Spirits of the Rapahannock

Okay it’s just over a month before we leave Virginia for good and start travelling full-time. All of a sudden I feel this need to try to see as much as I can over the next few weeks. This sense of urgency just appeared out of nowhere and that feeling has really intensified since our house started emptying out of furniture.

Now it’s really real!

This weekend we decided to go to Fredericksburg, VA and cycle along the Rapahannock River, starting at the Old Mill Park. The day was perfect for it, a clear blue sky, warm sun in our faces, and a cool breeze in our hair.

On our way to Federicksburg we were disappointed at the D.C.-style traffic. But guess what? Everybody was going to the mall! Once we turned left, passed the entrance of the mall and left I-95 behind, there were barely any cars on the road. We parked in the middle of the 3.1 mile cycle trail at Old Mill Park and started pedaling.

The first thing we noticed (besides the water of course) was the wildlife, and there was a lot of it. Ospreys fishing right in front of us, a groundhog eating along the trail, oblivious to people, dozens of cormorants, drying their wings in their characteristic fashion. However it was the turtles that caught my attention, especially after we turned down the trail into the quarry. Big, small, multiple species, all lazing in the sun, balancing on their shells with their feet tucked in.

We rode for over two hours, exploring the city, stopping to view the pre-Civil War ruins of canals, damns, and industry along the way.

I could have kept going, but with Multiple Sclerosis I’ve learned to listen to my body. If I’m tired, I need to rest, and if I’m hungry I need to eat. Failing to heed these warnings, especially while on the road, will turn the rest of the trip into an unpleasant experience.

We loaded the bikes on the back of the car and headed towards downtown Fredericksburg. When we set out yesterday, I had no intention of blogging about our adventure, but Joe’s choice of a lunch destination changed that.

We couldn’t decide where to eat, Thai, pizza, pub? We kept walking until we ran into a place called “Spirits.” It was pleasantly empty, and our server Sarah, was kind and attentive. I started looking around at the ancient brick and I thought to myself that there has to be some history here. Sure enough there was.

Spirits has been in existence since at least 1822, when it was reportedly destroyed in a fire. An earlier fire raged through Fredericksburg in 1807, but it’s unclear if that affected Spirits.

Sarah was kind enough to take us on a tour of the entire building (3 floors), and she explained how “Spirits” had survived through 3 fires. When we got to the 3rd floor she showed us the spot where the bartender’s purse flew off the shelf and across the room! Sarah also told us about a secret tunnel in the basement that led all the way out to the canals (that we had cycled around all day). Was it an underground railroad? An escape tunnel? Or a prohibition-era smuggling route? Who knows? I really wanted to see the tunnel but Sarah told us that it was off-limits to guests as well as staff.

We didn’t see any spirits that day, but we did have an out of this world burger and one more place to add to the list of “awesome memories of Virginia.”

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