DAY 68 July 31, 2009

Started the day off going out to Henricus Park which is supposed to be a historical site with people modeling the behaviors of the times. All I found was the gift shop locked and three apparent employees that did not so much as say hello to me. Guess I will keep my $5 and take a few photos gratis.

On to the first stop in the Richmond National Park. Drewry's Bluff (Fort Darling) is supposed to be well preserved. I arrived with the only other vehicle in the area being the ranger's. I met him as I was walking in and said hello. The further I walked the less sure I was of how much further I would need to travel and the more cognizant of the fact that I was out in the woods without a cell phone by myself except for the insects feasting on my poor body. I gave up and ran for the protection of my vehicle.

Next stop the official visitor center of the Richmond National Park at the old Tredegar Iron Works. I was surprised at the $3 per hour parking fee, but took my ticket and headed up the hill to view their very interesting video. This video actually put the Civil War from beginning (Manassas) to end (Richmond) into perspective. I feel like this is a must do stop for anyone traveling the Civil War Trail.

Next stop was Maymount-very hard for me to find with all the one way streets in the area. Once I arrived the weather was threatening rain, so I toured the east side of the grounds quickly. I enjoyed the display of various carriages, sleighs, and buggies in the Carriage House. I made it to the Mansion just in time to join the "children's tour" called Lions in the Library ($5). The guide told us that there were over 400 depictions of animals in this very elaborate home. The home even had running water and electric/gas lights, which was virtually unheard of in the late 1800's. The couple (James and Sallie Dooley) were quite wealthy from his railroad endeavors and no cast was spared in the public portion of the home. Back out to the car ahead of the storm, but not the wind.
I headed up to see the monuments on Monument Drive and then over to the Maggie L Walker Historic Site (NPS). I enjoyed learning about Ms Walker's pursuits-first female banker-via the video in the visitor center. I found it amazing that she was not only female, but black and had amazing success in her business pursuits. She was born at the end of the Civil War and women did not accomplish these type of feats at that time. They offer a tour of the house, but I was pressed for time and the rain had subsided enough to safely get to my car across the street.

On to Chimborazo Hospital (part of the Richmond NPS) at the other end of town. They show an interesting video depicting medical care during the Civil War and have a nice exhibit of medical paraphernalia. The yellow flage flying meant that it was a military hospital. I also learned that when a woman (name?) fussed enough about having her private hospital pressed into service by the military she was commissioned as an officer (captain?)-the only female in the Civil War.

The final stop of the day was the Holocaust Museum. I admit that I teared up several times-such inhumanity. I was quite unaware that, even after D-Day and Germany's surrender, the Jews continued to suffer displacement at the hands of their rescuers. It absolutely breaks my heart that my own country turned away refugees of this war. I cannot image how it must have felt to have been refused sanctuary by so many, even those professing assistance. So incredibly sad.

I walked out of the last site at almost straight up 5 pm on this Friday afternoon, but the traffic was not horrible until I passed Fredericksburg. I wandered up to Sterling for the night and was very pleasantly surprised that the manager had upgraded my room to a king studio suite. What an absolutely beautiful accommodation! I made the mistake of attempting to find sustenance in Sterling. After becoming VERY lost, I located a Popeye's Chicken and was pleasantly surprised by how tasty their chicken bowl was. It had beans and rice topped with unbreaded chicken strips and cheese. The food was good, but the service at this location was no better than that in Florida.

ROUTE: US 1 North> Downtown Richmond> I 95 North> VA 234 West> VA 28 North

Lodging: Hampton Inn & Suites Sterling, VA

Popeye's Chicken

$$$: $65 Hotel $3 Parking $5 Tour $5 Meal $26 Fuel = $104


DAY 67 July 30, 2009

After breakfast at the hotel, I headed over to Fort Lee Military Base. After obtaining permission to enter, I proceeded to the Women in the Military Museum. I enjoyed learning about how women began to be engaged in the military and found a reference to my relative Phillip Sheridan and his female assistant during the Civil War. I also learned about how the WACS were formed. I found it very disheartening to learn that while females were paid the same as males stateside, they did not receive the overseas compensation or other benefits that males did. Oh well, while somethings have changed for the worse (discrepancies in pay) others (benefits for all) have improved.

Next, I walked over to the Quartermaster Museum. I learned about dogs parachuting and other means used to supply the military during wartime. Interesting information and exhibits.

The National Park Service (NPS) has a Petersburg Site that spans a large distance. I started at the visitors center and watched the video to get an idea of what happened here. Basically Grant laid seige to Petersburg and prevented the Confederates from resupplying-essentially ending the conflict. I wandered through the exhibits at the visitor center, stamped my passport, and drove the one way loop through sites 1-8 (there are 5 more sites further down the road). Then I headed for Hopewell.

I enjoyed some fried clams, fries, and hushpuppies at Long John Silver's in Hopewell and then headed over to see the Sears & Roebuck Catalog Homes. This was a planned community to serve Dupont employees and had very high standards. The Sears homes were prefabricated homes that were ordered with variations throught the catalog, shipped to the building site, and then assembled. They were all nice looking homes that remind me of quite a few homes that I have seen throughout the years. This was a very unique display of history.

My last destination for the day was Grant's Headquarter's at City Point. This is where he managed the seige from and met with Lincoln at. He basically set up camp and a military hospital at the Appomattox Plantation. I watched a brief video in the plantation's homestead, toured the out buildings, and enjoyed the shear drops and views of the river.

I checked in to the Hampton Inn in Chester after roaming the immediate area and finding nothing of interest. This is a repurposed Hampton and that always bugs me a little. I have come to expected a certain type of set up for most Hampton Inns and it throws me off to find ones that have previously operated outside the Hilton system. That being said the room was very nice and the cleanest Hampton I have stayed in since Alpine, Texas. I was assigned a room on the second floor (by request) but found that the closer I got to my room the stronger some chemical fumes became (they were painting). I went back downstairs and requested a first floor room explaining that I was sensitive to some chemicals and these were bothering me. The desk clerk reassigned my room promptly and courteously. Her manager apologized stating that they were painting. This manager went beyond what was expected and I appreciate the hospitality, cleanliness, and service I received at this location. I needed to do laundry today and found the laundry room complete with a big flat screen television (a very nice touch).

ROUTE: Colonial Heights, VA to Chester, VA (only 8 miles by interstate, but I wandered around the Hopewell area). VA 144 East> VA 36 West> Park Service Road> US 301 North>VA 36 East> VA 10 West.

Lodging: Hampton Inn Chester, VA

Long John Silver's Hopewell, VA

$$$: $73 Hotel $8 Toiletries $6 Meal $2 Laundry = $89

DAY 66 July 29, 2009

I started my day off at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center. The information desk attendant helped me decide that with my very limited amount of time I may just want to wander the free parts of the park rather than pay to enjoy the museums and reenactments. I wandered for well over two miles up and down the streets enjoying the various forms of horse drawn transportation and the costumed staff that populated the area.

I enjoyed a brief look into the Bruton Parish Church, as they were preparing for services at 11 am when I arrived. The attendant answered my question about why people were buried so close to the church. She told me that it was hallowed ground and that the closer they were to the building the more prestige they had. Cemeteries on the other hand are not on hallowed ground and can be used for any type of burial. She also told me that the six feet under rule came from Old England where they experienced a very wet season and a lot of flooding that brought bodies to the surface of the earth-ewwww!

I went into the shopping area and tasted some cheese and bread at The Cheese Shop. I wandered a few other stores, but did not purchase anything.

Back down the Duke of Gloucester Street where I meandered through the colonial garden and nursery and the Mary Dickinson Store. I was famished (no breakfast) so I stopped at Chownings Tavern for Lunch. I ordered a draft root beer (they were out). I ordered a St George's Porter (they were out). I ordered another brew (they were out). I give up bring me water and a bowl of Brunswick Stew. It came out with a good size serving of cake like cornbread. Dare I ask-well let's give it a try. Do they have any honey or jam (of course not). I enjoyed my hearty stew and buttered up the cornbread which was very light and sweet. They food was good, but the service could use attention. By all means, do not forget that this is not a real restaurant. You're in an amusement park.

There were numerous individuals around the free areas of the park that were dressed in period costume. These two men were posing for photographs as they waited for their staging in the reenactment part of the park called "Revolutionary City". They have different acts every day. You can get a guide that tells you about the week in the visitor center, even if you are not paying for entrance.

The foot bridge from the visitor center into the park has plates that take you back in time (current events like suffrage, television, computers, etc.) as you walk into the park and bring you back to the present time as you leave the park. Here's Your Sign:

I was excited to drive the remaining portion of the Colonial Parkway, but found that it was closed down near Jamestown. Ended up driving most of that anyway, because I missed my turn and didn't realize where I was until I came to a very large body of water.

Jamestown has a wonderful theatre and video presentation that is done in the round. Very informative! I wandered through the exhibits and realized that it was absolutely pouring rain outside-so much for walking down to the ruins. The ranger talk took place in the classroom area and I enjoyed the information that she offered. It was mainly focused on the environment then and now and was intriguing.

The rain had let up enough to make a mad dash for the car. When I got there, I realized the ferry across the river would be leaving in about 15 minutes. Zoom! I made it! I was the last vehicle loaded and we were underway almost immediately. The rain started back up as we crossed the passage and the standing water on the other side was deep and everywhere.

I had thought that I would go into Smithfield for their world renown ham, but I am exhausted, wet, and not wanting to be any wetter. So I headed west for Colonial Heights. I found the Hopewell Visitor Center on the way there and got some great driving instructions and information for tomorrow's trek.

I checked into the Hampton in Colonial Heights, VA and enjoyed a beautiful room. I went over to Panera Bread for my standard Chicken Cobb Salad and Turkey Artichoke Sandwich. They seemed a bit skimpy to me, but the flavor was good enough.

ROUTE: Colonial Parkway South & North> VA 199 West> VA 31 South> VA 10 West> VA 36 South> Route 144 West to I 95 Exit 53

Lodging: Hampton Inn Colonial Heights, VA

Chownings Tavern (***Food **Serivce)
Panera Bread (***Food ***Service)

$$$: $21 Meals $72 Hotel = $93


DAY 65 July 28, 2009

I started my day by deciding against a 12 mile tunnel under water with "islands" to cross the bay. Instead I decided on a route further inland with a much shorter trip under the water and a lot of historical sites.

First stop was the Casemate Museum at Fort Monroe. The security check was over the top-requiring me to present not only my identification card (driver's license) but also my vehicle registration. I received my day pass and was on my way. The museum was very elaborate and contained several staged areas to help the visitor understand what really happened at this location.

Ever feel like you are invisible at a visitor center? Even when you are the only one there? There were two employees at the Hampton, VA visitor center. One was not interacting with anyone (appeared to possibly be a volunteer for the museum portion of the site). The other was definitely a paid employee, as she was dealing with a payroll problem on the phone when I walked up to her desk and patiently waited for her to finish her conversation-which took much longer than I thought it should have(especially with someone waiting). She never looked up to acknowledge me even after hanging up the phone. I finally gave up waiting to be noticed and asked her a question. It was apparent that she really did not want to help me today. This was the very first time on this trip that I actually planned on stopping at a visitor center for assistance with my travel plans and this is how I am treated? Amazing! I guess it is a good thing that I can figure things out on my own. "Information Specialist" is what they call these people at this location. Hmmm...

The Hampton Air Power Museum was a bunch of old planes and a few rockets/missiles. Ho Hum, unless you are an aviation nut. If so, by all means take a gander at these beauties.

Next I enjoyed a wonderful tasting with Andy at the St George Brewery. Great guy with tons of knowledge and excellent brews. He made me a believer in IPA. I had always thought it was too hoppy for me. He taught me that there are two styles American and English- the English style is not as hoppy and has richer flavor. Having tasted their English Style IPA-I am a believer. YUMMY! Their Porter was beautiful. I ended up purchasing a six pack for $8 and worth every single penny! They have great beer and offer fantastic information. A must do, if you even remotely enjoy a good brew!

The little road I took leaving the brewery and heading for Sandy Bottom Park runs right along (not more than 4 feet from the edge at some points) of the river. It is absolutely beautiful! Sandy Bottom was a nice restoration of a dump/borrow pit to a place someone would definitely enjoy visiting today.
They have a nice nature center with wonderful, knowledgeable personnel. The ranger there told me that I must go to the beach and town center at Yorktown and he was completely right! What a beautiful little place. The water is deep and still; the beach is clean. It is not crowded and there are places near by to grab a bite to eat. Very nice area.

I visited the Yorktown NPS site. I enjoyed the video and the exhibits (particularly the life sized boat to walk through), but was growing quite weary, so I did not get a chance to tour the remainder of the park.

The NPS Colonial Parkway is absolutely beautiful!It runs along the James River without interuption from Yorktown to Williamsburg to Jamestown-you cannot even tell where you are without the signage. You would have no idea that you had just passed an interstate highway, if you didn't know it was there! Even when there are a lot of cars present, it seems serene and peaceful. I was thinking more byways should be like this!

I checked into the Super 8 in Williamsburg, VA. The room was huge and reasonably clean, but the hallways have a moldy stench accompanied by a huge amount of humidity. They were always hot, even late at night and first thing in the morning. Grow mold, grow!

While it looks like they are trying to keep the place going. it appears to be coming apart at the seams. The ice machine intermittently spits out ice without any provocation, the a/c unit in my room had to be plugged in and unplugged to turn it on and off, the remote for the TV only worked after the second trip to the office. The manager gave me hers and it did work. I went down for breakfast this morning and could not be interested in anything they had. Good thing, because the signage requests that you not take anything out of the breakfast room, although the rooms have both microwaves and refrigerators (so it has nothing to do with eating in your room). Even with all the challenges, I would stay here again based on the true hospitality of the staff and the significantly lower price of the rooms.

Happy Birthday to my Daddy! But I had better wait until the sun at least rises on the west coast.

ROUTE: I 64 North> US 17 North> Colonial Parkway South> US 60 North

Lodging: Super 8 Williamsburg, VA 1233 Richmond Road 1-800-344-0046

St George Brewery (yes, I drank my lunch)
No 1 Top China Buffet 1203 Richmond Rd, Williamsburg (right next to the Super 8) (757) 221-0069

$$$: $23 Meals $24 Fuel $5 Souvenir $37 Motel = $89