The Masters experience aside, we have been pretty darn busy running around the Southeast. For example, over the past week we have spent the night in the following locations: Myrtle Beach SC, Florence SC, Augusta GA, Columbia SC, Roanoke VA, and the Skyland Lodge in Shenandoah National Park. Here is the rest of the story:
After leaving Charleston we drove to Myrtle Beach, SC for a two day visit. We arrived late Sunday, got a pizza and watched Game of Thrones. Monday was a morning run along the beach for me, and a morning walk to the shopping mall for Robin.
Had an early dinner at Flying Fish (thanks kids for the gift card) and returned to the resort (thank you Starwood), did laundry and packed.
After checking out Tuesday, we decided to see a movie (rain cancelled our trip to Alligator Adventure….bummer). We saw Divergent which was good, but not nearly as good as the book. From there we drove to Florence, SC to have dinner with Robin’s cousin Jack and his friend Jeanette at the Hotel Florence. It was a great visit and we really enjoyed catching up on the Lieb family achievements and meeting Jeanette who is delightful (and has a great Southern accent).
Wednesday and Thursday was covered in our last post but rest assured, we are still reminiscing about our trip to Augusta National.
Thursday night we arrived in Columbia, SC so that on Friday morning we could get haircuts and have the Range Rover’s tires rotated. Once cleaned up, it was on to Roanoke with a stop in Charlotte for lunch.
I’ve been asked by many (by those who have our itinerary) why stop in Roanoke, VA? I guess the easy answer is that Roanoke is the closest city to Appomattox that has a Starwood property (Sheraton) so we could use points for our stay. Turns out that this particular Sheraton is a conference center for the area, so we shared our stay with the ladies of TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the alumni of Roanoke High School, and of course many attendees of the Blue Ridge Bike Fest (all makes motorcycle rally).
Quick side story Robin insists on having in the blog: As we were leaving the hotel Friday night for dinner, two very …….um…..curvaceous women dressed in very ..….um…. skimpy outfits were getting into a shuttle on their way to the Bike Fest. A group of elderly ladies with TOPS, who were waiting for their ride (not to the Bike Fest), were pointing and giving disapproving looks. As we passed by the TOPS ladies, I asked them “are those two women with your group?” They were hysterical; Robin gave me one of her looks. Too much fun!
Saturday was a great day. We drove to Appomattox to visit the Appomattox Museum of the Confederacy and Appomattox Courthouse. Per usual we stopped first at the local visitor’s center where we discovered the city was in the middle of celebrating the 149th anniversary of Lee’s surrender to Grant (4/9/1865) by staging reenactments, demonstrations and lectures; perfect timing. We drove out to the battlefield and watched the battle of Namozine Church. It was a great reenactment and the men playing Generals Lee and Grant (and Colonel Custer) looked just like their counterparts. They had Calvary, Infantry, Artillery, and even a field hospital with a surgeon giving demonstrations of limb amputations (been there, done that).
The Appomattox Museum of the Confederacy contained some incredible artifacts such as the uniform and sword Lee wore to his surrender meeting with Grant.
I always thought that Lee surrendered at the Appomattox Courthouse, but learned that he actually surrendered at the McLean House which is in the village called Appomattox Court House. There is a courthouse in the village but it is not where the surrender took place. The McLean house, sadly, is mostly a reconstruction (an interesting story, google McLean House). The museum, located in the actual courthouse in Appomattox Court House, does a great job of describing the last week of Lee’s involvement in the war, from Lee’s abandonment of Richmond and Grant’s pursuit of Lee’s army, to Lee’s surrender, and all the battles in-between. A must stop for Civil War Buffs.
Interesting side note on Wilmer McLean (owner of the McLean House). One of the first major battles of the Civil War took place at Bull Run (Manassas) on a farm owned by the very same Wilmer McLean. After the battle Wilmer packed up and moved to Appomattox. “So it can be said that the war started in McLean’s backyard in 1861 and ended in his parlor in 1865”.
Afterward, we had dinner in downtown Roanoke at the (teeny tiny) Texas Tavern (recommended by one of Emily’s friends). Two cheeseburgers, two orders of chili, and a Dr. Pepper all for $9.95. Afterwards we walked downtown to check out the motorcycles.
Sunday morning we drove to Lexington, VA to visit General Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson’s house (now a museum) and the Lee Chapel. We got to Jackson’s house as it was opening for the day and being the only 2 visitors, got a personal tour. The house is still pretty much as it was when Jackson lived there (he was a professor and drill instructor at Virginia Military Institute (VMI) prior to the war). His descendants have donated many artifacts, including a lot of Jackson’s furniture, to the museum. The Lee Chapel, on the campus of Washington and Lee University, was really interesting. Post war, Robert E. Lee (who was married to Martha Washington’s great granddaughter) accepted the position of president at Washington College (named after George Washington who donated a bunch of money to keep the college operating). Lee did such a great job during his five year tenure, that the college was renamed Washington and Lee University. Lee died shortly after suffering a severe stroke and the college almost immediately turned his office (in the basement of the chapel) into a museum. It is virtually untouched, right down to the mess of documents (now preserved) on his desk. Next to the office they created a “Lee Crypt” for members of the family. His famous horse, Traveller, is buried just outside the Chapel. The Museum itself has many artifacts of both Lee and Washington, including a set of China plates given to George Washington by Lee’s father (Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, who served under George Washington in the Revolutionary War). The oddities never end.
We eventually made it to the Skyland lodge in Shenandoah National Park. Here is the view from our very rustic accommodations and the great sunset from the dining hall.
On Monday we drove to Luray, Virginia to tour, you guessed it, another Cavern, this time Luray Caverns. But first we stopped in historic downtown Luray for some breakfast at Uncle Bucks. I think we were the only non-locals in the place. Robin asked if they had bananas or any fruit to put on her pancakes. The waitress looked at her like she was crazy and politely said, “no fruit.”
The Luray Caverns were discovered in 1878. We won’t bore you with too many details (just a couple). The formations are numerous and wonderful but we were most impressed by the mirrored pool and the large drapery formations. They also have the “Great Stalacpipe Organ”. Someone managed to tap several thousand stalactites with a hammer to determine their various tones. He found 37 that were perfect and attached them to an organ’s corresponding keys through the use of solenoids. When the organ is played, the solenoids tap the correct stalactite so you can hear the tones through the cavern’s stalactites.
Once back in the fresh air, we drove to Front Royal for more Civil War site tours. BTW, although I wanted to do a Civil War tour on this trip, Robin is the one quickly becoming obsessed so I’ll turn it over to her for this part of the blog.
We stopped in the Front Royal Visitor’s Center to pick up The Battle of Front Royal Driving Tour. “Stonewall” Jackson felt a great responsibility as the Commander of Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley. The Valley provided much needed natural resources and supplies to the Confederate armies, so controlling the valley was crucial for both sides. On our tour we followed the maneuvers of “Stonewall” Jackson during the spring of 1862 as he led the Confederate troops throughout the Shenandoah Valley, attempting to push out the Union troops. The battle in Front Royal was unique because it was one of the few Civil War battles that was fought street by street and building by building. The battle was also rare because it was fought by troops on both sides from the state of Maryland. We observed many of the original roads, buildings, and bridge embankments on our tour.
The past 2 nights we stayed at the Skyland “Resort” located within the Shenandoah National Park. The lodging was the closest thing to roughing it for us. I use the term “resort” very loosely. The views were incredible. The resort is 3,680 feet high with breathtaking views of the Shenandoah Valley. The brochure failed to tell us that we would also be sharing our room with a few critters. The first night we killed a few spiders and a cricket. The second night we were joined by several centipedes, a few more spiders, and several crickets. When I got up at 3am to use the restroom, there were 4 crickets on the ceiling directly above our bed. There was no going back to sleep. To get our minds off the visitors, we decided to watch an episode of Breaking Bad. Bad decision. For those of you who watched Breaking Bad, this was the episode titled “Fly” in which there is a fly loose in the lab and Walt and Jesse must do whatever they can to kill it before it contaminates the meth. We found that if we kept the lights on in the room, the crickets mysteriously disappeared. Thus we slept the rest of the night with the lights on. The Resort is scheduled for a complete renovation starting next week. (Just our luck)
Tonight we are happily back in a Starwood property in Richmond, VA.
Checked out of the “Resort” bright and early and drove the remaining 60 miles on the scenic Skyline Drive. The Drive has stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley and Robin checked out the Appalachian Trail in case we decide to hike it in the future. Unfortunately, it turns out we visited this area a bit too early in the Spring. The trees were still barren and the flowers had not yet blossomed, but it was still beautiful.
We left the Shenandoah Valley behind, promising to return someday (preferably later in the season and in a newly renovated resort minus the bugs). On our way to Richmond Virginia we passed through Charlottesville which is the home of the University of Virginia. What a beautiful campus (designed by Thomas Jefferson)!
After a quick lunch and a passing rainstorm we arrived at the Richmond National Battlefield Park Civil War Visitor Center. We watched a quick video of the story of Richmond during the civil war and the battlefields around the city. Of particular interest was the battle of Cold Harbor in 1864, known for having the bloodiest hour of the War. We visited the battlefield which is well preserved and still contains most of the earthworks put in place by both armies, so visualizing the battle is fairly simple.
To close this very long post, here are a couple outtake videos for your enjoyment…