Virginia is for Lovers
Today was a day of a very fortunate coincidence. It occurred to me that our former long time neighbors in Long Beach, John and Betty Loudermilk, had moved to Virginia. Could they possibly be anywhere near where we were staying???? They just happen to live in the very same town in which we had parked the RV, Waynesboro! With the aid of past emails we were able to locate them and, yes, they were in town and available….if we could join them Saturday night at their newly renovated theater for a Doo Wop concert. Oh what a night it was. We were able to join them for a pre performance gathering and meet many of their friends and supporters of the newly opened Waynesboro Theatre (they insist on the ‘re’ – its a Virginia thing). The show itself was one you simply didn’t want to end. The Doo Wop Project group had people dancing in the aisles. Every song was an “oldie but a goodie”! Lucky us…..we got the last two tickets.
Their theater renovation was similar to what Redding’s Cascade Theatre (Theater?) went through. The theater was threatened with demolition but then tremendous community support came together to save the 1930’s structure. John and Betty contributed greatly and even had a lounge named after them. It is beautiful and will be a center of community activity for years to come.
John was raised in this little town of 20,000. He and Betty moved back here in 2012. They are busier than ever. One of his activities is being a “trail angel”. Waynesboro is one of the favorite stops for those traversing the Appalachian Trail which runs for 2,900 miles in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He and the many other volunteers will drive in and pick up travelers wishing to resupply, sleep in a real bed, or get a shower or need to get off the trail for any reason. Remember “Into The Woods” with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte? John said this movie has spurred an increase in trail travel. The day we arrived, John had just transported two guys up to the trailhead….”they were so over packed…they will be off the trail in a couple of days”. He blames the movie for some very unrealistic “hikers”.
Perhaps we loved this little town because it reminds us of Redding. The people are friendly and happy and do not take the beauty of their surroundings for granted.
Madi at the Los Alamitos Prom…..
May 15, 2016 Monticello
The reason for camping in Waynesboro Virginia was so that we would be near the beloved home of Thomas Jefferson – Monticello. After raining on and off yesterday, we woke up to clear cool skies. The temperature actually dipped into the 30’s and, best of all, no humidity…a great day for a tour of this beautiful plantation “on the hill”.
Thomas Jefferson was a self taught architect and Monticello is a good example with some very odd design features. We took the “behind the scenes” tour which we would highly recommend….wonderful insights into this great man’s mind. For example, the two stair wells which served 4 stories, were not grand staircases as you might expect in the great mansions of the south. They were not more than 2 feet wide and very, very steep! Could you imagine going up and down the stairs holding a candle and a baby with a long nightgown? Jefferson never used these stairs – only his guests and servants were upstairs. Not really a great design in our opinion. All of HIS large rooms were on the well appointed first floor. This is in marked contrast to the small rooms on the upper floors. He also had an enormous dome built on the house (the first structure of this nature in the US). The dome is closed off and does not seem to serve any interior purpose for the empty room on which it sits. We did find one reference to this room as a possible ballroom BUT those stairs would have prevented any easy access to the third floor and this “ballroom”. This home was often crowded with as many as 30 people at a time.
Jefferson was not an inventor, but had a mind that was always inquisitive. His scientific interests led to the commissioning of the Lewis & Clark expedition to explore the recent Louisiana Purchase which doubled the territory of the US. Monticello’s entry parlor is decorated with many of the animal skins, antlers and Native American gifts presented to the expedition (replicas). Jefferson, however, seemed to not consider this expedition one his great achievements – remarkable.
Jefferson was described as a “conflicted” man. When writing the the Deceleration of Independence at age 33, he penned these words “…all men are created equal” but he was the owner of up to 600 slaves during his lifetime – conflict. Monticello was built on a hill – conflict. The construction and management of a farm away from the water supply and on a hill would not have been possible without slave labor – conflict. He knew that slavery was an issue to be addressed in “another time”.
Monticello seemed to be an experiment of Jefferson’s. He longed to be there but served 1/2 of his adult life in public service away from his beloved home. I think that is the kind of leaders we need…those that serve out of a sense of duty, as he did.
Only 2 of his 6 children with his wife lived to adulthood. I cannot imagine burying 4 children.
He died with over $1,000,000 (today’s dollars) of debt forcing the sale of Monticello after his death. Interestingly, the plantation and home was purchased by the first Jewish U.S. Naval Commodore in honor of Mr. Jefferson. Jefferson was a strong proponent of religious freedom and was supportive of the early Jewish community in the U.S. Commodore Levy appreciated that. He and his extended family worked to maintain and preserve the structure until it was turned over to the current foundation in the 1920’s.
Lesson learned….Many people of great accomplishment may struggle in other aspect of their lives. These failures do not negate those achievements – it simply demonstrates their humanity. Thomas Jefferson was a great man.
Green Leaf Cafe in Waynesboro…..not to be missed if you are in the area. The chef Chris came from the Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. We got to meet him but didn’t get ask what brought him to Wayensboro. Our meal was beyond good.
I am seeing this RV park as I would imagine my grandson, Dylan, would see it……magical. It is way off the highway with tall trees everywhere. There is a playground with what looks like are real pirate ship on white sand with a brook running behind. A forrest with a nature hike beckons you to just keep going…it is getting dark…is that poison Ivy??? You can see glowing campfires almost everywhere you look. The night has an ever so little nip to it. Lots of tents with kids laughing and flashlights streaking about. I love the sound of kids having fun….this is the kind of place I love. The afternoon sun sparkling through the trees. There is a swimming pool too and a gift shop brimming with goodies. The light throughout the park are warm and glowing like lanterns in days of long ago. I don’t want tonight to end and the fires to go out.
May 17, 2016
Today it rained….we never left the campsite. Doug is always “organizing” our storage…I think he is finally finished! My only contribution to the day…..I buzzed his hair. He does think that looking like Delbert is not becoming. He says I now have a new job.
Today was spent on the battlefields of Gettysburg….a documentary, a diorama, a tour of the battle fields and the museum…..ending with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. I found it a little difficult moving from Thomas Jefferson and the American Revolution to Abe Lincoln and the Civil War…..my eyes are starting to cross. This area is so rich with history it would take many trips to absorb everything. I wonder if those that live here visit these great tributes to history. I grew up in Souther California and still have never been to all of the California Missions or even Universal Studios for that matter. It sort of makes me want to come back to California and revisit the missions and the gold rush country. I am really not being flip…….just overwhelmed. I will probably only remember a fraction of what I learned today. One of the things that really touched me was the aftermath of this battle and what the people of this town faced after the soldiers left There were 7000 dead soldiers and 3000 dead horses in the battle fields around the town. In addition all the non transportable wounded from both sides were left in town with ongoing medical care.
Another lesson was the differing missions of both the Union and Confederate Armies. The Union never took the stars representing the Confederate states off the flag, always hoping to reunite all states. The Confederates wanted to spread slavery to all the new US territories and perhaps to Cuba and northern Mexico (extended Texas).
This war was far more complicated that just the issue of slavery however. The strategies of the battle and the missteps that changed the course of this country were are detailed. I didn’t realized that the war continued for almost 2 years after this horrific battle. More Americans (> 620,000) died in our Civil War than in WW I, WW II, Korea, and Viet Nam combined! This Civil War death count does not include the injuries and maiming and late deaths attributable to infections etc.
Of all the statues and monuments here, this is one that Doug found particularly important. It is called “Friend to Friend” demonstrating the complexities of this war and relives the actual moment a mortally wounded Confederate General is giving his watch and personal effects to a Union Captain to pass on to the captain’s General. The two Generals were good friends from their days at West Point. The Confederate General died the next day. The Union Captain and General fulfilled their promise. All three men were Masons.
In 1863 Gettysburg was a thriving commerce and farming center…..picture a wheel with 10 spokes (roads) and a railroad passing through the town. Because of this access and the potential need for resupply, Gettysburg was an attraction to the two armies roaming the Pennsylvania countryside in June – July 1863. Both armies were surprised by the other. No conflict was originally planned at this location.
Today many of the original buildings still stand. The battles were fought in the hills and valleys surrounding Gettysburg. Actually, despite this bloody battle, only one civilian life was lost…..thought to be a stray bullet. The town became the hospital for the dying and wounded of both sides and the burial ground for the rest. Kitchens became operating rooms.
In touring the town today, I think what would those folks in 1863 think of all the cars, gift shops, & ice cream stores that line the streets of what once was their home. However, many have gone to great lengths to preserve that time in our history. We enjoyed the first day of the Farmer’s Market in Lincoln Square. The strawberries did not make it to the RV. They were “first of the season” and the size of an apple and oh soooooooo sweet. I did a little bit of window shopping……I know Doug hates this, so I really try to restrain myself. After a wee bit of wine tasting and a pint of beer, I couldn’t wait to take a nap. We ran into the same problem here as in Canada, they cannot ship wine to California. We did pick up a couple of bottles made from grapes that are not found in California….I doubt they will make it back home.
Friday May 20, 2016
We are leaving today for Lancaster, Pa to explore the Amish country. Before we left we took a little hike. Being the disciplined hikers we are, we only took a cell phone as provisions. I don’t think Doug thought we were going to make it back to civilization although you could hear the traffic on the road in the distance. I don’t think he enjoys hiking much unless he has his camera and a great excuse to stop frequently. As I get older, the stopping is fine with me. Trying to listen to the birds, all I could hear was his chirping…..smile.
Please don’t think I pick on Doug or write things behind his back. He has editorial oversight and corrects all my spelling and grammatical errors. (Yes, I do – Doug here!)
May 21, 2016……Today is 2 months on the road
I woke up this morning to an oral history of the Amish and Mennonite cultures as seen through the eyes of Doug McConnell. Apparently, children are raised in the church and in the ways of the Amish but as a teenager they are allowed to choose which path they will lead as adults and are baptized at that time. 85-90% of children choose to remain within the Amish community.
Doug: The Amish and the Mennonites both descended from the original Anabaptist movement shortly after the protestant reformation in the early 1500’s. They believed in adult baptism and the entry of adults into the church. In the late 1600’s, Jacob Ammann separated from the group and choose to follow a more separated life from the surrounding world. Ultimately they came under heavy persecution in Europe. William Penn offered for them to emigrate to Pennsylvania and many did. The Mennonites also came to Pennsylvania for the same reason. To this day the Amish shun motorized tools, use buggy transportation, do not use buttons on their clothing and do not have electricity or phones in their homes. They are strong, polite, self educated largely and very respected by the community. Bonny and I watched entire fields plowed by teams of horses and mules and insecticide (modern??) spread by a mule powered rig. They have beautiful markets for the “English” to come buy their superb agricultural products.
The religious persecution that forced our ancestors to flee Europe is unthinkable. Thank you to the founders of this country for providing the religious freedom we we experience today – and take for granted. I reread this sentence and it seems so obvious, but now finally understanding is life changing for me.
What can we do in the rain?? My friend Chris Neal wrote that on their Spring road trip across the US, they spent their time out running tornadoes. We seem to be following the rain.
On Orange is a small restaurant “on Orange Street”. We were ushered to a basement table and served oatmeal pancakes. I have never had an oatmeal pancake. Slathered in butter and syrup…..quite filling. Then we visited the Saturday Market. I wasn’t that excited since the last two in New Orleans and Charleston were mostly just touristy…….this one was fabulous with fresh picked produce, fresh baked bread, meats, fresh flowers and so much more. Apparently it is greatly anticipated and patronized by the locals….we bought fudge. jam, chow-chow, and pork chops.
We were served by a gentleman name Dan who is Amish. He was quite forthcoming and helpful. His whole family was there selling pastries in one area and an entire meet market refrigerator in another. We bought some home made jam from Dan and then met his daughter and niece over at the meat display case. They are wonderful people. We noticed on his card that there was neither a phone number nor a web site. He also calculated our bill on a piece of paper and a pencil. DUH … they don’t use electronic devices and that includes phones and computers. These folks are respected by the community for their sincerity, honesty, and commitment to family and faith and separateness from Western culture. How is this for a concept…sitting down as a family together for all meals….that alone could change this world. I am so curious about this Amish culture, but feel like I am being intrusive.
May 22, 2016
What do you do on a rainy day in Lancaster? My visions of bike riding in the Amish countryside is slowly dissolving. We headed about 30 miles to the town of Hersey. This is a small town of about 14,000 that was built by Milton Hersey. It is the home to the Hersey Bar. The streets have names such as Chocolate Street, Hersey, and Cocoa Avenue. He chose this country side for his candy factory because there was lots of land for growth and it was in the middle of dairy country…..necessary for milk chocolate. This is truly an American success story…..a success story for the entire town not just Mr. Hersey. Around 1886, he introduced affordable chocolate. Before that time, chocolate was a delicacy that only the very rich could afford. Can you imagine a world without chocolate? He took his wealth and build a town for the employees and families that he employed. He owned the bank, provided mortgage money and encouraged his employees to purchase their own homes. He provided huge parks and many recreational facilities for the community. We drove through the neighborhoods and I couldn’t find any place this town would not be proud of. It sort of looked like a street in Disneyland…..perfect.
May 23, 2016….Rails to Trails
We were told by a couple of people when we inquired about what would be of interest in Lancaster…..”loose yourself in the countryside”. That is exactly what we did. We were looking for a particular bike trail that we really never found. We did locate a Rails to Trails route that, despite the threatening clouds, we took. It was beautiful with farmland and trees, and was flat. Large rain drops and thunder made us halt our journey and head back to the car.
Doug was telling me that this type of weather is quite common in the summer months. He said as a kid when he would visit his granddad in Pennsylvania and that they would often spend the late afternoon rain storms on the screened in porch visiting with neighbors. Doug has looked up his granddad’s address and is going to try and contact the current residents and see if they would allow us to visit the house that holds so many memories for him.
Today also included at trip to Costco. I love this picture. Doug and I could hardly believe what we saw as we exited the parking lot. Kudos to Costco for providing “parking spaces” for their Amish patrons. We also found out that Target also provides shaded carriage stalls for the horses. These carriages are also used all winter for shopping I suspect.
This Old Mill Stream RV park has proven to be a beautiful place when the sun is out. Just across the “stream” is the farm land of an Amish farmer. We have watched as he plows and readies his fields for planting using only horse drawn farm equipment. We found a beautiful little park just the other side of the stream. In the afternoons an Amish gentleman comes around selling fresh baked goods pulling his pastry cart with a horse of course. We are waiting for him today.
May 24th…..Sampson at Sight & Sound Theater
This is touted as one of the “must see” attractions in Lancaster. First of all, when we went to purchase tickets, there were few available….on a Tuesday afternoon! The theater was enormous and full. I had never heard of this venue and was surprised to hear that it has been presenting Bible stories for 40 years. It was the story of Sampson. At first I thought it was a little theatrical, but soon became absorbed by the presentation. If you are Christian and want to see a BIG stage production, here it is! It had a very emotional ending.
We are leaving Lancaster tomorrow……..Looking at the Pennsylvania countryside gives me a sense of peace I have not felt before.