Walking These Hampton Roads

FEATURES January 2010

Walking These Hampton Roads

Writer Bill Glose challenged himself to take a step-by-step journey across the commonwealth, beginning in our historic region.

Bookmark and Share By Bill Glose


Hampton Roads is rich with significant American history, a fact I’ve taken for granted most of my life. Less than half an hour’s drive from my home is the field on which the final battle of the Revolutionary War was fought. Fifteen minutes farther stands the first permanent settlement of colonists in America. Yet, in the 30 years I’ve been a resident, I’ve never visited either of those sites, or much of anything else. Until last year.

That was when I embarked upon the zany quest of walking across Virginia, exploring the land I call home, meeting the people I call neighbors, and learning something of the commonwealth and its history. I began walking on the weekends last June, each leg picking up where the previous one ended. By September, I had walked across Hampton Roads, from the shore westward to the meat packing plants, and from the peanut capital of the world northward to the cradle of American civilization.

Though I walked the various legs in haphazard sequence, they are presented here in linear fashion, launching my grand trek from the First Landing Monument at Fort Story. This was the spot where, weeks before settling in Jamestown, Captain Christopher Newport and John Smith first came ashore. This was where they began the great exploration of America. It seemed a perfect place to begin my own adventure.

Before setting out, I climbed the stairs of the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse, a 90-foot brick tower constructed in 1791. I clambered up the spiral steps, my heart thumping the backbeat to the old disco standard “I Will Survive.” A good sign, or so I hoped. From the top I could see miles across the Atlantic and there, dancing in the waves, was a pod of dolphins bidding me farewell on my journey.

Back on ground level, I heaved a 35-pound rucksack onto my back and set out on my walk. The pack contained water, clothes, snacks, a first aid kit, and various necessities. Over the course of the next few months, the load would seem lighter as my legs grew toned and my gut shed blubber. But on this first walk, it felt as if I’d strapped a tractor’s engine to my back.

I strode south on Atlantic Avenue for five miles to the gigantic King Neptune statue. Bikinied waifs and wiry boys with surfboards under their arms gave wide berth to the strange, sweaty man with a pack on his back. At 31st Street, a band was playing beach music on the stage so I flopped down on the lawn to listen while couples danced all around me. The celebration of life and the nearby glitz of the strip seemed like the perfect ending to my first day. What could better symbolize the growth and development of our region than the revitalized Virginia Beach boardwalk?


For the rest of this article see the January issue of Hampton Roads Magazine

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