By Debi Lander
Last month, I wrote a travel story about another Jacksonville, the one in North Carolina. That got me thinking about other cities I have visited with identical names. Lexington came to mind.
My first thought was of Lexington, Mass., site of the famous Battles of Lexington and Concord. On April 19, 1775, they became the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War. On the night before the battle, Paul Revere and Samuel Prescott galloped on horseback to warn that the British were coming. The first shots were fired just as the sun was rising in Lexington. Eight militiamen died. The battle proceeded on to Concord, resulting in many casualties.
Patriot’s Day, originally April 19, is now observed on the third Monday in April. A reenactment of the horse ride and battle coincides with the historical event, so you must get there before sunrise. The entire drama takes no more than 40 minutes, but the poignant scene stabbed me to the core, like a wound from the bayonets carried by the soldiers. We often forget the Revolutionary War, but this annual drama pays tribute to those early colonists and the freedoms they sought.
Another Lexington I’ve visited is Lexington, Va., a small town in the Shenandoah Valley. Lexington is home to the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), Washington & Lee University, and about 7,000 residents. While Confederate generals are no longer celebrated, I must say I fondly recall the serene Lee Chapel as the campus highlight. This National Historic Landmark is the burial site of Robert E. Lee. His horse, Traveller, is interred outside, and many people leave sugar cubes on the horse’s grave. The church’s basement contains a museum featuring the history of the school, highlighting the time when Lee was the college president.
Other attractions to see include the George C. Marshall research library and museum showcasing Marshall’s military contributions and the restored Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson house. Tours revolve around Jackson’s life before the Civil War, including his tenure as a VMI professor.
Lexington, NC calls itself the Barbeque Capital of the World. No visit is complete without Lexington style barbeque, made from pork shoulders cooked over hardwood coals. This century-old method involves smoking the pork for hours and then chopping or slicing it, leaving bits of crispy, brown skin. The meat comes with a thin ketchup-and-vinegar sauce called “dip,” a distinctive red slaw, hush puppies, and sweet tea. While the meal is nothing fancy, you’ll find it finger-licking good in all of Lexington’s 15 BBQ restaurants.
Lexington, NC also offers a fascinating collection of artifacts, memorabilia, and furniture from North Carolina’s most famous living artist, Bob Timberlake. Visitors also enjoy the Richard Childress Racing Museum, one of NASCAR’s top race shops and museums. The championship cars driven by Dale Earnhardt Sr. prove to be the most popular. To round out your visit, stop by any of the 19 vineyards and tasting rooms that are earning North Carolina winemakers rave reviews.
Lexington, Ky. is another famous city, this one known as the Horse Capital of the World, plus the birthplace of Bourbon and Bluegrass music. While it ranks high on my bucket list, I have not been there — yet. Visitors tour Keeneland Race Course and Kentucky Horse Park in the early morning and see workouts, plus walk the pastures at Old Friends, a thoroughbred retirement farm. Don’t miss the 14 bourbon distilleries and their tasting rooms, Mary Todd Lincoln’s historic home, plus the famous Kentucky Castle in the middle of Horse Country.
You can’t go wrong in any of four of the cities named Lexington.
Visit www.bylandersea.com to read more of local travel writer Debi Lander’s stories and travel tips.
Photo courtesy Debi Lander
North Carolina barbeque