Thursday, October 11, 2012

Shenandoah Valley and Jefferson's Monticello

By Claire and Chuck

I need to comment on our wonderful, 4 course dinner last night.  It was a perfect setting--quiet, elegant--until I heard the voice.  Yes, the cell phone voice.  A guy, sitting alone, was speaking loudly into his cell phone, telling someone about his mother's fall and the excruciating details of her injuries and medical problems. For example:  "Yes, my mother had a fall today and she's in the hospital.  She's confused and may have A URINARY TRACT INFECTION.  I visited with her for awhile and they ran some tests to see if she has a URINARY TRACT INFECTION.  We'll get the results tomorrow about the URINARY TRACT INFECTION."  Blessedly, he finally finished his conversation and put his attention on his dinner.  Other than that...

We lounged around this morning, leaving around 9:30.  If only we'd known.  Our destination was Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home at the end of Skyline Parkway in the Shenandoah Valley.  The day promised to be gorgeous, with bright blue sky and lots of sun.  Perfect.  Except we missed a turn and found ourselves on the Zachary Taylor Highway.  We discovered this AFTER sitting in a one lane construction zone waiting for our turn to continue.  Which meant that after turning around we had to sit in it again.  At this point, we were beginning to panic.  We had tour reservations for 3 pm and according to Vicky, we were not going to make it.  I pulled out my cell phone and found the dreaded "searching..."  No signal.  For miles.  And miles.  The good news was, it was beautiful, but only 35 mph and naturally, we just wanted to hightail it out of there.  I mean, after 3 hours, haven't you seen enough?  How about driving behind a behemoth motor home.  It's like driving with a wall in front of you.  In spite of this, we did see some great things even though the colors have not reached their peak; the change of seasons officially started today and goes through October 25.

One of the lovelier sights of our trip down the Shenandoah Valley

 Skyline Drive, Virginia

Still Truckin'

 Colors just beginning to come in

 Pretty, pretty

 The sole tunnel on Skyline Drive, Mary's Rock

 Jaunty driver with sporty vehicle

We had a beautiful, clear day as you can see

 More color


At 3 pm, exactly, we blew out of the valley and into the land of civilization and a cell phone connection!  Fortunately, they told me we could do the 4 pm tour instead.  We arrived, grabbed our tickets and even had time for a quick snack at the cafĂ© before jogging up the stairs to catch the shuttle. 

I lived in Washington, D.C. for six years but never took the time to visit Monticello.  Today, I was able to achieve that goal.  Thomas Jefferson was a brilliant and unique individual; among his many talents was that of inventor and innovator.  A self-taught architect, he took 40 years to construct and revise Monticello.  He also planned the University of Virginia.  On a lesser scale, he designed many household gadgets for his home.  He seemed to love clocks and had several of his own innovations throughout the house; unfortunately, inside photography is not allowed.  One of his devices was an ice house that could keep ice frozen for up to 11 months.  In his study, he had a lazy susan bookholder that allowed him to read among 5 books by simply flicking a wrist.  But, the most fun invention was a double dumbwaiter for bringing up wine bottles from the cellar to the dining room--on both sides of the fireplace. 

Cabin Jefferson and his wife lived in during the construction of Monticello


Fish pond

Front view

Privy--1 of 2--inside were chamber pots



We joined a garden tour after the house tour.  This is the garden pavilion.

Kitchen gardens

Another view

West lawn, or what we would call the front yard

Section of the flower garden bordering the West Lawn

 View across the West Lawn

Grave of the third President of the U.S.  This is a family gravesite, owned by Jefferson's descendents to this day.  Note that Jefferson chose not to include President of the United States among the achievements listed on his monument.  Instead he listed:  Author of the Declaration of American Independence of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and Father of the University of Virginia.  It is interesting to note that TJ died 50 years to the date after the signing of the Declaration of Independence--within hours of the death of his friend and sometime adversary, John Adams.  I have always enjoyed knowing that his initials and my son's are the same--though I am the only person who calls him TJ. 

Our Greek Platter.  Fry's Spring Station was a fortunate discovery, prior to reaching our hotel.  We opted to share this and a pizza.  We wanted to eat outside; but, it was cool, so we sat beneath a heating lamp and nursed our hot tea while we waited for the main course.  We were greatly surprised when we were visited, in turn, first by our waiter, then the manager and, finally, the chef--each asking about our satisfaction with the meal and engaging in general conversation about our visit.

Ingredients piled on pita bread--delicious

The remainder of our scrumptious Margherita pizza

I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House - with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.  ~ John F. Kennedy  "Remarks at a Dinner Honoring Nobel Prize Winners of the Western Hemisphere." April 29, 1962.