Blog Archives

I Was Off the Grid, Part 2

While I can’t complain about having a week off of work to spend at the beach, I will say that Hugh and I were less than thrilled when the 10 friends who had inhabited our giant house left us mid-week.

That afternoon we had about 45 minutes of beach time before thunder storms rolled in and forced us inside for less than entertaining daytime TV and afternoon naps. We eventually got up the motivation to go see a movie (Bad Teacher), came back and made dinner from the remnants of various friends’ shopping trips, ate dinner, watched more bad TV, and slept again. Ah, the joys of vacation.

The next day we were determined to have an adventure, so we drove a few miles over to Roanoke Island to see some history and take in some sights. Roanoke Island was the infamous site of the “Lost Colony,” a group of settlers who went inexplicably missing within three years. It is also where the first American child, Virginia Dare, was born. This is a monument to her:

Sometime after settlers came back, they built a fort to defend against the Spanish. I’m pretty sure it’s call Fort Raleigh.

It’s pretty much just earthworks with a flag in the middle, but I’m sure it did the trick at the time.

Roanoke Island is also home to the country’s longest-running outdoor production, a play about the Lost Colony called, “The Lost Colony.” Andy Griffith got his acting start in the production, and lives on the island to this day. It’s actually in an outdoor theater in front of this building, which I apparently don’t have pictures of.

When we were bored of the Lost Colony — approximately 30 minutes later — we took a last minute left turn and parked it in Manteo for the afternoon. We walked across the bridge to Manteo’s Waterfront Festival Park, declined to pay $8 to see the museum, make believe Indian Village, and recreated ship Elizabeth II, and walked back.

We took in the sights at Manteo’s tiny waterfront full of boats, restaurants, inns, shops and boutiques…

And ran into this little guy (who I’m convinced is a fox pup).

Before sitting down for lunch and a beer at the Full Moon Cafe, we stopped at the Marshes Lighthouse only to find that the stairs to the top were roped off.

We spent the rest of the afternoon (and week) with some family that happened to be staying less than a mile down the road from us:

When I say family, I mean they’re not related by blood but they are family. They’re my godparents (my parents’ best friends) and their parents, siblings, siblings-in-law, nieces and nephews. And they were just wonderful to include us in their fun for the rest of the week.

I’m sad vacation is over. On to planning the next trip!


The Sesquicentennial

Sesquicentennial is a real English word. It is a 150th anniversary. The American Civil War began 150 years ago this week at Ft. Sumter, South Carolina. I’m pretty proud of my timely visit to the fort a week or so ago.

The sesquicentennial is a big deal to someone who enjoys Civil War history, voluntarily read and re-read Gods and Generals and The Killer Angels, and who was raised in a family which, in many respects, revolves around the Virginia of 1861-1865. It is also a big deal to my hometown, Manassas, which will celebrate the sesquicentennial of its first involvement in the war this July with no shortage of fanfare.

I began my celebration with a screening of [the first half of] Gone with the Wind last night. Given that I enjoy reading, especially classics, and I enjoy the time period in which the story is set, it’s somewhat surprising that I’ve never seen the movie or read the book before. Rebecca has been trying to sit me down to watch it for a while now, which is some feat since I usually have a pretty short attention span for movies. And this one is four hours long. Having paused on the Intermission screen, I can say that so far I find Rhett Butler dreamy and Scarlett O’Hara is my favorite kind of leading lady — non-conformist, energetic and self aware. I also enjoy her dresses.

To continue celebrating, I am of course re-inspired to visit nearby battlefields and soak up some history. Yes though I probably threw fits as a child when Mom and Dad declared an afternoon battlefield adventure, I rarely pass up a chance to visit one these days. During the spring break of my senior year of college, Dad and I took a little day trip to visit the Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and The Wilderness battlefields. Yes, spring break.

At Fredericksburg, we toured Chatham Manor which served as the Union headquarters on one side of the river.

Then we saw the Confederate perspective from Sunken Road and Marye’s Heights on the other side of the river.

We saw the trenches of Stonewall Jackson’s line, still visible in the ground surrounding the battlefield.

And it doesn’t look like much here, but we saw the spot where Stonewall Jackson was shot by friendly fire during the Battle of Chancellorsville.

On our way home from a wedding in Virginia Beach recently, Hugh and I stopped to see where Jackson eventually died. In this bed:

During a brief stint teaching with a youth leadership conference, I visited Harper’s Ferry, WV, once a week for two months where we taught youngsters about radical abolitionist John Brown’s raid on the armory there in 1859. It’s where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet, as do the borders of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. Fun fact: West Virginia was not its own state until the Civil War. Fun fact #2: It’s beautiful during the Fall.

On the way home from a family wedding in New York one summer, the parents, Dylan and I made a pit stop at Gettysburg. If you can look past the hoards of tourists, it is such a haunting place. I took this, I believe, from Little Round Top looking out toward Devil’s Den and the Peach Orchard.

Most recently, on our nine-hour drive home from Charleston, Jessie let me stop at the Petersburg battlefield.

More than anything I wanted to stop to see The Crater, the result of one of the most interesting tactical blunders of the war. But alas, it took us too long to get into the park so we could only stop to see one thing. This:

And this, where the Confederate Army was poised to deflect the Union’s first attempt to seize Petersburg and thus be able to seize the capital of the Confederate States of America in Richmond.

As the sesquicentennial marches on, I’ll be making time to revisit Manassas, a battlefield I’ve grown up underestimating. And I hope to either get to Richmond (and make a second attempt at The Crater) or Antietam in the near future.

Oh, and I also hope to watch the rest of Gone with the Wind.

“Good heavens, woman. This is war, not a garden party!” – Dr. Meade

Doing History in Charleston

For me, one of the best things about Charleston — right up there with its Southern charm and food — is the history of the place. Especially the Civil War history, so of course I had to pay a visit to Ft. Sumter where it all began 150 years ago (almost to the day!).

Jessie’s Uncle Frank was as enthusiastic as I was (thankfully) and kept asking “Are we going to do history today or what?!” I got on his bandwagon pretty quickly. We rallied the troops and hopped the ferry, where most of us napped in the sun rather than taking in the views.

We had an hour to wander around the fort in what might have been the most severe wind I’ve experienced since leaving Blacksburg. It actually made me miss Blacksburg while also making me slightly wary of my trip to Chicago next weekend.

Jessie enjoyed the artillery.

I enjoyed the view of Charleston from the top of the fort…

…When I wasn’t being overwhelmed by the wind. (photo credit to Jessie!)

Inside the museum, I found a picture of the namesake of Ft. Sumter, General Thomas Sumter.

I believe him to be cross-eyed.

%d bloggers like this: