This what Harper’s Ferry looks like at 8:00am on Memorial Day. A far cry from the shoulder to shoulder crowds from the previous day. You can take a breath and figure out what you’re going to shoot and how you’re going to shoot it. Best of all, the sun isn’t beating you down into the pavement – yet. I’d actually ridden down this street from the top about an hour previous. None of the parking was opened up yet so I just rode on through and went up to the main parking area at the top of the hill. I then took the free shuttle back down. Do yourself a favour, always take the shuttle.
I stooged around in the town for a bit, taking a shot of the Firehouse, which was a significant building during the raid.
I wandered out onto the walkway that crosses the river there as part of the Appalatian Trail. The trail crosses on an old but still functioning rail bridge. The view up the river from the crossing was pretty cool and I got to try out my new neutral density filter.
There was spider’s web everywhere. I though the way the web looked in the Iron strapping of the bridge particularly beautiful in the morning sunlight and ot provided an interesting statement about the strength of the iron and the strength of the web.
I spent a while taking pictures of this but I could hear traffic building back in Harper’s Ferry and that meant the crowds were creeping back in to the place. So I packed up my tripod and went back to get some more shots of the town proper.
The crowds were building and I was itching to get back on the bike. Just after taking this shot I ran back in to my 101st Airborne buddy. He was hanging round a little longer, so we wished each other well and I grabbed the shuttle back up to the main parking lot. The heat had pretty much beaten me as far as gear went. It was jeans a T-Shirt and a Dutch BDU jacket I picked up for $20 in Gettysburg just to keep the Sun off of my arms. I wasn’t blasting down the interstate so I figured my chances of a serious off weren’t that high. So once I got my gear squared away, it was jacket on, leg over the bike, hit the go button and head for Manassas.
I swung out onto 340 and took a hard right at SR-671 and headed South until I turned left on the Old Charles Town Pike. It’s nice and rural with decent elevation changes which keeps it interesting. The GPS wanted to take me by Dulles but I opted to go past Leesburg because the call of the Steven F Udvar Hazy Aviation Museum was strong and I’d have easily been sucked inside to spend the day staring at incredible flying machines. The new route kept the runways firmly between me and temptation.
Manassas was the first major battle fought between the North and the South. Neither side had been really blooded yet and each side boasted that they’d been victorious by Christmas, a refrain used by every army in history, just substitute a winter festival of your choice. You can Google the details of the fight if you want. The South ultimately won the battle but not without loss. I paid my three dollars and walked out onto the battlefield just behind the visitor center. The Civil War can sort of get to you. Like most Civil Wars, it’s never about what people say it’s about but then I guess that applies to a great number of conflicts, even today. But you do or at least I did, sort of hit your fill of it. I hopped back on the bike and rode over to the Confederate Graveyard, where a full blown memorial service was in full swing.
The service was followed by a 21 gun salute with musket, which was impressive if not a little ragged in its execution. Reenactors were there in full Confederate Butternut and the flashy red and blue of the Zuaves.
There was a demonstration of one of the first bolt action rifles that came late in the war on the union side. About twenty odd years too late to make any impact on the Confederates but it knocked the shit out of the Spanish in the Philippine War. The whole thing was topped off by firing a Parrot Canon, which sound and fury wise was truly impressive and a decent reason for me to beat feet before the crowd dispersed.
For me, the Civil War trail was done. Tomorrow I was going to ride down a chunk of the Blue Ridge Parkway and then work my way back up to Michael’s place on the back roads and trails.