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US 60 Starts at Neptune
US 60 Part 1
David McLane (davemclane)     Print Article 
Published 2009-11-13 10:46 (KST)   
Our original plan was to take US 50 out of Washington, D.C., cross over Chesapeake Bay and down the Delmarva peninsula as far as Salisbury, Md. where we could change to US 13 which crosses into Virginia and then back over Chesapeake Bay to the start of US 60 at Virginia Beach.

After our experience trying to get onto Manhattan with propane we double checked the bridges and found the one taking you to Virginia Beach was a bridge-tunnel. Perhaps propane was allowed but we didn't want to get there and have to go all the way back to D.C.

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Instead we took Interstate-95 out of D.C., I-295 around Richmond, Va., then I-64 down at least as far as Hampton, where it looked like there was an alternative route if propane was forbidden in the bridge-tunnel crossing Hampton Roads.

It turned out to be a good decision, as there were signs warning against propane and suggesting a detour when we got to Hampton. But that's all they were, suggestions, as there were more bridge-tunnels before out target destination, Virginia Beach, and the signage wasn't at all helpful.

I'm not totally sure I remember what we did, except we went over the James River Bridge onto US 17 after which we got completely lost, stopped at a convenience-store-gas-station for directions but all they could say is, "I know how to get there, but I don't know how to tell you how to get there."

We bought a more detailed map, tried this and that, and eventually found ourselves on I-264 which ended at the beach.

No signage to say exactly where US 60 began, and the guy at the information booth didn't know, so we decided that it started at, or at least near, the huge statue of Neptune.

It may not be over till it's over, but we decided that was where it started and our search was over.

Neptune, god of the sea, Virginia Beach, Va.
©2009 D. McLane

Lots of people were having their picture taken by the statue of Neptune which is truly gigantic. A plaque says that Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, stands as the protector of citizens and visitors and is symbolic of the City of Virginia beach which holds a Neptune festival each September. In this incarnation he's 34 feet high (10.4 meters), weighs 12.5 tons (11,339 kilograms) and resides on 100,000 pounds (45,359 kilograms) of rock.

Not to be trifled with.

If you start west on US 60 from Neptune, you come shortly to First Landing State Park; continuing further you go through-over the tunnel-bridge that connects back to Hampton. We didn't take that route due to the propane but went back to Hampton the way we came, via the James River Bridge.

However, there's an interesting bit of history here that gives you a feel for the time frame of the east coast. On April the 10th, 1606, the English King, James I, set apart by charter the territory between Cape Fear, N.C., and Passamaquoddy Bay, Maine, to be settled by two rival companies, the Virginia Company of London, and the North Virginia or Plymouth Company. An expedition from the London company landed on Chesapeake Bay, and succeeded in founding the first permanent English settlement in America at Jamestown, Virginia on May the 13th, 1607 -- named in honor of the king.

The story of the Plymouth Company is more complex but ends with a party of Puritans -- also called the Pilgrim Fathers -- from the north of England leaving Southhampton, England, on the Mayflower and dropping anchor off what is now Provincetown, Massachusetts on November 11, 1608, later landing on nearby Plymouth Rock to become the first settlers in Massachusetts.

While I most probably learned about both groups during my early school days in lower New York State, I don't remember there being much emphasis on Jamestown and Virginia, it was all about the Mayflower, Plymouth Rock, and New England.

WE DIDN'T SEE MANY PLACES THAT COULD BE CONSIDERED SMALL TOWNS on US 60 until we were past Richmond, Va. However, we'd received an e-mail from Jerry Peppers, the director for the Northeast Chapter of the Lincoln Highway Association, that said he'd just been in Richmond and walked Monument Avenue which was very impressive. And it was.

There are six monuments in all, each at a main intersection. We only spent time at two: Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. "Monument Avenue Historic District" is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On May 29, 1890, crowds were estimated at 100,000 to view the unveiling of the first monument, to Robert E. Lee. The Jefferson Davis monument was unveiled June 3, 1907.

Jefferson Davis Monument, Richmond, Va.
©2009 D. McLane

There are four areas of inscriptions on the Davis monument: on metal plaques at either end; in stone at the base of the central pillar; running around the inside of the curved backdrop.

The metal plaque on the left honors The Army of the Confederate States, the one on the right honors The Navy of the Confederate States.

The inscription in stone reads as follows:

Exponent of Constitutional Principles

Defender of the Rights of States

crescit occulto velut
arbor aveo fama

I found various translations of the the last two lines of Latin into English. The one that seemed most fitting was "His fame grows as a tree silently through the ages."

The inscription running around the backdrop reads as follows: "Not in hostility to others, not to injure any section of the country, not even for our own pecuniary benefit, but from the high and solemn motive of defending and protecting the rights we inherited, and which it is our duty to transmit unshorn to our children. Jefferson Davis, U.S. Senate, Jan. 21st, 1861"

In comparison, the monument to Robert E. Lee simply says "Lee" in large letters on bronze plaques on either side of the stone pedestal. No need to say which Lee it is; everybody -- in the south at least -- knows.

Robert E. Lee Monument, Richmond, Va.
©2009 D. McLane

ONCE WE LEFT RICHMOND, things became very rural. But suddenly we came on the 60 Motel which looked like it had been there for a long time.

60 Motel, near Powhatan, Va.
©2009 D. McLane

Nobody was in the office but somebody who looked liked they more or less lived there called out and we had brief chat with Angela who said the owner, Bertha Greer, had gone to town and wouldn't be back for quite some time. Bertha and her husband started running the place 54 years ago but her husband died 25 years ago and Bertha had been doing everything herself since then. The place didn't get much business unless there is some kind of roadwork or construction going on nearby.

Angela said that up until recently she'd lived all her life in the county after next, which had both a court house and a cannon at Buckingham, the county seat.

THE NEXT TOWN WAS POWHATAN which the map said was a county seat but we didn't see any court house. Instead there was the Turtle Crossing run by Nancy Allen.

Turtle Crossing, Powhatan, Va.
©2009 D. McLane

When we told Nancy what we were doing, she said she had lived in Richmond for 30 years and knew something about US 60, but had never heard of the Lincoln Highway.

As for the shop, it wasn't doing well, as it was mostly consignment items and people were selling them themselves as they had more time on their hands due to the economic downturn.

THE NEXT TOWN, CUMBERLAND, WAS ALSO A COUNTY SEAT and had a court house but no cannon.

Court House, Cumberland, Va.
©2009 D. McLane

Nobody was around except for a police officer who disappeared before I could say anything. A sign said the court house had been built between 1818 and 1821 by an associate of Thomas Jefferson's master builder, Dabney Cosby.

THE THIRD TOWN, BUCKINGHAM, WAS THE CHARM, a county seat with a court house and a cannon, just as Angela had said.

Court House and cannon, Buckingham, Va.
©2009 D. McLane

Actually, there were two cannons. Between them was a granite monument with the following inscription:

The current court house was built in 1873 as a replacement for the original court house built in 1761 was designed by Thomas Jefferson who said, "A country whose buildings are made of wood can never increase in it's improvements to any considerable degree. . . Whereas when buildings are of durable materials, every new edifice is an actual and permanent acquisition to the state adding to its value as well as its ornament. . ." Evidently this idea took hold as all the court houses and governmental buildings we'd seen on our journey so far were made of "durable materials."

In 2003 and 2004 the Longwood Archeology Field School started a project to see if they could find remains of the Jefferson court house which had burned in 1869 taking with it all the deeds and public records since the county's founding in 1761.

This work was incorporated into a much larger project, "The Jefferson Court House in Virginia" (pdf), which says that, "Jefferson thought that he was practicing the one, true architecture that the Greeks and Romans (the "Ancients" or "Antients") had founded on the unchanging Laws of Nature" and was thus trying to reform architecture in his native Virginia.

THERE WASN'T A GREAT DEAL OF ANYTHING between Buckingham and the Blue Ridge Mountains except what was obviously a old-style service station at the junction of US 60 and Virgina 24, going south to Appomattox where the Civil War effectively ended.

Derelict service station, junction of US 60 and Va. 24
©2009 D. McLane

A bit of history: Robert E. Lee had abandoned the capitol of the Confederacy at Richmond and retreated west to Appomattox. His final stand was at the Appomattox Court House where he attacked the Union forces, thinking they were only cavalry. When he realized there were also two corps of infantry, he surrendered. The signing of the surrender documents marked the disbandment of the Army of Northern Virginia and is considered the end of the Civil War.

However, for many people, the Civil War still continues as evidenced by the phrases, "the South shall rise again" and "unreconstructed southerners" (1,020,000 and 27,000 hits in Google respectively) and especially if you see Confederate flags flying outside of the south.

CROSSING THE BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS on US 60 doesn't take long as the ridge runs north and south. Steep, twisty, but short. You come down to Buena Vista which isn't exactly a small town in terms of population, a little over 6,000, but has many small-town features. One of them being Jonathan Mabry's First Catch Fish Market.

First Catch Fish Market, Buena Vista, Va.
©2009 D. McLane

It was late in the afternoon and Jonathan only had so much time to talk as customers were coming in on their way from work to home. He said that he gets fresh fish a couple of times a week at fish markets on the coast and while it's more expensive than what you can get in a local supermarket, people seem willing to pay more for better quality.

When we asked about the curious building, Johnathan said it was built to resemble a coffee pot which wasn't obvious until you looked at it head on and could see the spout on the left side and the handle on the right.

It would look like a great come-on for a coffee shot but there isn't enough water coming from the on-site well to pass the zoning requirements to serve food.

We left him waiting for the next customer.

Jonathan Mabry, First Catch Fish Market
©2009 D. McLane

I will also be posting this story to Open.Salon a few days after it I've sent it to OMNI and will then send a newsalert containing links to both websites to my mailing list.
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter David McLane

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