Day 137 • July 16, 2012 • Natural Bridge to Lexington, VA • 10 miles
We were a whopping ten miles into the ride today and I could feel Lexington drawing us in. It was a beautiful day in an old southern town with a ton of history and a horse-drawn carriage clomping around. Zoe didn’t need much convincing to stop for a while. We soon discovered there was a ghost tour tonight so we decided to stay. Goofing off today is what Steve’s quick drivetrain repair bought us back in Catawba.
But first we had to figure out lodging. For that we simply loitered in front of Washington Street Purveyors long enough for Chuck, the purveyor, to notice. We chatted for a while and when he learned we needed a place to camp, he contacted his buddy James who runs the Outing Club at Washington and Lee University (WLU). Just like that we had several camping options, the best being about a block up the road in the back yard of a big old house. At one point in our loitering we met Chuck’s family, including his daughter Jenner, named after one of her parents’ favorite towns during a west coast vacation– Jenner, CA. It wasn’t our favorite town when Zoe and I passed through back in March, but under better circumstances I’m sure it’s quite charming. Chuck and James’ hospitality in Lexington more than made up for the cold shoulder we got in Jenner.
With camping secured we could now goof off in earnest. We took a historic tour of Lexington by horse-drawn carriage, riding up front with the driver. We wandered around town on our own. And once it was dark, we got another historic tour of Lexington, this time focused on their legendary ghosts and other nefarious happenings. Our guide was equal parts creepy and funny, making for an entertaining evening. Between our walking and the tours, we visited the Lee Chapel and Stonewall Jackson’s house at the WLU campus as well as Jackson’s grave at the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery—a pretty spooky place in the glow of a gas lantern.
Lexington is perched atop a sizeable hill but we learned it used to be higher and steeper. Carriages would regularly get stuck or careen out of control on the steep grade of the main downtown streets so in the 1850’s they lowered street level by ten feet. What were once doors and windows at street level are now on the second floor. The work of moving the earth was done by hand and every resident was expected to help.