Along the Carolina Road
Route 15 is the asphalt version of what was known long ago as the Carolina Road. The road crosses the Potomac at Point of Rocks, Md., and is just a two-lane country road when it reaches Lucketts, Va., in northern Loudoun County. Dominating the heart of Lucketts are a couple of antique stores, including Really Great Finds, where Carrie Sisk, 36, the retail manager, is a local and remembers when Loudoun County was just cow farms. She’s a Fox News fan, and her politics are more anti-Obama than pro-Mitt Romney.
“He’s so cocky. He thinks he’s Jesus. I don’t think he cares a whole lot about America,” she says of the president.
Keep heading south, past Leesburg with its outlet stores, and you’ll see the antebellum plantation Oatlands, where preservationists are fighting to keep housing developments out of its viewshed. Oatlands says “South,” but the eye is drawn beyond the old grain silo to the rack of new housing on the distant hillside.
Eventually you’ll see signs for the Winery at La Grange, which sits at the base of the Bull Run Mountains. Katie Lee, 29, taps on a laptop at an outdoor table, sipping a fine pinot gris. She’s an Obama voter. Co-worker Trish Davila, 45, doesn’t say how she’ll vote, but offers an unhappy observation: “People start to question other people’s patriotism if they don’t vote Republican.”
Onward to Warrenton, which is now a suburb of Washington.
“When I was a kid, Main Street was dirt,” says William Lawson, 75, a funeral director standing in the shade on Main. He says he’ll vote for Obama, and is unhappy with congressional inaction. “What they need to do is clear the House. Both houses. They’ve been in there too long.”
Tom Armstrong, 59, an arborist, pops out of the post office and says he remembers when this part of Virginia was rural and didn’t have many middle-class people, just the poor and the very rich. He likes the more multicultural feel of the area. He’ll vote for Romney, saying he doesn’t like the Democratic position on entitlements: “I really don’t think being a citizen of the United States entitles you to anything.”
Laurie Goddin, 62, of Alexandria, was meeting her friend Letitia Ord, 51, for lunch in downtown Warrenton. They didn’t realize how much of a political divide exists between them, because until this moment they hadn’t discussed the election.
“You’re not going to go Republican?” Ord asked incredulously.
“I don’t like Romney at all,” Goddin said.
“You like Obama???”
“I think he needs more time.”
“Oh my God — I think he’s a disaster.”
“That’s why we don’t talk politics.”
‘This is kind of where it starts’
Below Warrenton on Route 15, the landscape starts to change. There are fewer housing developments, and fewer just-built mansions that look like they sprouted in a pasture after a recent rain. You’re nearing the Rappahannock, an unofficial border, and now you see vintage motels, what used to be called motor courts, and the occasional old house being eaten by vines. A truck stop has a big sign out front: “BBQ World.”
This is Quarles Truck Stop, where the manager is Donn Sachs, 63, a Tidewater Virginian who doesn’t feel he’s in the South when he’s this far north: “A lot of people don’t even know what grits are.” He’ll vote for Romney, largely on foreign policy grounds: “Stop apologizing for the U.S. and take a hard line on who’s our friends, and who are not.”
Just a little ways ahead, in the hamlet of Opal, a sign on the right says, “Clark Bros — Guns.”
It’s a gun shop with an outdoor shooting range in back. There’s a fiberglass bear, ferociously kitschy, on the roof.
Continúa...* Álbum de fotos del viaje.
* Mapa de la Ruta 15.