Williamsburg

WILLIAMSBURG

THE CENTER OF CULTURE AND ELEGANCE IN VIRGINIA

 

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When Thomas Jefferson arrived in Williamsburg , VA. to attend The College of William and Mary, the city had a population of roughly 1,800 people and had a very muddy thoroughfare.

Duke of Gloucester Street (the main drag) would have been lined with taverns, stores, and dwellings. Although somewhat riotous, it also had a regal quality about the town; Williamsburg was perhaps a little England unto itself, a world apart from the back country that Jefferson grew up in.

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Three truly great buildings dominated the scene, the Governor’s palace, The Capitol and the College of William and Mary Wren Building, which were all, made of brick and would not have looked very out of place in London.

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As Jefferson would have walked or ridden horseback down Duke of Gloucester street he would have passed the Bruton Parish Church or possibly gone inside for Sunday services, as well as the above mentioned buildings and it would have seemed a very busy, thriving place.

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But Thomas Jefferson also had mixed feelings about Williamsburg and also felt like the architecture needed improving but then again he spent a lot of time thinking about architecture and designing buildings, especially his home Monticello.

 

Regardless, of Jefferson’s opinions, Williamsburg was a hub of activity and where the Governor lived and worked, The palace was a very elegant and in the entryway was a display of the might of the English crown with the walls lined in patterns with weapons to prove the might of the crown and woodworking to be the envy of every other home in the country and even to rival palaces in England.

 

    Then the Revolutionary War happened, during that time and especially during the planning of the battle of Yorktown George Washington used the home of Mr. Wythe who had also been a teacher to Thomas Jefferson and a good friend. There was much turmoil there with the war as with the whole countryside as not everyone was of the same opinion about the war or pulling away from the crown. It was a very tumultuous time.

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 I had the opportunity to tour this historic home as well and many of the other buildings and to go to Williamsburg, the Williamsburg experience is quite a remarkable feeling of stepping back in time.

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Before, during and right after the Revolutionary War Williamsburg was a major town in Virginia but later it became less important when the capitol was moved to Richmond in 1780. Over time buildings became rundown and history lost.         

            Then in the early part of the 20th century Mr. W.A.R. Goodwin a rector of Bruton Parish Church and head of William and Mary College; helped to initiate a resurrection of protecting the history of Williamsburg and he approached philanthropist Mr. John D. Rockefeller who then invested a lot of money to help rebuild the governor’s palace and other buildings and fixing up the buildings which commenced in 1926, thus preserving about 80 original buildings and rebuilding some that were lost.

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            An organization was formed to protect these buildings and make it a living history town. And so it is today. As you walk into Williamsburg it is quite a bit like stepping back in time with horse drawn carriages and people dressed in period clothing working and walking about and in the stores, most of what is sold looks old fashioned as if you truly were in the colonial times.

            We had the good fortune of spending several days there and loved every minute of walking about, visiting the different buildings, taking tours and listening to lectures about the times as well as parades and we saw 4th of July fireworks there this past summer.

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It is in some ways reflective of reenactments or living history farms I have seen in the past but to step back into colonial times and experience the era down to the food and clothing of the period and walk the streets without a single car, it is unique unto itself. Emotional and patriotic. It makes one proud to be an American, it makes us stop and consider our ancestors and where our country has been and even consider where is our country going and are we honoring our founders by the way we deal with the issues of today or not? It makes one Consider what it means to be an American and to be free.

 

 

 

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a Brittany on DOG Street

A Brittany on DOG Street

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On this trip we took our much loved dog Buckaroo with us, I have traveled many times with dogs but never such an extended trip with so many hotels and miles in the car with new stops constantly.

It was quite the experience but our good matured Brittany spaniel was a good traveler and this trip made him even better than he was before.

I have discovered that most towns have a park where you can walk your dog, that usually there is picnic tables to take a break and eat lunch and that way the dog gets a break from the car as well.

When it is summertime and hot you certainly cannot leave the dog in the car even for a minute, it could be life or death.

On a trip like ours, you need to give water very frequently and keep an eye on how often they drink and pee. You do not want a dehydrated or constipated dog.

Another thing I have discovered is that Buck does not eat his dry food as well as I would like, he sort of gets picky from all the travel so we cured that, I would mix a little canned food in his dry food at night and then he would eat, it also seemed better for him to pretty much eat at night when we were stopped for the day. I also found nutritious dog treats were a helpful commodity to give needed calories if he was refusing to eat very well.

There seems to be lots of pet friendly hotels these days, some don’t charge a dog fee and others do. La

Quinta Inns and Suites are really good about pets, usually don’t charge a fee either. Some La Quinta’s are like new and others are older and rundown but for the most part they are usually clean, decent and beds have pillow top mattresses. Occasionally you get one that is not so wonderful but that is more the exception than the rule. They of course are not the Hilton but certainly nicer than a motel 6 and if its a newer one its as nice as Holiday Inn. They also serve breakfast usually. Seems to be variety in the cooking but mostly okay with waffles, toast ,eggs, sometimes sausage or bacon, etc. and fruit, yogurt, etc.

Quality Inns and Suites is another pet friendly hotel that is usually very nice with breakfast, some charge pet fees that range from $10.00 to $50.00. It’s always good to check on that ahead with any hotel and to let them know when you make your reservation that way they make sure they reserve a pet friendly room for you.

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Quality Inn is also part of Choice hotels which has several chains, some of their other hotels allow pets and all the stays add up if you get a member card and count toward a free night stay. That also applies to la Quinta too.

We stayed at a Econo Lodge and it was pet friendly but was very bare bones. Even though it was clean and they did have breakfast, the room was older and bed lumpy. I cannot say I have stayed at enough of these to know how a lot of them are but it was somewhat like staying in Motel 6.

Another thing that I would consider when traveling is checking out local hotels, some are really quite good and economical but I will also say don’t take a room sight unseen without seeing it first as I have had some really bad experiences when I didn’t. The difference is I guess that chain hotels have to keep some kind of standard but a private hotel has only themselves to answer to.

Another chain that accepts dogs and often without much pet fee is America’s Best Value Inn. The down side is their standard of quality seems to vary widely. We stayed in one in Rapid City, South Dakota one time which was just lovely and very posh like a Holiday Inn or a Hilton and reasonably priced but then we stayed at one in Fort Collins which was a really awful dump and I had to argue with the owner that I was not satisfied and was not paying to stay a second night. I would always say check how old and especially how the particular hotel is rated.

Another way to save money is if you have AAA. It gives you a discount for a variety of things but one of the main things is on hotel rooms, it knocks of 10-15% often times and that can really add up.

Actually, AAA has been a big help in many ways when traveling, not only with price on rooms but also if you have car trouble or a flat tire, or need a tow, you can call AAA and they will offer roadside assistance and tow your truck to the shop. It has paid for itself more often than not. AAA also has travel info, books on different states, or countries, and maps which is incredibly helpful when planning a trip.

Back to the dog thing, we made Buckaroo a bed behind the passenger seat and he was most content after the trip got under way, if we were at a hotel room and wanted to go out to eat or someplace we could not take him we left him in the room in his kennel. If your dog is used to the kennel this is a blessing because often the dog feels secure in his kennel, its his bed and when you leave him somewhere new he feels safe in his bed and the added bonus is you don’t have to worry about him getting upset and chewing up something or trying to tear down the door in search of you because you left him in a strange place. It worked really well.

And then there was DOG Street along with many other places. At places like Mount Vernon, Monticello, Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown historic and many more sights you can bring your dog with you. He cannot go inside buildings but can be everywhere else outside. Sometimes inside a barn or workshop is okay. Anyway, so we took Buck along. He went on the shuttles at Mount Vernon and on the shuttle at Williamsburg, and he walked DOG Street with us at Williamsburg. DOG Street stands for Duke of Gloucester Street in Colonial Williamsburg which is the main drag but since they are dog friendly they dubbed it DOG street in honor of canine companions. Buck even attended the 4th of July festivities at Williamsburg and there is many places where water bowls are set out for the pooches that come along.

Buckaroo was a big hit everywhere we went. People from all over the world, and all shapes, ages and sizes made over him like he was a celebrity. They commented on how pretty he was, how soft, could they pet him, what was his name, what breed was he. One thing I don’t think Brittany Spaniels are as common back east and I truly did not see any other Brittany Spaniels on our trip.

He was very good and polite and let everyone pet and make over him but on one very long trying day where hundreds of people probably pet him, at the end He kept crowding to me and looking up at me like “can we go now, I have had enough. So the reality is, know your dog, no matter how good they are remember they are animals, they do get tired and travel and strangers can be overwhelming. So, we went on back to our hotel where he crashed on the spare bed and the next day I left him at the hotel for part of the day. And then the next day he was perfectly fine to face the crowds again.

I will say traveling with a dog is extra work, they have to have a walk, and some hotels have hardly anywhere to do this so that is a challenge, it takes extra palnning. But I will also say it can be fun and rewarding as well.

The bottom line we were not willing to leave our Buckaroo for over a month, if it had been shorter we might have left him home but by him going it made him a better traveler, more used to large crowds and he was wasn’t wondering what had become of us.

On one other note, when travelling long distances away from home, it is a good idea to have a vet check and possibly a health certificate and also if your pooch is not already on it it would be very important to have your dog take heart worm medicine, which you would want to start ahead of your trip a few weeks. Also, make sure your dog is up to date on all his vaccines and tell your vet where you might be traveling to so if there is any extra vaccines he should have. All in all not that complicated but very important and worth the investment to keep your dog from getting sick. Also, if your dog has a chip be sure to have that info with you as well as a description, a copy of his papers if registered and a photo or at least one on your phone. it’s always possible Fido could get away from you and then you have to track him down.

And here is one other piece of friendly advice. ALWAYS keep your dog on a leash, especially in new places and while traveling. For one thing you are in a strange place and if your dog is loose he may not act the same as when you are at home. If he disobeys you and runs off finding him may be much harder or even impossible. By keeping him on a leash you are keeping him safe and you stress free. Plus if another dog approaches that is loose you have better means of controlling the situation than if your dog is loose as well.

All in all Happy Traveling and have a fun trip with fido in tow!

A Rocking Chair on The Potomac

A ROCKING CHAIR ON THE POTOMAC

As I sat rocking slowly in my chair gazing out at the Potomac River, the air which had been so still and hot began to move as a breeze stirred and I could not believe I was there at this magical place. I was actually sitting on the porch looking at the Potomac River in the same location as George Washington and as I sat there I kept thinking how many times Mr. Washington probably did the same thing, watching the river go by. It is shady and pleasant. I was also thinking I could not believe how big the river was.

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I remember hearing a story of a time during the Revolutionary War while the General was off directing the troops a British War ship came up the river and demanded supplies, instead of denying the British their wishes, the manager of Mount Vernon gave them the supplies they wanted and they left without ravaging the place or setting it on fire. It’s possible that the captain didn’t know it was George Washington’s home but either way the house and farm was spared. Later when the manager told George Washington what happened the General was angry and said “ I would rather see my beloved home burned to the ground than serve the enemy one crumb of bread” Quote unquote ( I cannot say I have that statement 100% percent accurate but one of the things that stuck in my mind was how did that big ship get up that river and now I know, it a huge river!

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I am glad that the manager saved the General’s home and it still exists to this day for people to see it..To see this place, to know George Washington lived here, loved this place and every stone he touched, and the desk he wrote at, it all brought it to life, the barns where he kept his horses and the very bed he slept in and where he died.

We went to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home on July 3rd 2016. It was such an exceptional experience to walk up the hill and come around the corner and there the house sits surrounded by outbuildings and you cannot be sure what to think. It is both larger and smaller than you think it will be and one of the things I noticed it was not white! It is white when it is freshly painted but over time it becomes a more off white or creamy tan color. Even though it looks like its stone blocks the structure of the house it is actually post and beam with siding made to look like a masonry house. The house is painted with sand mixed in to give it the rough texture which resembles brick work.

The house sits on a slight hill above the Potomac river and the view from that side of the house is just spectacular. I can see why George Washington loved it so much there.

Surrounding the house is outbuildings such as the kitchen, various sheds and servants and slaves quarters and many many gardens. There is stables with some horse drawn vehicles inside, only a few actually belonged to George Washington. In truth much of the items in the home, etc. are reproductions of what the family might have had and as closely as can be reproduced based on what information is available such as records kept by George Washington himself.

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The inside of the house was special but it is a guided tour and you are herded through much quicker than I thought, I so wanted to look at everything longer but it was unique to see where he had his desk and the bedroom where he slept and where he died. Unfortunately no one is allowed to take photos inside, of course, you can buy post cards and there is some photos on the internet to look at but I have chosen not to try to post those here.

If you take a trail from the house to a low lying area is a reproduction farm, to represent the actual workings of George Washington’s plantation and how it was worked. There is sheep and other animals and presentations of period crafts such as blacksmithing. There is also a round threshing barn, that was built as an exact replica of one that General Washington had on his place. The horses would walk on top of the wheat and go around and around and the wheat would fall through the slits in the floor and thereby separating the wheat from the chaf.

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I enjoyed seeing the stables and walking around in the back  where the paddocks were, I could just imagine the horses running loose and Washington’s horse Nelson raising his head and nickering softly to his master.

I did not want to leave this special place but I had t continue on the amazing road trip we were taking.

THE MAN ON A TALL HORSE

THE MAN ON A TALL HORSE

I will not deny it George Washington has been an incredible hero in my mind since I was a little girl and as an adult it has not changed much.

I can always imagine him on top of his big horse sitting proud and tall and he was tall for the times he lived in. One of his favorite horses was a beautiful chestnut horse named Nelson who was 16 hands tall which given to him as a gift by Thomas Nelson in 1778 when the horse was fifteen. After the war, Nelson and the other gray horse named Blueskin Washington rode during the Revolutionary War were retired. Both served Washington well during the war and he was atop Nelson when the British surrendered at Yorktown and the surrender was signed. He had great affection for his horses, when he would go out to the pasture nelson would neigh and run up to the fence to be petted.

George Washington was considered one of the finest horseman in Virginia and he was said to be “able to ride without bearing on his bridle even over fences” which meant he could sit a horse well jumping a fence and not pulling the horses mouth unduly, thereby he was gentle on the bit with his hands. How you handle your horse and his mouth is as important as how you sit in the saddle. Too much pulling all the time, your horse will get stubborn and tough mouthed and thereby not very reliable.

But besides Washington’s horseman skills, the incredible job he took on in trying to take a ragtag bunch of men and turn them into soldiers especially without money and enough trained officers was a daunting task. He lost lots of the battles and yet kept trying and he was shot at and had numerous bullets come close, go through his cloak or hat and I believe even horses shot out from under him and yet he was unharmed, he was certainly not a small target as he was over 6’ tall and sat a tall horse. I truly believe that God had a plan for him and he was protected throughout the war.

Also, people forget one thing as well, to go against the King of England (and yes our country was under English rule) meant that people like George Washington were considered traitors or worse and if the war had gone the other way, as in if the English had won then people such as George Washington would not only have lost everything but would have been hung or shot as traitors to the crown. Many of the founders of the war who had money also invested not just time but a lot of their own resources into the war, some to the point where they went bankrupt later, they believed so strongly in the cause.

Of Course, Washington was a human too and he had his quirks. He expected straight honesty and certain rigid perfectionism from himself and others as well and when they could not deliver the same morals or honor he himself displayed he was a sight to behold if he felt wronged or cheated. Sometimes this was good and sometimes not so much. He was a complex but unique human who came to greatness, not so much because he sought it but because he was a leader and people saw that in him and

asked him to help and he stepped up to the challenges offered.

He is probably the only man alive who could have become a king but was actually reluctant to become the 1st president, he did no campaigning and he did not even put his name forward but people unanimously voted him into office, they were not even sure if he would accept. He had said “ He had no wish which aspires beyond the humble and happy lot of living and dying a private citizen” at his Mount Vernon home.But when asked to, he accepted and served two terms in office for a country which was a baby still and had many struggles and problems but he was also not shy about getting down to business and to work on the problems.

But besides his love of his country and his family, one of his big loves was his home in Virginia along the Potomac river called Mount Vernon. Even during the war, he would write to his steward and direct things and have some things remodeled or changed, always improving. He inherited this house and he loved it very much, and I was able to go to Mount Vernon this summer on the 3rd of July, the day before our country’s Independence day and see just a little of why George Washington loved his home.

To be continued…

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THE HOUSE ON THE HILL

The House on the Hill

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When Thomas Jefferson was a young man he would ride his horse to the top of a particular hill on his fathers’ property, often with his dear friend Dabney Carr and they would sit under a tree there and survey the view around them and look out toward the mountains; across all the hills and valleys. It was here that young Thomas determined he would build a house there when he was an adult and make his home in this beautiful spot.

He and his friend Dabney also made a pact that whoever should die first would be buried under their favorite tree down the hill from the house and ultimately be laid to rest next to each other.

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It came to pass that the house did get built after Thomas was married, he designed the house himself and he did create a cemetery where both the friends could be buried together as well as their families.

But there is so much more to this story as we well know.

I had the great pleasure to get to see this home that Thomas Jefferson built, loved and that he called Monticello.

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It is quite a sight when you come over the knob and it comes into view, It facade is stunning. On closer inspection it’s no wonder he wanted to build here it is so pretty and the view spectacular.

Thomas Jefferson is more than sprinkled throughout our early history and many people know he was the author of the declaration of Independence, that he became president and that he was very busy during the revolution but how many of us know the man?

Of course, we can only see him through the prism of years and what people have written about him and what he may have written himself over the years, but stepping into his home and seeing the rooms he lived in and slept in as well as his office and the desk where he did his writing really brought to life the man and what he was interested in.

Thomas Jefferson’s father died when he was still a very young which landed a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. He went to college in Williamsburg, Va. at William and Mary college in which he studied a variety of subjects including law. When he enrolled he was already proficient in the classics and could read Greek and Latin. He had an incredible love of books and his collection at Monticello was huge even by today’s standards; he owned 6,487 books! His famous statement “I cannot live without books” couldn’t be more true.

The grounds around Monticello are stunning and there is a lovely lawn where they would play lawn games. Also, a large variety of flowers and shrubs to see along the edge. A lovely walking area

As you walk around you can tour the many aspects of life at that time including a cabin that slaves would have slept in. We went on a tour about slavery at Monticello and it was very interesting. I think Thomas Jefferson was for freedom but yet because of the times he lived in slavery was an engrained part of the culture at the time period he lived. We will never know for sure what he thought about it but I like to think that our father of the declaration of Independence might have been divided on this issue in his soul and wished to live at a different time or a more clear-cut way to change the world on it. Of course, that came less than 100 years later and it’s too bad it required a war to resolve it. But that is for another day.

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Part of the areas you could tour was to go under the house, see the storage and wine cellar as well as the kitchens and other work areas that would be required to run such a house and feed so many people.

The garden below the house shows an example of some of the vegetables that would have been grown at that time, of course it would have had to be much bigger to feed all the people who lived on the estate and worked there.

The house itself is a tour led by a guide, who tells you information about the house as you go along, I will say depending on when you go, if its real busy the tour will move along faster than I would have liked. If you can go at a less busy time it would be much better. They do not allow photographs inside the house so therefore I only have some post cards.

Regardless, the house is a masterpiece and even though small by some of today’s standards for a mansion; the woodworking and overall details are exquisite and lovely. One thing I did find funny is Jefferson did not build a big staircase as he felt it was unnecessary and a waste of room, so the stairway is narrow and steep which is a steep contrast to the openness of the other rooms.

When you first come into the house is an entryway with many artifacts on the wall as well as maps. The idea was to impress visitors with things from all over the world. A very unique collection of items too.

I can go on and on about this visit and home but the bottom line to really feel Jefferson, to really get a glimpse of the man, you need to go here and experience it for yourself. The tickets are rather expensive unfortunately but the money does go to preserve the estate which is important overall.

If you ever have a chance to visit this architectural masterpiece nearCharlottesville, Virginia it is well  worth the experience.Whether you spend an hour or two or spend the whole day as we did.Take a step into the history of our nation, you will not be sorry you did.

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Even my dog liked sitting on the steps of the great house and so did I. To think Thomas Jefferson and scores of other important people walked on these steps. Incredible!

 

APPALACHIAN DRIVE

Appalachian Drive

On Friday July 1, 2016 we drove north on I-79 out of Charleston, West Virginia and took the scenic route up over the Appalachian Mountains, winding mountain roads, small towns and lots of green everywhere and many trees we have never seen before and have no idea what they are.

We took the interstate north till we got to highway 33 and went east and stopped in a couple of places. One thing that is so interesting is you cannot see very much into the woods, not at all like in Wyoming or Colorado. The brush and undergrowth is very thick. It would be hard not to get lost in the woods, I can only imagine back when explorers pushed west they had to follow rivers and creeks so as to not get lost. Truly, West Virginia is as they claim very ‘wild and wonderful’ in its mountains and natural wonders and lack of cities. It may not have the elevation we have out west but some of the scenes and mountains are just as rugged as some of the mountains west. Remarkable how steep some of the roads and passes were. Some towns are in canyons or gullies where yes a flash flood could take them out; and there is steep hills all around.

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We stopped in one town called Weston for just a little while. I guess it is the town where Stonewall Jackson grew up. We tried to find the house on short notice but ran out of time. They also have a very old building built before the civil war, Gothic design that was a Lunatic asylum. Now called the Trans -Allegheny Lunatic Asylum formerly known as the Weston State Hospital it served the mentally ill until the mid 1800’s. We saw it from the road but did not have time to tour it. It was an incredible building though.

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We also stopped at Seneca Rock which is a rock outcropping which is also a historical area at Seneca Rocks, WV. The rock formations contain quartz sandstone, thus eroding less quickly than the surrounding rocks. It stands 960 feet above the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River. The magnificent outcropping has a whole legend to it as well as lots of natural beauty but I will not tackle that legend today.

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The rocks have a lot of climbers but the area was also used by the 10th mountain division for training before and during WWII. During World War II the whole area of the Monongahela National Forest played a key role in training our troops for the war.

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At the same historical park there was also a wonderful old homestead that had the old home there. The man Mr. Sites built a log cabin in 1839 and then was added on to and now is a frame house. Interesting. They have planted a number of heirloom plants and a garden there too. It was fun to see the different plants, some of which I had never seen before. One thing of interest there is this orange day lily which is a native plant around here and you see it everywhere. Pretty! I found myself quite interested in the plants back east, so different from what we have out west. I may write more on this later.

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The highest point in West Virginia as far as elevation is something around 4,863 feet. The roads some of them are as steep and winding as any in Colorado or Wyoming mountains. Driving with lower gears and so on so what they may lack in elevation does not deter from steepness and dramatic hills. Somewhere yesterday we crossed into the eastern time zone and today we dropped into Virginia.

I really liked parts of West Virginia and only wished we had had more time to explore the lovely mountains and get acquainted with the people who call this area home. Maybe someday I can come again.

We crossed a piece of the  beautiful Shenandoah National park and dropped down and eventually ended up in Charlottesville, VA where we stayed the night, with the next stop being Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home.