Tag Archives: virginia

Virginia

Here are the last of the photos from Virginia. I was a bit lost with my camera at this point, though I finally figured out how to bracket for three JPG film simulations. What I didn’t know was that bracketing in this way disabled recording of RAW files, so now all the photos I took that I really like, which are being saved for another project, are sorry JPG files. I was not in the least happy about this when I discovered it. That doesn’t really change anything here, but, you know, just venting about a thing.

As usual these images are not edited. I have too much to do to bother making these extra pretty. I do edit my VSCO/Instagram images though! And often times like them much more than I do these. HA!

Anyway….

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Suuuuuuuper stoked on my friends Stephanie and Chad in Richmond. Stephanie for being an amazing host (along with her patient roommate), Chad for being a great cook of delicious, vegan food, and both for being the raddest of people. Many, many thanks for everything!

I left Richmond after three gloriously fun and relaxing days for what I thought would be Alberta, VA, my planned destination, however, after stopping off at a nice, little cafe in Petersburg called Demolition Coffee, I struck up a conversation with a couple of strangers on the patio, Zarasun and Jonathan Pond. We chatted about my trip, my life, their life, etc. for the better part of three hours, by which time it was nearing that stretch when the sky begins to molt color for color along the horizon, as the sun slowly dips down for the long, cold interlude between days. Realizing that it wasn’t practical for me to be cycling off from the city at this point in time and, I would say, enjoying my company (as I was enjoying theirs), they invited me to stay with them for the evening. Naturally I joyously accepted.

After touring around town in the last few, fading minutes of daylight, seeing what there is to see, which is quite a bit if one bothers to examine, I made my way the short distance to their quaint and quiet home downtown. It was at one point a duplex, but was later converted into a single home with an addition on the back. It made for a house with a whole ton of character and charm, much of which was also contributed to by their own warm, comforting touch. They cooked me dinner, cooked me breakfast the next morning, took a few pictures before I cycled away, and in the in between we talked. A lot. It was one of the more fabulous exchanges I’ve had so far on this trip, and being invited into a “stranger’s” home is always a happy circumstance not to be declined. Many thanks and blessings to them.

Two things stand out to me from my ride from Petersburg to Alberta. One took place as I was cycling along Route 1 and stopped to take a picture of a U.S. Post Office, about the size of a small, one room cabin, that seemed to have sprung up out of nowhere at a ‘T’ intersection. A car was parked in front of it and a there was a girl—a beautiful black girl dressed all in white like some sort of angel, and an angel she was—in the post office mailing a few things. As she came out and hopped into her car she asked me quite curiously, but with apparent awe, if I was one of those cyclists that rides across the country, to which I answered with a laugh, “yes, I suppose you could say so.” She then told me how cool she thought that was, before driving away. Not a minute later she comes back as I’m finishing up shooting this bafflingly mysterious (to me) construction, and, with the statement, “I’m sure you probably know what you’re doing,” she hands me a few packs of crackers she scavenged from a restaurant she had been to earlier, explaining that she’d like to help out in some small way anyway. A touching gesture, particularly when one considers the fact that I really don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

The other memorable moment occurred a little bit earlier in the day when, as I cycled past a rather shabby, single-floor shack, two dogs, one a puppy, came tearing through the yard and down the road after me followed shortly thereafter by a teenage boy chasing after them in dirty, white socks, shouting all the while. I continued on for a bit, but as it seemed the dogs would have followed me all the way to the next town and then some I turned around and rode back towards the boy and his house. He had a very strong southern accent and, as I mentioned earlier, had only a pair of white socks on his feet, both of which of course were filthy on their soles. His too large polo shirt, and pants weren’t in much better shape. His was a rather charming smile though, and he had a very cordial, friendly disposition. According to him the dogs chase after anyone on a bicycle, and sometimes even cars. I didn’t bother to ask why they weren’t tied up so that they couldn’t give chase. I simply thanked him and continued on my way.

This was probably one of the sadder stretches of road that I was on, and creeping into Alberta after dark on a Sunday night I had no idea what to expect. There were some friendly looking homes on the outskirts, some of which were festively decorated for the season, but as I approached the town center, which appeared to be simply a crossroads, with dogs everywhere howling in the dark, the atmosphere took on a bit more of a sinister air, not at all helped by the fact that there were few working streetlights, and no businesses to speak of, closed or otherwise. It was a Sunday evening, yes, and in a sleepy, little town such as it was I didn’t expect much, but I didn’t plan on it being so devoid of life. There was a municipal office though, and while closed, I did notice that there were a couple of people inside, and so knocking on the door I asked the gentleman when he opened it if he might recommend a good spot to pitch a tent. He looked at me a bit strangely, so I explained that I was a bicycle tourer and that I just needed a place to sleep for the night—I’d be gone in the morning. He pointed out a patch of grass along a tree line behind a happy, little gazebo strung with colorful Christmas lights (clearly there is a soul somewhere in the depths of this backwater community, though it be obscured by the corpses of abandoned buildings and the curtain of night) in a small, concrete gathering area where one might hold a community event, and said I could camp out along there, and that was all I heard from him or anyone else the rest of the night and the next day when I broke camp and headed off for Henderson, NC.

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Minnieville, VA contains nothing, save for a strip mall, housing developments, a burrito restaurant, and a large plot of open land between one property and a residential development, with a tree line on one side that allowed for excellent camping.

It was my first time setting up the tent. It was dark. I had my iPhone flashlight to illuminate the area in which I was to work. Only slightly helpful since two hands are necessary for pitching a tent and one is needed for holding the flashlight… I managed, and it wasn’t until I had it up that I bothered to find the directions. Mostly I was surprised that no one from the nearby housing development called the police on me, or came to investigate what I was doing. Maybe no one was home, or perhaps the light flashing all around me wasn’t as apparent as I thought. I was only too grateful to have what was essentially a home, and a cozy comfortable one at that, for the night.

The next morning, dewey and cool, I took my time making coffee and breakfast, and breaking down camp. No one bothered me once again, and once the sun was able to spread itself over the shorn meadow, draping the world in a pale golden light like a fine, loosely woven piece of linen casting its shadow—but a shadow which lightens rather than darkens—and its gentle warmth began to seep into the earth, and seep into my clothing and, thus, seep into me, all the world seemed to be a most delightful place, and I felt confident cycling away from camp that morning.

It was about seven or eight miles outside of Fredericksburg that I ran into her, nearly literally, as I was careening down a hill and around a corner—another cycle tourer, and a Belgian at that! Who would have thought? She had just finished eating a sandwich and was stuffing the last bits of a bar of chocolate into her mouth when I stopped just past her, the surprise, looking back, apparent on her face. We talked for a bit, and a bit more, and then, more or less, road together into Fredericksburg, where she had a WarmShowers host and I had not a clue—typical of me at this point of the journey.

I spent a fair bit of time at a cafe resting, messaging the one other WarmShowers host in town, and pondering what to do next. I then spent another thirty minutes, well after dark, cycling around southern Fredericksburg looking for a suitable place to camp, to be eventually found, tucked away, again, along a wooded edge of a field, though this time by an elementary school.

I awoke to a heavy fog obscuring everything but for the vague border created where the tops of the trees across the field meet the sky, like a piece of paper roughly torn, smoothly ragged at the break. There was too a picnic table, maybe twenty yards distant that I was able to make out faintly. The only things to break the fog were the sun, and that took some doing, and the wail of the train horn, which punched through like a piece of rebar through a skull, as it passed through the city.

I made excellent time cycling into Richmond from Fredericksburg, even considering the thirty minutes or so I spent at an old farm, which in times past was the site of a bloody Civil War battle, The Battle of Fredericksburg, at Slaughter Pen Farm (fitting name, no?). From Fredericksburg to Richmond is nothing but nothing the whole way. I seemed to be cycling through a wasteland, desolation on all sides of me. Tree stumps, tree limbs, dusty, dirty everywhere, yet no machines or man visible. Who might have committed such acts, and why? The utter pointlessness of it all like a poison pit in my heart. Further on, after leaving Petersburg on my way to Alberta I would see more of the same with signs: 9, 10, 11 or more acres for sale. FOR WHAT? A sea of dead trees and dead earth for miles all around me. Absolutely nothing of value left. This, I thought to myself, is the nadir of humanity, and yet for some I’m sure it is near an acme, an inverted acme to be sure, but an acme nonetheless, like a film negative turned upside-down and inside-out. Flesh and blood, but no heart to pump it—a quagmire; a cesspit…

Richmond, though, is beautiful.