It was a fairly easy ride from the campground into Lexington this morning. I took a short-cut along some local back roads to intersect Route 11 a bit north of Natural Bridge. Route 11 was surprisingly pleasant to ride on. There was a bit of commercial traffic along this stretch of road, but once I passed the first I-81 interchange, almost all of the commercial traffic disappeared. My knee was still a bit stiff as I started out this morning, but it soon limbered up, and only bothered me when pushing hard on an uphill climb.
I rolled into downtown Lexington around 10:00 AM. Lexington is truly a beautiful town. Much of the downtown area has retained it's historic architecture. Stopping at the downtown Visitor's Center, I locked my bike, performed my cyclist-to-tourist transformation, and picked up some information for a walking tour of some of the sights. I took the tour of 'Stonewall' Jackson's home, and then set off on the short walk to Washington and Lee University, and Virginia Military Institute (VMI), which are located next to each other.
VMI predates the Civil War, and boasts several alumni and faculty who have played important roles in U.S. history. The campus itself is beautiful, and the museum proved to be quite interesting. After a few hours of playing tourist, I stopped at a small restaurant in a beautifully restored downtown building for lunch. It was quite a bit more than I usually like to spend to eat, cheapskate that I am, but the atmosphere was well worth the cost.
By the time I was ready to leave Lexington, well past 1:00 PM, it was again ferociously hot out on the road. I made slow progress north along Rt. 11, making frequent stops to drink and try to cool off. The terrain was pleasant, but rather plain and uninspiring. After stopping at a small market to buy food for tonight and tomorrow, and managing to just skirt the edge of a thunder storm passing across the valley, I finally arrived at today's destination, Walnut Hill Campground, about 8 or 9 miles south of Staunton.
Walnut Hill was a pleasant surprise. Most private campgrounds, at least those here in the east with which I am familiar, don't really serve the minimalist camper well. For example, this campground advertised "five-way hookups" for RV customers. That is, water, electricity, sewer, telephone, and cable TV were all available to plug into your RV. While the RV's were parked one on top of the other, on their tiny gravel driveways, air conditioners and microwave ovens humming inside, and TV's blaring, the campground owners assigned me to one of a series of lovely, quiet, wooded sites on the other side of a small hill. These sites were separated one from the other by a short section of trees, affording a bit of privacy and quiet to each.
I was desperately hot and feeling quite ragged when I arrived. Before doing anything else, I swapped bike shorts for my bathing suit and took a quick plunge in the pool. Once this vital chore was taken care of, I returned to my site, set up the tent, washed my clothes, and generally got things in order. While doing these chores, I was mentally reviewing the rest of my trip. It was now Friday. I had two days of cycling left; one day from here to New Market, and another from New Market to Front Royal. I had to be in Front Royal by Monday night, so I could make the drive home on Tuesday, and be back to work on Wednesday. It seemed that even with my short-mileage days due to the problems with my knee, I still managed to have an extra day left over. I was definitely getting tired of riding in the heat, and was not 100% sure I would be successful in finding a good campsite in New Market on a Saturday night. Therefore, I decided to stay here an extra day, rest up, and continue on my way to New Market on Sunday.
I spent Saturday just hanging around the campground, going for an occasional swim in the pool, reading the local newspaper, etc. I thought about riding into Staunton in the afternoon to take in a movie, but decided it was too darned hot for that. Saturday night the campground had a country band performing for entertainment, and by sitting back and observing the audience I got a lesson in quasi-cowboy culture. From an outsider's point of view, it seems to consist mostly of harmless posturing, drinking beer, chawin' tobacco, and spitting a lot.
The days statistics:
- 47.0 miles
- 3:51:13 riding time
- 12.2 average speed
Day 8: Staunton to Front Royal