Friday, November 28, 2014

Poplar Forest, Virginia

On the same day we went to Lynchburg, we visited Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson's plantation house which he designed and treated as a private retreat. Jefferson built this house as a place to escape the hordes of visitors at Monticello and seek the "solitude of a hermit". He worked on the house continuously from 1806 until he died 20 years later, and once wrote in a letter, "It is the most valuable of my possessions". In 1773 Jefferson inherited this land, 4800 acres in all, from his father-in-law John Wayles. The property was eventually bequeathed to Jefferson's grandson who sold it in 1828 to move to Florida. Over the years, and under the influence of many different owners, the house underwent numerous alterations and the plantation's area was incrementally reduced to 50 acres before being taken over by the Corporation for Jefferson's Poplar Forest. The house is in part now surrounded by suburban subdivisions. By 2014 over 600 acres of the original plantation was purchased back by the corporation to provide a landscape easement for the house from further subdivision encroachment. During our visit we were led on a guided tour of the inside of the house which is undergoing a complete restoration to return the plantation to the same conditions that existed during Jefferson's time. This even includes using the same construction techniques that were used in that era, and as you can imagine, this is a very long term project. Although not as magnificent as Monticello, his primary residence in Charlottesville, this was nonetheless a worthy visit and another glimpse into the private life of Thomas Jefferson. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Lynchburg, Virginia

Lynchburg, Virginia is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the banks of the James River. We decided to stop here briefly on our way to visit nearby Poplar Forest (Thomas Jefferson's summer home) in late October 2014. It doesn't take long to figure out why Lynchburg is known as the "City of Seven Hills", or just "The Hill City". We soon found ourselves gazing up at the iconic Monument Terrace, the link between Courthouse Hill and the central business district below, joined by 132 steps, 10 landings, and 11 markers and monuments. Slowly we worked our way to the top, while local residents on their lunch breaks used the steps and landings as an outdoor workout gym, passing us by in both directions. In general, I am not a big fan of all the war monuments in this country, and I yearn for more tributes to peace. But from an architectural standpoint alone, I found this presentation quite impressive. The way the monuments were arranged in chronological order along the ascent, with the forward passage of time advancing along with the stairs was quite effective. Once we got to the top of the hill, the view of the city was magnificent. Below was a grand view of the town and the river, and above was a street filled with beautiful old churches of every denomination. Although we didn't stay long, we enjoyed our visit to this old and historic Virginia city.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Washington D. C. Redux

Dan and I were in Washington D.C. in May 2011 for one month, and we still weren't able to get to everything we wanted to see. We promised to come back another time when we were on the eastern side of the country to finish our tour, and this year was that time. We spent the last two weeks of October 2014 at the Cherry Hill RV Park, just 12 miles outside D.C., which allowed us easy access to the Metro (D.C.'s subway system) and the chance to explore this area just a little bit more. Most notably absent the first time we visited was the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool that stretches between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, as it was undergoing a massive restoration. Happily this work was completed on our return visit. Another work in progress in 2011 was the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and this was also completed. In addition to these two key attractions, we took the time to visit the Library of Congress, which has a stunningly beautiful interior, and the National Archives (no photographs allowed inside this building). Our timing was such that we caught the tail end of the Autumn colors, a pretty site in the downtown parks and walkways. We also opted to take a night tour by bus to see the monuments all lit up, and to get a great history of the area from our very knowledgeable bus driver/tour guide. Below are a few pictures of our most current visit. If you would like to see more extensive pictures from our first visit, click on these links:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mindy and Milan Get Married!

On October 11, my youngest daughter got married in Sacramento, so Dan and I flew out from Richmond, Virginia to be there. It was a very busy, exciting, and celebratory 10 days, with a whirlwind of activity from beginning to end. The wedding was quite the family affair, with the bride and groom (Mindy & Milan) making sure nobody was left out! My other three daughters were bridesmaids, as was Milan's sister. Milan's two brothers were groomsmen, and my son-in-law conducted the wedding ceremony. All seven of my grandkids were participants from the oldest granddaughter (14 years old) down to my youngest grandson (8 months old) playing a role, including Milan and Mindy's two sons. Here are some pictures of the highlights from the wedding day.