Okay, so it was three weeks ago that Kim and I finished our trip, and I'm finally getting around to writing about it. Your patience is being rewarded! I guess I thought if I didn't put the last day in writing, I could still pretend I was traveling! At any rate, here's how we spent our last day of 'Ye Olde Curiosity Tour'...
We left Leesburg, VA, about 8:30 after just grabbing some breakfast at the Hampton. Since we were headed away from DC, the traffic was not bad and the ride was pretty uneventful. Our first stop of the day was to be Charlottesville, VA, and the home of "Mr. Jefferson's University," the University of Virginia. I have always heard that it is a beautiful campus so I was anxious to see it and compare it to Duke, UNC, and some of the other pretty campuses we've visited. In case you didn't know, UVa was founded, designed, and originally funded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819. The American Institute of America allegedly named the main quadrangle 'the most perfect place in the country.' I'm not sure I'd go quite that far, although it is lovely. As we drove into Charlottesville, we had no trouble finding the university. Our first stop was their new athletic facility, the John Paul Jones Arena. From there we attempted to find a place to park, which turned out to be easier than we thought it might be. It was noontime and we were hungrier than we were curious, so we slipped into one of several little cafes/sandwich shops lining the street across from the main quad. I don't remember the name of the place we chose, but I do remember that Kim had a gyro and I had a meatball sandwich and that it was freezing inside and it took WAY too long for us to get our food. The people behind us had to wait a long time, too, and then they had brought the woman the wrong thing, and she ended up having to take her meal to go because it took them so long to fix it. And they didn't even comp her and they barely apologized!! And the restaurant had fewer than ten tables occupied... At least our food was good and it warmed us up a little bit!
We walked across the street to see the main quad, and it is exactly what you think a good Southern university should look like. It reminded us a lot of Washington and Lee, especially with the little chapel just across the way from the main buildings. Did you know that Edgar Allan Poe attended (but did not graduate from) Virginia? He lived in Room 13 (!) in the West Range. Evidently, his room is decorated to look like it did back in 1826, but we didn't see it.
From Charlottesville, we went to Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, which he also designed and built over a forty year period, from 1769 to 1809. I think that two of the people I would most like to meet and have dinner with are Jefferson and Thomas Edison - wouldn't it be fascinating to be able to see what made them tick? Anyway, the drive up to Monticello was scenic and peaceful, but that all changed once we got there. I'm not sure how they got there (we didn't see all that many cars on the road) but the parking lots at Monticello were full of cars from all over America! But they were smarter than we were, because they had gotten there early and had time to enjoy the tour. Alas, we had just missed the bus for the next tour and it would be another hour before we could even get up to the house and then the tour took over an hour. We inquired about just walking ourselves up there instead of riding the shuttle bus, and just being satisfied with seeing the outside of the home, but it would have cost us the same $15 each to do that, so we decided that we would see Monticello on another day. Before we do, though, we'll be sure to visit http://www.monticello.org/ so we won't be surprised when we get there!
On the way up to Monticello, we had passed Michie (pronounced Mickey) Tavern, so we stopped there on the way back down the road. We shopped around in the General Store, which was also a working mill, and just took a little time to relax. As we were getting in the car to leave, we heard a BANG and saw that there had been a parking lot accident - what a vacation bummer! A big van had backed out of his space right into the side of a sedan that had just backed out and started going. We counted ourselves so lucky that we had not had any issues with the car beyond our fuses!
Our next stop, and probably our last one, was to be the Walton Mountain Museum somewhere near Schuyler, VA. Bet you didn't even know there was a Walton Mountain Museum!! We didn't either, until we read about it in one of our favorite road books, Road Trip USA, by Jamie Jensen. If you're as old as we are, you'll remember the 70's TV show "The Waltons" (good night, John Boy) which was set in the Appalachains during the Depression. The show's writer, Earl Hamner, Jr., is from Schuyler. He's a very prolific writer (http://www.the-waltons.com/earl.html) - we had no idea! We found the drive from Monticello to Schuyler to be one of the prettiest (if not THE prettiest) drive of our whole trip. The Blue Ridge mountains were visible, the trees were green, the sunlight was filtering through the trees, the road curved gently, a nice breeze blew through our open windows, there were no other cars on the road, what more could you ask for? I wished we could just keep driving for weeks and weeks!
As we neared Schuyler, we passed a Walton General Store, the New World Stone Company, (which is the only source of Virginia Soapstone) and then we arrived at the Schuyler Community Center, which used to be the Elementary School and is now also home to Walton Mountain Museum. The sign on the door told us that the museum was open until 4 PM and that visitors were not allowed in after 3:40. What time was it? 3:35!!! We paid our money to the nice little old lady at the ticket desk (an old school desk) just inside the door, essentially in the school gym. She gave us our directions and off we went. We saw John Boy's bedroom, which is exactly as it was on the show except for the window AC unit, which we were glad was there. We went in Ike Godsey's store, the Walton's living room (complete with radio), the Walton's kitchen, the room where all the scripts are stored and where the writers met to discuss them, and a room that had a real working "Recipe Machine" that had been confiscated from the nearby hills. Shine on!
While we were in the general store, which is also really the post office for Schuyler, we spoke to the proprietor, who was ready for it to be 4 PM. He was a cynical guy, but he did get interested in hearing about our trip. He was from upstate New York (what a surprise!) and there were people in there from Pennsylvania, so we regaled them with tales of Roadside America (never heard of it), Pollywogg Holler (of course they'd never heard of it!), and other fun places we had been. I'm sure they went to their cars and asked there Garmins how to get there! Maybe someday they will appreciate some of the things in their own backyards. After all, they were at the Walton Mountain Museum!
Once we left Schuyler, we made our way to Highway 29 and just enjoyed the drive down to Danville. From there, we went to Reidsville, NC, where we ate barbeque at Short Sugar's (http://www.ibiblio.org/lineback/bbq/jnt3.htm) Mighty fine! We reluctantly got in the car, knowing that our next stop in Salisbury meant the end of the road for this year's trip. We spent our last hour thinking about next year - we've got the Pacific Northwest on our minds, maybe starting with a train trip... We got to Lynn and Robert's and found Kim's car well taken care of, so we spent the evening downloading and copying pictures and sharing favorite tales of our trip. Thanks, Lynn, Robert, and Sarah, for letting us invade your home and for letting us leave Kim's car there with you for three weeks! It was great to see you as always!
Thanks for riding along with us, and stay tuned! I've got in mind another blog about places I've been and loved, and just a week after we returned from this trip, my daughter (also Kim) and I drove from Durham to Austin, Texas, and back, so you may hear a little about that trip. Rex and I will be going on a cruise of the Greek Isles (and surrounding areas) in September, so there will surely be more to come! If you have suggestions for us about places we won't want to miss, please share them.
Happy Trails, and goodnight, John Boy!