Historic journey: Journey Through Hallowed Ground, a driving route

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WHEN IT COMES to history, nobody beats Virginia. Other claimants to No. 1 are mere pretenders, given Virginia's long-term impact on the nation's development.

This is the Cradle of Presidents; the home of Jamestown; the site of the Confederate capital and four of the Civil War's bloodiest battles, as well as the surrender at Appomattox. This space is far too small to enumerate the commonwealth's historic contributions.

Given the ongoing efforts to preserve so many aspects of Virginia's history, there is one particular recent success worth noting. The Journey Through Hallowed Ground, a driving route that begins in Gettysburg, Pa., and ends at Monticello, has been designated a National Byway by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The vast majority of the tour is, of course, in Virginia.

The designation is not about rules and regulations, and not about sacrificing property rights. It is an honorary title that puts a global spotlight on a corridor that is home to many sites that have played key roles in America's past (meaning, also, its present). The result won't be a human herd overrunning these cherished sites, but it could mean a boost to regional tourism. Those even a little bit up on history will know that Fredericksburg, along with the historic sites that surround it, is nearby.

The designation creates a marketing tool designed to spread the word that this is a fun-filled and educational way to explore the nation's past. You do it at your own speed. The route is enticingly scenic, without heavy traffic or theme-park crowds.

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