Thursday, May 5, 2016

Virginia is for Lovers

…and apparently it’s for fighters as well. The fighters have been keeping us increasingly occupied of late as we rediscover our country’s rich heritage at National Historical sites.  First, we settled the Civil War at Appomattox then walked the battlefield at Bull Run where it all began.  (Our visit to Bull Run was part of an Airstream Rally with the Washington DC unit. That’s really all I can say about that since “what happens at WDCU…”  Yeah, that’s right.  We sat around in chairs, ATE well and often whilst discoursing learnedly about maintenance issues, real and imagined.) 

Chippokes Plantation lies directly across the James River from the first English settlement in the New World and has been continuously farmed since 1619. When the owners turned the place over to the state, they insisted that it remain a working farm and tossed in the mansion, the furniture, farm equipment and staff who will continue to be employed here in perpetuity.  We chanced upon it and fell in love.   The campground is first class, quiet and well run.  It is just a free ferry ride to the Historic Triangle -- Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown -- but Surry county is pastoral with a population barely 7000. When we wandered away for a day's adventure, returning gave us the same feeling of renewal that our hosts and new Friends of Chippokes spoke of.



Riverhouse Fence in the morning mist


Yorktown Historic Park comes with its own charming village.  NPS restorations, private dwellings, inns, galleries and a nice assortment of touristy stuff just a pleasant walk away.

Imagine taking your morning coffee here...

...or ditching the Airstream for a stay here

The Yorktown Monument is also the start/finish of the Trans America Bike Trail

Virginia Capitol Bike Trail

 Just a few miles from here the transcontinental route follows the Virginia Capitol bike trail from Jamestown to Richmond  paralleling Highway five and the beautiful James River on smooth pavement. We were just a few miles along it when we met Morris, a cheerful Australian and a world traveling cyclist.      

Two legendary cyclists comparing notes

 Jamestown Settlement 

 You may think you have visited the Jamestown settlement – – we did. But if you have not been following the amazing archaeological finds that are being unearthed DAILY, promise yourself another visit. 
Actually, it is a little confusing sorting out the many venues around the Chesapeake offering to put us in touch with the past.  We found the NPS app Chesapeake Explorer helpful for brief descriptions of the attractions, hours and fees. For example, at Jamestown we bypassed the big parking lot with multiple buses at the state run museum.  It is huge and features costumed interpreters, replicas of the original ships and much more.  There is a similar museum near Yorktown focusing on the Revolutionary War as a whole.  Like Colonial Williamsburg, both are richly rewarding and if you bypass these with a grandchild in tow, you must hand in your grandparent card.  We however pressed on to the NPS site which adjoins the Preserve Virginia acreage where the original Jamestown Fort HAS BEEN FOUND. 
 In 1994, a guide at the NPS Jamestown Settlement would have told you that all remnants of the original fort had been washed into the James by erosion. Next door, the Preserve Virginia folks were busy preserving the ruins of the brick church. Only one young archaeology student wondered why the church had been placed, apparently unprotected, outside the fort. He secured permission for a temporary "dig" which is now in its twenty second year and the good stuff is really pouring out of the ground now.  They discovered 88% of the fort still under dry land, found not a few, but hundreds of thousands of artifacts.  
  In the last few years several of the most important finds in the world have been found here. As a visitor you may hear a spellbinding tale from a PV docent, see the artifacts displayed and interpreted in the adjoining

Or, in the summer digging season, stand alongside the pit and watch the archaeologists at work.  (OK, tantalizing TV style teaser.  Cannibalism during the "starving times" at Jamestown.  Bones discovered, age, history and origin decoded and a lifelike facial reproduction ...). It's not carnival sideshow hipe, it's the best work of the most advanced scientific archaeology in the world "right before your eyes"   

OK, there is the idealized, probably not so authentic statue of Pocahontas...


We took other little trips like to Smithfield for the famous ham and she-crab soup and a stroll through their wonderful park and historical homes. We toured the mansion at Chippokes with our  camp host/friend/docent  and visited the brick kitchen with a family of park volunteers, mom and two little homeschooled kids, who wowed us with their  knowledge and poise in sharing it with us. The volunteers here at Chippokes are mostly local folks, retired in this pastoral paradise and giving back from richly diverse lives.  They were, every one, so warm and giving that we know we will return again. 

1 comment:

  1. my apologies for the random HTML hash in this post...still trying to master new apps that don't play well with others and i have to go pack for a new trip. Al