By late afternoon, though, we were feeling indolent and guilty. That's how we found ourselves at Historic Christ Church, a Georgian cruciform structure built in 1735 by Robert "King" Carter, an ancestor of two U.S. presidents, three signers of the Declaration of Independence, and even General Robert E. Lee. Throughout the weekend, we'd hardly talked to anyone. We'd had Fredericksburg almost to ourselves on Friday, rushed down the Historyland Highway on Saturday, and become lost in the crowds at Williamsburg on Sunday. But now, standing in the quiet churchyard under trees older than the United States, we were reminded that we weren't alone in obeying whatever instinct had brought us here. That's when we met Dean Carter, a retired professor, World War II veteran, and distant relation of King Carter. What had drawn him there, we asked?He answered as if it should have been obvious.
"I'm a patriot," he said.
THE FACTS Richard Johnston Inn 711 Caroline St., Fredericksburg; 877/557-0770 or 540/899-7606; www.therichardjohnstoninn.com; doubles from $90 with breakfast. Hugh Mercer Apothecary 1020 Caroline St., Fredericksburg; 540/373-1776. Rising Sun Tavern 1304 Caroline St., Fredericksburg; 540/373-1776. Tides Inn 480 King Carter Dr., Irvington; 800/843-3746 or 804/438-5000; www.tidesinn.com; doubles from $295; dinner for two from $48 (Chesapeake Club) or $80 (the Dining Room).
Go West: Montana to Idaho
16 This year marks the beginning of the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark's epic trek across North America. Retracing their entire cross-country voyage would be daunting,but you can see some of the land they covered via a drive from Montana to Idaho. Begin on I-90 in Livingston, in southwestern Montana, and pass through Three Forks, a dusty town with eight churches, three rivers, and the Lewis & Clark Motel. Then make your way south to U.S. 287; the road forks west on Route 287 for Virginia City, a mining town where an 1863 gold rush produced a building frenzy. It's the Old West preserved in amber, with most of its original structures—shops, the newspaper office, the brewery—still intact. Follow 287 to Route 41 and take I-15 up into the Bitterroot Mountains; straddling the state border is the Lemhi Pass, where members of the expedition were the first American settlers to cross the Continental Divide. Even today, there's no hint of human presence here. The pass is empty except for wildflowers and pines.
Library Pass: Missouri to Iowa
17 The Clinton library in Little Rock won't be completed until next year, but those eager for a presidential history fix can satisfy their curiosity on a drive through the heartland. Start in Independence, Missouri, at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Museum & Library (500 Hwy. 24 W.; 800/833-1225 or 816/833-1400; www.trumanlibrary.org), where you can buy your own the buck stops here! desk sign. Then head west on I-70 to Abilene, Kansas, for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library & Museum (200 S.E. Fourth St.; 877/746-4453 or 785/263-4751; eisenhower.archives.gov) and a glimpse into the days when everybody liked Ike. Cut north on Highway 77 into Nebraska and back east on I-80 acrossIowa to West Branch for the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum (210 Parkside Dr.; 319/643-5301; hoover.archives.gov), which chronicles his ill-fated tenure during the Great Depression. A bonus for fans of fatefulness: the grave of each president is on the grounds of his own museum.
18 CRUISE CONTROL Italian calf slip-on Machsters, $345, by Toschi; Cole Haan leather weekend duffel, $595; grapefruit-scented Refreshing Towelette, $4.50 for three, by Get Fresh; Silhouette Eyewear aviator glasses, $250; Passing Gas, a photo essay of oddly named American towns, $20; palm-sized atlases by Graphic Image, $40 and $17.
Thrill Rides: Pennsylvania to Ohio
19 Since 1884, when the United States' first roller coaster made its debut, fans have been lining up for this beloved American pastime. Drive through Ohio and Pennsylvania—they rank second and third in the country for statewide coaster count—to queue up at three classic amusement parks. Founded in 1898 and now a National Historic Landmark, Kennywood (West Mifflin, Pa.; 412/461-0500; www.kennywood.com) has a trio of vintage wooden coasters: the Jack Rabbit, the Racer, and the Thunderbolt, which saves its best, wildest hill for last. The park is outside Pittsburgh off I-376. At Cedar Point (Sandusky, Ohio; 419/627-3250; www.cedarpoint.com), 3 1/2 hours to the west, the new Top Thrill Dragster smashes world records for height (420 feet) and speed (120 mph). The wooden Beast, the signature coaster at Paramount's Kings Island (Kings Island, Ohio; 800/288-0808 or 513/754-5700; www.pki.com), off I-71 near Cincinnati, offers an exhilarating view over 35 leafy acres.