Monday, June 30, 2014

Monticello Again

We planned on seeing both James Monroe's Ashlawn and Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.
Both were excellent with Monticello being more so.  I think we saw Monticello a couple of times in the 1990's, once on our own and once when my architect brother Brad and his family visited from Texas.

The house and estate at Monticello are the same, but the tourist part of the attraction has changed considerably.
There is now a much larger Visitor's Center, museum, gift shop and cafe near the upgraded and expanded parking lot.

We bought our tickets and had time to catch the introductory video in the theater.  Then we looked around before we boarded the shuttle up to the main attraction.

After the short ride to the top of the hill, we were met by a number of guides who marshaled us under a large shade tree.  Our docent met us there and started her presentation.
She was quite impressive in her knowledge about the history and hundreds of details about the house.
The weathervane on top of the house was connected to the inside of the portico and Jefferson could see the direction of the wind from inside the house in the Entrance Hall, North and South Square Rooms.
The bench on the porch in the background were his design also.

My impression of Monticello is that it was quite a masterpiece.  Jefferson seemed to be a huge mind that was always looking for ways to bring knowledge and culture to the common man.  His home is a museum of invention and laboratory of practical conveniences.  He was a proponent of detail.

It made my head spin at every turn.  The sun dial on the ceiling of the porch.  The block work around the door which were made to look like stone.  Each area and room of the house was a tribute to his thinking.  Although it was an eclectic collection of structure and purpose -- it was very beautiful and fit together.
Sometimes architect's works make you scratch your head and 'form over function' doesn't fit with my brain.  You either like the art form or you don't.  Here -- each room we moved through was a bit of a stunner.  If there were 10 items to show and discuss, it would have been impressive.  But there seemed to be hundreds of details and artifacts in each room we saw.  It was almost too much to absorb.
A few facts:
- The house is over 11,000 sq ft of living space
- It has 3 skylights
- There are over 43 rooms
- The highest room (Entrance Hall) is 18'6"

Part of the impact of the tour was the enthusiasm and command of the facts that the docent displayed.  She brought a level of excitement and knowledge that was noteworthy.  She enjoyed going through each room and was very well versed on lots more information and detail than we had time for.

The tour moved like clock work. Every few minutes our group would slide into another hallway or room just as another group was making there way out of the room and on to the next.  It was very well choreographed and though there might have been 100 people in the house at the some time, all the groups moved through quietly and efficiently.

Again, no pictures were allowed inside but I found these and more online

Entrance Hall
The hall was filled with artifacts of the American West and Indian lore, maps of what the world looked like at that time and hundreds of other items.

South Square Room
This was the family hub of the house and where Martha Jefferson spent much of her day.

Library Room/Book Room
Jefferson had over 7000 volumes in his collection.  After the British burned down Washington D. C. in the War of 1812, he donated much of his library to what became the Library of Congress.

Jefferson's Cabinet
This was his office and place for reading, writing, calculating, drafting and scientific observation.

Bed Chamber
He used space well in his home and his bed was tucked away between rooms.  The area above his bed was accessed by a staircase to a closet.  Nearby holes in the wall and ceiling were for ventilation and a skylight.

Dining Room

Here is where he had over 50 paintings of people he admired and used for historical conversation.  Included among them were Isaac Newton, Christopher Columbus, John Locke, Ferdinand Magellan,  La Fayette, James Madison, George Washington and John Adams.

The tour ended outside on the North Terrace.
And we walked around the beautiful grounds and gardens.

And we found an archaeological dig going on where the joinery used to stand.
Next, we walked down the cemetery
And then we walked back to the museum area and parking lot.
While at Monticello, we met a friendly couple and spoke with them for a few minutes before we left.
Mark and Dreama 

It was a great day at Monticello!  We enjoyed it thoroughly and could go back again anytime.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Friday, June 27, 2014

James Monroe's Ashlawn

Sometimes I take some pictures and think about a blog post I want to do.  And then days and or weeks go by and I still want to capture some thoughts and post it in my blog.

This is one of those -- a post about our visit to Highland (also known as Ashlawn) - the farm and home of our fifth U. S. President James Monroe.
We bought a combo ticket meaning we bought tickets for a tour of Ashlawn and also tickets for Monticello which is a few miles away.  Once we had the tickets we waited for our tour time and had a few minutes to wander around some of the buildings on the property.
On the grounds behind the main home I saw a tour group learning about the finer details of bricks and brick making and the history of such.  The docent indicated he and a fellow guide had researched a found hundreds of different styles of bricks and brick patterns on homes dating back to the early 1800's.
Next, we wandered over to a group of buildings.  Some were visitor's quarters.

Others were slave quarters that were a lot more sparse.
In the mid 1990's we visited this place.  I left with the impression that James Monroe's property was very very modest compared to Thomas Jefferson's.  But I don't think we ever got in to see the house.  My impression of Monroe's house was actually the slave or guest quarters out back.

This is another reason Pam and I will have to stay on the road another 20 years.  We will have to retrace our steps and see if we have the story right.  Each time we visit a place for the second or third time we get some impressions corrected in addition to learning new things.
We also had time to check out the peacock and chickens on site.
After about 25 minutes, it was time for our group to get a tour of the home.  
We had a very knowledgeable and friendly guide.  We began the tour in the old section of the house before exiting through the new section and Victorian-style addition to it which was added in the 1880's.

No pictures were allowed inside the house.  And I could not even find some internet photos of the inside to show.  But here are some takeaways I had:

  • Monroe was public servant for a long time - 40+ years
  • He was wounded in the Revolutionary War, Ambassador to France, served at one time as both Secretary of War and Secretary of State, twice elected President
  • He was heavily in debt after he left the Presidency and sold the farm
  • He was responsible for the Monroe Doctrine which I remember from school (the U.S. policy that we support Latin American independence and freedom from outside colonization)
I love U. S. history and learned more about our Presidents after our time here.  It was mid day and time for another favorite past time:  a picnic lunch under a good shade tree.
Thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Woodrow Wilson Presidential Museum and Birthplace

Over the last many years when we lived in Fairfax, VA we passed the signs to the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace many times.
Yesterday we drove about 45 miles from our KOA Campsite in Charlottesville to see it.

We decided a few years ago that we wanted to see all the Presidential Museums and Libraries and birthplaces etc throughout the country.  It was well worth the trip.

The site is small but it has a lot of interesting things about it.  The birthplace home is where you get your $12 tickets and see the 10 minute over view movie.
We were a little disappointed the Presidential  Museum pass we bought at the Reagan Library last fall in California did not work here.  Different group or foundation or network or something.  Still - the price of admission was worth every penny.

Staunton, VA was a booming place back in the 1850 because of the railroads and the concentration of farming, mills and manufacturing there.  Once the city voted to secede, it became an important staging and supply area.  

Woodrow Wilson's father was a Presbyterian minister who moved to Staunton in 1855 where he was pastor.  T. Woodrow Wilson was born at the family parsonage (known as the 'manse').  The docent explained that the manse was the Presbyterian name for parsonage.  I remember hearing the word three summers ago in New England outside of Boston and didn't realize 'manse' meant 'parsonage'.

Woodrow Wilson wasn't known as 'Woodrow' until he studied at for the bar and became a lawyer.  He thought the name 'Tom' or 'Tommy' was not as dignified as 'Woodrow'.

We began our tour in the museum and saw the displays and informational artifacts.
Before we were finished on our self guided tour, the docent came over and said he was going to open up the Birthplace home.  I found this to be the most interesting part of our time there.

There were no pictures allowed in the home, so I found these online.  The tour started inside the backdoor near the formal dining room.
 Since Wilson's, father a the pastor, they had a formal area to entertain guests.  The docent mentioned the three tiered table near the fireplace that was a 'dumb waiter'.  Another meaning of the term that I though only applied to the small elevator shaft version.

Then we went into another  room where this gem was located.  This was much more than a stove.  It in fact had a number of different areas to cook and bake food.  In the picture, the pots are on the back burner (which is where we get the term 'back burner').
Food still needing to be cooked was put on the front burners above that is a separate little stove (with the open door on the left) for cooking breads or cakes or pies.  This was more than a stove, because it provided a 'range' of different temperatures and is where we get the term 'range' applying to our everyday kitchen appliance.

Children had their own eating area in another room.  They ate here with the servants until their table manners and maturity were more well developed.
The house is full of artifacts from that and all kinds of detail in the construction of the home.  They wall paper, floors and paint was restored to original colors and styling giving it a very authentic and accurate feel for that time period.

After the house tour, we went back to the museum and saw the Presidential limousine, the Pierce Arrow, built in 1919.
And the very well done WW I display in the basement.
We enjoyed our time there and had a picnic lunch in the back under some trees before we drove back to Charlottesville.

On the way back, we took a short side trip along the famous Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park
and over to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It was a nice day to see this part of Virginia!

Thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

On to Virginia

After a great Father's Day and time with Joan and Mike and their kids, we left Maynardville, TN for Charlottesburg, VA.  We have enjoyed some great weather and are looking forward to seeing our kids who are in VA and MD.

We stayed on Joan and Mike's property which has everything we need except a sewer hookup. We only had about 20 gallons in the black tank so we drove with it that way.
Over the last 20 years, we have made the VA-TN trip many times.  But this is the first time we have taken the northern route from Maynardville to Tazwell and across the Clinch Mountain Range.  It was  just spectacular and a beautiful alternative to going through the Knoxville and the Interstate there.

From Tazwell, we joined up with I-26 before joining the familiar and very busy I-81.
While the view was great the half full black tank was emoting a big stink.  The black tank was sloshing around and we opened a few windows in strategic places.
Note to self:  Need to empty the black tank before we travel.

We arrived at our KOA spot in the early afternoon and will be here for four days.
When I hooked up the electric and water I saw the source of the smell.  The tub in our wet bay way half full of black tank liquids.  (I took a picture of it, but thought better of posting it...) How it got there is still a mystery.

It took me about twenty minutes to drain it and clean it all up.  I carry extra bottles of bleach and pine sol-like cleaners for just that reason.

I will have to see if I can figure out if there are loose connection into the black tank from the toilet or the flush spray connection.

Meanwhile, we have a very nice spot near the forest and a campfire pit which we will be using.  And a few days to explore some history.

That's it this time on the Roadrunner Chronicles.  Thanks for stopping by...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Great Times in Maynardville

While in Memphis, we were able to go see the FedEx St. Jude Golf Classic.  We have seen this one on TV for years and years so it was nice to walk the grounds and follow some golfers around.
It had a different feel than the Colonial Golf Tournament we saw in Fort Worth.  I guess each tournament is unique. This course is newer with more property and the holes aren't as close together.
Here was a surprise:  An ATM machine in the back of a trailer.  
Instead of the 'Quiet Please' signs on the course, a Southern touch:  'Hush - Y'All'.

After seeing the tournament in Memphis on Thursday, we made the 414 miles to Maynardville, TN in one day.  A long day was made longer by a horrible accident that tied up traffic for miles. 
We went 3 miles in 1 1/2 hours while they cleaned things up.  

Arriving mid afternoon, we made it to our destination and got set up.  Five years ago, Mike leveled out a parking space for the Roadrunner and couple of years ago we ran water and had 50 amp electric hookups installed.
It has worked out great.
We spent the evening hanging out in the backyard catching up with every body.

First thing on the agenda on Saturday morning was breakfast at 33 Diner.  It is a terrific country diner with food that you can eat once in a while.  The ladies that run the place were nice enough to let me take their picture.
After that, nephew Joey came over and we decided to go 40 miles up the road and play golf in Kentucky at Wasioto Woods.  Its a great course.  We both had pretty good rounds going.
I had an 83 with four tee balls in the water.  I edged him out but any day now it wouldn't surprise me if he was on the winning end of the scorecard...

Another 'must do' while here was stopping at Hammers discount store.  They have 15 stores in the region and there is always a bargain to find.  We've been going to Hammers since 1979.
Then top off for another great day in Tennessee was some Sm ore's around our portable fire pit by the Roadrunner.  
We're having some great times in Tennessee with family!

That's all for this look at the Roadrunner Chronicles.  Thanks for joining us!