"Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death"

Trip Start Sep 19, 2012
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Trip End Oct 08, 2012


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Flag of United States  , Virginia
Tuesday, September 25, 2012

For the first time on this trip, I begin the day as I usually do at home: by doing the daily crossword puzzle. It's my feeble attempt at getting my neurons firing and bringing myself to a fully awake state. Today's crossword is from the newly redesigned USA Today, which is complimentary with our motel's continental breakfast. USA Today's puzzles, particularly early in the week, can be completed by a hillbilly with a 4th-grade education. So I finish this one in 12 minutes, using a pen.

Another crossing exercise happens early in today's ride. We begin the day by crossing the James River. This time (unlike last night when we crossed on a ferry) we cross on a bridge. Today will be the first time in three days that we don't end the day with a sunset cruise on the water.

Most days of this trip are multi-state extravaganzas. An example is Day One: Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina. Today is a one-state wonder: all Virginia, all the time.

We head west on VA-5, The John Tyler Highway. For you history buffs, John Tyler was a native Virginian, and the tenth Vice President of the United States. He became the tenth President after the death of William Henry Harrison in 1841. Years after his presidency ended in 1845, Tyler supported the secession movement and was elected to the Congress of the Confederate States of America (CSA).

The Tyler Highway follows the James River, and crosses it just west of Tar Bay, on Jordan Point Road. We cross the James River again in Hopewell, Virginia, near the Appomattox Confederate Cemetery. Appomattox is known for General Robert E. Lee's surrender on Palm Sunday 1865, signaling the end of the Confederacy's attempt to create a separate nation. I may be astride a Harley in the American South, but it feels like I'm riding through a history book.

Heading west on VA-10, we ride north and west through the city of Chester and Chesterfield County -- named for Chesterfield cigarettes and the sofa in your living room. We ride past cotton fields on streets and highways named for giants of US history, places like the Patrick Henry Highway (US-360). He's best remembered as an orator, famous for his "Give me Liberty or give me Death!" speech in 1775. The line came at the end of his speech in the House of Burgesses on March 23, 1775 -- as the House was undecided on whether to mobilize for military action against the encroaching British military force. Eventually, Henry got both liberty and death.

At Amelia Court House, we turn north on State Route 681 and head for Cumberland State Forest. The Amelia area is known for its supply of minerals, including the nation's best source of Amazonite found at the Morefield mine. Amazonite, sometimes known as the "amazon stone," is a bright green color when polished, and is sometimes cut and used as a gemstone. And, a great name for an on-line bazaar: amazonite-dot-com.

We pass through Cumberland National Forest, turn north on US-15 (the James Madison Highway), cross the James River again, and eventually, arrive in Scottsville, Virginia. Scottsville is the birthplace of Thomas Staples Martin, who served five terms in the US Senate, representing Virginia. Scottsville, apparently named after the fertilizer company that markets Miracle-Gro, is a good place to relax, gas up, and have lunch.

From there, we ride north and continue through the Shenandoah Valley, skirting the eastern edge of Shenandoah National Park. Approaching Stanardsville, Virginia, we turn northwest on US-33, which takes us into the park.

We ride through the Rapidan Wildlife Management Area, which is dominated by chestnut oak and tulip poplar trees. Sugar maple and yellow and black birch may be found in some of the higher areas; the area along the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains ranges from 1,400 to 2,840 feet above sea level.

We are now heading north on Skyline Drive, a 105-mile road that meanders through Shenandoah National Park, along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It's the only public road through the park, and I get to use my Senior Park Pass again, giving me free entry to the park (the $10 lifetime pass has already paid for itself!). The maximum speed limit on Skyline Drive is 35 MPH, so we slow down, enjoy the views, the scents, the colors, and the music (I have speakers in my helmet, and listen to my iPod with playlists produced just for this ride). To learn more about Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, click here.

Construction of Skyline Drive began in 1931 and ended in 1939 -- at a cost of $50,000 per mile. We follow Skyline Drive north for 65 miles; for you mathematicians, that's slightly less than 2 hours at legal speeds. There are 71 scenic overlooks on the road; we stop at a dozen of them, as you'll see in some of today's photos.

With Luray to the west and Sperryville to the east, we cross US-211, aka the Lee Highway. It's named after Robert E. Lee, best known for commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the Civil War. When Virginia declared its secession from the Union in April 1861, Lee chose to follow his home state, despite his personal desire for the Union to stay intact and despite the fact that President Abraham Lincoln had offered Lee command of the Union Army.

At the end of Skyline Drive, we jump on US-340 for a few miles. US-340 is the Stonewall Jackson Highway, named for Confederate General Thomas Jonathan Jackson. Confederate soldiers accidentally shot him on May 2, 1963 -- at the Battle of Chancellorsville during the Civil War. Jackson survived the loss of an arm to amputation, but died of complications from pneumonia eight days later.

***

We're on our way to Front Royal, Virginia – about 70 miles west of Washington DC. It's believed that Front Royal's name comes from the early years of European settlement, when the area was referred to in French as le front royal, meaning the British frontier.

Front Royal, which sits on the banks of the Shenandoah River, is designated the "Canoe capital of Virginia," though it's unclear why. I'm a sucker for canoeing destinations, so we'll call it a day here in Front Royal. Super 8 Motel ($58.23 tax) is where we rest for the evening.

Tonight's dinner is at Soul Mountain Cafe in Front Royal. I, of course, had ribs -- which should answer a question from a savvy blog follower: "Gary, as a member if the tribe, are you fasting and atoning today (referring to the Jewish High Holidays)? The simple answer is NO! My pork ribs were decidedly un-kosher ("treif"). Hey, I'm on a rib-and-ride trip. Give me a break.

***

Day Five Summary: Chesterfield cigarettes, amazonite.com, Stonewall Jackson, canoeing in le front royal. Today's ride: about 272 miles. Total miles since leaving Farragut, Tennessee, five days ago: 1,338 miles.

To view today's complete route from Williamsburg, Virginia, to Front Royal, Virginia, click here.

What will tomorrow bring?
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Comments

Lars on

You start your day solving a crossword puzzle - in our timezone it has become a popular habit to check out the newsletter from our friendly biker boyz. If we were to add a soundtrack to your blog, what's on you iPod for a Day like this?

jwc on

Make sure you wash your greasy hands before you put on the bike gloves.

Hope your stepping on the scale each morning.

Kim & I are taking Sara out to Arnies's for ribs tonight. So There!

Jim & Barb on

You are making us hungry for ribs! Sure like the way you said HI to all of us! Innovative at the least. Safe travels.

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