We have found two Virginias in Virginia. I am not referring to West Virginia and Virginia. Rather, two Virginias inside the state of Virginia. Years ago we visited the Washington D.C. corner of Virginia. That was our first introduction to Virginia. We are now in the other of the two Virginias.
Most people divide Virginia into three regions based on geology. These divisions starting in the west are mountains, piedmont, and coastal. Some people divide the mountains into three regions. From west to east these are the Appalachian Mountains, the Great Appalachian Valley, and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Our division of the two Virginias are wealthy Virginia, which we are going to, and the rest of Virginia where we are and where we have been. Wealthy Virginia is one of the wealthiest parts of the country. It rivals New York and San Francisco. The rest of Virginia isn’t so affluent. Most of it is old and some of it is poor.
In my last post, I described Virginia as either being the northernmost southern state or the southernmost northern state. Pretty much this describes wealth distribution in Virginia. We are in the southern part of Virginia. Last Thursday we crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains twice while driving west to the Great Appalachian Valley.
Great Appalachian Valley
On the east edge of the Appalachian Mountains lies a huge valley. In southwest Virginia, it lies between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains. The valley is actually a chain of valleys that start in Connecticut in the north and Alabama in the south. Each section has a separate name and we are currently at the New River section of the valley and will be going further southwest, back towards the Great Smokey Mountains. After going a little further southwest we will be turning back to the north and back into the Shenandoah Valley portion of the Great Appalachian Valley.
Mostly I could describe the two Virginias as the old Virginia where we have been and the new Virginia where we will be this fall. Old Virginia contains huge tobacco plantations and about a week ago we were near Danville which was the center of tobacco farming. After being grown in southern Virginia, tobacco was dried and traded in Danville. After that, it was shipped east to Richmond. Both Richmond and Danville’s economies were focused almost entirely on tobacco.
Once in the Great Appalachian Valley, there was a shift in focus away from tobacco and towards transportation. Prior to the American Revolution, expansion followed the valley southwest to the area now named Tennessee and Kentucky. Daniel Boone is famous for the early development of the route. In the early 1900s trains followed the same route. Atlanta, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Lynchburg describe the route in this area.
Many plantations were destroyed during the Civil War. Some were converted to military use which spared them from destruction. Others survived simply because they were not in the path of the fighting. By the end of the Civil War, most plantations fell into disrepair due to the lack of slave labor that walked away. These grand houses were divided and sold piece by piece.
Radford started as a river crossing and became a major train hub just down the road. It is about four miles further to the northeast. Radford is the home of Radford University. The picture at the top of this post is of the Glencoe Mansion built after the Civil War on the land gifted from a previous plantation. This was built ten years after the Civil War and is one of the nicest “plantation” style houses that we have seen. We noticed immediately that it had been updated to have air conditioning so we were able to really enjoy it.
Starting in Raleigh we moved north across the Virginia border and have been moving west along the southern edge of Virginia. Last Thursday we exited the Piedmont region crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains and have been stopping at lakes along the way. Each move west has increased our elevation, shade, and comfort with cooler weather.
Claytor State Park
After we got here at Claytor Lake State Park, we resumed our evenings chatting with new friends outside the RV. Daily afternoon thunderstorms are the norm. Three days ago we evacuated the RV to wait out the tornado warning at the restroom. Yesterday afternoon was thunderstorm-free and we went to the free concert at the fire circle. Last night at about midnight we were drenched by thunderstorms moved through.
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