Thursday, October 14, 2010

Yes, Virginia

We travelled south on I-81 through the Shenandoah Valley to Natural Bridge, VA. I don’t know how many times we’ve driven past signs for Natural Bridge, but never had time to stop. So here we are. The bridge is in a privately owned park which has a lot of natural beauty and history, and also a wax museum. I guess the owners figured the natural beauty wasn’t enough to attract tourists. DSC_0008 The bridge is pretty big, big enough to actually have US highway 11 running over it. The first private owner of the Natural Bridge was Thomas Jefferson. George Washington also surveyed the bridge (I don’t know if he slept here) and carved his initials about 30 feet up the wall. The initials are outlined in white, but too far away to actually read, so we’ll just have to trust that they are actually there. There are other carved graffiti lower on the bridge wall – the earliest I spotted were from 1810.

While driving along one of the mountain roads we spotted an interesting foot bridge across the Maury River. DSC_0023 This bridge is in the town of Rockbridge Baths, VA, and if you can see the sign, it’s a warning from the VA DOT telling folks not to run or make the bridge sway. The sign doesn’t mention the fact that a lot of the boards are a bit rotted. I went about 1/4 of the way across, feeling those boards squish under my feet. So I turned around and went back before I took a bath at Rockbridge Baths.




As may be apparent, these are the Blue Ridge Mountains, and we’re here in mid-October, so there is some autumn color, especially in the higher elevations. So, here’s a picture of the Maury River among some autumn leaves.

We visited Thomas Jefferson’s other house today. Everyone knows about Monticello,  but Tom also had a plantation near Lynchburg called Poplar Forest. Just like Monticello, he designed this house – but this was more of a retreat than a full-time residence. Apparently, according to the docent, Jefferson got tired of folks dropping in at Monticello for unexpected visits, so he needed a place to hide. Some of the folks he was concerned about were British, and he figured they wouldn’t look for him in the Forest. 250px-PoplarForest

I left my camera in the trailer, so the only image I have of Jefferson’s other house is this one I lifted from Wikipedia. The house is quite small by Monticello standards, just two bedrooms, and built in an octagonal shape. It’s owned now by a private foundation which is slowly restoring it to the way it was when Jefferson owned it. Jefferson’s heirs sold the property when Tom died and the place has been occupied by several families over the years, each making renovations to suit their own living style.  It was also seriously damaged in a fire some years ago, so returning it to it’s original state is a long-term undertaking.


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