Dear Graham Smith in Massachusetts,
In my effort to help you with your fourth grade project on the state of Virginia, my column on Tuesday ended by noting there is lots that’s “weird” and “wonderful” about this commonwealth.
Regrettably, I ran out of space after I got done listing the weird, (except for the landmark Texas Tavern restaurant in Roanoke, which of course is wonderful).
So here is a postscript about lots of good stuff.
We will start with the Blue Ridge Parkway, a gorgeous ribbon of asphalt that grazes the beautiful mountaintops of the southern Appalachians. It’s the most wonderful road I’ve ever bicycled on. Alas, it’s open to flatfooted drivers in cars and RVs, too.
The parkway has scores of scenic views and overlooks, and it’s only five miles from downtown Roanoke. It’s also a national park that draws 20 million visitors a year; of those 3 million are schoolchildren.
It is 469 miles long, and 217 of those miles are in the outstanding commonwealth of Virginia (the rest is in western North Carolina, which we Virginians look down upon).
There isn’t one permanent stoplight or stop sign for that entire distance, and that is remarkable, if you despise stop signs and stop lights like I do.
The Appalachian Trail is another national park that stretches from Georgia to Maine. It’s 2,178 miles long. Of that, 544 miles are in the incredible commonwealth of Virginia (and 90 miles are in western Massachusetts).
McAfee’s Knob, which you can see from Roanoke, is reputedly the most photographed vista along the entire trail.
The trail is only about 10 miles from downtown, which means that we Roanokers cross paths with a fair number of interesting through-hikers — the people who walk the entire distance.
The parkway and the Appalachian Trail are merely two of the amazing outdoor recreation venues you can visit in superb Virginia.
As one of original 13 colonies (like Massachusetts), Virginia is loaded with history.
I’m sure you know that our nation’s first president, George Washington, was a Virginian. So was the third president (Thomas Jefferson), fourth (James Madison); fifth (James Monroe) and four others — the most prominent of those is Woodrow Wilson, No. 28. He created the League of Nations, forerunner to the United Nations.
Considering that this nation has 50 states and there have been only 44 presidents, the fact that eight were Virginia-born is another extraordinary tidbit about our amazing state.
It would be nice if they made Virginia leaders like that nowadays, right? Sadly, there are few except maybe for U.S. Sen. Jim Webb and he doesn’t count because he’s a transplant from Missouri.
There’s one glaring deficiency about Virginia that I will dare mention, even if it does get me in hot water with some Roanoke-area newscasters.
It concerns major league sports. We have no major league pro teams in Virginia. Many of us follow the Washington Redskins, who actually play in Maryland.
So you could say that Virginians are a bit jealous of Massachusetts in that respect, and your Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots and Bruins.
Going to their games is a lot more fun (and economical) than driving to Washington to see the Nationals (which few Virginians will admit to following anyway).
I’d like you to keep in mind that some of your future Red Sox stars are coming from the great state of Virginia.
There is much more to tell you about our wonderful state, but I’m out of room again, so I’ll leave that to able readers of The Roanoke Times. Many of them have informed me they will be sending you their own packages.
All of us wish you, and the other fourth graders in Ms. Collins class at Upham School in Wellesley, the best with your projects.