7/24/20 – Richmond to Williamsburg, Virginia
We met Brad, a cycling enthusiast, at the campground in Natural Bridge, Virginia who recommended I take Sunride on the 52-mile jaunt from Richmond to Williamsburg. “It’s a beautiful, mostly wooded trail through Virginia’s farm country and past several plantations,” he told us. Sold! You had me at beautiful!
Brad was right. From a park in downtown Richmond, a really old city experiencing a growth spurt with several cranes dotting the skyline, the well-marked trail meandered along all the way down to Williamsburg. Historical markers along the pathway commemorated events and places in the 1600’s. Had I stopped to read all of them, it would have taken all day to make the three-hour trip.
One place I did stop was the Shirley Plantation, the first in Virginia founded in 1613 and the oldest family-owned business in America. The home is modest compared to huge antebellum places we saw in Mississippi and Louisiana. Larger, actually, was one of the out buildings that is currently used as a winery. Crops growing today on what was originally 2,500 acres were healthy and varied. I couldn’t identify most of them. Robert E. Lee’s mother grew up on this plantation. I didn’t go in and didn’t stay long. I rode back 1.5 miles to the trail and proceeded on my jaunt. As I got closer to my destination, I saw more and more corn fields.
Stopping for water I couldn’t help but notice how close the stalks were. It was as crowded as a Shanghai subway! Generally plants were 6 to 8 inches apart and the rows were about 2’ apart. Here in late July the corn was tall, 7 or 8 feet, and the ears were getting plump. I resisted taking one as a gleaner.
In the final mile or two, who did I meet on the trail? None other than Judith Christine Ris, my wife, who had gone ahead in the trailer and driven from the park in Richmond to the Visitor Center in Williamsburg. She’s a walker, and had timed her walk to coincide with my arrival. We exchanged a well-puckered kiss. She was sweaty near the end of her six-mile walk. I wasn’t. I don’t sweat when I glide, I mean ride. The sun does most of the work. Brad told me he had done the entire ride twice in one day (104 miles). Go Brad! You’re the man! Sunride could have easily done that too, I know for a fact, because I hadn’t used even half my battery. Brad said the 104-mile ride nearly killed him. Sunride and I wouldn’t have broken a sweat.
I did sweat the next day walking around Williamsburg, a re-created colonial city, the most important in the “New World.” The attendants, many of which were black slaves in costume, remained in character when asked a question. One young woman at the Governor’s Mansion allowed herself to be honest when I privately asked the question: weren’t slaves generally treated well? My high school history teacher had told me they were. “No,” she stated unequivocally, “because they could be sold or traded at any time, breaking up families, and often that threat was used to intimidate and control slaves.” That settles it for once and for all. Even if my history teacher thought she was right, slavery was wrong from the beginning and never in keeping with the ideals of our country.