Day 13/ Mar 11th – Appomattox, VA to Lynchburg, VA: Stand by me

Appalachians

The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia

Today we caught our first clear view of the Appalachian foothills, a hazy line of pale bumps on the horizon.  The Appalachians go by different names along their length: up in New Hampshire, they’re called the White Mountains; in New York, the Catskills; in Pennsylvania, the Allegheny Mountains; and here in Virginia, the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Whatever they’re called, we have to cross them to get across the US, though we won’t be doing so for some weeks until we enter northern Tennessee and southern Kentucky in April.

We walked seventeen miles today, much of it along the old stagecoach road between Richmond and Lynchburg, now a pleasant minor road through woods and the occasional quarry.  We crossed the border into Campbell County, which was clearly struggling for inspiration for its slogan and ended up going with ‘The Centre of Central Virginia’, which at least gave us some sense of where we were.

We knew we’d be walking into Lynchburg today, our second major city, so we’d searched with even more care than usual for a quiet, unregarded road into it to try to avoid busy highways.  We thought we’d found one, an unmarked path over the James River and through several miles of parkland, which deposited us in the very centre of Lynchburg.  How clever of us!  The entrance to the ‘path’ turned out to be a disused railway bridge over the river, accessible only by hacking our way through a hundred yards of forest.  We pushed boldly past the warning signs and wire fence blocking off the bridge, but when we got out onto it, the railway sleepers were so rotten that each step dislodged a small shower of wood and earth fifty feet down into the freezing water.  Crossing the bridge would have saved us roughly four miles, but we’d both seen Stand By Me, and reluctantly turned back onto the main highway.

Outside Lynchburg

Highways through the forest outside Lynchburg

We stopped off a few miles later to buy juice at Moore’s Country Store at the edge of Lynchburg.  The cashier – a lady who looked as though she had secured the job by consuming her predecessor – saw our gear and asked if we were walking.

“Yes, into Lynchburg.  And we’re trying to walk from coast to coast.”

“Oh, my!  Where are you from?”

“The UK.”

She wrinkled her nose, and shook her head dismissively.  “Nope.  Where’s that?”

“England.”

A long pause.  “You walked from England?”

Despite this unpromising beginning, we have high hopes of Lynchburg.  It was a grand place in the 19th century, becoming briefly during a tobacco boom the second-wealthiest city in America.  Today, it’s re-invented itself as a college town (it has five) with a thriving hi-tech industry.  It’s built around seven hills, each with a distinctive neighbourhood character, and is renowned for its fine architecture and unassuming gentility.  More recently, it was the home town of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority, which did so much to nurture the lunatic religious fringe in American politics, though it also has rich scientific credentials, being the birthplace of both the chapstick and the enema.  So the next time you pucker up to use either, spare a thought for this fine Virginian city.

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One Response to “Day 13/ Mar 11th – Appomattox, VA to Lynchburg, VA: Stand by me”

  1. Pippa Says:

    Very good to see you online. I get the puzzled “UK?” look a lot over here too. Last week someone asked me if I meant The Ukraine. I guess I should be happy that they had heard of a European country.

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