Tag Archives: Colonial NHS

July 12: Big bangs and winding roads and something called a bridge-tunnel

Today I finally dragged myself away from Williamsburg. But, as I promised myself four days ago when I got here, I went to visit Yorktown before I headed out.

Yorktown, like Williamsburg and Jamestown, has a living history program. This one’s called Yorktown Victory Center, and it shows how the soldiers lived during the Revolution, as well as how the settlers of the time lived. I got to see a musket being fired (loud!), and helped demonstrate how a cannon is fired (don’t ask [g]), then backed way away while it was being fired (LOUD! – I couldn’t take a photo because I had to have my hands over my ears). I listened to an army surgeon talk about stuff that’ll probably give me nightmares tonight, and talked with a fellow about some chickens.

The flags of the 13 first states at half staff (I'm assuming because of Dallas) in front of the Yorktown Victory Center.
The flags of the 13 first states at half staff (I’m assuming because of Dallas) in front of the Yorktown Victory Center.
A pierced tin lantern, which I thought was a cool detail.
A pierced tin lantern, which I thought was a cool detail.
One of my better shots (no pun intended). It's hard to take a photo when something that loud goes off.
One of my better shots (no pun intended). It’s hard to take a photo when something that loud goes off.

The cannon I helped demonstrate with (I got to ram the cannonball down the cannon [g]).
The cannon I helped demonstrate with (I got to ram the cannonball down the cannon [g]).
The Army surgeon talking about Really Gross Stuff [tm]. He also taught a little girl how to fish a musket ball out of an imaginary wound.
The Army surgeon talking about Really Gross Stuff [tm]. He also taught a little girl how to fish a musket ball out of an imaginary wound.

I used to have one of these when I was a kid, except my pegs were little copper pegs, not nails.
I used to have one of these when I was a kid, except my pegs were little copper pegs, not nails.
Signing a little girl up as a volunteer. He and I had an interesting discussion about the problems of being a lefty back then, from quill pens to muskets having to be fired righthanded.
Signing a little girl up as a volunteer. He and I had an interesting discussion about the problems of being a lefty back then, from quill pens to muskets having to be fired righthanded.
This rooster's breed is called Dorking. Dorking chickens were brought over with the Jamestown settlers.
This rooster’s breed is called Dorking. Dorking chickens were brought over with the Jamestown settlers.

All in all, it was an interesting morning. The only disappointing part was that they’re building new exhibits, but they won’t be open until the fall.

When I walked out of the museum, a trolley (a dolled-up bus, basically) sat at the curb. I asked where it was going, and was told that it goes into the town of Yorktown, so I got on. Yorktown itself is a pretty little waterfront tourist town and it turned out to be a great place to get lunch, too.

The very flowery village of Yorktown.
The very flowery village of Yorktown.
Yorktown's waterfront.
Yorktown’s waterfront.

I decided to walk the half-mile back to the museum parking lot, along a waterfront trail that would have been fine except for all the kudzu. It’s bad enough driving past it, but walking? Yikes.

In the afternoon I took the drive around the Yorktown Battlefield. I knew the French came and fought with the American troops, but I had no idea how many of them there were. They really made the difference, and I need to read more – I know way more about the Civil War than I need to, but not enough about the Revolution.

The Moore house, where Washington and Cornwallis sent their seconds in command to sign the British surrender papers.
The Moore house, where Washington and Cornwallis sent their seconds in command to sign the British surrender papers.
I thought this was interesting.
I thought this was interesting.
And here's the ravine the sign was talking about. Amazing.
And here’s the ravine the sign was talking about. Amazing.
The sign that went with this talked about how most streams back then were forded, not bridged.
The sign that went with this talked about how most streams back then were forded, not bridged.

By the time I was done, and had gone back to the visitor center to peruse their bookstore briefly, it was three, but I decided to go on for a ways. It might not have been my best choice – I got stuck in some rush hour traffic in Norfolk – but it was all right.

Anyway, I’m in Virginia Beach, about two miles south of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. I’ve already been over/through the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, which was really weird. You cross a flat bridge that looks sort of like the Lake Washington floating bridges, then all of a sudden the road ducks down and you’re under the ground that’s under the water. You drive through a tunnel for what seems like a long time, then pop back up and all of a sudden you’re driving across the water again. It’s surreal. And the Chesapeake Bridge/Tunnel tomorrow is going to be like the Hampton Roads one on steroids.

July 8: Headed back in time for a few days

I’ve been on the road for six weeks as of today.  That is so hard to believe.  It’s going fast.

I was only about fifty miles from Williamsburg when I woke up this morning. I did, however, get a late start, and then I made a wrong turn that added about ten miles to the trip, but it was a pretty drive, so I wasn’t complaining. Also, I got to ride a ferry! A free car ferry across the James River, which at this tidal point is more of a bay than anything else. Also, I drove right onto the ferry, and it left right away. No waiting in the heat at all.

The writing on the back window of this van says, "Gettysburg or Bust, Boy Scout Troop 92" somewhere, "North Carolina. There was a whole convoy of them, at least eight vehicles. I thought it was funny.
The writing on the back window of this van says, “Gettysburg or Bust, Boy Scout Troop 92” somewhere, “North Carolina.” There was a whole convoy of them, at least eight vehicles. I thought it was funny.
The James River ferry, the Pocahontas.
The James River ferry, the Pocahontas.
Looking back along the walkway to the south shore of the James River.
Looking back along the walkway to the south shore of the James River.

The ferry ride was fun. I could see the Jamestown NHS from the water, and some tall ships that are part of a living history museum next door (that I’m going to tour while I’m here). It was also about ten degrees cooler on the water, with the breeze (mind, that was ten degrees cooler than ninety-something with air thick enough to drink, but still).

Part of Jamestown NHS. I don't know what the column is, but I'll be sure to find out.
Part of Jamestown NHS. I don’t know what the column is, but I’ll be sure to find out.
Tall ships on the James River, part of the Jamestown living history museum (which is not part of Jamestown NHS).
Tall ships on the James River, part of the Jamestown living history museum (which is not part of Jamestown NHS).

After I got here, I found my motel so I wouldn’t have to worry about it (I’d made reservations last night – I was a bit concerned about arriving in such a tourist destination on a Friday night in the summertime), then I got seriously lost trying to find the Colonial Parkway to Yorktown NHS. I didn’t get there till about four, and most of the site closes at 4:30, but I did get to go through the visitor center. Yorktown will be on my way out of town when I head towards the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel in a couple of days (I may spend three nights here, I may stay four – there’s a lot to do and see here, especially for a history buff who eats up living history with a spoon like I do), so I’ll make sure to leave early enough to take the auto tour of the battlefield and see the rest of it then.

A view of the Colonial Parkway, which runs from Jamestown through Williamsburg to Yorktown.
A view of the Colonial Parkway, which runs from Jamestown through Williamsburg to Yorktown.
One of dozens of similar signs along the Colonial Parkway. I chose this one because the content surprised me.
One of dozens of similar signs along the Colonial Parkway. I chose this one because the content surprised me.
A cannon associated with the Marquis de Lafayette, inside the Yorktown visitor center.
A cannon associated with the Marquis de Lafayette, inside the Yorktown visitor center.
A mockup of one of Cornwallis's ships, inside the visitor center. They had the inside mocked up, too.
A mockup of one of Cornwallis’s ships, inside the visitor center. They had the inside mocked up, too.

Tomorrow I am going to visit Colonial Williamsburg. Finally. I’m sorta doing things backwards, from a historical point of view. Yorktown is the newest site (it’s where Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at the end of the Revolution), Colonial Williamsburg is from an older time period, and Jamestown, of course, is the earliest settlement in Virginia (I’m thinking in what became the U.S., but I think St. Augustine, Florida, or Santa Fe, New Mexico, might be older). But that’s okay.

Anyway, tomorrow expect lots of photos of people doing antique trades and stuff, and fancy old buildings and their insides, and pretty gardens (the last time I was here was in April, 1999, and the place was full of tulips – I’m looking forward to seeing what the gardens look like in midsummer).

Oh, and I had an idea for another book today.  I’m kind of afraid it’s a mouthful that’s way more than I can chew, but then that’s what I thought about what later became Repeating History, too, seventeen years ago, so maybe not.  I hope.