It has been a bit of a conundrum for me to balance the reason for the trip along this particular route with what one might call a travel log of the current-day experience. There is not a piece of me that would ever wish to trivialize the remarkable journey endured in 1834, while at the same time I am thinking that our lives are not relegated to a single take away from any event.
I have decided to share the happenings along the way as well as aspects of the route that are relevant to the 1834 history. Perhaps, it will entice others to experience such a pilgrimage first-hand.
As you have read, any attempt at authenticity of the route required that I stay off of interstates, not always an easy or convenient task. Nonetheless, I rode route 11 through the valley of Virginia and well into Tennessee. The next series of older secondary roads are a blur, though I noted signage such as the “Old Emory Road” wherever I spotted them.
The towns that were noted in the 1825 booklet were scarce to non-existent. When I came across one it was an exciting ” AHA” moment. Each time I would stop to make notes and take photos seriously extending the travel time!
Matching towns ( to those noted in 1825) are listed below:
VA: Staunton, Lexington, (cross the James River),
Buchanan was definitely present when the 1825 booklet was written and I don’t know why they mentioned Fincastle instead. There was a good river crossing at Buchanan. Who knows? Maybe the authors never actually traveled the route or maybe Fincastle had more clout back in the day.
The old mill in the photo here and the one at the top were long gone when I arrived last Sunday, but the millers house to the right has been restored and is now a museum.
matching towns continued….
Fincastle, Salem, Christiansburg, (cross the Holston River several times), Seven Mile Ford ( the town was named for a ford that was seven miles away!! guess they were a bit lacking in imagination), Abingdon (now about to cross into TN) The 1825 route did not list all the towns along the way, but I saw several that no doubt were part of the landscape in 1834.
While travelling through one of the smaller towns in Virginia, I spotted men working with what appeared to be tobacco in the most decrepit structure with black plastic on the roof held down by tires all to keep the inside dry. I drove on by. I have learned that often we only get one chance to experience something special; I turned around. The ground between where I could park and the shed was a moat about 10 inches deep with water. I asked permission to cross and take photos. I have no doubt they thought I was looney but when I responded to the question, “Why?” with “because processing tobacco will soon be a thing of the past,” they hailed me across. It was fascinating: I received quite a lesson in tobacco plant processing and departed with much admiration for the work ethic of these folks.
These guys were great, tolerant and hard working.
Enjoy the few photos and stay tuned for more.