The next day we did get into D.C., an hour drive and parked in the Arlington National Cemetery parking lot and picked up a tour bus that we could get on and off anywhere we wanted. First was the cemetery, which is spellbinding in itself, and viewed the Kennedy graves, the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers and the Arlington House that was the former home of Robert E Lee. It covered a lot more ground and was grandeur than I imagined. Then onto the Lincoln Memorial that although colossal in size, it appears intimate and lifelike It stands at the head of the Reflecting Pool, but the pool was empty so that was disappointing. This all was a lot of walking and I was getting tired and hungry and by the time we found someplace to eat I was really dragging. It ended up being a food court which at first didn’t appeal to me, but ended up getting the best Philly Cheese sandwich so all was well again. Back to the bus stop and on to the Washington Monument. It was a long walk but well worth it. The elevator goes to the top at 555 ft and you can see the whole city from there. By the time we got back to the bus stop I couldn’t walk another step. It was getting late anyway so back to the car. On our way around by bus we got to see great views of all the major buildings, the Jefferson Memorial, and a glimpse of the White House. What surprised me was I thought the White House was a lot more isolated, but it sits on a couple of blocks right in the middle of the city. The bus route also goes along the Potomac River and there were hundreds of resident Canadian Geese that was fun to watch, but the locals, especially the nearby golf course, aren’t thrilled with them. We will be close enough at our next stop to go back to D.C. to see the Smithsonian. To see everything would take a couple of months so a little bit at a time.
It was an easy drive to Bowling Green where we are staying at the Fort A.P. Hill RV campground which is an Army training base (A.P. Hill was a Major. General, in the Confederacy). It is large in area (mostly woods) but small in occupants and housing and no amenities except a small Base Exchange (only 1 bottle of wine!). The campground is pretty small and basic, but has full hookups and we get satellite and phone coverage so is perfect for us and there are actually 4 other Rvs here so for a change we are not alone.
/Bowling Green itself is very small with only 1 grocery store, but does have a McDonald’s and Pizza Hut so it has some redeeming value. We dined out at McDonald’s - fine dining according to Merry. There was a lot of civil war action around here, but the sites aren’t preserved and they just have a lot of plaques. There are also a lot of historical houses, but we just aren’t going to have time to get to them, but they are as awesome as others we have seen elsewhere anyway.
Our first day we took a tour of Fredricksburg by a surrey drawn by 2 beautiful Belgium horses. It sits along the Rappahannock River and its strategic location midway between Richmond and Washington D.C. made it a focal point during the Civil War with 4 major battles (there were 100,000 casualties within a 17 mile radius) making it the major historic site in the country. There are so many historic buildings and homes that you can’t see them all in a day. Some, like a physicians office, tavern, etc. are open to the public, but we didn’t have time to investigate. One of the most historic homes is Mary Washington’s (George’s mother) home which George was bought for her. Since he was also a brick mason, he also helped build the house. The homes are very well kept up and run between $1 to 2 million so there are some big bucks here. Also, more than 15,000 Union soldiers killed around Fredricksburg are buried here in a 12-acre cemetery of which 85% are unknown. Another history lesson - Ten years prior to the war John Brown attacked the U.S. Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry with the intent of arming Virginia’s slaves which inflamed passions on both sides making a compromise between the North and South impossible later on. Also, Gen. Grant was a failure in both the peacetime army and private life but proved daunting in actual warfare. One of his main methods of success was to lay siege to a Confederate town. As he said “I have unlimited source of recruits wherein the Confederacy has none”, wherein lay the defeat. Across the river is the Chatham House built in 1768 and hosted Presidents Washington and Lincoln. It was used as the headquarters for the Union Army during the Battle of Fredericksburg and then converted to a field hospital where olunteers Clara Barton and Walt Whitman assisted. Another interesting story told to us by the Surrey driver concerned Major General Joseph Hooker, who commanded the Union Troops during on of the battles at Fredericksburg. It is rumored that General Hooker procured the services of many ladies of the evening in order to keep his troops moral high. The houses at which these “ladies” were housed were marked by a lantern with a red lens hanging by the door. Hence the term “Red Light District”. Also the “ladies” were called “Hooker’s girls” which has since been shortened to just “hookers”. Now you know the rest of the story.
As we left Fredericksburg, we crossed the Rappahannock to see Ferry Farm, which is George Washington's childhood home. The Washington family moved to the plantation here in 1738 when George was 6 years old. Along with his 3 brothers and sister, George spent most of his early life here, where, according to popular fable, he cut down his father's cherry tree and uttered the immortal words, " I cannot tell a lie.". His father, Augustine, died here in 1743, leaving the property to George. His mother, Mary Ball Washington, lived here until 1772 when she moved to a house in Fredericksburg that George bought for her. Again due to the season, Ferry Farm was closed so we could not tour the plantation, We were able to park at the gate and get a good view of the house and grounds.
On our way back we stopped at the Stonewall Jackson Shrine that is located close by. He was accidentally wounded by his own troops and his arm amputated at a field hospital near Wilderness Tavern. He was then transported 27 miles to Chandler’s Fairfield Plantation at Guinea Station where he later died. He was attended to in the plantation office building that is now the only building remaining of the plantation. It has since been restored and retains 45% of its original fabric. It is open to the public and was quite interesting. We wanted to do more site seeing but just didn’t have the time.
Today (Mon) we were supposed to be getting ready to leave tomorrow for Virginia Beach but didn’t have that much to do so we took an auto tour of the Spotsylvania and Wilderness Battlefields. There were many extensive battles in these areas, but there isn’t much to see except for information plaques and battlefield markers with the exception of the Spotsylvania Court House, where for 20 hours the most hand-to-hand intense combat of the war was fought. The most interesting to me was the extensive amount of trenches still in evidence that the Confederacy had dug as defense. We did stop at one of the Visitor’s Centers and got a great book depicting the “then and now” photos of the Civil War battlefields. It is really interesting. The one thing I am really upset about is that I was so close to Lobster country, yet so far, and now we are going further south. I dreamed of all the lobster I was going to eat and stuff in my freezer. I know - you all are not feeling too sorry for me.
We had a uneventful drive to Virginia Beach and found Fort Story without a problem - then the day went downhill. We got to the RV park and no one was there to check us in. The sign said “Out to Lunch”, but after 1 hr 45 min Bob started calling around and 5 phone calls later got Security who came over and told us to just pick a spot and check in later. While I was standing in the spot waiting for Bob to circle through the woods, the check-in person came buzzing up and started in on me and was really rude. She said we had no right to park here, but Bob finished parking and followed her up to the check-in site and let her know in so many words she was out of line and that we did have reservations (which she had forgotten) and we did get permission to park She backed down, but was she very nasty. Okay - so we got set up, but we are in the woods so have no access to satellite TV or Internet and e-mail and no sewer so Bob had to get out his mini honey wagon. We do get some phone service and 3 TV channels on antenna, so not all is lost. We haven’t gotten any mail in a while so we hot footed it to the post office and, even though Bob had called ahead of time to make sure he had a correct forwarding address, they don’t offer General Delivery at the post office closest to us and directed us to another post office that is quite a ways away. After all that - no mail. I did note that they really like their vanity plates and drive very nice cars and not above honking at you to get out of their way. On the way home we stopped to eat at a bar and grille called “Hot Tuna”, which we thought was just what it said - bar and grille. Inside was a moderately up-scale restaurant as was their menu, a lot of which I didn’t even know what it was or didn’t like, but at least they had beer battered shrimp. The meal itself wasn’t too expensive, but a glass of wine was $6.50 a glass! Needless to say, we got a glass of beer at $4.50. There were a lot of “suits” in the bar so must be a yuppy hangout. Since Bob had been stationed here (30 yrs. ago) he pretty much knows the area, but it has exploded in all directions. It started with homes and businesses along the beach and the town now encompasses 255 sq. mi. There is no “downtown” - just malls and strip malls everywhere and roads going every which a way and is very confusing, plus the roads are terrible. Where the homes along the beach had been there are now high rise hotels for miles so you can’t even get a glimpse of the ocean. Surrounded by all the Navy installations is poor Fort Story, which is the Army’s Transportation and Training Corps that trains for land and sea transportation. It is located on a rounded spit with Chesapeake Bay on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, but it not very big as compared to other military bases. We did hear that the Navy was taking it over in a couple of years. They do boast of the oldest lighthouse in the nation (Cape Henry Lighthouse built in 1791) which still stands perched atop a dominating sand dune at the junction of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. It stayed in service until 1872 when there were large cracks found in the masonry. A new lighthouse was placed in operation in 1882 (which is a lot cuter than the original). They are both about 1/4 mile from us and the old lighthouse is still open for tours so Bob climbed the 177 steps to the top to take pictures. A little known fact is that Cape Henry is the first place the original Jamestown settlers first set foot on Virginia soil in 1607. They explored from there before settling permanently in Jamestown. There is a memorial park the commemoratesthis, plus there is a St. Theresa’s Chapel that is very old.
We took the one nice day (cold, but sunny) to drive the “Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel” which is a 17 mile link between Virginia Beach/Norfolk and Virginia’s eastern shore and is one of the modern engineering wonders of the world. The northbound lane cost $200 M and opened in 1964 and the southbound lane cost $250 M and opened in 1999. This is a combination of bridge and tunnels - the tunnels were required to enable shipping to cross over from the bay to the Atlantic. First is about 8 miles of a trestle bridge and then a mile of an underground tunnel then another trestle bridge and another tunnel and another trestle bridge that rises to 83' above the North Channel water leading into Fisherman’s Island to accommodate the smaller ships and boats. The tunnels were built on four man-made islands and on one of the island was a café and gift shop. The whole thing was totally awesome. We just drove over and turned around and came back. There were a lot of sites to see on the Eastern Shore, but we just didn’t have the time.
The weather turned rainy so the next day we decided to tour the Edgar Cayce Institute (he was a famous healer and mystic philosopher who died in 1939). I had read a lot of books about him and after he died his son opened the original building to keep his philosophies, healing and prophecies properly recorded. They have since built a new building and is truly remarkable. It isn’t just a museum, but a way of life they are continuing there. Beside being spiritual it teaches health, diet, communication, etc. I would really love to take some of their lectures. I don’t have any of his books anymore so picked up a couple of new ones (Kaye and Laura, you would love the Institute). In 1969, Bob used to live directly across from the old Institute building, but the house isn’t there anymore. We also went by the other house he used to live in, but the whole area has changed. The house looked just as it had when Bob sold it in 1976. Of course, we then had to go visit the Naval Training Center at Dam Neck, VAbase where he was stationed. (no photos allowed on base of course). This base is the main training facility for the Fleet Ballistic Missile Weapons system such as the Trident Missiles, also for the surface ship missile systems and a they also have a gunnery range to train sailor in the firing and maintenance of the gun systems aboard ships.
The next day we toured Norfolk Naval Station, which is huge and a lot of naval ships are anchored there so was really interesting. From there we went to Sandbridge, which is an unique community that is built along the ocean and surrounded by sand dunes. The houses are built on stilts and there is shifting sand everywhere. There are some beautiful homes, but I could never deal with all that sand.
Then on to Kitty Hawk which is located on the outer banks. It was a long drive, but well worth it. We went through their museum that also housed replicas of the planes the Wright Brothers flew. Their 60' monument crowns Kill Devil Hill, a 90' dune of once shifting sand that has been stabilized with grass. Bob didn’t hike up the hill, but they had a road for a car tour around the monument that had all kinds of plaques and statues. It is pretty impressive. We got home late so it made for one long day.
We got up bright and early again the next morning and started for Williamsburg and Jamestown. It ended up taking us a while. First they had closed off a lane of our road for a marathon which only left 1 lane open so that really slowed us down. (The one thing I’ve noticed around here is that everybody runs). We finally made it to the Hampton Bridge Tunnel and on the a freeway. We just going good when our side of the freeway was closed down. After sitting there forever we remembered that Pres. Bush was coming to Williamsburg and we were close to airport exit so evidently they closed everything off until the motorcade could get well ahead of us. How Rude! Anyway, there were police and secret service everywhere all even the Amtrak station where all the Democrats were coming in. We finally got to Williamsburg and we parked at the visitor’s center and took their bus to the historic area (that while area is closed to cars). To tour most of the buildings you had to buy a ticket and we didn’t have that much time so we just did the walking tour. Inside the buildings everyone was in period costume. In the summer they are all up and down the streets also. We got lots of good pictures and, of course, bought their book. The Williamsburg visitor’s center parking lot is really confusing to get around and from there we wanted to go the Jamestown, but by trial and error we finally got on the right road.
We finally got to Jamestown. At first we went to the original site where a lot of archeological excavations are going on, but there was a monument and other statues and plaques, plus a reconstructed 17th century church. Located adjacent to this site is the expansive living-history museum that offers full scale recreations of the colonists’ fort and a Powhatan Indian Village, a riverfront discovery area and replicas of the 3 English ships that brought to settlers. Now that I’ve said all that - we were too late to take the last tour so bought a couple of books. It was also too late to tour Yorktown. We would like to come back another year to really see it all.
There are all kinds of waterways and rivers in this area and on the way from Williamsburg we took the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry across the James River to take a different way home. The ferries are small in our standard (only one deck) but it was scenic and get this - free! Most of the ferries here are free - what a concept.
We hit a few snags getting out of Virginia Beach. They have too many roads and not good signage so we went the wrong way for about 20 miles, but finally got to The Club Lake Gaston Resort. Most of the sites are in the woods so picked one in their open area. Wouldn’t you know - there is a large tree across the street blocking our TV satellite. Rather than move, Bob set up our portable dish. Lake Gaston is a huge lake with several arms and The Club is located on one of those. The park is one that we belong to that we don’t have to pay anything. Sweet! The only problem is that there isn’t much to see around here, but after the last few hectic weeks it will be great to just relax. They have a great clubhouse here that includes a bar and restaurant that is open on Wed., Fri. and Sat. We had dinner there Wed. night and I had ½ rack of ribs and 6 crab claws, plus salad , vegetables and baked potato for just $9.95. Drinks weren’t that expensive either. At those prices, I might be able to finagle a few meals out. They also have a million dollar family clubhouse that has an indoor swimming pool, spa, exercise room, bowling alley, miniature golf and snack bar. It is really outstanding. If you buy a membership for a permanent spot in the park you get it for free, but classes are extra. Since we only have a RV membership we would have to pay $12/wk per person. There are a lot of Rvs here plus a lot of rentals and in the summer with all the water activities going on this place is packed. Even though this is a great lake I don’t think I could take the crowd, plus heat and bugs. Other than that this place is great. The one thing have noticed in the east and south is that there is a lot more smoking and very few restaurants have a no smoking area. Just watching the weather lately every place we just left have all had snow. We haven’t had any precip here at all, but it has been pretty cool - 20's & 30's.
Wuzzy had gotten so badly matted that Bob had to take him to the vet today. Normally he isn’t too bad with a vet, but he hurt and wasn’t in a very good mood so the first thing he did was try to claw the vet, but Bob tried to intercept and Wuzzy buried his teeth in the Bob’s hand and wouldn’t let go which called for a muzzle. Bob left him at the groomers and when he went back to pick him up Wuzzy had gotten the muzzle off 15 times and he was so mad Bob couldn’t even control him. We were charged $5 extra for aggressive behavior. The groomer was amazed how agile he can be at his age. He is home now and asleep around the heater. Bob’s hand really swelled up and was pretty bad, but kept ice on it and the bites well cleaned out. It finally started getting better 4 days later. A week later Wuzzy started getting sick, which he never does) so Bob had to take him back in and had to leave him overnight. He does have an urinary track infection and his kidneys are starting to fail. They wanted to draw blood, but since Wuzzy is so aggressive they would have to sedate him and at his age that is too dangerous so don’t know how far along his kidney failure is. We will just have to watch him, but doubt he will around for another 6 months. It is starting to get a little boring as there is nothing to do and nothing to tour. The nearest town is 20 miles so don’t even go there very often. We do go to the clubhouse for dinner once a week and once in a while get a pizza. We also went to the club for Valentine’s Day. We couldn’t see driving all the way to town when the club has plentiful, good and inexpensive food. All the permanent Rvs here seem to have golf carts and when people came in for the holiday weekend there were golf carts running all over the place. That provided some entertainment. I will be ready to move on and hopefully the next place will have something more to do. One of the girls I went to high school with contacted me (through Laura) about my 50th class reunion in Grand Coulee the first part of August. We have been e-mailing back and forth and found out that my best friend lives in Quilcene. I could have been in contact all this time.
Anyway, we are planning on going to the reunion and then on to Sequim. We will have to see how everything works out. Our mail was scheduled to be mailed to Virginia Beach on Jan. 25th, but still wasn’t there when we left so we left a forwarding address. The post office screwed up and sent the mail back to Sequim and we just got it a couple of days ago. There was a lot of tax documents and the letters from Winnebago and Workhorse (the chassis builder) regarding our “lemon law” claim and other major mail so we were really holding our breath. Of course, Winnebago claims Workhorse is the blame and Bob is now getting all the work invoices together to send them. Workhorse is also asking that an inspection be done, but as yet we don’t know where that will be. After all that is completed they have 30 days to respond. We will be leaving here day after tomorrow for Jackson Springs, NC (60 mi. SW of Raleigh-Durham NC) for a another 21 day stay so will say so long for this trip.
The drive was uneventful, but it started pouring which didn’t make Bob very happy and we went over a lot of narrow county roads. The park is in the middle of nowhere and county roads going every which a way. If it wasn’t for our GPS we would probably still be wandering around. This resort is one of the best we have been in. Our spot is great with a lake on one side and beautiful landscaping with a pair of ponds with waterfall in between on the other. The lake is small and has fish so Bob had to get his fishing gear out, but didn’t get anything. The lodge is an old historic home that is absolutely beautiful and they really keep the grounds well groomed. There are a lot of permanent Rvrs and like the last place, everybody has a golf cart. Nobody ever walks. On the weekend when everyone is here you can hardly get down the road in a car.
Aberdeen is our closest town (18 mi) so have been there several times. Aberdeen, which was established in the late 1800's, does have a historic district, but there was anything noteworthy except the railroad station. Since it is a relatively new town there wasn’t even anything to do with the Civil War or the Revolutionary War. We bought a Weather Alert radio and last night it really got a workout. We had a major rain and wind storm, but thankfully missed the tornados, and the radio alert was going off all night long keeping us informed. The soil is very sandy here so the rain dissipates very fast. We haven’t done much sight seeing, but on the way back from Greensboro we went through Southern Pines and the road leading into it went through about 5 miles of White Southern Pines. It was really beautiful. We spent the next couple of days getting all the paperwork together for Winnebago and got it sent off. They have 30 days to respond. Even if it goes into arbitration we will be done in Washington anyway, in August, while we are there for my 50th High School reunion.
The time finally came - we had to put Wuzzy down. It was really a rough day, but he just wasn’t getting better. We had already decided to get another cat so we went to the nearest humane society. We wanted a young cat, but not a kitten. The facility was really nice, but have rigid adopting practices. The first cat we liked was declawed, but they wouldn’t let us have him because of being in a motorhome and a chance of it getting out and not knowing his surroundings. We weren’t too happy with their reasoning, but they had another one we liked just as well anyway. Sophie is 2, has had kittens and is a sweetheart and looks a lot like Squirt, but not nearly as loud (as yet). She is still is getting used to her surroundings, but is settling in fast. We were planning on going to Myrtle Beach, but decided it was too long a drive just to see another beach, but I still would like to go to Charlotte NC where NASCAR has all their garages. Other than that there is really nothing new to tour, but we have to keep Sophie company anyway. Nothing more exciting except a major rainstorm, but the soil is so sandy it is soaked right up. Except for the trees everything around here looks very dry and I still don’t know what kind of crops they grow around in such sandy soil.
We did finally go to Concord, NC which is just outside of Charlotte, NC. It is also the home of Lowes Motor Speedway, Hendricks motor Sports, JR Mototsports (Dale Earnhart Jr.’s own racing company. We took a tour of the speedway including a ride around the track at about 90 miles per hour, way slower than the normal race car speeds but still exciting. Then we toured Hendricks Motor Sports headquarters. Which has many of their more famous race cars and also the shops where they build those cars. After that we move on to JR Motorsports. It was much the same as Hendricks but was all of Dale Jr’s cars and drivers which race for him. A very interesting day to say the least.