Week 28-  March 20 - 26 Week: U.S. History 101

Palm Sunday already…  We attended Palm Sunday service at  Spring Branch Community Church in Virginia Beach.  This service very much followed the seeker sensitive model of a Willowcreek Association church.  It had great music, engaging drama, and quality preaching, but like some other large churches we’ve visited, we felt more like spectators rather than participants in worship.  It still was great to be part of a Palm Sunday celebration. 

Before heading off toward Williamsburg, we left Harvey in a high school parking lot and took the van across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, a privately funded engineering marvel.  The structure is a 17 mile series of bridges and tunnels that connects Norfolk Virginia and the Delmarva Peninsula (Delaware plus the Eastern Shore counties in Maryland and Virginia).  You can stop at a visitor center and pier out on the bridge and enjoy a wonderful view of the Chesapeake Bay. 

We made it to, and got the RV settled in, a campground in Williamsburg area with enough daylight yet for the kids to explore the rolling wooded trails around the property.  Nate and Jenna immediately got into the spirit of the area as they snuck through the forest, pretending to be country kids on the lookout for the British. 

After visiting the lost colony of Roanoke the week before, our Monday visit to Jamestown was chronologically the next step.  Again appreciating the National Park service, we learned about the archaeological rediscovery of the original 1607 fort that was for many years thought to have been lost to the James River.  It was rediscovered by careful digging that found discolored soil patches dotting the perimeter where the fort wall had been.  The soil discoloration was the only thing left of timbers long rotted away. 

I had always envisioned English Jamestown settlers as coming to a desolate, uncharted land.  In fact, the Spanish had been there years earlier and the Jamestown settlers would have occasionally even seen Spanish ships sailing along the river!  The area was also home to more than eighty different tribes of natives.  It was also interesting to learn that during the first years, the colonists, at one point, gave up, packed everything up, and were heading out the river where they met a supply ship that changed their desertion plans just in time.

Later Monday afternoon, we stopped by Colonial Williamsburg to get a quick overview and plan for the next couple of days’ visits.  Everyone enjoyed the wigmaker where we learned the origin of two different expressions:  bigwig- the thicker your wig was, you were perceived as more affluent; and blockhead-  the solid wood model of a head that was used to mount the wig as it was being fashioned. 

That evening we ate an authentic dinner in Williamsburg at Chowning’s Tavern.  The meal experience included minstrels and gaming as one would have expected during their all evening meal and entertainment back then.  Our server taught us a dice game sort of like Yahtzee.  The number you try to roll is called the buck and if you don’t get any, you have to “pass the buck” to the next player. 

Tuesday morning was so beautiful we just let the kids play outside a good part of the morning.  With it being spring break season, there was a family of vacationing kids they met with whom they enjoyed kicking the soccer ball.  We also realized that a family with a 10 and 7 year old, we had met in NC was also in this campground.  They are doing the same thing we are.  They left their computer programming jobs, sold their home, and are at it for THREE years!  I wouldn’t be up for that long…  We enjoyed a shared dinner with them comparing notes on the itinerant life and home education. 

Highlights of the next couple of days at Williamsburg included a speech (performance) by Patrick Henry, the Governor’s residence (for the British governor and later first two Virginia governors), the Capitol Building (where much debate about declaring independence took place), the jail, and an evening fife and drum performance. 

By Thursday we needed to head on to Leesburg with a stop at Monticello en route.  I remember being fascinated by Thomas Jefferson as a kid, and I enjoyed learning more about him once again.  What a legacy he left- including the Declaration of Independence, the Louisiana Purchase, commissioning of Lewis and Clark’s exploration, the religious freedom act, and then in retirement founding the University of Virginia (to counter the big government Federalist influence of the northern schools.) 

Like so many of the truly great people of history, Jefferson was incredibly well rounded- a farmer, scientist, statesman, architect, avid reader, etc.  He designed his own home as a very young man and built it on top of a hill surrounded by his 3000 acre plantation.  With spring arriving, the flowering trees were beautiful.  Inside, there are gadgets that Jefferson developed everywhere, especially fun for those engineering types in the family… 

The real highlight of the day for the kids was not all of this great history, but the fact that we would arrive at the Leesburg VA home of our ex-Minnesota friends the David and Kirsten Palmer family!  Everyone was perched in the front of Harvey as we made our way into their neighborhood, which would serve as our home base during our Washington DC experience.  With some more rainy periods on their way, staying in the bottom level of their lovely home was all the more welcome.  (Rain on the RV roof can really disrupt a good night’s sleep.) 

We slowed things down a bit for Good Friday and Easter weekend.  It is going to be especially tough balancing all the things we would like to see in the northeast with time to maintain some degree of sanity as a family...  Friday was a school day at home.  Also, the girls were phone interviewed by a writer for American Girl magazine.  The magazine is doing a series of articles about different types of schools.  Ours is indeed different… The girls later got to review the draft, and it is a cute article written in first person.  I’ll include a link later if the article is also published online. 

The Palmers have three kids of similar ages as ours, this time two of them boys!  Nate is especially appreciative.  On Saturday the two dads and their boys checked out the relatively new Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum at Dulles Airport (the girls all decided to do some shopping instead).   

Alex, the oldest Palmer boy, is a history and aviation buff, so we had our own personal tour guide to fill us in.  There is something special about seeing the ‘real things’ such as the Enola Gay (the bomber that dropped the atom bomb), Kamikaze plane, the Gossamer Albatross (the 1977 first human powered plane), and the Space Shuttle Enterprise.  The museum was a perfect complement to our visit to Kitty Hawk a week earlier.  So much aviation development occurred in the few short decades between the first flight and aviation’s explosion during the World Wars! 

Wow the history out here is fascinating.  And we are just beginning.