Virginia is a very pretty state. It is kind of an overlooked state when it comes to natural scenery. At least it is from the perspective of someone who has spent most of their lives in the Midwest. I know Shenendoah National Park can be quite nice, but I did not set aside time to visit on this road trip. Instead, I chose to go straight from the Great Smokies to Farifax Co./ the DC Metro area. This made for a long drive, nearly 8 hours, but it was a very pretty drive too.
I spent most of the day on Interstate 81, which I was on for 300 miles from the TN/VA state line to Strasburg, VA, where I turned onto I-66. Through the Southwest part of Virginia, I was able to see mountains on both sides of the highway, but without driving up or down any major terrain features. This differs greatly from many of the scenic drives I have taken across the state of Colorado, which typically involve driving up and down mountains. The mountains here, while legit, also seem to be spread out a bit more, making for a scenic, yet still relaxing drive.
It was also nice to have relatively cheap gas. I filled up in Wytheville (which I am told is pronounced with-ville), a town that is kind of in the shadows of a couple of fairly major mountain peaks. Later that day, we would actually have a fairly in-depth discussion about some of these strange pronunciations of place names, and how they effective act as a manner in which people use to identify outsiders. If I were to have talked to any local, I would have tried to pronounce the name of this town the way it is spelled, making it clear that I am not from here.
After my stop in Wytheville, the highway actually took me closer to the mountains, but still without a major climb. This part of the drive is quite scenic. The only thing I wish they had was more rest stops/ scenic overlooks like there are in other parts of the country. But, with nearly all of this interstate being quite scenic, the people who designed this highway probably find little need to identify one specific spot as worthy of a pull-off. Instead, I think the point of this experience is just to have a nice, consistent drive.
Also, at this point I got a pleasant surprise when the sun emerged and the clouds gradually dissipated. By the end of the day/drive it would be completely sunny. The sun made it pleasant, and warmer by my next stop.
Virginia does not seem to me like the kind of place for the truly rebellious, anti-establishment types. At least it doesn’t seem so from this particular drive. Throughout the drive I continually saw signs indicating that the speed limit was enforced by aircraft, something I have not seen in any other place I have driven in recently. The rest stops contained a lot of police related messages, and I did see a lot of highway patrol on the road, either pulling someone over, or waiting in the median, clocking people.
The second half of the drive up I-81 drives around Shenendoah National Park. I am not sure whether or not this particular feature I am looking at is part of the park or a ridge outside the park. This is part of what happens when travels take you to a place that is unfamiliar. If I were somewhere I currently, or have ever lived, I would be able to pick out all of the land features based on memory. In places I have never been to, I am left with pure speculation, or the prospect of buying a map to figure it out. With all of the drive along both I-81 and I-66 I certainly believe I saw some features from the road associated with the national park, but I am also left kind of wishing I had set aside some time to visit the park, or at least drive through.
After a long day’s drive, I approached my destination glad I was traveling in the direction I was traveling in, eastbound on I-66. The traffic going the other way was quite heavy, most likely people from the D.C. area headed out of town for the weekend. Many were probably on their way to Shenendoah National Park to see it during the peak fall foliage season. There also could have been some people who live that far away from the city, as I had already begun to see housing developments and such appear. As a person who has always generally lived in a metropolitan area, there is something about the appearance of traffic, extra lanes on the highways and signs for park-and-rides that makes me feel at home after a long drive like this.
I had heard the Interstate 81 across Virginia was a pretty drive and I am glad to have done it. I really appreciate how one can look at the mountains, off to both the left and the right, without having to traverse through anything majorly treacherous. This combination of features made the drive unique, and kind of made it a relaxing drive. Well, if it weren’t for signs telling me airplanes were tracking my speed in a state known to have a sizable military presence, it would have been quite relaxing. Also, with Friday starting off cloudy, but clearing out sometime shortly after noon, I got to experience the scenery in both cloudy and sunny skies. Maybe the features look slightly better in the sun, but the early part of my drive was still quite nice underneath a cloud deck, making it a drive that would be pleasant for many motorists in many different conditions.