2011 Road Trip Days 6 and 7 – Charlottesville to D.C.

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Roads: US 250 to VA-22 to US-15 to VA-20/Constitution Highway to VA-3 to I-95
Miles: 130
Time: 3.5 hours

The morning of day 6 was spent at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson in Charlottesville, VA. It wasn’t on the original itinerary but came highly recommended. I”m glad I went as it is a fascinating place. Jefferson spent 40 years building, unbuilding and building again his house up on the low mountain. He began work on it when he was 26 and didn’t finish until he was 66. The house is a mixture of the classical and French styles. It’s interesting to see how architecture has evolved over the decades. The beds, typically built into an alcove in Monticello are tiny by today’s standards. The history of Monticello is fascinating as a functioning agrarian household with slaves and free workers working side by side to keep the daily life going. His vegetable beds are immense and many are even planted in winter. The grounds themselves are pretty with trails under mulberry trees.

After Monticello, I headed for D.C. The GPS took me up out of Charlottesville on US-15 and then the Constitution Highway. This drive is highly recommended for the beauty of the farms, towns and foothills the road winds through. It has many historical markers along the way though these are never particularly well marked or announced and are therefore hard to stop for. One nice thing about Texas roads are the historical markers and the ease with which you can pull off to read them. I didn’t read any of the ones on this road for that reason. From Wilderness to Fredericksburg, there are several sites of major Civil War battles. These National Parks have a great deal of information as well as driving tours of the major points along the battle. I only had time to stop at Chancellorsville. The Battle of Chancellorsville was one of the highlights of the South’s campaign. Here Lee and Jackson outfought a much larger Union force. Unfortunately, it came at a very high price in the wounding and eventual death of Stonewall Jackson. The visitors’ center at the main Chancellorsville park is worth checking out if you are interested in this history. The driving tour of this part of the battle includes 10 stops. The retelling of how the Union and Confederates clashed here in 1863 is gripping. I only hit 7 of the stops because light was rapidly fading but it’s worth spending a couple of hours on the tour.

The drive into DC was uneventful. Arriving at rush hour on a Friday probably wasn’t the best idea but I was going against traffic for the most part. Saturday morning, I went on a White House tour of the East Wing with my friend Manisha who works for the Administration. Of all the tours I’ve taken, this was the most crowded. However, Nish is an excellent tour guide and I learned quite a few things about the house.

The rest of the day was spent in recovery mode as we’d been out very late the night before. Dinner was at Vidalia, a wonderful restaurant in D.C proper. They serve food with a strong hint of the South. It’s not cheap but worth eating at if you are looking for some place rich and fancy.

I”m starting to feel like the trip is wearing on me though that may be an effect of the indiscretion of Friday’s extremely late night. I”m missing my own bed, a routine derived around normal things in my life and most of all just home. I’m hoping that striking out on Monday to new places will lift this feeling some. The stay in DC has been good but it’s also hard because we’ve been going out so much. I’m not used to that any more and that’s probably what’s driving the slight homesickness. The coming week has a ton of interesting stuff planned though so with any luck, that homesickness will fade.