Beginnings and endings, part two

The return trip from North Carolina began with a detour to get to the end of US route 70. Yes, I drove 50 miles out of the way just to find a sign that marked the end of this highway. Sometimes when I look at a map and plot my desired route, I don’t always think about exactly how long it’s going to take me to achieve, and that was definitely the case here. Even if the mapping software tells me, still I don’t think about it in real life terms. But anyway, let’s get to the end.

All US routes ending with 0 traverse the country east-west, and route 70 originally stretched from coast to coast (it currently begins in Arizona). Another piece of trivia is that in the 1920s it was named the Lee Highway, after Robert E. Lee, as a Southern counterpart to route 30, which is known as the Lincoln Highway. While the Lincoln Highway name is still in use, it is perhaps a good thing that Lee is not (this is, however, another connection my trip had to the Civil War).

To get to Atlantic, NC, where the highway ends, I drove through the community of Sea Level, most of which floods every time a hurricane hits that part of the North Carolina coast. The drive is part of the Outer Banks National Scenic Byway, which continues north along the coast to Corolla, and takes 6 hours to drive (another time, perhaps!). A slight regret is that I did not follow the road to the very end, but only went as far as the sign.

I turned the car around and drove back the way I came, but then continued west on route 70 until I reached the area around Raleigh where I needed to get on the interstate to make up time. I decided to stop in Durham for dinner, and I found a great pizza place downtown with outdoor seating. (I had been in Durham once before, 5 years ago, and when I turned onto N. Mangum St. it felt very familiar.) From there it was time to find a new US route to take me to my hotel for the night, in Lynchburg, VA.

I had a couple of options, either US 29 or US 501, and chose the latter because it looked like a straight shot, with no other state routes involved. What I didn’t plan for, though, was rain. I think 501 would have been a lovely drive if not for the thunderstorms and torrential rain I encountered. The bad weather meant darker than normal skies, slower speeds, and an aggressive driver who couldn’t wait to pass me on the two lane road.

But the rain had stopped by the time I got to Lynchburg, and I found my hotel without too much difficulty. I used Hilton Honors rewards points to cut the price of my room in half, and am glad I chose to stay at the Virginian, which is a gorgeous, recently restored property. I don’t have any photos, but here’s a link to the website in case you’re curious.

I did a lot of research before deciding to stop in Lynchburg, but the two main reasons were the James River and its proximity to Appomattox, where the Civil War ended. Having stopped by the James River in Richmond on the first part of my trip, it felt appropriate that I should see a different part of the river on my return. The next morning I found a great walking trail that offered these views of the river:

I vaguely remember looking up Appomattox on a map years ago and being discouraged at how remote it seemed. But as I said in my last post, the theme of this trip happened organically – I didn’t set out to see Civil War sites, but that’s where I ended up (I also visited Fort Macon, in North Carolina, which was the scene of a battle in 1862). The sign welcoming visitors to Appomattox declares it to be where our nation reunited, which sounds great, but is far too optimistic even for an optimist like myself. Still, the visit was well worth the time and I recommend it to anyone interested in this period of American history. Plus, I checked another US route off my list to get there – US 460!

That’s not quite the end of my trip, but I’ll have to write about the third day some other time.

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