Battlefields, history and more as we head south
I’m now in Asheville, North Carolina in the middle of the Appalachians and the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s very beautiful here.
I’m finding it hard to make the blog interesting this time. Everything is so 1st world here, (as you would expect). There is petrol, food, people speak English….The roads are amazing. No potholes here! Things work!
Frankly it’s not nearly such an “adventure” as the trips through Russia/Mongolia/Stan’s etc. and South America!….. I’m enjoying the country but it’s not as much fun…I’m not meeting so many people. Very few people stop to talk to me here….Ahhhh…
So, I’m sorry if the blog is more of a travelogue than before. I hope you stick with me though!
Back to the story!
My border crossing was uneventful. I wasn’t locked in a cage or shouted at like I was coming through Mexico. It was all very smooth and efficient and only took about 75 minutes…My average is 120 minutes….Then I was away!
I rode through New York State through the “Finger Lakes” near where they held “Woodstock” in the 1960’s…..I stopped eventually at Williamsport.
It was 4th July and luck was with me. I picked up a Holiday Inn and, low and behold, it was just by the spot where they do the fireworks. There were the usual food stalls and VERY poor Pop Music but the fireworks were fantastic. Possibly the best I’ve ever seen live.
I slept like a log on a fantastic bed and next day headed off to Gettysburg.
The countryside is very beautiful and wooded with rolling hills. I went through many lovely little towns…. I kept off the “Interstate” .. Most houses fly the flag which I love.
Gettysburg is fascinating. It was of course, the battle that was the beginning of the end for the South although they could have won it (maybe) if the Generals had followed their orders… It is also where Lincoln made his “Gettysburg Address” after the battle. I saw the house where he stayed the night before giving the address….
The Americans know how to show off their history. First there is an excellent film then a guided bus around the Battlefield. It was so well done. If you don’t want to do the bus tour you can take a self-guided tour by hiring a 3 wheel car or Segway or your own car of course!
I discovered how the name “sharpshooter”came about
They also have a “Cyclorama” This is a circular painting of the battle. It was completed in 1867 and shown in Paris. It has recently been refurbished.
Apparently “Cycloramas” were relatively common in the 19th Century. There was one of the Battle of Waterloo shown in Melbourne!
As I left, I nearly bumped into a local resident…
The next day I rode to nearby Harpers Ferry and Antietam then on to Charlottesville in Virginia
Harpers Ferry is interesting for two reasons. Firstly, there was a Battle here that General Robert E Lee won for the South capturing 12,000 Union Soldiers.
Secondly and perhaps more interesting is that this is where John Brown (from the Civil War Song) was captured. He was later executed but his “soul goes marching on” He was a champion of the “Abolitionists” in about the 1830’s and is regarded as someone who lit the fire that started the War. Excuse my very poor summation of history.
Harpers Ferry by the way is a really lovely little place at the junction of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.
This little lady wanted her photo with me…Makes me look very tall!
Antietam was another Battle…It was a “draw” but some 23,000 soldiers died. The largest loss of US Soldiers ever until the 2nd World War
I then moved on to Charlottesville, Virginia.
Charlottesville is probably most well known as Thomas Jefferson built his home near there at “Monticello”. It was a boiling hot day when I visited…95 degrees and humid!
Thomas Jefferson wrote the “Declaration of Independence” He was also a Lawyer, amateur architect, an amateur clock maker and much more . He spoke 7 languages, He founded and built the University of Virginia. He was President for 2 terms. Clearly an amazing man.He also loved excellent French wine!
There is a contradiction though. He wrote in the “Declaration of Independence” that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”
Yet he owned some 200 slaves himself and only freed 2 or 3. We were told that he felt he could not tackle that issue and it was best left to another generation…mmm… seems like he didn’t follow his own words. I’m sorry if I’m upsetting any Americans reading! Please comment if you have an explanation.
Monticello is a beautiful House and was designed by Jefferson himself.
After Monticello I headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway which runs for some 500 k down the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains.It is very beautiful with terrific views but after about 50 k of going very slowly (there is a speed limit of 45 MPH) and looking at lots of trees….. I decided to take the by-way instead!….. I felt bad about that but the weather turned bad anyway so I felt exonerated!
Asheville and the Biltmore Estate
I reached Asheville which is a great little town in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The main “tourist attraction” is the Biltmore Estate. A huge French Chateau built by George Vanderbilt and finished in 1896
Apart from the Biltmore Estate, Asheville used to be a TB health resort and has lots of lovely Victorian Houses. There is a river here called “French Broad” They say the locals couldn’t say “Marie Antoinette” so called it French Broad instead!
I was told about a Pub where on a Wednesday night anyone who can play a guitar or banjo turns up and just plays “Blue Grass”…..It was a bit like the Ukulele Group in the Crockham Hill Pub in Kent. It was great and I had several beers listening to them. They didn’t look like they were enjoying themselves as much as my friend Vic was in Crockham Hill!
The Biltmore Estate
George Vanderbilt…Grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt the Railroad billionaire built the magnificent Biltmore Estate for his family.
It is sensational. Words cannot express how opulent and impressive it is. I have seen many of the Palaces of Europe and French Chateaux but this is probably the most impressive I’ve ever seen. It’s setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains is amazing
Originally George purchased 125,000 acres here and built his 255 room mansion. The house is filled with priceless treasures…Ming Dynasty vases etc, Renoir Paintings, 15th Century Tapestries and much more.
George and and his wife Edith only had one child, a daughter Cornelia. The three of them lived in their 255 room home until George died at only 57 in 1914 of an infected appendix. Mother and daughter then lived in the house together until Cornelia married.
The Estate is still held by the family although it seems George had overspent a little and with the war, depression etc they had to sell 96,000 acres and the farm and open it to the Public in 1930. It is the largest home in America! If you come this way…The Biltmore is a MUST SEE!
Unfortunately they don’t allow photos but it’s worth googling. I spent a whole day in the Estate. There is also a winery and of course i did a tour and tastings too
I’m staying in an AirBnb place in Asheville and the Hostess said there was a BEAR in the garden the other day…I kept my window firmly shut!
Tomorrow I leave for Nashville and then the weekend in Memphis where I’ve booked in to the HEARTBREAK HOTEL! My Elvis weekend will be quite something!