- Where We Started: Fredericksburg, Va.
- Where We Ended: Richmond, Va.
- Miles Driven: 243 (347 total)
- New States: 0
- Total States: 1 (Virginia)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHTS
Day 2 was more notable for quantity than quality. We hit a ton of historical sites in the general vicinity of Fredericksburg, and eventually wound our way down to Richmond for the evening.
The first day of sightseeing started poorly. We stopped in downtown Fredericksburg to see the home of Mary Washington, George's mom. Closed for renovations. Then, on to the James Monroe Museum. Closed for renovations. We finally found a place that would let us in: Ferry Farm, George Washington's boyhood home. The actual structure is long gone, but remains of the home were recently found. After finally working my way past an overly helpful woman at the front desk who was determined to tell me everything about George Washington from conception to death, we headed in. We even brought some of our own diggers to the excavation site.
In one of those odd geographical juxtapositions, from the farm of the father of our country, I can now see clearly a 7-Eleven right across the street. This surely came in handy for George when he needed a bag of Doritos to get him through a rough night of battle planning.
After Ferry Farm, we did about half of a battlefield driving tour through the areas that hosted the Battle of Fredericksburg, the Battle of Chancellorsville and the Battle of the Wilderness. Unfortunately, we had to break off before reaching the site of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, and despite a great recommendation from Scott Vance, also missed out on Ellwood, which was closed. Chancellorsville -- the site of Lee's greatest strategic victory, but also his greatest loss (Stonewall Jackson) -- had an interesting driving tour, but what was most interesting was the quiet intersection that was the heart of the battle in 1863. The site where more than 10,000 men died is now a peaceful country intersection.
After the battlefields, we headed east to check out four interesting sites on the Eastern Shore Virginia's northern neck: the site of the old Garrett Farm, where John Wilkes Booth met his end after assassinating Lincoln, and three notable birthplaces, those of James Monroe, George Washington and Robert E. Lee, who were conveniently born within 15 minutes of each other.
The James Monroe birthplace is located on James Monroe Highway. I mean, what are the odds of that? Anyway, it was a nice monument, with a recently-laid wreath.
What you can't see, since it was sitting a few feet in front of the monument, was an upright empty Seagram's whiskey bottle, apparently intentionally placed there. I thought empty whiskey bottles were the province of dead rock stars, not dead presidents. Apparently not, and James Monroe has more in common with James Morrison than I thought.
We arrived at the George Washington Birthplace National Monument about 10 minutes before it was due to close, which gave Joan time to use the restroom and for me to take a few lousy, unusable photos of the obelisk that marks the hallowed spot. We arrived at Stratford Hall, Lee's birthplace, too late to tour.
The most surprising site came when we made a quick stop at Westmoreland State Park to get the dogs some air. Located right on the Potomac, it provided a gorgeous view that I didn't do justice to with this picture.
Then, with dusk settling in, we began our march to Richmond.
THE DAY'S LOWLIGHT
- Joan and her computer. Since the day before we left, Joan has been having major computer problems, the details of which are too excruciating to go into here. We decided these problems required a complete reinstall of Windows, but we couldn't make it work, so Joan went to a Best Buy in Saturday to get the hard drive wiped. Then, when we got to Richmond last night, she tried to reinstall Windows, which worked OK -- if you consider having all of her photos look like they were taken in front of a funhouse mirror OK. Naturally, we were both more than a little frustrated at this point. And it wasn't like I was going to let her get much time with my MacBook Pro. This has all left Joan crippled from a photography standpoint, so that's why you've had to deal with some of today's photos being a little sub-standard. Today, we will be stopping at another Best Buy to re wipe and let them handle the Windows install. To her credit, Joan has been very brave through these problems, though if we don't get this fixed today, I can't promise anything.
- This experience did provide one of the funnier moments of the day. Joan has habit of picking up conversations that ended an hour ago as if we never stopped talking, so this often leads to strange non-sequitirs. So, imagine my surprise when, two hours after we stopped talking about her computer, Joan suddenly says, "I really do hope the wipe was successful." Now, I have no idea what she's talking about, but I can only come up with bad options. I'm wondering whether we've finally reached that point where we have to discuss how much information we really want to share with each other. Then, I realize she's talking about the hard drive. Whew.
- Hank the Escape Artist managed to get out of the car for the first time Saturday, as Joan was getting back into the car after taking a picture of me in front of the closed James Monroe Museum. He was quickly recaptured, but this will be a recurring theme. Fred generally doesn't try and get out of the car -- and why should he, I ask; he's getting acupuncture, for crissakes. But Hank is one half beagle and one half Papillon (and I don't mean the dog breed. I mean this guy). I mean, we always knew Hank was a James Monroe fan, but this is ridiculous.
- We encountered two firsts on Saturday, and in fact, both were things that we didn't see on the entire 2003 trip. First, on I-95 just south of Fredericksburg, I saw the left back tire on an old car explode and watched the car lurch into the right lane (where we were, though 100 yards back). The pickup truck in front of us did a half fish-tail before regaining control, and after that, all was well. For those of who you have driven with me, I know what you're asking: "Jim was in the right lane? He's not a right lane guy." That's true, I do find the right lane to be a slightly wimpy place to be, but I was getting off the highway a half-mile later.
- The second new experience: a road block. As we were headed toward Port Royal to see where Booth died, we came over a hill and saw a line of cars waiting to get through a police roadblock. Having seen too many movies, I considered running it, but thought better. They asked to see my driver's license, and sent me on my way. Checked the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star, and only found one story that could be related, though I have no idea if this had anything to do with it.
- Random iPod shuffle song of the day: "Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)," by John Williams, from "Star Wars." Yes, laugh if you want. I will admit to being a fan of movie music. Not oldies movie music, like "The Big Chill," but film score music, like James Horner, John Williams, Hans Zimmer, etc. This came to light many years ago when Casey Taylor, a friend and colleague, saw the "Titanic" soundtrack on my desk and started telling people I was a Celine Dion fan. If that isn't slander, what is? As it was, I actually really liked the film music, not the crappy, syrupy theme song. So there. Now go ahead and make fun of me anyway.
- Inappropriate iPod shuffle moment of the day: "Holiday in the Sun," by the Sex Pistols, which blared on as we were driving through the hallowed grounds of Chancellorsville.
- Most played albums Saturday: "Viva la Vida," by Coldplay; and "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today," by David Byrne and Brian Eno." I highly recommend the latter.
- Lunch: Subway, Fredericksburg, Va.: We made a healthy choice here, which was good. That was the last good thing that happened. Joan's seafood sandwich was lacking flavor of any kind and seemed a tad stale, prompting Joan to mutter, "'Eat Fresh' my ass." My tuna sandwich was so nasty, I wanted to personally track down Jared and kick his ass. Jim Nutrition Check: I had a six-inch tuna sandwich and a bag of Sun Chips. Not bad. Restaurant Rating: Bad (1 star).
- Dinner: Philip's Continental Lounge, Richmond, Va.: We managed to find another Roadfood place, making us 2-for-2 on dinners. Unfortunately, while Philip's was slightly better than Allman's on Friday night and the service was lovely, the food was just better than OK. Jim Nutrition Check: I had a garden salad to start, which wasn't very good, but I didn't care about that. Judging a place that specializes in fried, greasy foods on their garden salad is like judging a porn movie on its plot. I did have the restaurant specialty -- the club sandwich, which isn't a great choice, but healthier than most anything else I could have ordered. Nonetheless, I'd say another shaky effort on my part. I have to do better. Joan did like her Greek salad, but found the onion rings -- another Philip's specialty -- to be nothing memorable. Restaurant Rating: 3 stars (out of 5).
Quality Inn, Richmond, Va.: Our room was bigger than in Fredericksburg, and the lighting was better, which allowed us to see how worn-down and decrepit this place is. The ceiling in the bathroom is rotting, the bed was uncomfortable, the sink was dripping and Joan's side of the bed smelled like urine (insert joke here). But at least the room was large. We also shared the hotel with some friends from home, the George Mason men's basketball team, playing in the Colonial Athletic Association conference here. Rating: 2 stars (out of 5). The hotel get a little extra credit because they waived the dog fee, and last I checked, my car was still parked outside.
TRAVEL WEB SITE OF THE DAY
- Speed Trap Exchange: A site where travelers share speed traps. Now this is crowdsourcing at its best.
SIGN OF THE DAY
- "On Gouldman's Pond," outside a home with a pond, presumably owned by the Gouldman's, in Port Royal, Va.
UPCOMING PLAN (subject to change)
- Today: Some quick stops -- including Best Buy, which better be quick -- in Richmond, and then off to the Outer Banks.
- Monday: South to Charleston, S.C.
- Tuesday: Savannah, Ga.