Thursday, April 9, 2009

I'm Glad I Wasn't On a Horse Today

Today I drove from Petersburg, Virginia to Georgetown, Kentucky. The trip clocked off the odometer right at 500 miles. While I was driving lots of thoughts kept running through my head, but one that kept coming back was how difficult it must have been to travel before automobiles were invented and interstate highways crossed the land.

Highway 60 from Lynchburg to Lexington, Virginia is one of my favorite drives, especially in the fall when the leaves are changing, or like today, when the leaves are just budding out. But I can't image what it would be like to travel on horseback or in a wagon those rugged few miles. What took me about an hour must have taken days for early travelers with beast power and dirt roads.

Luckily, I didn't have to stop, but I am sure that just over 100 years ago travelers had to find places to sleep and eat during their travels. Again questions kept coming across my mind. Were people along the way hospitable? Did they enjoy meeting traveling strangers? How much would they charge to stay overnight? I can just hear a discouraged traveler haggling a blacksmith in attempt to save some money on horseshoes; much like the modern day traveler might haggle to get a tire replaced.

Another leg of the trip is even more daunting. I-64 west from Lexington, Virginia to Huntington, West Virginia is mountain after mountain, after valley, after valley. I can appreciate the pioneer travelers going on south through the Valley of Virginia to the Cumberland Gap to avoid the greatest part of those seemingly never-ending mountains. I seriously thought about going that way myself to avoid them. I kept having one problem that pioneer travelers didn't have to deal with though...coal trucks kicking up gravel.

For the last leg of my trip I decided to get off the interstate and take highway 460 from Mt. Sterling, Kentucky to Georgetown, Kentucky. This route brought me through some of the most beautiful horse country I have ever seen. Ancient stone walls and huge brick manors line the road along with modern black plank fences and more horse than you can shake a stick at. I went through Paris, Kentucky and saw a highway sign that John Hunt Morgan and his men had visited in 1862. There seemed to be a number of historic houses and buildings in Paris, many in the process of restoration. Its always good to see old buildings being restored rather than torn down. I have always been a believer that old buildings help connect generations like few other things can.

On your next trip be safe, but try to imagine what those old timers went through getting from place to place. And be thankful for the automobile and the interstate highway.

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