Saturday, 18th November - only one week to go.
It was a lovely clear day, once again. On our way we called at the base for Tracy's lap top as she was supposed to do some work while we were away. There we saw heaps and heaps of squirrels gathering nuts on the lawns. We then grabbed breakfast at our family restaurant. It was a glorious morning. I was reading from the AAA book, details of places we were to visit when Tracy tried to 'turn me up' on the radio. This caused a great deal of mirth - it was a nice change. She usually tries to shut me up! We drove to Monticello (above), which was the home of Thomas Jefferson, set up on a hill with a 360 degree view. Absolutely lovely. We were 'shuttled' up the hill on a bus. Monticello is not a grand home, but such an interesting one, as was its owner - what a clever man, born far before his time. Monticello was Thomas Jefferson's home from 1770 until his death in 1826. We were shown through several of the main floor's principal rooms, which contain Mr. Jefferson's maps, books, scientific instruments, a dumbwaiter and the thing that fascinated me the most - a polygraph that allowed him to make duplicates of his correspondence - tens of thousands of letters he wrote. He would dip his pen in an ink well, the other pen in also and then off he would go. Amazing - the first Rank Xerox person in the world. On the tour, which was conducted by a very entertaining, knowledgeable lady, there was a young family. One of the boys asked so many interesting questions - obviously a very bright young button. As we left the house, I showed him a Kangy fridge magnet and asked what animal was on it. He knew, so I asked him where he thought we came from. "Australia" was the answer without any hesitation so I gave him the fridge magnet for their fridge. He was quite thrilled. From the house we could see the dome of the University of Virginia, which Thomas Jefferson founded. We then wandered through the grounds looking at where the slave quarters were, down to the Jefferson graveyard, then back down the hill to the car park. Thomas Jefferson died on July 4th 1826, exactly 50 years after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Just before he died he opened his eyes and asked, "Is it the fourth?" We then drove down to the Michie Tavern for lunch. The tavern has accommodated travellers with food, drink and lodging for 216 years and seemed a good place for these three travellers to sup. The Bill of Fayre was Colonial Fried Chicken, black-eye peas, stewed tomatoes, coleslaw, potato, small beet, cornbread and biscuits. Tracy and I topped this off with hot apple cider and David with ale. Not bad eh? And we were offered more fried chicken! Whew!
We then drove to Charlottesville, which was really alive as the University was playing North Carolina State University and it was a big football game. The Virginia boys are known as the Cavaliers and there were flags flying from cars everywhere. It reminded me of a Crows game. People everywhere, parking at a premium and great fun. Tracy found some parking so that David and I could hurry across to the University to see the Lawn area Jefferson designed and which is the same to this day. It is a big honour to earn the right to live in this area, even though the facilities are not good. Only the best students get to live here apparently. There were people everywhere on the lawn area and a lot of them, especially the young ones, were not too sober. Kurt barracks for the University of Virginia and had suggested that we go to the game, but it would have been hard to get tickets and from what we saw, probably not the greatest idea, so on we pushed.
We travelled through the Shenandoah National Park again, this time without a fire, along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We called in at the overlooks and the scenery was wonderful. The sky had a haze about it, apparently from the gasses emitted by the trees and it gives a lovely soft colour to everything. David really couldn't see the beauty of this area - too misty. He even thought lights on a passing car were prettier!! As we drove through this area Tracy had the tape of "Celtic Cuties" which we played when travelling through Scotland four years ago. It was so relaxing, especially with our tour guide doing all the driving and pointing out highlights to us. We really composed an impressive list of wildlife sightings that afternoon - l squirrel, l leaping deer (as on the signs), 2 stags, l hawk, 12 deer close-up and heaps and heaps more out in a field, 2 crows and one black mother bear and three little ones! Wow! I had just said that I would love to see a bear as we hadn't seen one on our travels and Tracy had remarked that she saw one when travelling through this area with Lisa, when what should happen. We'd just slowed down to see a deer, and Tracy had pulled out to pass the car in front, when the four bears ambled across the road. Not one, but four. It was so exciting. After we'd calmed down, we drove through the area that was burnt when we passed through the park coming down from Pennsylvania. This fire burnt out about 20,000 acres in Virginia and North Carolina. It was burnt both sides of the road in places. On further we could see quite a large part of the burnt area. Tracy decided to let her gloves 'drive' for a while as she was sick of driving. And she says I'm mad? I then yelled out 'bear', but it was actually a fence on the side of the road. It must have been the mountain air! I wasn't the only silly one though, as later David tried to put his jumper on and couldn't work out why it wouldn't go down. I 'gently' suggested that he would do better if he took his seat belt off first.
I'd spotted some cabins in the AAA book and they looked wonderful, but when we enquired, they were booked out. A pity, as the whole area there looked fantastic - including the gift shop! We drove on through Luray, a Hicksville town if ever I've seen one. It looked like something from a movie of the boon docks. We decided to book into the Cardinal Inn motel which was older, but quite comfy and run by lovely people. After some supermarket shopping I made sensible sandwiches for dinner and then our usual - TV.
We started the day with a continental breakfast in our room and then set out for Washington. A lovely sky again. We came to the road where we were diverted two weeks before because of the fire. Drove down from the ridge - beautiful views of the mountains stretching off into the distance. We started to worry about gas as the red light came on and there was no gas in the town of Sperryville when we passed through. We headed towards Washington, Virginia, not to be confused with Washington D.C., but luckily found a gas station before we got there. When we came to Washington we parked at Arlington Cemetery and bought tickets for a Tourmobile tour of the cemetery and city. I was quite excited as I loved Washington in 1977 and had hoped to return one day. Our first stop was the Kennedy graves, which I found very moving. Robert's gave is marked by a simple white cross and plaque while the grave of the other four K's - John F., Jackie, their baby daughter and Patrick is guarded by an eternal flame. We reboarded the Tourmobile and the guide pointed out the grave of one of the Tuskegee airmen, the first black pilots in the USA Airforce. We'd read about these men at the Air and Space Museum in Hampton so we were very interested in this. We then stopped to watch the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solder. This was weird - it could only happen in America - but apparently it is a big honour for soldiers to be selected to carry it out. We then stopped at Robert E. Lee's house up on the hill above John F. Kennedy's grave. I hadn't remembered in all of our history lessons, that Robert E. Lee was asked to lead the Union forces in the Civil War, but he was. After much deliberation, he decided that he could not fight against his beloved Virginia. (a bit like when I barracked for McLaren Flat against Kangy I guess). From then on he was held in low esteem and never came back to Arlington - a bit sad really.
We then changed Tourmobiles and crossed the Potomac River to be dropped off near
We hopped on our little
bus and went on past the White House - Bill and Hils were in Vietnam so we
couldn't get a meal - and on to the Museum of American History, where we bought
a yummy meal in the Ice Cream Parlour. Then we saw Dorothy's red ruby
slippers, actually worn by Judy Garland in the movie and other great 'stuff' and
paid a visit to the display of gowns worn by first ladies, past and present. I wondered if Mrs. Bush or Mrs. Gore
would ever get to put a dress on show. Not the way this
Presidential election is going! We walked across the mall to
catch one of our little buses to the Air and Space Museum which was a bit
disappointing for us as the entrance Tracy wanted to show us was closed up and
all the planes were covered in that area. We boarded the bus once more and
travelled to the Capitol via Union Station. Here we had to queue for a
while and what security we had to go through - ridiculous really and they were
quite rude about it too. However, it was worth it to stand and gaze
at that wonderful dome once again and look at the fantastic paintings depicting
America's birth as a nation and onwards. When we came out the
sky was the most beautiful apricot colour, similar to Edinburgh in December
1996. Here we came a bit undone for a while. Apparently
our first guide was supposed to tell us to make sure we were on a bus by 4.00 to back to Arlington, but he didn't and it was now 4.15.
led us astray at this stage (of course) and when we boarded a bus we were told
that this bus was stopping at Union Station. Of course, I panicked and
could see our car locked in all night. However, the driver kindly drove us
back to the Lincoln Memorial which was absolutely glowing in the glorious sunset
- quite a sight.
Here we boarded another bus and were driven past the J.F. Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts. There was a film crew shooting outside the Centre but we couldn't recognise anyone. I wanted to do better than Tracy as she had seen Tom Hanks earlier in the year, but as usual, I couldn't. As we drove back across the Potomac, the sunset was unbelievable. When we got back to the car, we drove to the Jefferson Memorial, which was lovely all lit up. - we could see all of the Monuments lit up, as well as the White House. A real treat. Then it was time to leave Washington and drive to Annapolis where we stayed at a Best Western.
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