Draftsman of a Nation

Trip Start Jun 09, 2009
Trip End Jun 23, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Virginia
Friday, June 19, 2009

EDITORIAL CORRECTION: The writer and management of THE DISPATCH would like to correct yesterday's reporting.  When history is the writer’s main love, such a fact that was overlooked and mistyped is inexcusable.  Yesterday’s dispatch indicated that they visited Mt. Vernon, home to George and Marsha Washington, when in fact the first First Lady was Martha.  Marsha Washington is a Manager and Buyer at the TIS College Bookstore in Bloomington, Indiana.  It’s true, I found her on Linkedin.com.

The morning weather as we made our departure and final goodbyes to the Nation’s Capitol was less than hospitable.  In fact, it was downright hostile.  The large portico in front of the Hyatt was no match for the relentless rain, blowing clear underneath, requiring us to quickly throw our suitcases in the backseat and hop in the door before any more water rushed in.  It was as if Washington had enough of us and was "urging" us to move along to another metropolitan locale.  Not even the wonderful bellman Isaac (whose large African demeanor welcomed us in and out of the lobby for the five days we were there) was to be found.  Oh, there he was….barricading himself in the valet parking attendant’s booth seeking refuge from this most unusual morning storm for DC.  Wipers on the truck frantically swept back and forth providing some visibility of Constitution Avenue.  By getting up at 5:30, I assumed that we would be “ahead” of the morning rush hour.  Nope, it only put us in the middle of it.  After clearing the Arlington Memorial Bridge, the small white spear of the Washington Monument disappeared in the rear view mirror.  A mere 10 miles or so through Fairfax, Virginia took us the better part of an hour.  Believe me to those Houstonians reading this….we ain’t got nuttin’ on DC’s traffic.  What made the experience all the more frustrating was Gina the GPS (that’s what I call her) kept repeating in her robotic monotone “Warning….traffic alert in 100 meters.”  “Would you like to reroute?”  “Warning….traffic alert…..”  I KNOW THERE IS A STINKIN TRAFFIC ALERT I AM IN THE MIDDLE OF IT!!!!!  I swear I turned her off and threw her in the back and still heard her 20 minutes later saying “What are you doing Mr. Nesossi, you know I am always with you…..

Brian, being little help in the navigation process decided to put his head back and quote “just rest his eyes a bit.”  I would (in my own evil way ) would tap the break and gasp, just to jolt him up.  I will not stand for this injustice of me navigation Washington traffic while he disappears into never, never land.  How could he even sleep when every puddle on the freeway sprayed a wall of 7 foot water on either side of mine and other vehicles!

A short two hours later we were finally about 50 miles out of the city and well on our way to central Virginia.  The Niagara-style monsoon gave way to high grey clouds on open interstate.  As we exited near Fredericksburg, we seemed to have overshot our turnoff.  I’ll double back, if Gina would allow it.  As I turned down this small, hilly, two-lane blacktop, I came across this plaque that said “Battle of Chancellorsville.”  Wonderful!  An unplanned stop dropped us into a pivotal battleground in which Lee seized and literally destroyed thousands of Union soldiers.  The sign said about one every second…for five hours.  This battle was so pivotal because it blew air into the lungs of Lee, filling his chest with the confidence he needed to march straight from there to Gettysburg.  Hmmm, little did he know what was waiting for him up there.  He thought  if I can tear things up like this in Chancellorsville and in Manassas a second time around, what’s going to stop me from taking a northern stronghold and pinch off Washington DC from the north and from the south.  This was also the site where famed Brig General “Stonewall” Jackson fell in combat.  The uniform he died in, still stained with blood… hangs in the visitor’s center today.  That’s how much history is in Virginia….you can make a wrong turn and run into a crucial civil war battlefield (and not even try.)

Southward we push, past more and more wooden signs with the recognizable “National Parks” symbol on it. You know the kind of signs I am talking about.  Battle of this….battle of that.  Can’t stop…..can’t stop – need to keep pushing on.  I will be back though.

The heavy grey clouds (as if it were orchestrated) cleared to a blue sky with white puffy pieces of cotton slowly creeping by upon our entry into Charlottesville.  This is home of our third president, Thomas Jefferson.  Monticello, (as seen on your nickel) is a powerful testimony to the brilliance of this man.  Noted for his obsessive, compulsiveness and sense of perfection (I can relate), Jefferson was a gardener, one of the first Meteorologists, a botanist, a chemist, a writer, a musician, an architect, a skilled craftsman, and even wine maker and brew master.  No wonder he left off President of the United States on his gravesite….it would be a step down!  Master planner of the University of Virginia and even chief architect of the Virginia Statehouse, along with early prints of the Supreme Court and even US Capitol, Jefferson’s Monticello was his favorite spot.  And with good reason….when you see the pictures.

We had a wonderful tour indoors and all through the house.  (No pictures inside though)  Grrrr!  But it was so well preserved.  Many don’t know that this single home alone had the first “attic” the first “lazy susan”  the first “dummy waiter”  the use of “pocket doors”  and even the beds that fold up into the wall.  Jefferson thought sleeping was a waste of time and space so he didn’t want to look at a bed in the middle of the room and thought to just fold it up into the wall.  We planned on bring there for a couple of hours….we ended up staying at least four.  Wonderful, wonderful place.  I even bought his biography by Stephen Ambrose on the way out to find out more about this wonderful draftsman of a nation.

The perfect sky (as if it were orchestrated) darkened into heavy grey clouds and eventually blinding rain in Richmond.  We planned on stopping there to see the Confederate Capitol, but with this weather we opted to just keep pushing into Southern Virginia.

In familiar territory, we crossed the bridge at Newport News and into Norfolk.  Familiar as this was the base I had to process out of in the Navy in 2001.  The 6:00pm rush hour traffic was also a familiar site, recalling the mess we pushed through to get out of DC.  Cars and more cars in the morning….cars and more cars in the evening.  Man, the east coast has a high population density!!!

The Harbor-front hotel of the Sheraton welcomed us into their loving arms.  Just crossing the 2000 mile mark, we parked the truck and dumped the bags and headed to a delightful local eatery called “The Outback Steakhouse” next door.  Oh, wait…I am being told that they are everywhere in the country.   Nonetheless, a good chunk of meat and a hearty red wine cooled my nerves from the hours of navigation to get down here.  Weather makes all the difference in your stress levels. 400 miles of sunny weather, no problem…..178 miles of rain, crushing.  So 2000 miles later you are still with me.  We are entering our 10th day tomorrow…hope you still want to keep going.  I know I do.

Meeting with a dear friend Stephanie who is stationed here in Norfolk.  Going to get on base and hit up some old stomping grounds and then head to the colonial colonies of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown.  Should be historically delicious.  Lower the gangway boys….Dax is back on a Naval Base!  I would not trade the experience for a million dollars.   But I would not pay a penny for a second more.  (Being in the Navy that is…not this trip).  From stormy and rainy Norfolk I bid you good night.  No more US Capitol to stare at tonight, but I do have the lovely harbor with its dry dock cranes to keep me warm.

Dispatch out.
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