tenth state

It has been a good six weeks or so since I hit my ninth state (Georgia), because I’ve spent so much time circling Tennessee-Georgia-two-Carolinas. Finally my tenth state: Virginia. This is a beautiful place! All the driving has been perfectly lovely, and I could scarcely keep my eyes on the road for admiring the bike path that ran alongside state highway 5 into Richmond for some 40 miles. I stopped off to see another significant tree: the Emancipation Oak in Hampton, where newly freed slaves learned to read and write under its branches before a school was built, and where they gathered in 1863 to hear the Emancipation Proclamation read aloud. The tree is now on the site of Hampton College, an HBCU whose forerunner was that first school under the oak, led by free-born African American Mary Smith Kelsey Peake.

I made a very brief visit at a friend’s house in Richmond to pick up some books – I’ll be back to see them again, but very much regret that I didn’t get a picture! (Thanks for the mail service, Beasa!) And they live in a really neat-looking, eclectic neighborhood. I didn’t really spend any time in the city, but what I saw, I liked (for a city). And then back out to the sticks.

Confession: I have rented a home for the week via Airbnb. Yes, this is cheating. But hear me out. I needed to say in one location for a week, and there is little to no free camping in these parts. It is getting very hot, daytimes. Having a home base–with air conditioning–allows me to leave Hops and go off on adventures (like riding my bike, which I have done very little of lately, because of the heat). I got a great deal on this place that’s actually less than campsites around here cost. So, there’s good and bad: the house reeks of cigarette smoke, and the bed is terrible–I just sleep in the van, which is fine. I like to sleep in the van! We have a little dock on a creek off the Rappahannock River. We have a kitchen, a bathroom, and a couch in the air conditioning. I’ve been doing early-morning yoga outside on the lawn, and riding my bike on the quiet country roads while Hops stays somewhere safe and cool. I bought lots of groceries that needed refrigeration, and fragile produce like pears!, and I’m doing a bunch of cooking. This was my birthday present to myself. And, again, cheaper than camping. That’s weird but true.

I’ve seen killdeer, hawks, buzzards, cardinals, Eastern bluebirds, a huge snapping turtle, deer, wild turkeys, a bald eagle, and Hops. Previous guests of this Airbnb have seen beaver; my fingers are crossed. (Have I told you how many beaver I’ve seen on this trip already? I’ve been lucky.)

So, an interlude. It’s cheating, but what the heck. This is my trip.

trees

In his acknowledgements section at the front of the twenty-fifth anniversary edition of A River Runs Through It and Oother stories, Norman Maclean writes of his difficulties getting published. “To add further to their literary handicaps, these stories turned out to be Western stories – as one publisher said in returning them, ‘These stories have trees in them.'” Some of us, of course, appreciate trees.

I found this great article from Garden & Gun: “Ten Storied Southern Trees.” I was hopeful that I might have visited one or two, and indeed I have; another is on my list for the next week or so, and a few more I’ve added. (Note the tag on this post: “significant trees.)

The Angel Oak is coming right up (thanks Pops for putting that one on my list); I’ve been to the Big Tree on Texas’s Gulf Coast and the Tree That Owns Itself in Athens. I’ve also visited Austin’s Treaty Oak, but before Foxy and before this blog, and I have no pictures (sad face). I was a little offended that that one didn’t make this list! They do list another Treaty Oak in Florida, whose story is apparently apocryphal. Think I’ll skip that one; but I added Virginia’s Emancipation Oak to the itinerary. Thanks, G&G! I love trees.

And then, before I could even get this post published (because this is how the world works), I saw this post from a Facebook page I follow called Traces of Texas. I hope you can follow those links okay! I won’t copy the text here, nor the picture, because I don’t wish to offend. But it’s about another tree in Texas I’ll have to find one of these years…

leaving Athens

We visited The Tree That Owns Itself: a handsome enough specimen, but remarkable in its legal standing rather than being a very special tree in its own right.

I am pleased that I am still in towns that support tulips. (I don’t guess I got any pictures, but Greenville, too.)

just somebody’s front yard

And we finished up in another beautiful brewery’s back yard.

The Southern Brewing Company

On to Columbia, where I have friends waiting!

on the road again

(as always, click to enlarge pictures.)

Sorry for the long break in action here, folks. I got so excited about getting back out again; and then wifi was scarce… all good things, though.

It took a good week and a half to get Foxy sorted again, and although this is an ad-free site, I need to give my thanks to Lone Star Glass for being the ones to finally come through for me. To avoid extra body work to the van, we put plexiglass in to replace the busted window. It’s functional.

I think Foxy’s just the slightest bit less photogenic after this experience, but not everyone agrees. In the neighborhood where I was staying in Houston, a little wizened, bent-over Asian lady stopped mid-crosswalk and just… stared at my van. Five, ten seconds later, as I’m still waiting for the intersection, I finally called out, “Hello!” through my open window. That broke the spell, and she broke into a wide smile. “Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful!” Her arms spread wide as she gestured at Foxy. I think I got 5 or 6 beautifuls in a row. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” She was on the driver’s side, too, where Foxy got bumped. It’s good to know she’s still beautiful.

Our first stop out on the road was Goose Island State Park, where Hops and Foxy and I spent two lovely nights (although the second was mosquito-ridden. Wtf, December in Texas?). I found an oyster bar! It had been far too long. Hops has entirely mastered the art of sleeping in in the van.

We took a hike to see The Big Tree:

The Big Tree

which is one of the largest coastal live oaks around. Her trunk is 11 feet in diameter and 35 feet in circumference; she is 44 feet tall and 89 feet across her crown, and approximately 1,000 years old. A remarkable tree is always worth my time.

Also I finished up the last of my stock of my favorite beer (in three flavors) and am anxiously awaiting a resupply from my friends at the brewery!

Wrapping up for today, I will just say that vanlife is delicious, and thank you Peggy for this yummy guajillo sauce which is sweeter than I expected (?) but delightful on, well, everything so far.

See you on the other side!