Meet Virginia - Day Five

I woke up today praying that I wouldn't be too congested to fly. At this point, I was feeling so lousy that all I could think about was getting home to my own bed, and I didn't want to have to worry about bursting an eardrum to do so. Lucky for me (at least under the circumstances), my nose was too busy dripping constantly like a faucet to head into the congestion phase of a cold, and I deemed myself ready to fly, though likely to infect anyone in my path.

Due to some careful map reading on my part, I had ascertained that our path back to Richmond by way of Monticello, would take us right through the town of Lexington, Virginia, which just so happens to be the burial place of both Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. Though I easily could have kept this information to myself and saved myself more tromping through the endless rain in my condition, I decided to be a good daughter and tell Dad about my discovery so that we could dutifully stop and pay homage to his heroes. 

Though Dad was unnerved to be driving through the mountains in the rain, we easily found ourselves in Lexington, where we located the dignified monument dedicated to Stonewall Jackson. Though I abhor the Confederate cause, you really can't deny that the man was a military genius. It's just too bad that he wasn't fighting for the Union side -- the war probably would have been much shorter.

Next on our Lexington agenda was a trip to Washington and Lee University, where Robert E. Lee, his family, and even his horse were interred in the chapel. Lee had accepted the presidency of the university after the war to continue his work in education (he had previously taught at West Point), and because his wife's family were kin to the Washingtons, and he admired George Washington greatly. Similar to Jackson, Lee was undoubtedly a master military strategist. If he had been given greater resources, there might actually be two countries inhabiting the territorial space of the United States today.

Though the rain was relentless, we pressed onward to see Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. We didn't have much time, because we wanted to be back in Richmond with plenty of time to catch our flight, but we figured it was unlikely that we'd be in this part of the country again, so we wanted to try to see as much as we could. The booking agent at the visitor's center seemed skeptical of our plan, but she sold tickets for the next available tour nonetheless.

As we waited for the bus to take us to the main house, it truly began to pour in earnest. It was hard to appreciate the house from the outside, because we were too busy seeking shelter from the weather. Given that the primary draw of Monticello is to admire Jefferson's architectural daring and innovation, the weather was a disappointment, to be sure.

The tour was supposed to only take an hour, but as our guide prattled on endlessly and employed the Socratic method to draw out guesses from the audience about the contents of the house rather than sharing her information with the crowd, the hour stretched on and on. Finally, we had to separate from the group and make a run back to the bus for the visitor's center, or we would have been there all day. Due to the weather, we also missed out on seeing the Jefferson family burial plot, and the slaves' quarters. While the house itself was interesting, I think we really didn't get the most out of our experience at Monticello.

Now starving, we opted to grab lunch at Michie Tavern, a historic roadside tavern near Monticello, which the booking agent at the visitor's center had assured us was an experience not to be missed. She had spoken highly of the authentic food served there, but she must have meant authentic southern-style comfort food, because I doubt very much that they served fried chicken, black eyed peas, mashed potatoes, and collard greens on a regular basis during Thomas Jefferson's time. Though it was quaint that the waitresses wore period clothing, and it was nice that the buffet was all-you-can-eat, I felt that we got a bit of a bum steer with that recommendation.

As we neared Richmond, the skies turned ever darker, and the storm got progressively worse. We were early for our flight, which we quickly discovered had been delayed by the storm. Since it was the last flight to Chicago of the day, I was concerned that it might get cancelled all together. Feeling as crappy as I did, I wanted nothing more than to make it home tonight. On a whim, I asked the woman checking our baggage if it would be possible to be moved onto an earlier flight to Chicago, one that was scheduled to leave about thirty minutes from when we arrived at the airport. She did some lightning computer work, and we soon found ourselves running through the airport to make an earlier flight. 

By the time we got to the gate, we found that the earlier flight had been delayed as well, but at least it was still scheduled to leave. Eventually, we made it out of Richmond still a little bit earlier than we had originally planned, and I was joyfully reunited not only with Justin, but with my own bed and a medicine cabinet full of cold medicine. 

The jury is still out, I think, on whether this trip was worthwhile for me. I did get to see the Greenbrier and its fallout shelter. Even if it wasn't as well-preserved as I would have liked, it was an experience I'll remember all of my life. For the privilege of seeing it, however, I had to see a lot of not especially interesting (at least for me) Civil War sites. I'm happy to have helped Dad cross all those battlefields off his bucket list, and I'm grateful that his largesse allowed me to see the Greenbrier, but the balance of the sightseeing for his trip was undeniably skewed in his favor. And then I got sick, and nobody wants to be sick on vacation.

Perhaps when the memory of this illness has faded, I'll reflect different on this trip, but for now, I'm just happy to be home...

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