Days 4-6: Spotsylvania and Charlottesville

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Our next factory visit isn’t until Tuesday in North Carolina. So we had Saturday, Sunday and Monday to spend as ‘free time’.

We decided to pick a spot near – Spotsylvania, to be exact -- and see the historical sites in the area.

Traveling to Fredericksburg we stopped briefly at Antietam National Battlefield Park, near Sharpsburg, Maryland. This was the site where, in September 17, 1862, Lee’s Confederate Army met McClellan’s Union Army and both swept back and forth through fields brimming high with corn, until day’s end when not a corn stalk remained standing and blood from 20,717 casualties soiled the earth, making this the bloodiest day in US military history.

After a few hours checking out the large battlefield, we got back to driving and finally made it to our lodging for the next two nights, at Spotsylvania. We drove into Stevenson Ridge, a beautiful Southern estate with winding roads, forests and cabins, after 6 pm. The office was closed for the day but we had made arrangements for a key, and found our cabin within minutes.

refurbished slave cabin near Spotsyvania

What a wonderful find this place is! A charming two room log cabin, made from materials saved from an 1860’s cabin, fully appointed with antiques, cabin furniture, and a small kitchen, and with a simple but beautiful bedroom on the second floor/ loft.

That evening we walked trails through the woods on the plantation and discovered the long lines of manmade berms that made up the Confederate lines from the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. It turns out the battle, which took place between Lee’s and Grant’s men in 1864, was just within a hundred yards of where we stood.

We spent Sunday traveling through nearby Fredericksburg. Seeing the town, checking out the shops (tons of great small shops with lots of antiques, arts and crafts). And touring the Fredericksburg Battlefield site of the fight between Lee’s Confederates and Burnside’s Union troops during December 11–15, 1862. Lee had the high-ground advantage and came away with a lopsided victory.

Sunday morning we checked out of our wonderful little cabin and traveled West. We took a break from the Civil War and stopped at Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello.

in front of Monticello

Monticello is gorgeous. It’s a plantation of sorts, but a rare one in that it’s on top of a Virginia mountain. It’s laid out with precision and symmetry – an exhibit to how the scientific approach had influenced Jefferson. He surrounded his home with gardens which not only provided for the estate’s food, but served as a test bed for seeds and plants that Jefferson brought from his trips abroad, or from Louis and Clark’s journeys out West.

You can see that Jefferson was forever at work and forever researching. His bed is in the middle of the house, with his dressing room its left and his office to its right.

The sad part of the story is Jefferson’s demise. He died poor -- or at least, seriously in debt -- and the estate fell into disrepair and was soon sold to help pay growing debts. It was finally purchased by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1924 which has since restored the property and made it a landmark again.

We spent Sunday night in Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia. U of V was established in 1819 by Jefferson, along with James Madison and James Monroe. They knew that a good citizen was an educated one, so building an institution to teach advanced knowledge to fellow Virginians was part of building a democracy.

The hotel was The English Inn of Charlottesville. Not bad, but nothing to write home about.

Monday morning was lots of driving. We headed south through Virginia and found the Blue Ridge Parkway.

OK, the Blue Ridge Parkway isn’t the best road if you’re in a hurry. But if you want to see the western Virginia in all its glory, you need to take this road. It’s run by the National Park Service and contains roads that wind and twist, up and down Blue Ridge mountains and connects Pennsylvania to North Georgia. Bring your camera – the vistas are spectacular!

And when you’ve had enough, like we did after about four hours, we slipped off and caught the Interstate to continue our southern route. It took about 8 hours, but we finally made it to our day's final destination in North Carolina.

Whew! With all this travelling, we sure could use a weekend to relax!

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