• gfeldstein

Day 27 Aquia, VA to Ashland 77 miles 3,488 feet

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

We spent last night in Aquia, known most for it’s now depleted sandstone quarries. Stone from Aquia’s quarries was used to build the White House, Washington Monument, National Capital Columns, and many buildings in Mt Vernon.

The weatherman predicted an afternoon thunderstorm so we all left early to try and beat the storm to our hotel in Ashland, nearly 80 miles away. Even at 8AM, under dense clouds, the temperature was already 70 and you could feel the humidity the second you stepped outside.

The 16 mile ride to Fredericksburg was along highways and suburban roads lined with plain vanilla homes. Along the route I noticed a few signs directing me off route to Civil War sites, but with the approaching thunderstorm I thought it wisest not to dally too much today. Once in Fredericksburg, the route took us through one of the main fields utilized during the Battle of Fredericksburg. All that remains now is a large open field being used for soccer, baseball, and a golf driving range. I did not even spot a single plaque to commemorate the battle, which I found surprising. The Battle of Fredericksburg took place on December 12-15, 1862, with over 200,000 soldiers, it was one of the largest, and deadliest of all Civil War battles. It was the first urban conflict in the war and the first opposed river crossing in American military history. In the end, the Confederate Army held the city, but not before 12,500 Union and 6,000 Confederate causalties. The city itself is quite small and retains many historic homes. The wealthiest part of town is marked by fine brick mansions with slate roofs, while more modest homes were built with wood clapboard siding and tin roofs.

We rolled along the shoulders of a few highways for the first 9 miles or so out of Fredericksburg as the surroundings changed from suburban, to commercial, and finally farmland. We would roll along country roads, occasionally through some forests, but mostly through farmland till about a mile from Ashland. The terrain was mostly rolling hills with a few short, steep, climbs and descents. The road surface was well maintained and predominantly chip seal, which reduces your speed a bit. I passed miles and miles of clover fields that were probably planted after corn was harvested. Farmers plant clover to improve soil quality and reduce the need for artificial fertilizers. Clover is also grown to provide nutrient-dense forage for grazing animals. Whatever the reason, I probably rode through 30 miles of clover today. It reminded me of the nearly 2 days of corn fields I rode through during RAAM.

In addition to clover, I saw many fine pre-Civil War farm houses, unfortunately they were setback too far from the road to photograph. I did however encounter a colorful tree and a handful of playful miniature horses who were happy to pose for me. We will be riding through horse country for the next several days so I will need to pack some carrots or apple slices.

I rode through a couple of short sprinkles that cooled me off and passed rapidly. As I got closer to Ashland the temperature and humidity were both steadily climbing. I managed to make it to our hotel before the approaching thunderstorm, several of my riding companions were not so lucky. Everyone made it to the hotel safely, but many had their riding clothes and bikes washed for free.

Ashland is a small town that was originally developed in the 1840’s as a mineral springs resort with a racetrack. During the Civil War, Confederate troops trained on the racetrack, unfortunately the war and subsequent loss bankrupted the town. Ashland made headlines on October 19, 2002, as the site of one of the D.C. sniper attacks.

We dined at The Caboose Market & Cafe, 108 S Railroad Ave, Ashland, VA, a farm to table cafe with a simple menu of comfort food. Once again I could not decide between two dishes, so I ordered them both. The Grown Up Grilled Cheese was porchetta, tomatoes, arugula basil pesto, and mozzarella, grilled on a country white bread. The Happy Pig was pulled pork, apple butter BBQ, and fennel coleslaw served on a toasted bun. The Grilled Cheese was hands down the winner.

Ten states down, 5 more to go.

Cumulative Totals

Miles 1,455 Feet Climbed 59,231

States Visited Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia

For more details on my route, see my Strava Link

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