A Newcomer's Guide to Lynchburg (A Tale of Groundhogs, Westerns, and Awkward Conversation)
by Zachary Woolard
118 miles upriver. This is the span between my city of seven years and the city of seven hills.
Richmond, meet Lynchburg.
First off, I couldn’t even say it out loud, “We’re moving to Lynchburg”. Lynchburg seemed dull, reminiscent of a sleepy, backward, town of yesteryear. I had resolved that my next season of life would be one of “making the most of it”. This was a sacrifice my fiancée and I would make as we invested in our future, at the expense of our present.
I moved to Lynchburg on March 15th to begin training as an Academic Advisor.
Everything I owned fit in the back of my car. I survived at first on the generosity of a friend from Richmond, himself having recently made the transition westward. I soon began the adventure of finding a place to live in a town I knew nothing about.
I found a gem on the north side of the city—a historic apartment building dating back to the 1920’s. I loved the architecture, the floor plan, and even the neighbors. One recent morning I was greeted by a veritable petting zoo in the backyard: lizards, deer, rabbits, squirrels, and groundhogs.
The city then started to show its true colors, a vibrant array of people from all walks of life—tattooed hipsters, corporate bankers, country clubbers, and disc golfers. It seemed that Richmond didn’t have the exclusive on being cosmopolitan.
Having found a place to sleep, I needed a decent meal. I have a penchant for independent Mom and Pop, hole-in-the-wall, off the map culinary options. After surveying the cookie-cutter, just-off-the-highway offerings, I feared that Lynchburg may have an insatiable taste for the bland. So I started asking for recommendations. They came in droves: brick oven perfection at Rivermont Pizza, happiness in a mug at The Muse Coffee Company, and more doughnuts than I am proud to admit at The Father’s Table.
I wasn’t prepared for what came next: The Cheesy Western from The Texas Inn (the T-Room to lifetime ‘Burgers). Imagine a hamburger, blacktop griddled to just short of a hockey puck. This is then topped with a fried egg smother in cheese, onions and a pickled, mustardy, cabbage relish. The whole combo is served on a bun alongside a bowl of chili beans with an icy cup of buttermilk. All together you have the best, worst mistake you can make.
Lynchburg has been more than welcoming. The best example being the parade of hugs and handshakes exchanged between the hours of nine and noon on a Sunday morning. As a proud member of team introvert, the church equivalent of speed dating is a truly terrifying experience. I keep my eyes moving, hastily sit back down, and do everything I can to keep my hands in my pockets. I usually escape unscathed.
The captain of a greeter brigade took awkward to a new level. He actually reached into my pocket for a handshake. A bit off-putting at first, I realized this intrusion was because he was overjoyed that a stranger had come into his midst. In his own weird way, he wanted me to know that I was welcome, that I could make a home there if I wanted.
The whole experience made me realize that Lynchburg is all in all, a little weird, definitely different than Richmond, but a good different.
I have grown to understand that my time here is a gift, an opportunity to grow and explore, to get lost in the unfamiliar, and to rediscover myself out of my comfort zone. And so to all of you—like me—who once were, who are, or will someday soon be new to Lynchburg, I leave you with a word: WELCOME.