Monday, May 03, 2010


I've been to God's country, my friends, and it's called Shenandoah.  Total distance traveled today: 359 miles.

Thunderstorms and rain last night into the morning.  I wanted to get an early start but I held off till about 8:00 when the rain seemed to be subsiding.  I donned full rain gear for insurance and, like the first aid kit and all the tools I packed to guarantee I wouldn't need them, the rain suit worked like a charm.  Though it was cloudy until 11:00 or so, no rain fell.

I saw Harrisburg, PA from a distance.  It was nothing to remember.  The capital dome peeked out from between some featureless, beige skyscrapers.  Yesterday, my heart swelled with admiration when I caught my first sight of Hartford, CT looming in the distance, the Traveller's Tower a beacon of surety, the other buildings stylish and distinctive, the Tudor style capital majestic as I passed.  I'm from Connecticut.  Still, I can't imagine any Pennsylvanians getting a lump in their throat viewing Harrisburg from afar.

Pennsylvania is lovely and verdant but it wasn't until I was in Maryland that I said to myself, "We live in a beautiful country."  It struck me as surprising as the day went on that agriculture makes up such a small percentage of the national economy since all I've passed through after New Jersey is farm land.  None of these farms seem to be the multinational agri-business I read about dominating the sector either.  Just passing through, I'm not privy to the back room ownership of all these farms but they all seem small compared to what I expect to find in Iowa or Nebraska or the Dakotas.  I passed well maintained farmhouse accompanied by spacious barns and silos throughout the day.  Everything was so tidy, nothing like the scrubby cattle ranches I've seen in Oklahoma and Texas.

It was all back roads south of Harrisburg.  I stopped at Gettysburg and met a biker from Lowell, Mass.  Figure the odds.  He and his wife have been touring the Skyline Drive that runs along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia and they were headed home, stopping on the way to get a history lesson.

Leaving Maryland, passing the St. Elizabeth Seaton Shrine, I took real back roads into Virginia, crossing the Potomac at Point of Rocks.  My voyage thus far through the Old Dominion has been anything but efficient but I wouldn't trade it for all the convenient rest areas on all the interstates.

I wound around and pierced the Blue Ridge at Ashby Gap and then I was southward bound on Route 340.  I opted not to take the Skyline Drive because it is very twisty and I figured this would add too much time to my trip.  I'm not in a rush but I prefer the road less travelled and I pretty much had my trail all to myself.  Let me repeat: the Shenandoah Valley is God's country.

With the Blue Ridge mountains on one side and the Appalachians on the other, the Shenadoah River winding between, I marveled at the scenery.  I am a city cat and I cannot imagine living in the country.  I like an arts scene that consists of more than sewing circles.  I like a library that is bigger than my apartment.  I like nightlife that consists of more than meeting at the Grange Hall.  All of that said, I envy the people who live in the towns of Luray, Waynesboro, and where I've ended up for the night, Lexington.

Little did I know it but Lexington is home to the Virginia Military Institute which was in the news a few years back.  It's very forbidding fortress of a campus that dominates a lovingly preserved, chi-chi downtown.  Not my cup of tea, but interesting to see.

The milage and gasoline tally for today:  To just outside of Harrisburg I logged another 55 miles, bringing the total from last fill up to 103.  I purchased 2.38 gallons for $6.82 ($2.85/gal).  In the tiny village of Lucketts in Virgina, the odometer read another 103 miles and I put 1.37 gallons in the tank for $3.97 ($2.85/gal).  In Luray, VA, at 91 miles, I purchased 1.41 gallons for $3.90 ($2.75/gal).  My last stop of the day was Lexington after 110 miles; the tank took 1.44 gallons for $4.30 ($2.96/gal).

I should be out of Virginia tomorrow and by day's end at least very close to the far edge of Tennessee.  The low temperature tonight is supposed to be in the forties so I opted for a hotel again.  This is getting more expensive than I would like so it's camping tomorrow.  I'm hoping the nights get warmer the further south I go but I understand the temperature in Boston today was in the eighties, the same as it was in the Shenandoah Valley.  No matter what, if tomorrow is like today I'll be sure to enjoy plying the backroads and byways of this wonderful land.  I've been to other places and they are all beautiful in their way.  None of those match the beauty I witnessed today.

I took some pictures, which isn't like me to do.  I was so impressed by the landscape and the townships I passed through.  Of course, I don't know how to load them onto the computer.  You can satisfy your curiosity by watching a very good Jimmy Stewart instead....

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