Richmond and Colonial Williamsburg

On Monday, we had planned to visit the White House and Museum of the Confederacy in downtown Richmond, but Lynette wasn’t feeling well, so we skipped it.  This week, Richmond is hosting the UCI Road World Championships.  It is being held in the US for the first time since 1986, when it was held in Colorado Springs.  This is a huge professional bike racing event and a big honor for Richmond.  Cyclists from all over the world come to compete.  Many of the streets are closed off, so it is a difficult to navigate around town, especially if you are from out of town like us.  After my GPS told me about 10 times it was “recalculating”, I think it gave up and just stopped talking to me. Fortunately, Lynette has a good sense of direction and a sharp eye.

That evening, we were able to have dinner in downtown Richmond with Catie Pavilack, McCray West, and his wife Lauren.  Catie and McCray are two of my former students from AT&T’s Business Sales Leadership Development Program.  It was such a pleasure to talk about old times, and hear of their recent career successes.  McCray’s wife is an ESOL teacher and has students from all over the world she teaches.  We laughed, told stories on each other, and just generally enjoyed each other’s company.  The time flew by and I had to remind myself they had to go back to work the next day and couldn’t stay out too late.

It was about a 45 minute drive back to our campsite on Interstate 64.  One of things I particularly notice is that there are no billboards along this section of the interstate.  The lanes are separated by a wide, tree-lined median, so you can’t see the lanes in the other direction.  For me, this cuts down on the extra stimuli and lets me concentrate on driving. I have heard some people say that no billboards make the driving boring.  I disagree, I think it makes it much more relaxing.   With trees lining both sides of the road, and no billboard lights, it is really dark.  I just keep waiting for deer to jump out, but fortunately there were none.

Colonial Williamsburg is only fifteen minutes away, so that was our destination for the day. It truly was like stepping back in time and gave me a greater appreciation for the people that lived in that period.  First was a visit to a typical plantation farming area.  There were several gardens growing numerous vegetables, along with a corn field, and the money crop, tobacco. The colonies traded tobacco for manufactured goods from England.

First, we visited the kitchen, where a lady in period attire explained life on the farm. Even though women could not vote, they had a powerful voice on the plantation, usually running most of the financial affairs, the household, and educating the children.  She also had some johnnycakes left over from the ones she had baked for the 100+ homeschoolers that come through just before we did.

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The typical planation wife after cooking johnnycakes for 100 homeschooled kids. Back then, they were mostly all homeschooled by the same person.

Next was a visit to one of the fields where a farmer was working his team of oxen. I never realized how big these animals are.  He explained that oxen live for about ten years.  It takes four for them to mature and be trained and they were good for about another six years for working.  At around ten, they were worn out and had to be slaughtered.  At that point, it took too much to feed them compared to their work output.  I guess it’s like trading in your 10 year old car for a newer one with better gas mileage, except you don’t eat the old one.

 

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Working the oxen

This farmer got the visiting kids in on the action loading his wagon.

This farmer got the visiting kids in on the action loading his wagon.

One of my favorite places on the farm was the tobacco house.  It had cured tobacco that had been dried out and the smell was wonderful.  For many years as a child and teenager, I worked on tobacco farms during the summer.  My first job paid fifty cents an hour, taking three to four leaves at a time off a farm trailer and handing them to a lady that strung them to a stick.  The stick was about five feet long, and then hung up in a barn for about a week to cure.  That smell brought back a lot of great memories.

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Tobacco air drying in the barn.

There were a number of other houses there, including the corn house, the smoke house and the slave house.  Most of the plantations in colonial America had seven or eight slaves. They were not like the mega plantations from the movies.

From there, it was on to the town of Williamsburg itself, to the Governor’s Palace. It was quite regal.  The guide stepped into the 1770’s and started the tour the day after the Royal Governor fled from the town with his family because of unrest.  He went to a British warship off the coast of Norfolk, eventually sending his family back to England for their protection.  He never returned to Virginia, and after the revolution was named as governor of the Bahama’s.  Talk about a demotion, but the weather was better.

The Governor's Palace

The Governor’s Palace included a number of other buildings.  There was even a building just for washing the dishes that was away from the palace but next to the kitchen.  One of the delicacies prepared that day was pig hearts.  We passed on that one, though the cook said it was quite tasty.

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Our guide for the tour of the Governor’s Palace. The Governor was appointed by the King of England

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The Governor’s Palace held over 1600 guns and hundreds of swords that were used during indian and other uprisings.

 

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One of the Royal Governor’s daughter’s beds.

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The other bed of the Royal Governor’s daughter. The daughters shared the largest bedroom in the house.

One of the most interesting places to visit was the Weaver’s house.  There, young ladies were hard at work with spinning wheels and looms.  They explained that it took too much time for the colonists to spin, weave and then make their own clothes, so they just make the yard, shipped it to England and then big factories there produced most of the finished clothing.  The colonists usually just made patches for their existing clothing and small items themselves.  Different items from bugs to bark were used in dying.  Also, depending on what type of pot was used in boiling for the dying process, copper, bronze, iron, etc., determined a lot of the final color of the fabric.

I didn’t cover everything we did today and there is so much we did not get to experience today, that we are going back tomorrow and maybe Thursday.  We purchased a pass that is good till the end of the year at the same price as a single day ticket.  It’s amazing what you can discover once you have the time.

After getting back to the RV, Lynette prepared a delicious dinner.  Spaghetti sauce with Italian sausage over penne pasta and mozzarella cheese, a delicious tossed salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing, and Italian garlic bread.  As you can tell, we aren’t “roughing it” on the road.  We have settled into a pretty good routine. She cooks dinner and I eat it.  I also am tasked with doing the dishes.  It seems like a fair trade off to me.

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