Day 2/ Feb 28th – Lightfoot, VA to Walkers/ Lanexa, VA: Random acts of kindness

Postboxes in Lightfoot, Virginia

Newspaper boxes in Lightfoot, VA

We learned a great deal about the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway last night, as we discovered at 1am, 2:30am and 3:45am that it passes roughly three feet behind the headboard of the bed in our motel room, and that even at that hour the driver has no compunction about sounding the train’s horn.  Unbowed, we polished off a hot stack of pancakes at the Hot Stacks Pancake House and set out on our first long (20-mile) day.

Wherever possible on this walk we’re hoping to use small back-roads and trails to make our way west, as neither of us has any great love for walking alongside eighteen-wheelers on the highway.  We also hope they’ll prove to be a better way of meeting ordinary Americans and seeing some of the less well-known parts of the country.  The downside is that these smaller roads are rarely as direct as bigger highways, and today was a case in point – we added two or three miles to an already long day by taking the roads less travelled.

We spent most of today in the woods, in a much poorer part of Virginia, passing by trailer parks (‘mobile estates’) and dilapidated bungalows.  It was hard to avoid noticing yesterday that the smart neighbourhoods that we walked through were almost completely white; today, it was equally clear that these poorer areas are almost completely black.  Segregation may have been formally outlawed decades ago, but here in eastern Virginia (well below the Mason-Dixon line) as either an economic reality or an informal practice, it seems to be alive and well.

We spent the night at the only accommodation for miles around, a campground by a lake.  It had spaces for hundreds of RVs and tents, and in the summer must become a small town in its own right, but at the end of February we had only a couple of fishermen and maintenance staff for company.  We ate at the Lakeside Restaurant, a proper Southern place with bluegrass on the radio, NASCAR on the television and a few good ol’ boys exchanging fishing stories at a corner table.  Unexpectedly, the food was excellent, and if you should ever find yourself in the Walkers/ Lanexa area of Virginia, we highly recommend the steak and the shrimp.

By the lakeside

The view from the Lakeside Restaurant in Walkers/ Lanexa

The campground owners had, very kindly, opened up a cottage for us to stay in that is normally closed at this time of the year.  Endearingly, they simply left the keys under the mat for us and trusted us to pay.  We’ve already been the recipients of several acts of kindness like this from people who have heard about our walk: at the Jamestown Settlement the receptionist broke what was clearly a fearfully observed rule and let us store our bags behind her desk; at a Dunkin’ Donuts, the boy behind the counter waved away our money; the elderly owners of a stationery shop where we’d bought a card ran down the street after us to press a gift into our hands (“Walkers!  We have chocolate for yoo!”).

But the last word should go to a kindly lady in a petrol station yesterday, who asked about our hike at length.  “I had a nice group of boys in here last week, walking from West Point to New York,” she said, and paused, and smiled.  “What I want to know is, what’s y’alls darn problem?”

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One Response to “Day 2/ Feb 28th – Lightfoot, VA to Walkers/ Lanexa, VA: Random acts of kindness”

  1. Emily Says:

    One fact check for you: you have labeled a photo as postboxes, but they are for newspapers rather than mail. Apparently the Times-Herald is twice as popular as the Gazette.

    Loving this and looking forward to more! xx

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