Day 65: Tuesday, August 25, 1981
Natural Bridge to Waynesboro: 61 miles
Now that we're approaching eastern Virginia with all its historical and tourist attractions, things are starting to happen to us again.
After saying goodbye to Lefty the cigar-chomping mechanic, we coasted into the town of Natural Bridge. Unfortunately, the whole thing is a big commercial tourist-trap enterprise. The highway apparently passes right over the natural rock bridge, but big board fences blocked our view. The admission charge was $3, or $7.85 for the bridge-wax museum-caverns package. [2013 prices are $21 and $28.] We decided it wasn't worth it, even though Thomas Jefferson had been the first American owner of the property and George Washington is said to have carved his initials into the rock about 1750.
|Lexington's historic downtown area
We stopped in Lexington to do our laundry, and looked around the town a little. It is an historic town, and the local historic preservation society has done a lot to enhance and preserve the facades of many structures.
|The Stonewall Jackson house
General Stonewall Jackson lived here while teaching at VMI. His house has been restored and is open to the public, but we didn't tour that, either. As we left town, we rode through the VMI campus. We didn't see the campus of Washington and Lee University, but it is supposed to be nice.
Jack stayed on US 11 to Steele's Tavern, but I followed the map. It turned out to be a lot curvier and hillier, but with a good view of the valley. Unfortunately, a broken spoke and a flat tire delayed me an hour and a half. On top of that, the zipper on my handlebar bag broke. Well, I can fix that when I get home.
Then a stop at an old mill took another 45 minutes. It was a little off the route, but I just happened to spy it down a side road. Wade's Mill was first built around 1750, then destroyed by fire in the 1870s. The first Wade bought it in the 1880s, and his great grandson is now restoring it to operating condition. He intends to produce a stone-ground bread flour, using a mixture of hard and soft wheats, and market it in the Virginia-Maryland-Delaware area at a price competitive with the big flour mills. It's an ambitious plan, and will take a lot of work to carry off.
In recent years, the mill race had been abandoned, and the mill had been powered by an old Farmall tractor that was still on the ground floor. But the water wheel had just been freed up, and one of the workers invited me to turn it. I climbed inside it and made like a guinea pig. I was soon moving at a trot. It's amazing how easy it was to turn. Of course, there was no load on the wheel yet.
Poor Jack - he was stuck waiting two hours for me at Steele's Tavern. We were going to have lunch there, but the grocery turned out to be a pool hall. So we moved on.
From Steele's Tavern, the bike route climbs up Mt. Vesuvius to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It's a four-mile 8% grade, and we decided to skip it. So we took the low road (US 11) to Waynesboro.
There are no campgrounds near Waynesboro, and no facilities in town for hikers or bikers. We pitched our tent in the yard of the Salvation Army thrift store. There was a camping trailer there, but nobody was around. For supper, we biked back up the hill (just a short one) to the Pizza Inn, where we had a pitcher of beer and stuffed ourselves on the $2.99 buffet. The Pizza Hut next door is taking away all their business. Too bad - it was a nice place.