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A Jeffersonian Spring Break (2009)

Doug took a couple of days off at the end of Erika's Spring Break and after checking out a few things on the WWW (Wolf Lodge was too expensive during Spring Break, and Falling Water didn't allow kids Kat's age on their tours)
we decided to stay 'local' and visit Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and Poplar Forest.


09 April   Last night Erika and I both had upset stomachs. This morning I was noticing improvement, especially after eating breakfast, but Erika was still under the weather.  I checked the details of our hotel reservation and noticed that I would have needed to cancel yesterday if we wanted our money back.  Oh, well.
We settled in for a relaxing day, and after an hour and a half and some light food, Erika perked up and said "I think we can go on our trip."  She looked MUCH better, so we took her at her word and hopped in the car and headed South. It was still morning, so Doug got behind the wheel.
Not too far down the road, I started feeling sick to my stomach again.  I was also pretty tired from having gotten up early, so I closed my eyes, and the next thing I knew, Doug was asking me if I wanted to stop for lunch.  I looked at my watch and agreed, although the last thing my stomach seemed to want was food.
I got out of the car feeling green around the gills, but soldiered on and ordered. Erika did ok on her sandwich and Kat was eating slowly, and after I finished eating I decided I needed some fresh air. Doug stayed with Kat, and Erika and I walked the length of the strip mall a few times.  By the time we went back to Doug and Kat, I was feeling much better. Erika also looked happier.  But since neither Erika nor I felt great, Doug and I decided to head for Monticello, which was closer, and maybe try to do Poplar Forest the next day, if we were feeling better.
We arrived at Monticello around 2 pm and got in line for tour tickets. The next available were for 5 pm!!  That didn't sound ideal, but since we didn't have much choice, we said OK.
After watching a short movie about Thomas Jefferson there at the Visitor's Center, we took a shuttle up the hill to the house. We were told there were 2 different outside tours that we could enjoy while waiting. Erika sat down and started moping and groaning a bit. She didn't look pale, as she had earlier in the day, but she also hadn't eaten or drunk much all day.  Despite our frequent offers of water, she barely took a sip.  She said she didn't want to do the outside tours.
We sighed and sat with her for awhile, and then encouraged her to get out of the sun. It was a cool Spring day, but she was complaining about being COLD, even in the sun - but I could tell all of us needed some sunscreen and I didn't have any with me. (Well, I had a small bit for our faces, but nothing that would cover all exposed parts of all 4 of us.)  After sitting in the shade awhile Erika really started complaining, and Doug and I reluctantly got us all back on the shuttle bus and headed for our car.  We were disappointed to have come all this way and to have bought the tickets only to have to leave.  At the Visitor's Center I gave it one last ditch effort.  We went into the Cafe and got Erika a drink and a bagel - the rest of us shared an ice cream.  Amazingly (not), Erika felt better after getting some food and drink into her!  (argh.)  By this time it was nearly 4:30, so once again we took the shuttle back to the house atop the hill.
The tour of the house was very interesting.  I saw this house, took the tour, when I was in 3rd grade, and the tour seemed very different.  But 30+ years is a long time, and it's possible I'm remembering things from other tours we took on the same trip (Mount Vernon, Williamsburg, etc.)  Erika made it through fine and after the house tour of Monticello, we walked down to the Visitor's Center so that we could stop and see Jefferson's grave on the way. Very pretty walk, but steep in places. Since it was at the end of the day and there were only a few tours after ours, there were very few people around and at times it seemed like we had the whole place to ourselves.
On the way to the hotel we passed a car that had caught fire.  Thick black smoke billowed from the large SUV and as we approached it the back window blew out.  A police car was parked about 100 yrds behind the vehicle, and 2 people were standing near it - I assume the owners of the burning vehicle.  All traffic moved to the left lane (I'm surprised traffic wasn't stopped) and crept by slowly.  I was very nervous about driving by it, and made Erika duck below her window just in case something else, like the back window, exploded from the car.  I slowed to let the truck in front of me give me some space as we got close, and then drove as fast as I could past the burning SUV.  I was stunned by the fierce heat that I felt as we drove by, with Doug, our car, a full travel lane and part of the breakdown lane between me and the fire. A minute or so later we reached our exit, and as we got off the highway a fire truck got on.  By the time we parked in the hotel parking lot, the black smoke had thinned out and then disappeared.
We checked into our hotel, got a recommendation for a local restaurant, and had an enjoyable meal. Erika still didn't feel like eating much, but we convinced her that eating was going to help her feel better (remember the bagel?) and she finally had enough to satisfy her worrying parents.
Back at the hotel we all settled down fairly quickly.  I tried to use the computer for a bit, but Kat could see my face from the light of the screen and kept sitting up and trying to talk to me.  I finally wound up reading in the bathroom until she fell asleep - and then I read in the room, by flashlight, until I was sleepy.
With Erika and I feeling under the weather, this day wasn't as good as it might have been, but in the end it all worked out.

10 April  Got up, Erika still wasn't feeling well, we had a long talk about needing to eat (she was cold again - no fuel for her body!) and 'mind over matter' - if you sit around moaning and groaning you're going to feel lousy, and if you have a good attitude and act 'normal', you'll feel better.  Looking at her, talking to her, noticing her behavior yesterday (she felt better each time after actually eating and drinking) we turned around (had started heading home) and pushed on toward Poplar Forest, Jefferson's other home.
We arrived shortly before noon and bought tickets for the 12:30 tour.  Like Monticello we were free to roam the grounds, and we were provided with a pamphlet with maps and details. Poplar Forest had several outbuildings dedicated to the archaeological digs that have gone on at Poplar Forest.  There was also a hands-on exhibit that wasn't open when we were there.
Our tour started promptly, and our tour guide was very knowlegable.  The house is sometimes referred to as Jefferson's Summer Home, and is much smaller than Monticello.  Both were designed by him, and both had only a few owners after his death.  Poplar Forest was actually converted to a 'modern' home and was lived in by a family up until the 1940's or so, and is currently still being returned to the way it was when Jefferson lived there.
At the end of our tour the sky darkened and the wind increased.  Erika and I hurried to the car and got rain coats and umbrellas for all of us. We met Doug and Kat in the cellar and servant's area (self toured) and also walked some of the grounds.  As we walked toward our car, the rain started.
We asked our Nav System to find us a seafood restaurant (it being Good Friday and all) and the first place we tried had closed their lunch hours about 15 minutes before we got there.  Try #2 led us to a restaurant that no longer existed (new medical building on the land, I think).  By now we were pretty hungry and it was getting very late to be eating lunch and we didn't want to have to wait until 9 pm to have our dinner.... so we settled for a McDonalds.  The weather obliged by slowing to a drizzle when we got out of the car, and refraining altogether when we got back in.  This particular McD's had a nice gas fireplace, ala Panera Bread, but unfortunately it wasn't on while we were there.  Strangely, there was also not a Diaper Deck in the bathrooms.  I'm always tempted to use a table as a changing table at a restaurant that doesn't provide this basic need, but out of deference to you, the other costumers, I restrain this impulse.
We got to Charlottesville in time for Rush Hour.... or so we thought. After sitting in bumper to bumper traffic for quite some time, we came across a bank, flanked by police cars, surrounded by crime scene tape, and camera crews had staked out a place on the corner. When we Googled it when we got home we found out a bank robbery had occured about 30 minutes before we got there!
The rest of the trip was uneventful. We got home, unpacked the car, unpacked our bags, and resumed our non-vacation Life.
Monticello, by Erika
photo by Erika  - back of Monticello
Jefferson's Octagonal Summer Home, with Erika, Kat and Doug 2009
Erika, Kat and Doug pose at the back of Poplar Forest. The house is octagonal! And so were the outhouses/privies. How 'cute' is that?