Thursday, December 3, 2009

Day 136 ~ Jamestown Settlement ~ America's First Permanent English Settlement, 1607

A Re-creation of a Powhatan Indian Village

Inside a Powhatan home we found was a smoky place to be.

Gregory tries out a nice comfy bed of many layers of deer skins.

Grinding Corn with a pestle like the Powhatan Indians

Dried Corn

Checking out a Deer Skin... The Powhatan Indians use oyster shells to scrape the hair from the hide.

Gregory and I find a comfortable deer skin bed in one of the recreated Powhatan Indian Homes

Indian Tools...The knife on the left is made from a stone called chert. The California Indians use obsidian to make arrowheads and knives. Only a few obsidian artifacts have been found here. The costumed interpreter that was making tools explained that perhaps the obsidian came to be here through trading.

This is a replica of the Susan Constant ~ The largest of the three ships that brought the first permanent English settlers to Jamestown

Aboard the Susan Constant

Gregory on Guard

Mike points out our location on the map. This is the site of Jamestown Settlement. The river to the north is the York River where we were yesterday. These rivers and the Chesapeake Bay feed into the Atlantic Ocean.

The Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery followed the trade winds to make the 6,000 mile journey from England to Jamestown. It took them about 4 and a half months, coincidentally about the same amount of time it took us to ride our bicycle across the United States of America!!

Gregory found this armor was quite heavy.

Above Gregory is learning how to use a musket and below he gets some instruction on the fine art of using a dagger.

It was a gray and soggy day when we left the Jamestown Settlement.

Date: December 2, 2009

From: Williamsburg,Virginia

To: Jamestown Settlement and back to Williamsburg

Route: Hwy. 31 (Jamestown Rd.) via rental car

Miles Today: 0 miles

TOTAL MILES: 3,680 miles

Top Speed on this trip: 54.1 mph

Weather: Cloudy and Cold with Pouring Rain in the Afternoon

License Plates Collected: 5 Montana, 8 Wyoming (2 motorcycle) and 1 Idaho (found in WY), 2 Colorado, 1 Kansas (Gifted from David of Baldwin City), 1 Missouri (To be sent to Grammy’s by our new buddy, Kansas City firefighter Shawn), 1 Illinois, 4 Kentucky (2 Gifted from Beth and Garry Feltus, one gifted from cousin John, one from Hwy. 127), 1 Virginia, 1 Maryland plate gifted from the McClure Family

Flats: 11

Broken Spokes: 3

Cracked Rim: 1

When I awoke my eyes still burned with the reminder of the drama of last night and I wasn't quite ready to kiss and make up. Mike curled up to me and apologized for last night but I remained quiet. Usually I'm pretty quick to forgive but for whatever reason I needed some more time. After he showered I encouraged him to go up to breakfast to have some time to himself. He said, "You just want some time away from me." I simply said, "Yes." What is so wrong with that I ask you? We've been together 24-7 for 135 days!! Gregory and I joined him about a half hour later once I'd taken a nice long shower and Gregory watched a few cartoons.

Breakfast was quiet and I can't explain it but I almost cried just watching people getting excited over Ellen's 12 days of Christmas giveaways. I tell you I feel like I'm cracking up a bit. None of us knew quite what we were going to do today since our plan to go to Jamestown Settlement via bike was foiled by the weather forecast of 90 percent chance of rain. I honestly think that even if it was sunny and 70 degrees that it wouldn't have been wise for us to get back on that bike together today.

We all agreed that we'd like to go to Jamestown so Mike decided we should rent a car for the day. It turned out to be just the ticket and we had an amazing time at Jamestown Settlement . Gregory and I have been reading a piece of historical fiction called Surviving Jamestown by Gail Karwoski and we have really been looking forward to visiting this re-creation of America's First Permanent English Colony that was settled in 1607.

The rain held off just long enough that we were able to explore the Powhatan Indian village with its costumed interpreters as well as the replicas of the ships the Susan Constant, Discovery and Godspeed that brought the first colonists (104 men and boys including Captain John Smith) to Jamestown. We also thoroughly enjoyed poking around James Fort and seeing the musket demonstrations. One of the costumed interpreters spent quite a lot of time with Gregory showing him how to hold his rifle and how to load the musket. He then gave him some tips on how to use a dagger and let Gregory handle his personal dagger that he uses in reenactments.

Gregory had a chance to grind corn and lay down on deer skin pelts that the were used by the Powhatan Indians for their beds. He saw demonstrations of tanning hides, tool making and had an opportunity to hold some of the tools made and used by the Indians. At the fort he tried on some armor and got to see how the early colonists lived. We learned that each morning and night the colonists would meet at the church for a short prayer but also to get the news of the day. Often it was a way to see who had lived through the day or the night as the settlement was plagued with much sickness and death. Very few settlers survived that first winter. Even as more settlers arrived over the years the settlement was plagued with drought and a lack of food. They called the winter of 1609-1610 the starving time.

I think that reading the story and seeing the recreated settlement really made this part of history come to life for Gregory. He is really eager to finish the story and find out what happens to our main character, the young Samuel Collier, who was the real life page to Captain John Smith.

At around 4:30P.M. when we left Jamestown Settlement Museum (that was indoors and quite cozy) we stepped out into the pouring rain on our way to our rental car and I said, "I really wish we were hopping on our bike right now to ride the 7 miles back to the motel…" "Ya right Mom," Gregory chimed in.

We took advantage of having the car and stopped to get books at the used bookstore, grab some dinner and explore a couple of shops. The rain continued to come down in buckets and on our drive home we had someone pull out right in front of us. I literally screamed out loud and Mike had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting this guy. My heart was racing for a good long while after that incident. I'm so thankful that I don't have to report that after riding almost 3,700 miles on a bicycle that we were creamed in a car accident the day after finishing our journey!

Day 135 ~ Victory at Yorktown ~ WE DID IT!

Gregory gives the thumbs up because today he knows that we will complete our cross country bicycle adventure when we arrive in Yorktown!

At Yorktown Battlefield we were honored to sign the 76 Bike Route Registry and receive our official pins. I recorded 133 days here but after checking my records and finding a slight error I would have to correct that to read 135 days with approximately 3,700 miles ridden. Yippee!

Yorktown Battlefield

Gregory is proud to announce..."WE DID IT!"

Thumbs Up For Team Triple ~ Here we are posing at the Yorktown Victory Monument just a few hundred yards from the Battlefield and the official end of our TransAmerica 76 Bike Route

V is for Victory at Yorktown

Checking out an oyster shell. The Powhatan Indians used these to scrap the hair from deer hides.

7•20•09 to 12•1•09 tripleontour

Riding along the York River as we make our way back to Williamsburg

Date: December 1, 2009

From: Williamsburg,Virginia

To: Yorktown, Virginia and back to Williamsburg

Route: Colonial Parkway and End of the TransAmerica 76 Bicycle Route!!

Miles Today: 30 miles

TOTAL MILES: 3,680 miles

Top Speed on this trip: 54.1 mph

Weather: Sunny and Low 60s (Frost in the morning and cooler in the evening)

License Plates Collected: 5 Montana, 8 Wyoming (2 motorcycle) and 1 Idaho (found in WY), 2 Colorado, 1 Kansas (Gifted from David of Baldwin City), 1 Missouri (To be sent to Grammy’s by our new buddy, Kansas City firefighter Shawn), 1 Illinois, 4 Kentucky (2 Gifted from Beth and Garry Feltus, one gifted from cousin John, one from Hwy. 127), 1 Virginia, 1 Maryland plate gifted from the McClure Family

Flats: 11

Broken Spokes: 3

Cracked Rim: 1

First I have to say WOW! We did it! What a wondrous feeling of accomplishment. It has not been a day without its ups and downs though. You know what it is like to be working towards something for so long and to have this idea in your head how the culmination of this event will occur? Of course I had grand ideas that everything about the day would be perfect and we would have this fantastic celebration with everything in a neat little box.

We did have that celebration but it seemed a bit more toned down than I imagined. First, we pulled into Yorktown and our first stop was the Yorktown Battlefield rather than the Yorktown Victory Monument that is the official end of the TransAmerica 76 Route. So, before we actually threw our arms up in the air and said, "Hurray. We did it!" we had the tour of the Yorktown Battlefield and museum run by the National Park Service. We did get to sign the log book at the museum and received our official 76 Bike Route pins and that was pretty terrific. While we toured the museum and even out front we talked with several people about our accomplishment. All the while I couldn't relax and I felt anxious and eager to ride the few extra yards to the monument that was just around the corner. Gregory too sat against a wall anxiously awaiting our departure while we politely talked to folks about our journey. We've often said that meeting people has been one of the best parts of the journey but today we were eager to finish!

In the morning the 13-mile ride down to Yorktown via the Colonial Parkway was lovely. It was a sunny day and though cool it was comfortable. By the time we reached our final destination, the Yorktown Victory Monument, we were sitting on the steps basking in full sun with temperatures in the low 60s. To me that felt wondrous, just sitting on the steps of that monument with my guys and not only basking in the warmth of the glorious sun on this December 1st morning but also basking in the accomplishment of what we just achieved as a family.

As I struggled to set up a timed shot on the camera we had the good fortune of meeting Liz, her son Daniel and their Irish terrier Bella. Liz happily took many pictures for us and Gregory had a great time running around the steps at the base of the monument with Bella and Daniel. We spent almost 2 hours there just visiting and sharing about our trip, ideas for our future, her experience in Germany and what life was like here in Yorktown. By the time we were all ready to head out, Liz had offered us a ride the 75 miles back to Mechanicsville on Thursday. I am once again ever so thankful for our good fortune and the blessing of people who have reached out to us on our journey.

I knew that 75 miles back uphill to Mechanicsville from Williamsburg would be both a struggle mentally and physically for me. My knees are still giving me trouble, the saddle sore hasn't improved (we had to make a special stop for blister bandages before we could ride today), my low back has been hurting and now I've developed some sort of hives on my hands. I asked the pharmacist about it and he said it could be poison ivy, poison oak, sumac or bed bug bites! Good grief Charlie Brown! What next. I guess I didn't realize just how hard I've been trying to hold it together until I absolutely lost it this evening back at the room. It was a full on blubber fest and I have the puffy eyes to show for it.

It all started when we'd returned from our day in Yorktown and pulled up to the motel on the bicycle. Gregory was in tears. His hands were cold and he needed to go to the bathroom yet he wouldn't communicate that to me on the bicycle, even though I had directly asked him if he needed to stop and put on his balaclava. (I had no idea it was his hands that were cold.) I could hear him making little shivering sounds on the back of the bike yet he insisted he wasn't making noises of any such sort and that he didn't want to stop. (Later I found out he didn't want to go to the bathroom on the side of the road because it was too cold. He just wanted to hurry and get to the motel…) When the crying started, I first showed concern for his cold hands yet while I was trying to get him to stand still so I could put my warmer gloves on him he kept walking away from me in the direction of the room. (I didn't realize at this point that he needed to go to the bathroom.) Somehow the whole thing just spiraled out of control. Mike and I were frustrated that Gregory had let things get to this point and that now he was in tears and walking away from us while we were trying to get him to stand still and listen to us. So much for that victory day scenario I'd cooked up in my head! Meanwhile we were making quite a scene at the shuttle bus loading area.

I let Mike take the bike up to the room and walked Gregory right into the lobby and sat him down by the fire to both warm up and cool down. I went to make him hot chocolate in the adjoining breakfast area and when I got back he was still crying and said, "Can I go to the bathroom now?" "I had no idea you had to go to the bathroom! Of course, go to the bathroom," I said. Ugh!! I wanted to shout but I instead made myself a cup of tea and waited. When he returned he wanted nothing to do with me and sat on a couch in the corner with his fleece over his head. He finally took a couple of sips of his chocolate (under his fleece without looking at the big old mean mommy sitting across from him) and he asked if we could return to the room a couple of times. We sat there for a good half hour before I agreed to release him to his quarters.

After hot showers and resting on the beds in silence for a good hour or so, Mike wanted to make a move to get some dinner. I honestly could have cared less about food, I was so upset at this point. Yet, I got ready. Before we were to leave the room Mike made a plea for us to get past all of this. That is when I lost it. "I'm just upset because here we are supposed to be celebrating and instead Gregory is crying over cold hands that could have been prevented if there would have been some communication. Meanwhile, I've somehow managed to hold it together myself despite the fact that I have a saddle sore, blown out knees, low back pain and I'm just exhausted! I just wanted us to have a good day, and it was a good day, but I'm just sad that it had to end this way." I ran to the only place I could be alone, the bathroom, and I stood over the sink sobbing my eyes out while the boys sat on the other side of the wall listening to me wail. (Later I could reflect back and see that this break down was probably coming whether or not I'd let the incident with Gregory take me there. I'd just hit the wall long ago and reaching the end of our bike route was just the ticket to let my tough exterior fall away.) After I came out of the bathroom and continued my cathartic crying on the motel bed, my little boy came over and curled up next to me. I said, "I'm sorry I got upset with you. I know you were just cold." (Later I thought that maybe he too was having a bit of that end of the journey release as well. He awoke today saying he didn't feel well. He was probably having a bit of anxiety himself.)

Well, the absurdity of the evening doesn't end there. We managed to get out the door and on the shuttle bus to take us to Merchant's Square adjacent to Colonial Williamsburg where we would find more dinner options. Once there we went from one over-priced restaurant to the next. I vetoed one restaurant because it had only one couple in it and I knew that had to be a bad sign. "Let's just keep it simple and go back to the sub shop where we ate lunch yesterday." Once there we received terrible service and though it was about 8:20 P.M. (with a 9:00 P.M. close) they were only going to let us order take out. That about put Mike over the edge. When they finally agreed to let us order in, and we took a minute to make our decision, the counter girl walked away. To add insult to injury I told Mike I didn't want anything and though I told him this back at the room he just couldn't accept that I didn't want to eat. Again, his idea of having a celebratory dinner together just went out the window. He walked out of the restaurant and headed towards the shuttle bus. He was just beside himself. Meanwhile, Gregory and I just sat on a bench next to an enormous Christmas tree in a common area for several gift shops. I was fuming because Gregory and I didn't have our bus passes or money and I just sat there hoping Mike wouldn't board that shuttle and would come back. When Mike realized we had no money he did come back and we all ended up back on the shuttle to the motel and in bed by 9:00 P.M. without dinner and not another word said.

On a more positive note, I must say that after we left the Yorktown Victory Monument we did cycle down to the "beach" and we dipped our tires in the York River to once again signify the end of the journey. It isn't the Atlantic Ocean but it is pretty close. The York River feeds into the Chesapeake Bay that feeds into the Atlantic. After that, at around 2:30P.M., we had a delicious lunch of flounder at the Yorktown Pub where a cozy fire was burning in the fireplace and we had views of the York River from our table. There was a wreath in our window and the lampposts on the street were decorated with pine bows and large red felt ribbons and it was picture perfect. We had a toast and I felt completely content at that moment. It then got even better with a bit of playtime on the beach where we wrote "7•20•09 to 12•1•09 tripleontour" and had a passing tourist (that we met earlier in the day at the Yorktown Battlefield) take one last picture of Team Triple on this Victory Day in Yorktown.

Day 134 ~ Colonial Williamsburg

Beautiful Wreaths and Garlands decorated Colonial Williamsburg for the Holidays

Watching the Blacksmiths

The Printing Office

You are now my prisoner!

The Streets of Colonial Williamsburg

Double Click to read about an incident that is important in the history of the American Revolution.

The Powder Room at the Magazine

Thomas and Gregory Thomas at the Magazine where the gun powder and ammunitions are stored. This was one of Gregory's favorite stops. Thomas showed him some different holds for his rifle.

Holding a real 18th century musket at the Gunsmith Shop

The Weaver's House

The Kitchen at the Governor's Palace...Yes, that is all real food!

The Maze in the Gardens at the Governor's Palace

Date: November 30, 2009

From: Williamsburg,Virginia

To: Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

Route: Shuttle Bus

Miles Today: 0 miles

TOTAL MILES: 3,650 miles

Top Speed on this trip: 54.1 mph

Weather: Cloudy with Afternoon Showers

License Plates Collected: 5 Montana, 8 Wyoming (2 motorcycle) and 1 Idaho (found in WY), 2 Colorado, 1 Kansas (Gifted from David of Baldwin City), 1 Missouri (To be sent to Grammy’s by our new buddy, Kansas City firefighter Shawn), 1 Illinois, 4 Kentucky (2 Gifted from Beth and Garry Feltus, one gifted from cousin John, one from Hwy. 127), 1 Virginia, 1 Maryland plate gifted from the McClure Family

Flats: 11

Broken Spokes: 3

Cracked Rim: 1

Gregory finally got the Kentucky Long Rifle that Mike has been promising since the beginning of the trip. Gregory wanted to buy something similar our very first night in the campground in Baker City, Oregon… He started the day with a new harmonica purchased at the small hotel gift store and walked around the lobby playing it while we waited about a half hour for the Visitors Center to open. I'm sure Mike was wondering what I'd done by buying him that! Once at the Visitors Center he couldn't resist getting the rifle right away though he knew he'd have to carry it all day!

Of course some of Gregory's favorite things today were talking to the gunsmith and also to Thomas, the gentleman at the "Magazine." The Magazine is where the gunpowder and ammunition are stored. It was here that on April 21, 1775 the British secretly removed the colonists gunpowder in an attempt to prevent an open rebellion. Instead the governor who ordered the removal just pushed the Virginians closer to the war.

Thomas was terrific with Gregory and showed him different ways to carry his gun. We had him all to ourselves for quite some time and Mike and Gregory had lots of questions about the various muskets, rifles and pistols (both replicas and authentic) that were stored there.

Watching the printer at the old fashioned printing press was also particularly interesting as was the blacksmith where they were making hinges and a coal shovel. Other stops included the wigmaker where we learned that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington did not wear wigs. Mr. Jefferson sat for a portrait in a wig once but didn't wear one in everyday life.

At the Milliner & Tailor we got to see and touch breeches (knee length pants) made from sheep skin which was considered more comfortable than deer skin or buck skin. At the weavers we saw demonstrations of both cotton and wool being woven with different spinning wheels. Because the cotton fibers are shorter than the wool fibers they were more difficult to spin than the wool.

At the Apothecary they recommended Camphor for my knees and at the Silversmith we watched silver being pounded into a ring. On the way to the Basketmaker we met Mark who took the time to tell us all about George Wythe even though the Wythe House was closed today. When we left after sometime with Mark, and were complimenting Gregory on being a good listener, Gregory responded, "Well, Mark is a good speaker." Indeed he was and we found the life of George Wythe, who was a great mentor to Thomas Jefferson, to be a very interesting one indeed. After we'd said our goodbyes, Mark later popped in at the Basketweaver's Cottage to tell us to stop on our way out. He had a bit of 18th century glass he'd found out behind the Wythe House just that morning. It is an interesting chunk of green glass probably from a wine bottle.

Last stop was the Governor's Palace kitchen and gardens. In the Kitchen Susan told us all about the feast she had laid out. There were 4 kinds of meat and a variety of other delectable looking dishes. The Palace gardens were interesting, though with the season and the rainy weather it was a bit dreary and gray. Gregory and Mike liked the maze and we were able to look down on maze from atop the ice house mound.

We hopped on the shuttle back to the Visitor's Center and the Cascades Motel about 5:00 P.M. After a brief stop in the bookstore to get a new book for Gregory we headed back to our room. We knew we would probably not be venturing back out into the weather for dinner. We did indeed order in. It was less that desirable food that took over an hour but I was happy to have had a nice hot bath and to have been under the covers lounging in my beddie-bye.

Tomorrow Yorktown awaits and the end of our TransAm route. But, not until we make a stop at a pharmacy for some Blister Bandaids and muscle rub!

Day 133 ~ A Triple, Two Tandems and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Goodbye to our new friends Penny and Keith...We shall meet again on Thursday!

These two tandem couples, Juanita and Winky in the background and Al and Leslie in the foreground were kind enough to show us an alternate route to avoid some construction. We were quite the train going down the roadway! Thanks guys!

Gregory decided to call his new kitty friend Boots. We met Boots outside Cul's Courthouse Grille in Charles City on the Virginia Capital Trail.

Checking out the view of the Chickahominy River from the Capital Trail Bike path that crosses the bridge.

Taking a break at the Chickahominy Riverfront Park

The Virginia Capital Trail was a nice break from the traffic on Highway 5

Even after a 73-mile day Gregory has a smile for me as we arrive in Williamsburg with its festive decorations.

Date: November 29, 2009

From: Mechanicsville,Virginia

To: Williamsburg, Virginia

Route: Hwy. 156, Back Roads to Capital Trail Bike Route into Charles City, Hwy. 5 to Capital Trail (across the Chickahominy River) and detour to Hwy. 31 due to Colonial Pkwy. closure because of bridge out

Miles Today: 73 miles

TOTAL MILES: 3,650 miles

Top Speed on this trip: 54.1 mph

Weather: Sunny

License Plates Collected: 5 Montana, 8 Wyoming (2 motorcycle) and 1 Idaho (found in WY), 2 Colorado, 1 Kansas (Gifted from David of Baldwin City), 1 Missouri (To be sent to Grammy’s by our new buddy, Kansas City firefighter Shawn), 1 Illinois, 4 Kentucky (2 Gifted from Beth and Garry Feltus, one gifted from cousin John, one from Hwy. 127), 1 Virginia, 1 Maryland plate gifted from the McClure Family

Flats: 11

Broken Spokes: 3

Cracked Rim: 1

I started this day thinking out loud, "It is nice to be able to ride without my knees hurting." That lasted about 10 miles and that was all she wrote. They started aching again. I was so disappointed because it was a beautiful day and we knew it was going to be mostly downhill grades. Thankfully it was downhill because I frankly don't know how I would have made the 73 miles otherwise. As it was, we started the day at 8:45 A.M. and we pulled into our motel at 5:30 P.M. right at dark! We plan on riding that distance back on Thursday after we finish our route (Yorktown) and make the rounds of the Historic Triangle. We're thinking we'll have to get up at the crack of dawn to do it considering it will be uphill on the way back. To top it off I've got another enormous saddle sore. Ugh! With no needle and nothing to sterilize the pocket knife I had to try to reduce the size of the thing by hand. From the bathroom Mike and Gregory could hear, "I can't do it! It hurts too much! Owww!" Don't fool yourselves into thinking that because we've biked 3,650 miles we are immune to the aches and pains we've encountered to get here. Oh. no. We are all sore and exhausted. We managed to get showers and walk to a nearby restaurant but as soon as I ordered my salad my head was down on the table and I was almost out before the food arrived. We all went to bed at 8:00 P.M. with not a complaint from anyone. (Gregory actually read his book for a half hour before we called for lights out!)

The weather today was beautiful and if it weren't for my knees and the fact that I felt a bit hormonally out of sorts all day it would have been grand. I just felt uptight and agitated and I couldn't relax. I had to keep trying to remember to be in the moment and enjoy the beauty of the day. I kept thinking, Take one pedal stroke at a time and you will eventually get there. You are stronger than you know.

As it was we met some great people throughout our day who saved us on a couple of accounts. First we met up with two tandem couples at the Horizon Store in Glendale on Highway 156. Winky and Juanita and their friends Leslie and Al quickly learned our story and when we inquired about the sign informing us that the Willis Church Road was closed up ahead, they quickly offered to show us a detour to the Virginia Capital Trail Bike Route that would lead us right into Charles City. We were thrilled to meet these great folks and I appreciated their kindness, but I felt like we were pushing hard to stay with the pack and felt like my knees paid the price. We did make one stop to let Gregory have a look at the freshly harvested cotton fields. Balls of cotton remained on the field looking a bit like patches of snow and we picked some up to investigate. I showed him the seeds and explained that before Eli Whitney invented the Cotton Gin slaves picked the cotton by hand and that the sharp plants took a toll on their fingers. Gregory pocketed a bit of cotton and we set off again. With two tandems and a triple we made quite a train. We took lots of pictures and said our goodbyes when we reach the Capital Trail where we were able to ease off a bit and enjoy a little more leisurely pace. While we were standing on the Trail taking pictures Gregory said, "Mom. Our bike seems incomplete without the trailer." "I definitely agree," I replied. I think we all were missing "Good Old B.O.B." just a bit. It felt strange that "he" wasn't making the last leg to Yorktown with us.

The Virginia Capital Trail isn't quite complete and we were on Highway 5 for quite some time before we rejoined it. We actually passed by several plantations including the Sherwood Forest Plantation, home of former President John Tyler. The Capital Trail crosses over the Chickahominy River and the bridge afforded us some breathtaking views of the Chickahominey River to the north and the James River to the south. Just after the bridge we found the Chickahominey Riverfront Park that provided a nice break. Gregory played on the playground and we visited with some nice folks. By the time we departed it was getting cooler and the sun was fading from the sky.

We soon came to a stand still trying to figure out which way to turn to get on the Colonial Parkway as the Adventure Cycling route recommends. We'd totally blanked out on the fact that Winky had forewarned us that a bridge on the Parkway had been taken out by a barge and this route wouldn't been possible. Luckily for us a nice family saw us with our maps out and pulled up in their minivan. They reminded us that the bridge was out and sent us right on to the detour route of Highway 31. If it weren't for them we would have gotten in well after dark. It was dark as it was!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Day 127-132 ~ Washington D.C., McClures & Meads

Catching the Amtrak to Washington D.C. on Monday morning.

Waiting for the Metro in Union Station in Washington D.C.

Gregory boarding the Metro.

We've just arrived on The National Mall and here we are in front of our Nations Capitol.

First stop, the Mammal Hall in the National Museum of Natural History

Mike and Gregory compare bear paws.

Checking out the Mercury Friendship 7 Spacecraft. This is the spacecraft in which John H. Glenn Jr. became the first American to orbit the Earth.

We love the National Air and Space Museum!

Mike explains aircraft carriers to Gregory.

I really like these two quotes by the Wright Brothers. Good advice for parents.
Mike actually grew up in Ohio until he was 13 and I would say he has a great mom and dad!
Go Buckeyes!

The Jefferson Memorial

Gregory noticed this reflection of the Jefferson Memorial in the puddle.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial

Double Click here to read this FDR quote.

Waterfalls in the FDR Memorial

Korean War Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial from the base of the Washington Monument

Above and Below at the The Vietnam War Veterans Memorial

Ready for our trip to the top!

The National Christmas Tree and the Washington Monument

The White House

The 45.52-carat Hope Diamond is seen here out of its setting. It is usually surrounded by 16 white diamonds and the necklace chain contains 45 more white diamonds.

Double click here to see why the Hope Diamond is blue.

Gregory with a rainbow of beautiful gems.

Brazilian Amethyst

Metro Antics

C3PO is one of many artifacts found at the National Museum of American History.

Fun at the Spark!Lab

"This is the actual nugget that sparked the rush for California gold."

Gregory compares his hand to Lincoln's hand.

The Archives Building

Gregory views the original Declaration of Independence at the Archives.

S'mores with the McClure Family

Grandma Joy gives her girls a great big hug.

Dorrie and Kate making a fashion statement with blue nails for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Kate, Erin, Gregory & Jack

College Roommates Reunited, Dorrie & Liz

Mike's New Buddy Kate

Erin and Kate make a Gregory Sandwich

Nightvision Goggles Gifted to Gregory by Jack

Keith shows Gregory some pictures of his boat.

Christmas Tree Decorators Extraordinaire ~ Dorrie, Gregory and Penny

Date: November 23-28, 2009

From: Mechanicsville,Virginia to Washington D.C. to Gaithersburg, Maryland and back to Mechanicsville

Route: Amtrak, Metro and Car

Miles Today: 0 miles

TOTAL MILES: 3,577 miles

Top Speed on this trip: 54.1 mph

Weather: Clouds and Drizzle while in D.C. and sun on Friday the 27th and Saturday the 28th

License Plates Collected: 5 Montana, 8 Wyoming (2 motorcycle) and 1 Idaho (found in WY), 2 Colorado, 1 Kansas (Gifted from David of Baldwin City), 1 Missouri (To be sent to Grammy’s by our new buddy, Kansas City firefighter Shawn), 1 Illinois, 4 Kentucky (2 Gifted from Beth and Garry Feltus, one gifted from cousin John, one from Hwy. 127), 1 Virginia, 1 Maryland plate gifted from the McClure Family

Flats: 11

Broken Spokes: 3

Cracked Rim: 1

If you've never been to Washington D.C. you need to put this on your list of things to do. This glimpse into the history of America is offered free at most of the museums, memorials and monuments and I know I left feeling inspired and a little awe struck. You can visit The Archives and see the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights, the documents that shaped our nation as well as monuments and memorials honoring the men who in a large part made our country what it is today. I've discovered a new appreciation of history and developed a thirst to learn more and I hope the same holds true for Gregory.

On Monday we navigated our way into the city via Amtrak and found our way to The National Mall and the Smithsonian Information Castle via the Metro. It was cloudy, damp and cold but nothing could dampened our spirits. We were thrilled to be in our Nations Capital. (We did find the $20 storage fee per bag, at the Union Station Metro stop, a bit offensive but luckily we did some investigating and found there were lockers at the National Museum of Natural History that turned out to be only a quarter!) We stowed our luggage and were ready to go to the National Air and Space Museum (Gregory had it in his mind that this was the best museum and that he had to do it first, thanks to Mike's recollections from his childhood) when Mike and I suggested we look around here a bit first. Gregory wasn't too sure until he turned the corner and entered the Mammal Hall. The look on his face and his reaction were priceless. "Mom, Dad, look at this!" Lions, tigers and giraffes peered down at us not to mention an endless array of other exotic animals we'd never seen before. We were thoroughly absorbed and wandered for hours through the Sant Ocean Hall, Ice Age Hall, Fossil Plants Hall, Early Life Hall and Dinosaur Hall until Gregory's interest began to wane a bit and then we moved on to National Air and Space Museum for the afternoon. This is the beauty of the Smithsonian Museums. Because they are free and centrally located you can spend a little time in one and move on to another for a while because you know you can come back at any time. You could easily spend a whole day in one museum and we actually did that on Wednesday at the newly opened National Museum of American History. There are many exhibits that you could spend a day in just one exhibit! There is so much to read, see, investigate and learn.

When we entered the National Air and Space Museum Mike took Gregory straight to one of the Apollo Command Modules. Mike remembered being so impressed that astronauts were carried to the moon in these small modules. It was especially neat to see the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia that "carried astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, and Michael Collins on their historic voyage to the Moon and back on July 16-24, 1969. This mission culminated in the first human steps on another world." (Museum Signage) In addition, it splashed down on my sister's birthday, July 26, 1969. After marveling at the control panels and construction of these modules I said, "Gregory, Have you even looked up yet?" "Wow!" he exclaimed. From the ceiling dangle a wide array of planes and instruments of flight including The Spirit of St. Louis in which Charles A. Lindbergh completed the first solo transatlantic flight in history on May 21, 1927.

We enjoyed the exhibit on the Wright brothers that tells the tale of two midwestern bicycle shop proprietors who invented the airplane and launched America into the aerial age. Gregory seemed to especially enjoy the models of the aircraft carriers and using the flight simulator to try to land his jet on one. Mike got a kick out of this too and they both went back for second turns. With so much to see and do we almost hated to leave but our "dogs were barking" and we wanted to beat the rush on the Metro. We found that sight seeing in Washington D.C. isn't for the faint of heart. It requires a lot of walking and a lot of stamina. Fortunately there are lots of opportunities to take a seat and watch a short exhibit video and there are many interactive exhibits for children.

After braving the weather we gathered our belongings across The National Mall at the National Museum of Natural History and boarded the Metro for our 40-minute ride to the end of the Red Line at Shady Grove Station. Gregory got to count Maryland as the 11th state he has visited on this trip, though we won't be bicycling in Maryland. Liz and her daughter Erin greeted us curbside as we hopped in out of the rain for the 10-minute ride to their beautiful home in Gaithersburg, Maryland. It has been so nice to see Liz again and to finally meet her husband Bob and their three terrific kids, Jack (11), Erin (7) and Kate (5). Liz and I were roommates at the University of Delaware back in 1985-1986 when I was there as a National Student Exchange student. We have all enjoyed our visit tremendously. It has been a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. Gregory has thoroughly enjoyed playing with the kids. Liz and I have had a chance to catch up and we have all found plenty to talk about. When we first arrived Kate, their kindergartner, was eager to have me read with her and practice her "word ring". She is a real charmer and I had a great time working with her. We even gave each other manicures on Thanksgiving morning. My nails are currently a vibrant shade of blue!

We were introduced to the gerbils and Charlie the cat and given the tour of the house complete with a kid-friendly basement much to Gregory's delight. It was hard to put them all to bed when they were having so much fun but the kids had school the next day and we knew our second day in D.C. was going to be a busy one. We planned to make a walking loop to see the many memorials and monuments.

On day two in D.C. we were again faced with cold and drizzle but we donned our rain jackets and gloves, used our borrowed umbrella and made our way around to the various memorials and monuments. Most of the morning was fairly dry so we had a nice walk and both the weather and the timing of our visit worked in our favor as there was a lack of crowds. After walking all the way up to the foot of the Washington Monument we were redirected back down the hill to collect tickets at the ticket booth. Mike and Gregory suggested that I go, so I jogged down the pathway to claim three tickets for the 12:30 P.M. ride up to the top of the 555 foot monument that towers over everything in the Capitol.

This 12:30 time slot gave us plenty of time to make a loop beyond the Tidal Basin to visit the Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial and back to the Washington Monument. All were equally impressive and touched me in some way. I remember being especially moved by the Vietnam War Memorial when I first visited D.C. back in my 20s. It was raining and I was told the water dripping down the walls of the memorial represented tears that have been shed for those we lost in this war. This time I thought of my uncle who recently died of cancer, who fought in this war and of my stepfather who is my mother's rock, but would rather not talk about his time served in Vietnam.

The Jefferson Memorial and Lincoln Memorial seemed to hold more meaning for me and my husband and son because of our recent visit to Jefferson's home of Monticello and our visits to Lincoln's birthplace and boyhood home as we've bicycled our way through his homeland. I feel so blessed that Gregory has been able to experience these things first hand, at such a young age, and that we can make this a jumping off point for further study of the birth and growth of our nation and the battles that have been fought to make and keep America free.

I also really enjoyed the simplicity yet profound nature of the FDR Memorial. It was quite unique with granite walking paths and walls engraved with many moving quotes from this president who served four terms up until 1945. Gregory liked the many waterfalls and the statues of FDR and his dog. There he met a couple who were trying to get their dog to pose by FDR's dog but it was actually scared of it and wouldn't go near it. Gregory did his best to help but didn't have much luck.

Though the weather wasn't ideal we still enjoyed the views from the Washington Monument and were glad we took the time to get tickets and wait our turn for this popular site. They say on a good day that you can see into Maryland. We still had views of the Capital at one end of The National Mall and the Lincoln Memorial on the other and it was interesting to see where we had been earlier in the morning on our walking tour.

"The Washington Monument honors those who helped 13 colonies become one nation. The Lincoln Memorial remembers those who preserved that Union at great sacrifice. And the Capital serves as living testimony to the the enduring principles that still govern this country." National Mall & Memorial Parks, part of the National Park Service (Eastern National Postcard of The National Mall)

We made our way over to the National Christmas Tree (it isn't lit yet but it was still impressive to see this enormous living Christmas tree) and we took the hike around to the front of the White House. At this point we were all fading and Gregory was complaining that his leg was hurting. My calfs were aching too but I was trying not to say anything and I was really glad when we sort of stumbled upon the Ronald Reagan Building and its food court. Mike suggested we go in and it was a nice break. We'd been pushing ourselves all morning and needed some food and a chance to put our feet up and regroup.

We let Gregory choose how to spend the rest of the day and he opted to return to the National Museum of Natural History to look at the Gems and Minerals Exhibit complete with the 45.52-carat Hope Diamond. On the way to this exhibit we had to go through "Dig It! The Secrets of Soil" an exhibit about the world of soil. We all found it extremely interesting and spent a good deal of time here discovering the connections between soils and everyday life. We also got to see official state soil samples and the diversity of the soil colors and composition was really interesting. "Dig It" is a temporary exhibit through January 3, 2010, but if you are in any way fascinated by rocks you have to make the Gems and Minerals exhibit a must see in your lifetime. It is nature's beauty at its finest.

Gregory was wiped out after our first two busy days of sight-seeing and on Wednesday morning he asked, "Can we stay home today?" I reminded him that the kids would be at school all day and that this was our last day to see our Nations Capitol. Mike and I knew we were in trouble and would have to keep the day low key and pick things that would be high on the interest scale for Mr. Gregory. We opted to not try and tour the Capitol (especially since we hadn't booked a tour in advance and weren't sure we could even get one) and we went straight to the National Museum of American History. Liz told us it was one of Jack's favorites and it has recently opened. We thought we'd get to see R2D2 there but found that he and Darth Vader were on tour. Luckily C3PO was there to greet us when we entered. We ending up spending the entire day there yet we barely scratched the surface.

With hands-on activities we learned about inventors and their inventions in the "Science in American Life" and Gregory enjoyed doing science in Spark!Lab where he learned about carbon dioxide and oxygen while using safety goggles, beakers, dry ice and candles. He and Mike also had fun building electrical circuits and I got a little time to myself to explore the kitchen of the famous chef, Julia Child. She and her husband Paul donated their famous Cambridge, Massachusetts kitchen and its contents to the museum in 2001.

We were moved by the display of The Star Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the lyrics to the song we now call our national anthem. A quiet reverence hung over everyone as we viewed this symbolic piece of our history. "A special environmentally controlled chamber in an atmosphere evoking the "dawn's early light" protects the fragile wool and cotton flag." (goSmithsonian Brochure p. 26)

Other moving exhibits included "The Price of Freedom: Americans at War," and "Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life" (through January 2011) where we continued our education about the life and legacy of our 16th president. We took time to talk with Gregory about the Boston Tea Party and the War for Independence, The Civil War and Equality and about Hitler, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. (There is a new U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum however we opted against seeing that this time due to the graphic nature of some of the exhibit.) On a more light-hearted note we saw some footage of the USO performers such as Bob Hope and Mike and Gregory got to practice being "Rosie the Rivetor" with a very noisy riveting gun.

Though we were all exhausted at around 4:00P.M. and Gregory was more than ready to board the Metro and go "home" to play with the kids, we couldn't leave until we made a stop at The Archives. We pointed out that it was on the way to the Metro and promised it wouldn't take long. Well, we didn't wait long but you can't rush viewing the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. Gregory did amazingly well given the long day we'd had.

Back in Maryland, Liz, Bob and the kids had a surprise waiting for us. Not only did they grill up some yummy burgers for dinner but they also set up a backyard fire pit so that we could have a s'mores cookout. They were sure their neighbors were wondering what was going on at the McClure house tonight!

Thanksgiving day was a refreshing change of pace. After sleeping in I enjoyed helping Liz with a bit of the holiday food preparation. She was non-stop and really out-did herself preparing a fabulous meal with all of our Thanksgiving favorites. There was a mouthwateringly moist turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, corn, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, rolls and lots of decadent desserts. We decided that when we are not biking we need to get back to our "regular diet" but ending the tour during the holidays is just not fair!! We sampled everything and didn't have to loosen our waistbands too much. Ha!

Gregory had a fun day building forts in the basement, playing Wii, watching movies and even riding bikes with Jack. Liz and Bob were surprised when Gregory asked if they had a bike that he could ride. Any chance he can get to have a single bike all to himself is one he will take gladly.

Mike, Bob and Bob's dad had a chance to catch up on their football and Bob's mom Joy visited with Liz and I and helped with the food preparations. It was nice to not have to rush off anywhere and to have the time to visit and relax!

Liz generously offered to drive us back to the Richmond area and Mechanicsville, the home of Penny and Keith Mead, on her way down to Virginia Beach with her girls. Gregory got cozy between the girls in the back seat of the suburban and this worked out well while they were watching "The Game" with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson on the laptop. After a lunch stop at a Virginia Welcome Center where we enjoyed turkey sandwiches with cranberry and stuffing, (Yes, Liz taught us that stuffing on turkey sandwiches is mighty tasty.) Erin decided she'd had enough of the back seat and joined Mike in the mid-section. The sun finally decided to show itself for the first time in days and we had a nice drive.

At Penny and Keith's house Gregory wanted to show the girls the fort and they took off out back and eventually made their way back to the garage to see the triple bike. We took the obligatory pictures by the bike and sadly said our goodbyes to Liz and the girls. Hopefully it won't be too long before we can reconnect again. It's been a grand time.

Mike and Keith had projects in mind and were off to Home Depot to collect cabinets for the basement. With two trips to the store (one to return the rented truck) and some assembly required on the cabinets they were busy for the rest of the afternoon. Penny and I opted for a lengthy nap and Gregory was thrilled to get to watch cartoons. Penny and Keith treated us to Italian at Mimmo's and then couldn't resist taking us for hand-made ice cream at Bruster's. With temperatures in the 30s it seemed crazy to be eating ice cream but we ran up to the window, put in our order and Gregory, Penny and I hopped back in the car to wait for the guys to deliver it to us. We cranked up the heat and enjoyed our dessert before heading home to watch The Christmas Story. We've been wanting to watch this with Gregory because he thinks he wants a BB Gun for Christmas. It has been a while and though we found it as hilarious as we remember I'd forgotten about the language! I gently reminded Gregory not to say those words.

Friday we finalized plans for our next four days in the Historic Triangle (Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown). We plan to stay at the Cascades Motel, one of the Williamsburg Foundation properties and to explore the area from there. Admission to Colonial Williamsburg is included in our 4-night stay and we will probably do that on Monday which is typically a slow day. Then, perhaps Tuesday, we will ride our bike the 13 miles out to Yorktown to culminate our TransAm route, explore the area and ride back. We will also do a day trip to Jamestown Settlement, just 6 miles away. Tomorrow's ride to Williamsburg will be around 70 miles so we are thrilled to have fine weather in the forecast. We are actually looking forward to getting back on the bike. We will make that return ride to Mechanicsville on Thursday with plans to rent a van on Friday night for the drive to North Carolina on Saturday. Mike's folks are looking forward to our arrival.

Gregory and I were thrilled to have the opportunity to help Keith and Penny decorate their Christmas tree! Keith and Gregory set it up and then left the decorating to Gregory and the ladies. Gregory and I always enjoy getting out our ornaments and telling the story behind each one and this time we got to hear their stories. Gregory lasted for quite a while but was also eager to help Keith hang the Christmas flags and to help in the basement. Final assembly of the remaining cabinets was on the agenda for today. With cabinets completed and Keith's Honey Do list a little shorter the troops decided to head out to REI after dinner. Mike got on the subject of his history as an assistant manager at REI and we found that Penny and Keith had never been to one. So, hi ho hi ho off to REI they go. Meanwhile, I have a rare moment to myself and will listen to some Christmas tunes and send my post to you...