Laura and Lee's Post-Apocalyptic Virginia Venture

October 11-19, 2003
Part 1

Back on New Year's Eve 2002 we were bringing in the new year with Walt and Barb, and planning the various trips we wanted to take together in 2003. One thing we'd talked about doing for a number of years is taking a trip to Virginia and visiting Barb's mother, Daisy, in Yorktown. Which is conveniently located near many historical sites like Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Monticello, which Lee and I had never visited. For trip report purposes, the title "Histerical Virginia" kept going through my head. :-)

So we planned our trip for the second week of October and made reservations at "Daisy's Bed and Breakfast". :-) And then came September 25th...the day Hurricane Isabel hit. Fortunately Daisy was ok, but two trees had fallen on her roof and several more in her yard - she was unable to get out of her driveway for several days. A friend of hers, Louise, rode out the storm with her but unfortunately her house was flooded - its proximity to the water was one of the reasons she passed the storm with Daisy. And as if her house flooding weren't enough, Louise slipped on some debris a couple days after the storm and broke her elbow. :-( Since her house was not habitable, Louise had continued staying with Daisy. They didn't have any power for 12 days and the phones were out for 8 days - even cell service was not working.

But despite everything Daisy still wanted us to visit, and we still wanted to go - we thought it would be an experience being there to see the aftereffects of the hurricane. We knew that we would not be seeing some things at their best, though, like the autumn colors and Jamestown and the Great Dismal Swamp (which were listed as closed indefinitely due to flooding). The idea of an "Apocalyptic Virginia" trip report now seemed more appropriate. :-)

Saturday, October 11

By the time our departure day arrived there had been several changes...Barb had had to fly to Virginia earlier in the week for work so just went from there to her mother's, and Lee had business in Norfolk the week after our trip so was planning to stay behind. Several months before the trip we had booked first class flights to Norfolk on Delta using Frequent Flyer miles - but Barb will be using hers at some future time since work paid for her trip - but not in first class. :-) The rest of us enjoyed our first class treatment, though...sure is a civilized way to fly!

We arrived in Norfolk around 8:30 p.m., and Barb was there to meet us - she'd rented a van already. It was rainy and dark, so we didn't see much on the way to Yorktown. We stopped at a Pizza Hut near Daisy's and got a couple of pizzas for a late dinner, and Daisy had Ben & Jerry's ice cream (Phish Food, my favorite!) for dessert. (I now know that Barb comes by her chocoholic tendencies naturally. ;-) )

We all stayed up talking for quite a while (fortunately Daisy and Louise are night owls) before heading off to bed.

Sunday, October 12

We awoke to a beautiful morning...and the melodic sound of chainsaws filled the air. :-) There was still a lot of hurricane clean-up going on. On the drive into Daisy's neighborhood the previous night we'd seen the piles of cut-up trees lining the streets - most streets were reduced to one lane. To us the area still looked like it was quite forested, but we learned that just about everyone had lost multiple trees. Daisy's front and back yards used to be completely shaded, but now she's getting sun in both places after losing some large oak and pine trees.

Before we left San Diego I'd talked my friend DebK from northern Virginia into driving down for the day to see us, so after breakfast I called her cell phone and gave her the directions on where to meet us - Daisy had recommended the Yorktown Victory Memorial as an easy-to-find location.

We still had a couple of hours before Deb and her family would be arriving, so the four of us drove over to the Yorktown battleground area. We watched the movie at the Visitor's Center - it was sort of a re-enactment of the Battle of Yorktown that led up to the British surrender. The best part was the Lord Cornwallis character...upon signing the surrender he said: "His Majesty will be most annoyed." For some reason that struck me as very funny, and I said that line for the rest of the which point my fellow travellers were probably also "most annoyed". :-)

Lee bought a fife at the Visitor Center which he attempted to play (note that I said "attempted") for the rest of the week. :-)

Lee Storms the Redoubt
Lee Storms the Redoubt
I did learn that a "redoubt" is an earthen fort...I never knew that in all these years of singing "Abdullah Bulbul Amir" ("...storm fort or redoubt they had only to shout for Abdullah Bulbul Amir...")

After the Visitor Center we wandered around the was an absolutely gorgeous day, and in the upper 70s. Nicer than it had been in San Diego! There were lots of cannons around and we had to mug for photos with those, of course. While walking around we noticed a number of trees with "caution" signs on them, and some of them had orange tape on them that said "KILLER TREE" with a skull and crossbones. We thought that was quite funny. In some of the trees we could see there were broken branches that had not yet fallen to the ground, so there was reason for concern. They hadn't actually re-routed the paths to go *around* the killer trees, though...

Eventually we walked over to the Yorktown Victory Memorial and Deb, Brian, and Alex arrived not long after - it was great to see them again. Daisy met us at an old house in Yorktown called the Pate House, and we had lunch there.

After lunch we wandered through some of the shops and old buildings in Yorktown before walking over to the Yorktown Victory Center, which is about a half mile away. This is separate from the battleground (the battleground is administered by the National Park Service) and requires admission, but it's a "Living Museum" type of thing with costumed interpreters out in the army encampment and farm areas who talk/demonstrate life in 1770s Yorktown. (They had a Continental Surgeon's instruments, though they didn't demonstrate any amputations! :-) )

While purchasing our admission they asked if we wanted to purchase admission to the Jamestown Settlement also (at a reduced price). We said we thought Jamestown was closed, but were told that the site of the original settlement (run by the park service) *was* closed, but the Settlement was separate, and was open. That was good news, so we planned to visit later in the week.

There was a large museum and a movie that we didn't have time to see, but we enjoyed visiting the encampment and the farm. We learned that "camp followers" actually were the wives and children of men in the army - the women were NOT allowed to stay with the army unless they were married to someone in it. They weren't issued army tents or supplies, though, so had to earn their way by cooking or doing laundry or things like that.

Over at the farm we saw how flax is actually turned into thread, and were surprised to find that it's not very flammable - it tends to smolder rather than burn. One of the women was demonstrating cooking on a big open hearth, and how to tell a good egg from a bad egg (a good egg sinks to the bottom of a bowl of water, a bad egg floats). We also saw a very lonely turkey - his mate had insisted on going into the woods to nest rather than staying on the farm and one day she didn't come back...but he still keeps calling to her. :-(

Deb and her family needed to get back on the road so we said goodbye to them - I was very happy that they had been able to come down, since it had been a while since I'd seen them. They took the shuttle back to the Yorktown parking area along with Daisy, while the rest of us stayed at the farm a little longer and then walked back. With a stop at "Cornwallis' Cave". Where Cornwallis hid before trying to escape across the York River. It wasn't a very large cave.

We drove back to Daisy's along "Surrender Field" - part of the battleground area. Barb told us that there's usually lots of deer grazing along the sides in the late afternoon. No deer that day, though.

After a nice dinner and chat with Daisy we went to bed.

Monday, October 13

Another beautiful day! Not quite as warm as the day before, though. After we got ourselves moving we headed down the Colonial Parkway to Colonial Williamsburg. It was Columbus Day, and there were a fair number of people there, including quite a few school groups. We got our Freedom Passes - this is an annual pass with our picture on it, that allows us to go into any of the Colonial Williamsburg buildings - just wandering the streets or going into the shops and restaurants is free, but the museums and craft areas require some type of admission. We saw the movie at the Visitor's Center - "The Story of an American Patriot". This movie has been running for over 40 years! The main character is fictional, but the events and other characters (like Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson) are not. Barb had told us we'd recognize the guy playing the main character...none other than Steve McGarrett...err...Jack Lord. Book 'em, Danno. :-) I can't say his acting style has changed much in 40 years...

After seeing the film we walked over to the main part of Colonial Williamsburg, along Duke of Gloucester Street. We visited a number of the shops and exhibits included with our pass, such as the powder magazine, wig maker (who also did barbering!) and the printer and bookbinder. The blacksmith was not very interesting - the guy who was talking just didn't have much to say. The printer was fun to talk to as was the woman in the apothecary shop - back in those days people mostly did self-medicating and you only saw a doctor when you were *really* which point you didn't come see the doctor - someone *else* went to *get* the doctor and he came to you.

We of course had to stop and play in the stocks. :-)

By the time we made it to the Capitol it was way past lunchtime and we were pretty hungry...but the place we'd planned to eat lunch was on the *other* end of Duke of Gloucester Street.

We walked down there only to find that it was quite crowded, but The Trellis restaurant across the street only had a short wait for a table. Now, what you have to realize is that The Trellis belongs to a well-known chef...and serves and infamous dessert called "Death By Chocolate". Didn't take much to talk Barb and me into eating there!!! Barb had had Death by Chocolate before, and in fact gave me the "Death by Chocolate" cookbook several years ago, though neither of us has tried making it...the cookbook describes it as a 3-day process that uses every bowl in your kitchen. (There are other recipes in the cookbook that aren't quite so ambitious!)

Service was pretty slow, so it was a *very* leisurely late lunch. But the dessert was worth was *really* good. And it was *huge*! I managed to eat about 3/4 of it with a little help from Lee, and Barb took about 1/3 of hers home. But after that neither of us even wanted to *look* at chocolate for a while...Walt got a couple of chocolate chip cookies to eat on the way home and we just groaned. :-)

The campus of the College of William and Mary is right there in Williamsburg near The Trellis and we walked around one end of it. There were students sitting outside studying and enjoying the beautiful October day.

Back in Colonial Williamsburg we stopped in at the saddle and harness maker's shop and got LOTS of interesting information there - the guy was very talkative and knowledgeable. He talked about everything from turning a beaver pelt into a top hat, to turning a boar's hair into a needle, to making a courier sack out of a bearskin. We wandered through a garden and found a confused lilac bush that had a few blossoms on it - very out of season! Maybe it had been recently imported from the southern hemisphere? :-)

We were fascinated by the work of the silversmiths - they take a silver disk and just hammer it to the shape the want it to be - getting it to "flow" like clay on a potter's a 10" diameter silver disk turns into the urn for a beautiful silver teapot. One of the silversmiths told us that the Johnny Tremain story is quite inaccurate - molten silver is 2100 degrees and if someone spilled that on his hand he'd have a stump, not scar tissue bonding his fingers together!

By then it was getting to be about 5:00 and the "shops" were closing, so we made our way back to the van. We drove back to Daisy's via the Colonial Parkway - Barb told us that there's usually lots of deer grazing along the sides in the late afternoon. No deer that day, though.

Daisy cooked us a marvelous pork tenderloin dinner with mint brownie pie for dessert - I was still full enough from Death by Chocolate that I wasn't able to do justice to it, though.

Other Links

Part 2
Part 3
Tigger's Histerical Virginia Tour
Back to Laura and Lee's Vacation page

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Text and photographs copyright © 2003, 2004 by Laura Gilbreath. All rights reserved.

Laura Gilbreath lgil at lgil dot net
Last updated 2/13/04