

This relatively new Virginia State Park was built around a multi-use rail-to-trail that follows the New River. (The New River incidentally is the third oldest river in the world, geologically speaking.) The park has lots of new and well-cared for facilities, including a stable with horses for hire and a complete equestrian center, as well as various historical structures associated with the railroad and local agriculture.

The shady trail was perfect for a very hot, muggy, late afternoon, and it traveled close enough to the river to enjoy the sound of the wide shallow rapids.  It was a cool, flat ride. Easy peasy.

At one point the trail passes under the Shot Tower.  As the park's webpage says:

"Overlooking the New River, Shot Tower was built more than 150 years ago to make ammunition for the firearms of the early settlers. Lead from the nearby Austinville Mines was Shot Tower at the parkmelted in a kettle atop the 75-foot tower and poured through a sieve, falling through the tower and an additional 75-foot shaft beneath the tower into a kettle of water."  The lead needed to drop all that way to form perfectly round balls. How ingenious.

After just one night at Ft. Chiswell we moved on to Misty Mountain Camp Resort, another very nice campground with more facilities that we need really, including large group camping areas, playgrounds, pavilions, even a stage. It would actually be perfect for an RV rally.

The draw for us was its proximity to Charlottesville, a small city we've visited before and really like. Here's a picture of the lovely downtown pedestrian mall where I took a little early Saturday stroll after visiting the nearby farmer's market. Nice market - lots of good produce as well as other kinds of trendy organic food stuffs. I even had my first taste of kombucha. (I'm not a fan yet.)

Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home, is in Charlottesville, but we didn't visit it this time. We did take a stroll around the University of Virginia, another place strongly influenced by Thomas Jefferson.  These are the famous serpentine walls, designed by Jefferson.  Rick loves this place and Jefferson's philosophy.

"Jefferson believed that architecture was the heart of the American cause. In his mind, a building was not merely a walled structure, but a metaphor for American ideology, and the process of construction was equal to the task of building a nation. The architecture of any American building should express the American desire to break cultural--as well as political--ties to Europe. American architecture, Jefferson believed, would embody the fulfillment of the civic life of Americans, and he sought to establish the standards of a national architecture, both aesthetically and politically"(from "The Architectural Politics of Thomas Jefferson", The American Studies Group, U of V).

Jefferson designed the original university buildings and campus, as an "ideal community." The buildings are like a giant-sized Monticello. Above is the rotunda, the heart of the university, and the statue of Jefferson.

Misty Mountain Camp Resort is about halfway between Charlottesville and the Shenandoah National Park, accessed via the Skyline Drive.  We spent a nice morning taking the drive from its southernmost point to Big Meadows, then returned via the narrow backroads on the eastern side of the mountains. (You know, there's no way to stop and take pictures in this part of the country. Why don't they do shoulders on the roads down here?) 

So I guess this is goodbye to the south; our next post will be from north of the Mason-Dixon line. Being northerners, we didn't have a lot of experience in the south, and we've both admitted we were packing our own set of prejudices about it. Now, after spending our winter traveling through nine of the southern states, we've been very positively impressed with it's natural beauty, rich culture, great food, and of course, it's hospitality. Who knows, we may some day become southerners! 

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