Posts Tagged ‘Virginia byway’

An Escapade in Drive-By Photography

I had a chance to practice “drive-by photography” today on a brief trip out of town.  Sometimes I avoid the interstate in favor of taking Lee Highway, which was once the main north-south connection through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  Of course, it’s named after Robert E. Lee of Civil War fame.

Bucolic Scene

Traveling along this peaceful highway is always a pleasure because in addition to bucolic farming scenes there are vestiges of the old motels, gas stations and other evidence of thriving commerce in bygone days.

Traveling a road once traveled is mind opening  as your thoughts wander among yesterday’s clues to the way we were.

And I drive slowly looking for photo ops and places where I can pull in safely to practice on the smart-phone-camera.

But, did I tell you the darned thing quit clicking (the audible sound that says you have actually snapped a photo)?  Then like magic it started clicking again.

Actually I was inadvertently hitting a “mute” button!  Sigh.

Anyway, for years I have been driving up and down Lee Highway and have noted a small walled in cemetery atop a hill just north of Lexington, Virginia.  The graveyard is unremarkable – flat and treeless, overgrown, uninviting and obviously off limits to spectators.  I never paid much attention to it, other than thinking it was probably a family burial ground.

On this day however, I decided to stop at the memorial signs just below that cemetery along Lee Highway.  And what a surprise!

Yes, it is a family cemetery.  But look who’s here!

The Father of Abdominal Surgery.

Father of Abdominal Surgery

How remarkable is that?  I was astounded at the marker and kept clicking away hoping the story would be legible enough to share.

McDowell Memorial

There is another memorial too – a tribute to a McDowell who died during a conflict between Iroquois Indians and colonial settlers in 1740!

Memorial Story

And once again I am reminded that when I slow down and take the time to stop, a hidden world emerges revealing unimaginable secrets and stories of people who contributed immeasurably to an unknown future.


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Have you ever noticed the overwhelming number of nondescript colors on the highway?  And I don’t mean in the scenery.  There is a proliferation of soft hues that all fade into nature’s palette.  Of course there is white to match the clouds and various blues to blend in with the sky, to say nothing of sea foam green. Then there’s classic black for the road, tan for the colors of autumn, and gray that just seems to fade into almost any background.  Are these the real preferences of car owners or are there very few bright-color options available?

Seatbelts are now accepted and widely used.  They keep us harnessed down in case of fast stops or accidents.  Seatbelts are now required by law in most states, in the interest of saving lives.

Speaker phones help us converse without holding cell phones to our ears.  There is talk now of banishing the use of cell phones and texting altogether in the interest of public safety.

Speed limits are enforced on our highways to protect the driving public.

What about changing the colors of our cars?

When I used to travel with my work, European highways and byways always reminded me of the brightest summer flower gardens with their “hot” brilliant car colors.  I wondered why there were so many vivid vehicles on the roads there compared to the long lines of faded versions here.  Could it be that drivers can see bright red or orange or yellow quicker?  Did they know something we don’t about accident prevention and public safety on the roads?

Family tragedy forced me look at traffic and driving practices in a different way because in 1997, my two sisters-in-law were instantly killed by a drunk driver.  They were visiting us, going shopping together on a Sunday afternoon, and the color of their car was silver gray.  The oncoming drunk driver of a pick-up truck crossed the center line and another lane to wind up going the wrong way.  He was traveling at high speed on a Virginia byway and hit them head-on.  I have always wondered if their lives might have been spared if their car had been bright red.  Even drunk, wouldn’t the driver have seen a brighter color and reacted in time?

I know it is futile to dwell on the ”what-if” issues of life and death, but ever since the accident, I have insisted on driving a red car.  Red seems to be one of only a few bright colors available to new-car buyers here.   We still have our old gray car, so we used to choose the classic colors too, but that was then, and this is now, and I am just thinkin’.  My favorite color is now red.

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