Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Full of Fun Day

Tomorrow is my eye surgery and I'll be off the bike for at least 4 days, so I decided to take full advantage of the day.

The next County over (Arlington) has a program for 55+ cyclists in which they tour around the area each Wednesday. I'm not there yet on age, but they let me come along!  Betty met me there too, and there were some of the other ladies I regularly ride with.

Today's ride was from Arlington into Alexandria, on a tour of Civil War sites. It was so great. The weather was cool, warm, cold, wet, dry, windy ... you name it, we had it. Well, except snow. Dana at The Bug's Eye View got the snow. (Isn't it early, even for Ohio?)

Here are the photos from today's ride.

Virginians ratified the vote for secession on May 23, 1861, and Union troops moved in to occupy Alexandria on May 24. Alexandria was decidedly Southern, and too much of a threat to Washington, DC.  The Union troops immediately set to building a ring of forts around the capital. The only one visible today is Fort Ward.  After the war it became a living space for many of the freed slaves who had flooded the area. It didn't get changed much because they had so little money, so when in the early 20th Century Alexandrians wanted to restore the fort, it wasn't very difficult to purchase the land and identify the fortifications. This is just one of the reconstructed walls of the fort.

Next we rode to the site of Fort Worth. Not that one in Texas, the one in Virginia. However, both places were named for the same man! There's nothing remaining of this one except this historical marker.

 The third stop was the site of the former Fort Ellsworth. It is located right next to the Masonic Temple -- high over the city. Our guide, Rob, told us that if you take the Masonic Temple tour to the top and look out over the grassy field, the greener areas are where the fortifications stood. You also get a great view of Alexandria. Tells you why there was a fort here, yes?

Next we stopped at the National Cemetery in Alexandria. We rode to a section where there were many civil war Union graves, but curiously, four civilians. Their stones said, "CIV EMP, QMD" and they all had the same date of death. It turns out these four men drowned while they participated in the search for John Wilkes Booth. For their service to the nation, they were given the same honor of burial as soldiers.

 Our next stop was the marker for Battery Rodgers. It was the only fortification we visited that was actually inside the city limits. Its job was to guard the Potomac and there was a sister fort over on the Maryland side. There is nothing here but a marker now.

Somewhere on the way to Battery Rodgers we went by the soon-to-be dedicated "Contraband and Freedmen's Cemetery". It's not open yet so we didn't stop, but now I know where it is. You can read more about it HERE.

After lunch we went to the last spot of our tour, but on the way, we traversed Holmes Run, an AWESOME bike path. I can tell you that when I lived in this area 20 years ago, it wasn't as clean and inviting as it is now.

Our last stop was at Cloud's Mill. This was where Thaddeus Lowe showed that balloons could be used effectively for aerial surveillance. Rob told us there was a debate between Lowe and La Mountain about the way to use the balloons. Lowe advocated for balloons tethered at 500 feet, with a telegraph wire to convey what he saw. La Mountain advocated free sailing balloons. Only problem was there was no communication and no control over where the balloon might travel or land.  Learn more about Lowe here.

So then it was a ride back to our starting place and a job well done!

And, as if that wasn't enough, tonight my bike advocacy group was riding in the Vienna Halloween parade. Here is my costume!

What a great day! Tomorrow I begin my quest for perfect vision.


The Bug said...

I was wondering when your surgery was - good luck today! (Just offered up a brief prayer for you).

What a fun tour! Need to check out the Freedman's Cemetery - Mike's dissertation is about the Freedmen (& Freedman's Bureau)in Kentucky.

Love your costume!

And YES - it's too early for snow. What. The. Heck!

SouthLakesMom said...

Thank you for the prayer! Everything went well. He said I was a perfect patient, didn't move around at all. I told him he had a scalpel in my eye...certain incentive to behave exactly as told!

If you and Dr. M want to come visit the cemetery when it opens, let me know! I would love to be a guide to Old Town Alex~