FXBG

I didn’t really know what to expect in Fredericksburg, being so close to the madness of Washington DC. But I liked what I found!

The KOA I had reservations at on the south end of town is tucked away in a little forest. Beautiful. After spending the morning domesticating (laundry, cleaning B), doing some work (finally received a wire transfer from my customer in Germany) and getting a haircut I headed over to the Fredericksburg National Battlefield even though I’d heard it was unimpressive. I’d heard wrong.

Sunken Road Wall
Sunken Road Wall

Walking the Sunken Road and Marye’s Hill, where 20,000 American brothers died, was in a word, sobering. 20,000 lives; let that sink in. Just considering the ground I was walking was (is) stained with the blood of

FXBG Cemetary
FXBG Cemetary

countrymen from 150+ years ago made me sad for the divisiveness yet grateful we put that ugly past behind us. Now if we could just reconcile our inane separation today… ugh, I won’t go there. My takeaway is: civil war sites are sacred. Visiting Gettysburg in a couple days…

The Fredericksburg National Cemetery on the top of Marye’s Hill is a quiet, solemn place. Many grave markers are simply plot numbers followed by the number of unknown soldiers buried there. Many more soldiers died and rest in  unmarked graves. A couple poems on NPS signs intrigued me:

On fame’s eternal camping ground,
Their silent tents are spread,
And glory guards with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.

And…

The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
The soldier’s last tattoo.
No more on life’s parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.

Again, it’s just sobering.

After walking through the cemetery and reflecting on the sacrifices, I headed over to Strangeways Brewing to sample their brews. Good call. Awesome place, people & brews. Tasted a sour ale that was good enough to get a crowler to go for Julie. They have 40+ of their own beers on tap. Yep, it’s my newest favorite brewery!

Tuesday I kicked around Fredericksburg. Cool town. Good lunch at an Irish pub, couple brews at Red Dragon Brewery. Ran a few errands and just before settling in for the quick trip up the road to Gettysburg Wednesday I continued a few miles past my campsite to the Stonewall Jackson Shrine.

House whee Stonewall Jackson Died
House whee Stonewall Jackson Died

It’s a quiet, pretty place. (I wonder how long until some dumbass libtard organization demands it be torn down and a safe-place erected in its stead? Can’t we just let history be history?)

Whatever. I’m heading thru Harpers Ferry and Antietam on my way to Gettysburg. More on that later. G’night!

 

Battlefields

After leaving Greensboro I stopped at Appomattox where the civil war finally ended after five years of bloody battle. Cool, interesting place, good history there. After visiting the Fredericksburg battlefield (a previous post) I headed out today and drove through the gorgeous North Virginia hill country. Wow. Stunning. The lady in my CarPlay app took me down some incredible, wonderful roads to my destinations of Harpers Ferry and Antietam. She routes by shortest distance/shortest time with no regard to the narrowness and curviness of roads. But that’s just fine with me. Only a couple times did I need to plan tight turns in small towns, and only once did I worry about clearing a one-lane, covered bridge whose minimum height was 10’6″—while the trailer stands 11’2″ tall. Somehow we squeezed through just fine.

Confluence of Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers at Harpers Ferry
Confluence of Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers at Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry, with its diverse history is awesome. Spent a few hours kicking around town and learning how the community flourished & failed through the ravages of war and weather. Glad I parked at the National Park Visitor Center at the top of the hill; would’ve been really interesting turning a 35′ trailer around in the Lower Town.

Antietam Battlefield
Antietam Battlefield

Antietam was next on my route and I’m so glad I went out of the way to visit. Truly stunning place. Very expansive battlefield and pretty. Such a contrast to the hell unleashed there. Man, the civil war was anything but civil.

CarPlay lady routed m e through a slew of back roads to the KOA near Gettysburg where the host met me and helped back B into the site for the next couple days. Gettysburg tomorrow! Then on to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Cannot wait!

How Do I Put This?

Disclosure: I thought I had visited Gettysburg back in the early 90s. I dunno what I was thinking but wherever I went back then sure wasn’t Gettysburg. It was a important Civil War national park (I think they all  are), but it wasn’t this one. After spending 6+ hours visiting the Gettysburg visitors center and driving the battlefield tour, I’m kinda off my rails . . . it’s a lot to take in.

I arrived at the visitor’s center about 8:30. It was rebuilt in 2008 and it’s an awesome facility. Been to a bunch of National Park Service visitors’ centers; this one ices the cake. Attendance today was light—mostly a slew of high school groups visiting, which is awesome. From what I could tell, these kids were soaking in the history. So good to see. I wish kids across the country had access to walk our history as these fortunate boys & girls do.

The Morgan Freeman narrated film about the conditions leading to the Civil War and then the war itself was so well done high schoolers applauded at the end! And then the Cyclorama exhibit blew me away. I felt like I was standing in the middle of the battle. It’s a 45 by 330 foot painting animated with narrative, lights, and sound effects. Truly impressive and the best $15 I’ve spent  in a looooong time. Both certainly gave me an appreciation for what the battle at Gettysburg was like. After another hour in the museum and bookstore (I even bought a shirt!) I headed out to drive the auto tour.

The 23 mile self-guided tour is awesome. You can get tour guides or take a bus tour, but I was feeling like doing it solo. A few times at certain stops I eavesdropped on the pros explaining the history and realized there’s real value in going that route. (So I continued to eavesdrop from time to time!)

The battlefields are: Massive. Expansive. Sprawling. Diverse. Difficult. Beautiful. Stunning. Serene. Humbling. Sobering. Sad.

I don’t know how many times I felt emotions of regret, anger, sadness, appreciation, admiration, inadequacy, thankfulness. Emotions ran the gamut. I truly don’t know how to put it…

(I do know I’m annoyed at our weakened culture that wants safe rooms to coddle their ill-conceived emotions of being wronged. Good God, people, some of these soldiers walked miles upon miles to fight for their cause. Many of them barefoot. Some snowflakes out there today really need a reality check. ‘Nuff said.)

I walked through the “bloody wheatfield” where 4,000 were killed or injured. and I looked down at Devils Den, yet another site of fierce fighting and sacrifice. You can’t walk these lands and not feel the impact of what went down here. You don’t.

The tour fittingly ends at the National Cemetery where President Lincoln gave his famous, so pertinent address. I walked those grounds and, I gotta say, I got a little choked up at the number of “unknown” grave markers. So many men—on both sides of the conflict that divided our nation—gave their lives and are buried in graves marked “Unknown.” Others remain on the battlefields, unceremoniously buried where they fell. I don’t know what to do with that…

So then, how do I put this? What do I do with my Gettysburg experience? Do I just move on? Just visit the next point  of interest? Push the emotion to the background? As a wise (and much loved) sister put it: “You CANNOT truly appreciate the past until you visit places like this in person. If we remove everything offensive and sweep it under the rug then we’re eventual doomed to repeat it…

I guess I’ll tell the story. Encourage people to visit our nation’s parks and historic sites. Learn. Consider. Apply. Encourage. Pay it forward. Pray. May God bless America. The United States of America.

Slowly Headed Home

This trip has been awesome on all levels. I had been as far east as I was going 12 days ago on the Outer Banks and yesterday at Gettysburg I was as far north. Today I’m starting a slow return to DFW. About noon I’ll hit the northern point of Skyline Drive and the connecting Blue Ridge Parkway—574 miles of mountain driving where the speed limit maxes out at 45 MPH. Supposed to be stunning. Cannot wait to see it! I should hit Front Royal, VA about noon and then my campsite at Big Meadows in Shenandoah National Park a couple hours later. On the road again still!

Shenandoah & Northern Blue Ridge

I left Gettysburg Friday morning headed toward Shenandoah National Park and the start of my long, slow drive along the Park’s Skyline Drive (at no more than 35 MPH) then onto the Blue Ridge Parkway (where the speed limit cranks up to 45). Other than the winding, picturesque drive on back roads (and across that same 10’6″ bridge with my 11’2″ trailer) between G’burg and Front Royal, the drive was Interstate doldrums.

But at Front Royal, where I fueled up both truck and generator (no campsite power in the national park) and entertained a group of foreign tourists with the size of my rig (no wisecracks!) the drive got pretty, pretty fast. You enter the National Park and quickly benefit from the beauty of the forest and expansive views overlooking both sides of the ridge-line road. Don’t believe a word  of what you hear about how beautiful Skyline Drive & the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s much better! I quickly learned you can’t reasonably stop at every turnout to take in the views. And you really don’t need to thanks to the 35 MPH speed limit. The two-lane road twists & winds its way up and down ridges, alternating between tight forest and open skylines. Truly a pleasure to drive! Truly a wonderful road!

(As a side-note, I’ve gotta get Ford credit for their tow/haul feature  on the SuperDuty trucks. This was the first time I’ve been in mountainous terrain with this rig, and once I engaged the towing feature and got comfortable with how it manages transmission shifting, I happily realized how efficient it is managing speed both up & down hills. Up-shifting is minimized so the turbo kicks in less; downshifting takes much of the wear off the brakes as the heavy truck/trailer gains momentum downhill. It’s a cool, effective feature that, as I suspected and then confirmed with the owners manual, gets more efficient as it learns the terrain. Henry Ford would be proud.)

I rolled into Big Meadows Campground about 2:15 and setup camp for three days. I planned to hike some and enjoy the park. As it turned out, the weather and my left knee didn’t cooperate much so I just spent time chillaxing and reading a couple books I’d been wanting to get after. I smoked a small rack of ribs one day—there’s nothing like the smell of smoking meat in a campground, knowing you’ve gotta be annoying the holy outta the other campers, and maybe a bear or two!

When Monday morning rolled around I was up early and on my way through the southern part of Shenandoah and toward the Blue Ridge. Morning driving kept me alert as there were lots of deer alongside the road and uncountable squirrels on the road. Sadly, one of them didn’t make  it to the other side (a squirrel, not a deer). But I wasn’t putting 10,000 pounds of rolling mass at risk for a rodent with a good marketing department. Sorry little guy… The frequent patches of fog/clouds added to the fun and I slowed to about 20 MPH many times. All-in-all I loved the drive!

Once I hit the BRP I dialed it up to 45 most  of the time, except for downhill curves and, again, some foggy areas. After a few turnout stops later to snap pictures and tour a cool mining encampment I arrived at the Fancy Gap KOA for another couple nights so I could reconnect with the electronic world, get a little work done, and get caught up  on this writing before new places fill my head.

By the way, if you haven’t noticed, I’ve added a map of my travels at Southeast Map and a gallery of slideshows at Southeast Galleries. Enjoy.

Southern BRP & a #~!%^ Detour

I was looking at about 325 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway until I’d leave it and turn toward Greenville to visit a good friend I haven’t seen for maybe ten years. Was gonna be a nice day!

And it was—for the most part. The BRP really is a national treasure. It’s an absolutely beautiful drive as it winds & weaves it way across ridges & valleys, snaking its way beside streams & ponds, through trees & meadows, and across gaps & passes with spectacular vistas. It never got boring. The drive was really nice.

And then, it wasn’t so nice. The drive became a bitch just south of the Boone, NC exit for a 12 mile-ish detour around a closed section of the BRP. This shitty detour wasted me. The detour was onto a road clearly not made for a truck & trailer rig of 57 feet long, 11 feet high. To worsen things, road crews were repaving it so half the road surface was off limits. After dodging the second overhanging rock I decided, F-it. I straddled the centerline, until I got pushed by an ongoing truck to the inside, mountainside lane and its lack of shoulder. I figured the trailer tires and axel took a hit thanks to North Carolina’s piss-poor road maintenance, but kept rolling because traffic was moderate and stopping to investigate would be another problem. As soon as the detour dumped us back onto the blessed Parkway I pulled into the first turnout I could to check things out. Other than some stuff rattling around inside the trailer all seemed well. Nevertheless, I’m still annoyed by the lousy road. I suppose I’ll get over it.

A couple hours later I was tucked into the Travelers Rest KOA, looking forward to hanging with my friend Melba soon. I found a local brewery—Swamp Rabbit—and ordered a pale ale and then an IPA. I barely finished, as exhaustion hit me. I headed back to the campsite and was lights out about 8pm. Not sure I even rolled over until the sun came up.

Overall, the Parkway will remain one of my trip’s highlights. I can’t emphasize enough that if you have the opportunity to experience it, just do it. If you’re going in the fall, gimme a call! It’s beautiful in spring; can’t imagine the fall colors.

I’d traveled all but about 60 miles of the Blue Ridge. Since I’ve already seen the southwestern section of it near Great Smoky Mountains National Park a couple years ago, I’m gonna take a more direct route to Nashville, where I’ll then take on the Natches Trace as I head south & west. Stay tuned.