Thursday, March 30, 2006

On Sunday, our last day in Richmond, we went to see the highlight of our trip, the White House of the Confederacy and the Museum of the Confederacy.

Both are in downtown Richmond and are surrounded and dwarfed by the huge Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center. The Center does however provide parking for the Museum. Since it was Sunday, there was no charge.

We bought a combination ticket for both at the museum and almost immediately they called for our tour.

We went next door to the Museum through a small but pleasant back garden of the house, and through the basement door. With basement and two stories, there were a lot of stairs which was a problem for Julia. She had no trouble going up slowly but coming down was more trouble.

The first floor contained dining room, study, and living room. Then up a curved staircase was the bedrooms, nursery (the Davis's had children born there and lost one child there who fell from an upstairs balcony,) and office.

After the tour, we were supposed to go down the narrow back stairs but Julia had such a time with it that the guide suggested we go back down the main stairs. We did and on the first floor, instead of going on down to the basement, he let us go out the main front door, just like we had visited the Davises.

Lincoln himself came two days after the fall of Richmond. He visited the Union headquarters at the house.

The Museum is much smaller than I had expected; however, it is a museum where every display is first rate, no fillers. For example, they have the uniform that Lee wore when he surrendered at Appomattox. Also, Stonewall Jackson's boots. The original painting of The Last Meeting between Stonewall and Lee. (It is huge.)

Monday we left Richmond and headed toward Tennessee. We cut across Virginia to hit the interstate going down the west side of the state.

When we got over there, it was snowing. There was some snow on the ground but none on the road. The snow was beautiful, falling in huge flakes.

On the spur of the moment, we decided stop at Lexington to see Robert E. Lee's burial place at Washington and Lee University.

Lexington is also home to Virginia Military Institute. We passed it but did not stop this trip. I was acutely conscious of Terry Plunk's love of the place and as we walked around Lexington, I thought of his walking those same streets.

Lee is buried at a chapel at Washington and Lee. The chapel itself has a huge statue of a recumbent Lee. At first glance, it seems to be one of those statues like they put over kings' graves in Europe. However, it is actually supposed to be Lee taking a nap on the battlefield.

Lee himself and his family are buried in vaults below the chapel. His horse Traveler is buried outside. There were a couple on apples on his grave.

Back on the road, we stopped at Lenoir City for the night. We got there late but in time to watch the last of the CAA championship game between Hofstra and UNC-Wilmington.

Tuesday we came on home.

It was a good trip but too rushed. There are many more places to visit in Virginia and I want to stay longer at the places we did visit.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Back on the road on Thursday, the day we were to meet Jay in Richmond.

I was driving and I chose a route to the west of Richmond that intersected the road the hotel was on. We found the road and the hotel was only about half a block down.

We checked in and got the group rate. We were surprised that the group we were with was The Old Dominion Cheerleaders. Jay had arranged this so we were impressed.

Later the Yale baseball team checked in. They were playing Richmond and lost the next day.

That night Jay came. I was already sick. I was sneezing, coughing, and blowing my nose constantly. I bought Dayquil, Nyquil, and Airbourne and went to bed.

The next day I was no better and stayed in bed all day, sleeping most of the time. I took medicine regularly. I was unable to go to the basketball tournament with Jay.

This is one reason Jay is such a great travel companion. I was able to stay at the hotel and recover with a good conscience. I knew Jay was still having a good time even though he was by himself.

Saturday morning I was much better. Julia, Jay, and I set out to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. More than 18,000 Confederate dead are buried there including Jefferson Davis, J.E.B. Stuart, and George Pickett. Also, two American presidents, James Monroe and John Tyler.

We dropped Julia off at the hotel and Jay and I went down to the arena for the Colonial Athletic Association basketball tournament. We were wearing Old Dominion shirts that Jay supplied. i spilled a coke on mine and returned it to him later dirty.

Unfortunately, our team lost that day. The tournament is a blur. So many unusual things happened that the outcome of the games were not memorable. UNC-Wilmington, Hofstra, George Mason, and Northeastern won games on Saturday.

The powers-that-be were in hopes that the finals would pit Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth in the finals. Both are more local schools with big followings. Unfortunately for them, both schools lost on Saturday in quarterfinal matches.

The basketball games themselves were overshadowed by some things so unusual that I have never before seen them happen at a game.

1. A Northeastern player in the game threw his own shoe into the crowd. He was frustrated at the way the game was going. His team had lost the ball and the players were going down the court to the other goal. Meanwhile he was on the floor under the goal. He sort of threw the shoe with his foot. It went into the stands. It was a friendly group there, fans of another school but one cheering for his team in that matchup. They threw it back to him. Jay said he would have run with it.

2. One mascot decked another. This was not the cheerful pantomine that sometimes happens. The Hofstra cheerleaders were on the floor doing a pyramid when some in the crowd threw rolled up tee shirts at them. The Hofstra mascot took a Virginia Commonwealth sign, held it upside down, and stomped on it.

The Virginia Commonwealth mascot, a ram named Rodney, went across the basketball floor, knocked down a fence, went into the stands, and decked the Hofstra mascot. He was walking back when an official took his arm and escorted him from the floor, never to be seen again.

3. In a semi-final game on Sunday between Hofstra and George Mason, a George Mason player sucker punched a Hofstra player on the court while they were running to the other goal. GMU was losing and I guess he got frustrated. While the Hofstra player rolled on the floor in agony, the referees checked the tapes but did not see what happened.

However, the film crew from a TV station in Wilmington, there to film UNC-Wilmington did get a clear picture of it and it was shown on TV in Richmond that night.

This is the same George Mason University that is now in the Final Four.

We did not stay to see Hofstra and UNC-Wilmington play in the finals on Monday night. UNC-Wilmington won. We did see some of it on TV at the hotel in Tennessee.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Julia and I got to Appomattox Courthouse later in the day than we had hoped. We did not have time but to do the minimum. Now we need to go back.

We walked to the recreation of the Courthouse, which is the headquarters of the Park Service. I went to the desk and asked how to find out if my great-grandfather had been there.

She handed me a book named The Appomattox Paroles which lists the Confederate soldiers that were given paroles that allowed them to pass through Union lines. When I opened the book, it opened on page 220 and my eyes went half-way down and there it was:Webb,Robert A.: Hurt's Co. Arty., Ala. Vol., McIntosh's Batt. Arty.

The ranger took us over to the McLean House where the actual surrender happened. Some people cry there, I understand, I was surprised that Julia didn't. After we left there, we walked over to the house where the printed the paroles. I took a picture of the wallpaper or stencil so I can use the design on a quilt.

Then to the bookshop where I bought the book The Appomattox Paroles. Also I bought Richmond Burning, about the fall of Richmond. Very interesting.

We did not have time to see the exhibits at the headquarters. We wanted to see where the Confederates camped so we drove down into that valley.

I really need to see this place again. There is so much to think about there.

We then left with me driving. It got dark without our finding a hotel. We drove all the way to Petersburg. When I got to the interstate, I turned south on it hunting a motel. It was the wrong way to go and after 10 miles, I had to turn around.

Then I drove all through Petersburg and finally found a nice hotel in a town between Petersburg and Richmond. It was 8:30. We ate the last of Doris's goody bag for supper and I started my reading on the fall of Richmond in preparation for seeing that city.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Julia and I left Doris's on Wednesday morning. Doris had made us up a "to go" bag that had two waters, two cokes, and two of many more food items. We eventually ate it all. This is such a good idea for house guests. When we drove through Roanoke on the way back home a week later, Julia asked "Do you thing if we went by Doris's she would give us another of those sacks!"

We stopped first at Bedford, Virginia, at the National D-Day Memorial. Why is the memorial there? During World War II Bedford was a small town of 3200 people, yet in the first two hours of the landing at Normandy they lost 22 men. Other so-called Bedford boys survived and some still live there today.

They drive you around the memorial in golf cart things, and explain the memorial and D-Day. Usually a tour is about 30 minutes. Our tour was at least an hour and a half and it went by quickly.

Julia and I were the only ones on the tour and it was led by the assistant superindendent of the memorial. He is a native of Bedford but was only a boy during the war. He knew the ones killed and knows the ones still living and his stories are amazing and heart rending.

There was a small flag stuck near where the statue of Eisenhower is to be erected later this year. The flag was in honor of a Bedford boy who had just died. He had survived the D-Day landing those many years ago and his wish was to die at the memorial. He went there every day.

However, one night he had a heart attack at home and was sent to the hospital. There he tore the IVs out, left, and started walking toward the memorial. The police tried to pick him up but he would only go with him if they would take him for a last drive around the memorial. They did and he died in the hospital but his funeral procession made that same circle drive.

There was a set of twins from Bedford, Roy and Ray, there on D-Day. Roy and Ray were in one of those landing crafts about to get on the beach. Roy stuck his hand out to shake hands with his twin Ray. Ray told him no, they would shake hands on the beach.

Roy was killed seconds after landing. Ray survived D-Day but he became wild and reckless. He would run out from his lines, unprotected, and start shooting at the Germans. Finally, they told him that if he didn't quit, they would have to send him home. Most would do anything to go home, but he changed his behavior to stay.

Ray still lives in Bedford.

Our guide, Cliff, said that one time the lady at the ticket office, who has a clear view of the Overload arch, called him at his office to tell him that guests were worried because there was a man lying on a bench under the arch.

He went out to see what was going on but the man insisted that he was okay and was curt about it.

Shortly the lady called again and said people were upset that he hadn't helped the man. He went back and talked further to him.

He said the man started telling him what happened at D-Day and told it very vividly. Cliff said, "Then ytou were there." The man replied, You don't understand. I was on the other side. I was shooting at your forces as they landed.

He said, "I'm dying and I came here to apologise." He was alternately apologetic and bellgerent as he talked.

Another man stood over to the side, his cab driver. The German had flown to New York and taken a New York taxi to Virginia.

If you ever get anywhere near southwestern Virginia, you must go to this.

By the way, the Americans started planning the invasion with the code name Minnie Pearl. However, Churchill thought that inappropriate and changed it to Overlord.

We left Bedford and headed to Appomattox Courthouse.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

I was in my car today when the song American Pie came on. I have heard that it is a song about the death of Buddy Holly, that that was when the "music died."

I think the song is about nothing, but I always love to hear it. The words just seem so right as if it has a link to something in my brain.

I feel the same way about the poem Xanadu. I'm not sure that is the title but it goes like this

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree,
where Alph the sacred river ran
through caverns measureless to man
down to a sunless sea.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Tuesday was Dairy day.

Doris's daughter Julie and her husband David run a dairy near Roanoke. I was interested in seeing how things are different now than they were 50 years ago when my parents were dairy farmers.

I had hoped to be able to go out there and it worked out that Julie and David's sons were better so we went out there on Tuesday morning.

When we turned off the main road, there were cows, cows, cows. I think Julie said they have 160 and milk 120. In addition, David's father raises their calves until they are ready to be milked.

The cows are Jersey and Holstein although they would like to eventually have all Jerseys.

The family lives in an old house. When they were working on it, they did not let Doris go out to see it because it was so bad. They hope eventually to have a new house but the old one has gingerbread trim and original wood decorations on the end of the stairs.

They milk 12 cows at a time in the dairy barn. The barn is not that much different from Mother and Daddy's except that it seems smaller and the milk goes directly from the cow to the milk tank.

While we were there, the tanker truck came to pick up the milk. They just hook up to the tank and transfer the milk to the truck.

In the barn, they had some calves, including one brown and white Holstein. (For you non-dairy farmers, Holsteins are big black and white cows.) Julie said that a brown and white Holstein is the result of recessive genes.

Julie's boys are 1 and 3. They have a lot of places to play, including two dirt piles. I think that is great.

Julie also has chickens.

Dairy farming now seems much more scientific, with records on feed, etc. However, one thing is still the same: There is a lot of mud and manure.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The next morning, Sunday, Jay, Julia, and I met Pat and Danny at Denny's for breakfast. We enjoyed that.

Then we left town, Jay back to Virginia Beach and Julia and I to we didn't know where because we were not expected at Doris Carroll's until Monday.

We had used Mapquest to get through Raleigh but we didn't have the directions to go the other way so we missed our turnoff and wound up driving the long south loop.

We had gotten through Raleigh and Winston-Salem and almost to Greensboro when Julia suddenly said "Oh, no. Oh, no."

I was driving. She said she just remembered that she had left some things in the drawer of the motel in Greenville. I pulled over into a shopping center while she called the mtoel. They confirmed that she had left some things but were not very cooperative. She tried to call Pat and Danny but could not get them.

I knew that Julia would worry herself to death over this, so we headed back to Greenville, picked up the items, and checked into another hotel.

She had left a long sleeve T-shirt, two Memphis caps of Jay's, two shorts of Jay's, and a Clinique bonus bag.

The next morning Monday we left again and had even worse luck getting through Raleigh. We drove and drove and finally I told Julia I was sure that we had passed the North Carolina State baseball advertisement before. We had. We had somehow been driving in a circle. But like most people, we eventually got on the other side of Raleigh.

After we got to Greensboro, the road we had to get on to go to Roanoke was being worked on and had a detour. We don't know what happened here but we wound up in the wrong Virginia border town. We were in Danville but we should have been in Martinsville (or maybe it was vice versa.)

But eventually we got to Doris's house. I had no trouble finding it once we got to the area.

Doris's daughter Teresa and her two sons William and Andrew came over for supper. William is now 17 and Andrew 13. It was a nice evening. Doris is a great cook.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Julia and I left on Thursday two weeks ago on our long anticipated trip. Nothing unusual happened the first day. There was a lot of sitting still on the interstate at Knoxville, but that is usual.

We stopped for the night at the Best Western in Newport, TN, just on the North Carolina border. This is the third time I have stayed ther, once before I was by myself and once with Julia. Sometimes what people know about me is disconcerting. I just gave my name and the clerk knew everything and gave me the discount I had gotten the last time.

This was the last time I charged the room to my name. Julia can get a military discount and we usually let her charge them and then settle up later. Previously we had alternated paying for the rooms. That is what we do with gas, just alternate who is paying. It doesn't work out perfectly on each trip probably but probably will over our lifetime. Besides one thing George Rodney believed in was Don't nickel and dime your relatives.

We like that motel because it has the best TV lineup on any place we have ever stayed. We particularly enjoy watching All My Children on the Soapnet Channel. It shows that day's episode. I think we only got to watch it one other time on the trip.

On Friday we drove on into Greenville, SC, and checked into the motel. Jay joined us a short time later.

We ate at a mall food court. The next day Jay and Julia went back shopping there.

We dressed to the nines for the 50th wedding annniversary of our cousin, Pat Davis Brew, and her husband Danny Brew. It was a surprise to them and organized beautifully by their four daughters.

Julia wore her usual black outfit with my lovely Joan Rivers cherry pin. I wore my new outfit that I bought for 60% off at Penney's in Nashville. It was beige with silver threads. I had bought just killer shoes. It made me feel good and confident and good looking just wearing them.

The party was held at the Mormon church. I had gotten the directions from Mapquest and we had no problem finding them.

The activity hall was decorated with gold balloons, a large wedding-type cake withstrip pictures of Pat and Danny between the layers, At the tables were crossword puzzles with the questions and answers about the Brew's life and gold pencils that said Pat and Danny's 50th.

Their oldest granddaughter Rachael and her husband brought them blindfolded to the hall. They were still surprised because their wedding anniversary isn't actually until this summer. The date was chosen because it is Pat's 70th birthday and because one of their daughters is moving to Utah.

They were especially surprised to see Julia, Jay, and I there.

For entertainment the daughters sang the old song Sincerely. I think it was originally done by the Andrews Sisters. The Brew sisters did just as good a job. We were very impressed.

Danny used to have a barbershop quartet with three of his sons-in-law. We had heard them and enjoyed that, but we had never heard the girls sing.

Then they showed pictures with music of Pat and Danny's lives before they met (including one of little girl Pat with little girls Julia and June beside her, and then pictures of their lives together. It was very well done and must have taken a long time to do.

We enjoyed the food and the fellowship and were glad we could share this special occasion with the Brews.

Afterwards we dropped Julia off at the hotel and went to Eastern Carolina University where they were having the Keith LeClair Classic baseball tournament. Keithe LeC lair is the former coach of ECU but he is now confined to a wheelchair with MS and can't even talk. It is an annual tournament and raises money for MS>

West Virginia and Virginia Tech were playing. We were pulling for VT but WV was much too much for them. At first we sat down toward the front but then Jay said we might get a foul ball if we moved back into the sparsely occupied upper part. We did and got not one but two foul balls.

Then we went over to the arena and went to the ECU-Tulane basketball game. Surprisingly Tulane won.

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