Sunday, April 2, 2017

Rolling into Richmond

Team WestEnders maintained their traditional Spring Break routine (with one major exception--the inaugural College Visits--but that's a whole other post, folks), with the Male Posse headed to South Carolina to visit Husband's parents, and me planning an overnight expedition to a location of my choosing. This year I selected Richmond, Virginia...because it seems ludicrous to me that I've driven past that city oh, approximately 900 times in my life, yet never actually, you know, stopped to check it out.

Now, typically I make these excursions on Fridays, especially in this case, since that would have me returning home on the same day as the rest of the fam. However, the weather forecast for Friday was, shall we say, reaaallly yucky--as in 100% chance of rain. So with my field trip goals in mind--namely photography and outdoor...tromping around...I made the executive decision to push it to Saturday, when the meteorologists assured me there would be nothing but blue skies and sunshine (and maybe some unicorns and rainbows thrown in for good measure...or I might be making that part up...).

With that settled, I booked a hotel, picked a couple of likely tourist attractions, packed a small bag (and snacks--which would come in very handy later, as we'll see) and hit the road. First stop: Tuckahoe Plantation, "boyhood home of Thomas Jefferson". And let me just tell ya, it's a darn good thing I, personally, don't live in Tom's century, because without my trusty GPS, I would NEVER have found this place. However, even though I have no earthly idea where I was, exactly, my route did take me through some absolutely stunning real estate. Or, as Husband and I like to call it: the High Rent District...where almost every home looks like a stately mansion...the lawns present perfectly groomed carpets of deepest emerald green....and you find yourself trying to peer around the back of the houses, to see where they've stabled the inevitable herd of horses. Yeeeaaaah, I'd bet there's some serious wealth in that neighborhood, y'all.

The plantation itself honestly wasn't super-exciting--in order to go inside the house you need to arrange a private guided tour ahead of time, which I didn't bother to do, for just little old me. But the grounds provided a pleasant place to stroll around for a while...especially after a 3-hour drive to get there. Then it was back to the car for the next activity: a battlefield tour (and you're sooooo surprised, right?). In my pre-jaunt research, I'd discovered that the Richmond Battlefield Park actually comprises a whole bunch of different sites...on an 80-mile round-trip loop. time for that kind of commitment. So I'd figured the best course of action would be to find the main Visitor's Center, get a map and any other materials I'd require, and most importantly, ask a Park Service professional what they'd recommend with a limited timeframe available to me.

Well...little did I know that the Tredegar Iron Works building, which houses the information desk and various exhibits, is situated on the waterfront of the James River...and the whole area is gorgeous. Picture a canal on one side, the river on the other, and in between, perfectly manicured green space with trails for walking, running, and biking, pedestrian bridges to cross back and forth, and endless spots to hang out while enjoying the views. It was an altogether delightful way to spend the rest of the afternoon, meandering and people-watching.

Oh, and I also did get the advice of the friendly ranger, who steered me toward two particular battlefields which lay in close proximity to each other about 10 miles outside of the city. Sold! While the actual sites were modest--a couple of signs, short trails to cover on foot or from your vehicle--they did manage to fulfill my ultimate goal...which is to see CANNONS by the end of the day...otherwise, I just do not consider my historical experience  to be complete, I always say (and yes, just this once it's true that I DO actually say had to happen at some point, right?) Oh yeah, and speaking of the educational aspect: the battles of Gaines Mill and Cold Harbor are significant because Robert E. Lee's forces were able to hold their position and repel both McClellan's and Ulysses S. Grant's armies, forcing them to temporarily abandon their quest to seize control of Richmond.

That little lesson completed my work--er, "playtime" for the day, which was fortunate, since I'd been subsisting since breakfast on my own rations I'd brought from home...and was now utterly famished. And this is where it usually sucks to be a gluten-free vegetarian...when you can't swing a stick (not that I did that--even in my woozy, calorie-deprived state I recognized that would be dangerous and ill-advised) without hitting a McDonald's...but I'd give my kingdom (or whatever) for a nice...BIG...salad. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that, in a freakish display of irony, no doubt orchestrated by the Travel Gods and their wicked sense of humor, my lodging for the night happened to be right next to...the Phillip Morris complex. Are. You. Kidding. Me? (Anyone who knows me, give me a sympathetic facepalm would you? Unbelievable...) All I can say is, it's a damn good thing the area didn't smell like tobacco in any way, or I would have hightailed it out of there soooooo it was, I contented myself with simply glaring at the sign every time I passed it....

Anyway, trust me when I say there was nothing else on my exit whatsoever, so I thought I'd just...wing it (so to speak)...and cruise I-95 until I saw something acceptable on of those handy signs that list restaurants and such. Okay...burger place....the ubiquitous Subway...until finally, a Panera! There's not much there I'm supposed to eat, really, but sometimes desperation calls for....relaxing one's standards. As it turned out, I never saw the promised Panera, but instead, up ahead on the left...Chipotle! Blessed vegetables, here I come! Aaaannnnd, clearly, I've exhausted my brainpower for the evening, so I'm going to stop babbling and call it a night. Besides, I need to rest up for tomorrow's agenda: flowers and farms! Nighty night, Richmond!

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