The metal contact sound we heard coming off the Blue Ridge Parkway was a rear wheel bearing that failed and took out the rear axle gears. Luckily, Pam’s Uncle Bill lives in Lynchburg so we had a place to stay and an awesome tour guide while the Roamer is being repaired.
Lynchburg, like many towns across the US, had a vibrant Main Street and local industries before shopping malls and out-sourcing created empty buildings throughout the downtown area. Some, like Lynchburg, are coming back with downtown renovations that are making the Main Streets vibrant once again.
Shoes were a big industry in Lynchburg and the local hotel, which used to be the shoe factory, has street art in front as a reminder of the past.
It’s also the rail crossroads and has been since pre-Civil War days. Coal is running through town now from West Virginia on its way to Norfolk and overseas.
Beautiful brick buildings along Main Street are being renovated into condos, restaurants and businesses again. There are random pianos all over town where you can sit and play (if you can play).
Some things downtown have not changed, like the farmer’s market that has been going strong since 1783. The peaches here are delicious.
In 1971, Jerry Falwell founded Lynchburg Baptist College that grew into Liberty University in 1984. It’s a huge campus with a lot of construction in progress to make it even bigger and better.
We drove around the campus and visited the Snowflex Centre, where you can ski or snowboard any day of the year on the white astro-turf mountain.
Pam’s uncle volunteers his time to several local charities including Habitat for Humanity. This is their current house that’s under construction.
The last time Pam and I passed near here a few years ago we chuckled at the sign that said, “Appomattox – the sight of the reunification”, figuring it was just a Southern perspective on things. We had time to explore the area now so we went to Appomattox. If you ever get the chance to go – you should. We had one the best Ranger tours and talks I’ve ever heard. You could almost see Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia heading along the roads through this small town and coming to the realization that they were surrounded.
Grant and Lee had fought and maneuvered for weeks up to this point. Lee’s Army was the North’s focus because it had inflicted 60% of all casualties against the North during the Civil War. Grant was promoted to end the war for Lincoln, and aid his 1864 presidential campaign. It was his election in Nov 1860 that triggered the secession of the South by Feb 1861. Grant had done his job. Lincoln won the 1864 election and by April 1865, it was clear that the war was soon to be over.
Grant was known as “unconditional surrender” Grant, so Lee was unsure of what to expect. Jefferson Davis had instructed Lee to release his troops to continue the fight as guerrilla warfare instead of surrender. Lincoln, seeing that the war nearly over, instructed Grant to offer very favorable terms and pardons to all the Confederate soldiers if they dropped their guns and went home, so they could start the rebuilding process.
Grant and Lee met in the brick building down the road on the left. Lee, not knowing what to expect was quote: “Then there is nothing left me but to go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths”. This road was once lined with Union soldiers, and the guns of the Confederate soldiers were left along the roadside as they passed.
This was the room where Lee and Grant came to terms for the end of the Civil War, and it really was a re-unification of the country.
A painting shows what is must have looked like during the process.
They set up a printing press in one of the nearby buildings and printed nearly 30,000 pardons over the next few days. The Confederate soilders could use the pardon as a train, boat, and food ticket to get back home unmolested.
Lincoln was assassinated less than a week later, leaving us to wonder what he could have accomplished if he was able to fulfill his unification plans.
With Bill as our excellent guide, we went back further in time to tour Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest home on the outskirts of Lynchburg. This was an octagonal home he constructed as a retreat from the public life of Monticello.
The home is in the process of being restored to its original design, deleting the modern changes from more recent owners who used it as their home up until 1984.
About an hour away, we also went to see Monticello, Jefferson’s better known home.
The grounds around the place were beautiful.
Jefferson had spent enough time in France to appreciate French cooking and wine. Both of his homes had kitchens similar to French kitchens and well stocked wine cellars.
Monticello means “Little Mountain”, and it’s easy to see where it got its name when you are there. There is a beautiful vista in nearly all directions overlooking the nearby Virginia countryside.
Lynchburg also has a nice trail system around town to hike, bike or run along the Blackwater Creek.
There are a few bridges that also cross the creek every few miles.
We came across this turtle on the path. He must have been buried in the mud along the creek bank, but he was not coming out to say hi while we were there – lol.
The Roamer mechanical problem was very unfortunate, and will probably be costly, but if we had to be stuck somewhere, Lynchburg was a great place to be stuck. Hopefully, we will be back on the road after the holiday and on our way to Nova Scotia. I see some long driving days in our near future to make up for the delay.