April 17, 2001

4/17/01 Ashland VA

39.2 miles

As the sun went down, so did the temperature, chasing me inside the tent. I did some journal writing, reading, and listening to the radio. I'm glad I brought the radio because it provides some human contact, even though it's a poor substitute. Once I stepped out of the tent and I had forgotten how clearly you can see the stars away from the cities. Around midnight the rain started and continued till after 6 A.M. Have I told you how much I love the rain -- NOT!

But as I packed up, the rain stopped and the sun even came out for a while. So, with some extra clothes on because of the cold, I set off.

Most of the morning was a peaceful ride through the country. I did notice a lot of new development, but I don't think new road construction has kept up.

My first stop for the day was at the "Garthright House," which was forced to serve as a field hospital for the Union army. I took a walking tour to see the rifle and artillery pits in which the soldiers used to protect themselves. Can you just imagine what thoughts went through those young men's heads as the musket balls flew at them!

Out in the parking lot, I met Lisa, her son Ian, and puppy, Louie. They had decided to get out of the house for a while. She said she had come out with her husband from Indiana/Illinois about four years ago. "It's simply amazing all the history in this area," she said.

Civil War Uniform

A little ways down the road was the Cold Harbor Visitors Center. One of the managers had dressed up in Civil War clothing for a group of kids who were on a field trip. The Center had a good audio-visual display of the Battle of Cold Harbor.

Unfortunately for the teacher, I caused quite a ruckus when the kids surrounded my bike. "Where you going?" "Where did you come from?" "What are you carrying?" over and over again. When I gave a business card to one girl, everyone wanted one. Finally, the manager had to yell for quiet, so they could enter the Center. As I rode off, a few boys ran alongside. Next time, I'll approach the teacher first.

Cold Harbor had a mile long loop through the battle trenches. Confederate troops were dug in deep to stop Grant from reaching Richmond. He lost almost 6,000 men in one day, most in the first hour, with ill-planned charges.

As I headed toward Mechanicsville, the clouds came in force, but the headwind wasn't as bad as yesterday. Lisa had recommended a few places to eat, but I couldn't find them. But I did stumble across a library. After checking my email and trying to get more done on my e-newsletter, the librarian gave me directions to a good grocery store. It was off route a ways, but it was not that bad of a ride. After a sandwich and some much needed food shopping, the roads were very busy for only a two-lane. The other shortcut the librarian gave me was OK, but I missed the turn and got completely lost in an industrial section. Finally, I stopped a guy in his truck and he helped get me headed in the right direction. He sounded a little jealous that I could take off for several months.

At the AmeriCamps RV park, I was able to get a cheap biker rate. Everyone has been friendly. I'm sitting here in the lobby writing in this journal.

Today found my mental outlook a little better. The weather reminded me of days hiking in Virginia in '98. The stretching I did yesterday must have helped, because I'm not sore. And even my butt didn't protest as much. Looking at about 50 miles tomorrow.