We have reached Washington DC after taking two days to travel slowly from Asheville. We fly out of here on a 5.00 pm flight today (Sunday) which will get us home at 9.50 am Melbourne time on Tuesday, November 19.. Jill is bit nervous about the fight, but she is generally OK without any surgical pain – just a continuous very upset stomach that is still giving here some reflux. I looked at all of the food options on the Qantas flight and have ordered her one of the bland post-surgical meal options.
Along the way from Ashville, we had a quick look along a small section off the Blue Ridge Parkway and found the famous Mabry Mill. This is a watermill located at milepost 176. It iis very picturesque and is the most photographed site on the entire parkway. A short trail around the mill connects historical exhibits about life in rural Virginia. The trail allows visitors to view the gristmill, sawmill, and blacksmith shop. The cafe and visitors centre were closed for the season so we made do with a packet of cookies for lunch.
Mabry Mill was built by Edwin Boston Mabry who began to construct the mill in 1903. It was first a blacksmith and wheelwright shop, then became a sawmill. By 1905 it was in operation as a gristmill. By 1910 the front part of the mill was completed and included a lathe for turning out wheel hubs, a tongue and groove lathe, a planer and a jig-saw. Between 1905 and 1914 E.B. Mabry bought adjacent tracts of land and built multiple flumes from different creeks to create enough water to power the mill..
We spent a night in the town of Roanoke and then drive up the highway for an hour or so. We turned off to a little town named Natural Bridge. We didn’t know what to expect, but we found a very impressive hotel and visitors centre. These were established to take advantage of the natural bridge – a geological formation consisting of. 215-foot-high natural arch with a span of 90 feet. It is situated within a gorge carved from the surrounding mountainous limestone terrain by Cedar Creek, a small tributary of the James River.
From Natural Bridge, we followed Route 11 which was a much more interesting road than the interstate highway. It took us through several little towns, one of which was Lexington. There were no civil war battles there, apart from a short siege, but this town is steeped in history. The Union General David Hunter led a raid on Virginia Military Institute during the American Civil War. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson are buried here. Within the town is the giant Virginia Military Institute. It was found in 1839 and is the oldest state-supported military college and the first public Senior Military College in the United States.
In Lexington, there are many historic properties. Houses like this one seemed prevalent as well as some grand old mansions. It was hard to determine whether these were well maintained old houses, or new houses built to look old. I decided that the best way too tell was to look at the bricks int he chimneys. Old ones would have looked less symmetrical than the new ones and would have had more of a hand-made appearance.
Before reaching out hotel, we made a short detour to the area of the Battle of Bull Run near Manassas. This was the site of some of. thje first battles of the civil war. It was so close to Washington that many of the inhabitants drove out to watch the action. Nowadays, we can watch the war live on TV, but being out watching a live battle in the field must have been something else..
I met a National Park Ranger who had, coincidentally served at Vung Tau in Vietnam and had made a number of friends with Australian soldiers. He told me that the first casualty of the war here was a little old lady, Mrs Henry, who lived in a house on the battlefield. She refused to move saying that she had lived there for all of her life. She died when a Confederate canon fired a shell at the house to save it being occupied by Unionist sharp shooters.
We reached the hotel at about 4.30 pm, checked in and arranged for a late checkout so that we wouldn’t have to sit around for too long at the airport waiting for our 5.00 pm flight to Los Angeles.