Friday, May 13, 2011

Chincoteague Island


So how many of you (mostly the 20-40 age crowd) remember one of your parents reading to you the children’s book “Misty of Chincoteague”?  Cathryn recalls reading it to our kids and loving it herself, a story about the wild ponies on the island of Chincoteague, a true story. 


So today we went to the Island of Chincoteague and saw the wild ponies,most of which are pintos. There are numerous legends about how these 2 herds came to be here, but the most enduring is of a Spanish ship wrecked on the shores in the 1700s, and these are the descendants of the horses which succeeded in swimming to shore. Whatever the truth, these herds survive in the (mostly) wild today and remain beloved by the surrounding communities. 


The Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge is beautiful, is a birder’s paradise, and today was sunny, calm and mild (mid 60s). We had a late lunch of delicious crab cake sandwiches at a waterfront spot in Onancock where we’re also staying tonight. It’s a small, neat and tidy town on the western shore of the DelMarVa peninsula, the Chesapeake Bay side. The peninsula is mostly inhabited by farmers and “men of the sea”, fishermen, crabbers and oyster men. Lovely and bucolic.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

No Clay Feet In Virginia


We spent yesterday morning touring Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson,  author of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Freedom of Religion in Virginia, and the co-founder of the University of Virginia. These are the three things by which he asked to be remembered.  He was  also, of course, our third president.  A great man and the creator of a beautiful home and grounds in Monticello.


Bob had just finished reading the very insightful book “The Hemmingses of Monticello” about a family of slaves who spent several generations serving the Jefferson family.  The tour of Monticello left the Hemminges largely out of the story. It wasn’t until the very end when the guide mentioned that most people now believe Jefferson fathered 4 children with Sally Hemmings with whom he lived  for 40 years, four times as long as with his wife Martha who figured more prominently on the tour.


Nor was it explained that Monticello was built and supported by almost 200 slaves, only a few of which received any wages beyond the most basic shelter, clothing and food.  The fact that the entire plantation culture that made Jefferson's life possible was based on this institution was left out of the story almost entirely.


Jefferson was a great man who accomplished many critically important things during his life, but his feet of clay were equally as important to understanding the man and his times. We also noted the same lack of telling the full story at Williamsburg the day before.  It’s disappointing that these two historic sites leave so much out of the story they tell.

The picture below is of a group of Sally Hemmings’ descendants gathered at Monticello.


Monticello VA

GPS location Date/Time:05/11/2011 08:36:39 PDT

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Fitting Beginning

We flew from Seattle to New York City (JFK), then to Norfolk, Virginia, which had us flying down the east coast, site of part of our future Great Loop adventure.

Oh, that’s right – we haven’t confirmed on this blog our plans for a next Great Adventure!  Four years ago Cathryn made friends via the internet with a man named Mark – long story how this came about, so we’ll save it for later when we actually meet him, which hasn’t happened yet.  Suffice it to say that Mark dreams of someday doing The Great Loop, a 6,000-mile loop journey by boat, covering the eastern Atlantic, northern Great Lakes, midwest rivers and the Gulf of Mexico. His passion for the idea and our subsequent research inspired us to do it. We currently think we’ll start this journey sometime in 2012 on a boat yet to be purchased, somewhere along The Great Loop route (Google it if you’ve never heard of it; until Mark mentioned it and got us all enthused, we’d never heard of it either). 


So . . . now we’re on our way to a Great Loop Rendezvous, a 4-day seminar conducted by America’s Great Loop Association, and which includes people currently doing The Loop (by boat), and those planning to do The Loop in the future, like us.  We’ll stay at a hotel in Norfolk, Virginia, next door to a  marina where folks currently underway will stay on their boats and offer boat tours to those of us considering buying “the perfect Great Loop boat”. 

So flying south from New York City to Norfolk, we spent an hour over the east coast, including Delaware Sound and Chesapeake Bay, two bodies of water we’ll navigate when we actually do The Great Loop, as well as a lot of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.  It was a beautiful, sunny, blue sky day, and the waters (seen from 16,000 feet in the sky) looked calm and enchanting. The coastline swirled all over the place.  Enough about that.IMG_1063

We landed in Norfolk yesterday and spent today touring Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown, two historic sites established in the 1600s when the British first colonized North America.  Both were interesting sites with restorations and reconstructions, period-costume attired staff, and re-enactments of various period events . .  .  a great way to spend the day for history buffs.

Tonight we’re in Charlottesville, Virginia, and plan to visit Jefferson’s Monticello in the morning, then we’ll  back-track east to the Delmarva Peninsula. Meanwhile, we had a delicious dinner at a gourmet hamburger joint adjacent to the University of Virginia campus, where students appear more homogenous and more like youthful versions of who they will be in their later years than students we’re accustomed to watching at places near the University of Washington and University of Colorado. We sat at an outside table next to the sidewalk in 75+ degree, sunny weather with a beer and good food. Bob (actually both of us) is happy. It was still cloudy, rainy and in the 50s when we left home yesterday.