Winding our way north, the Blue Ridge Parkway becomes the Skyline Drive as it enters Shenandoah National Park. However the scenery does not become any less beautiful. The blue green haze of the distant peaks continues to draw you in. The area is soaked in history. From our previous stop at Appomatox, to Shenandoah and Fredicksburg and north to Gettysburg, the towns and cities echo with their Civil War past. We are heading east of the Blue Ridge toward Charlottesville, Virginia, home of Thomas Jefferson and nearby is Montpelier, childhood home of James Madison.
We settle into the Charlottesville KOA campground and our first stop is downtown Charlottesville and the University of Virginia. This was Thomas Jefferson’s “retirement project” worked on in his 70’s and it reflects the value he put on secular education and the sciences. Finished around 1820 it is considered to be the first liberal and modern university in America. It’s a picture perfect campus. As we wandered across the central quad I was fantasizing about how great it would be to go back to school in such a beautiful and historic setting. Then hubby reminded me about term papers and finals and I came back to reality. Been there, done that. The white-columned rotunda, designed by Jefferson, reflects his attention to architectural detail. It was originally the University’s library and we spent many hours exploring it’s beauty and history.
We spend the next day at Monticello, soaking up more Jeffersonian history. His grave site summed up his life: the declaration of Independence, religious freedom and the university. These were what he thought were his three greatest accomplishments. I’d have to agree. The plantation, the gardens, the house, the views, the history are all beyond my humble ability to describe in this short space. Suffice it to say it’s a place that needs to be seen many times.
Suffering from historical-site-overload, we continued our amble north, maybe 100 miles, to Haymarket, in Northern Virginia. Our camp (Greenville Farm Family Campground,) was on a working farm in a very rural setting. They had a row of full service sites overlooking the barn and a pond and many, many cows, who, as it turns out, are quite noisy at night. Despite the pastoral setting we were very close to Washington DC, which made it easy to catch up with friends and family in the area. We drove twenty miles to Vienna, Virginia for a nice Italian dinner with one of hubby’s childhood buddies. My sister and her boyfriend drove in for a visit. We toured La Grange Winery, tasted some free samples and bought a few bottles for the road. Then we drove to Middleburg, Virginia, in the heart of horse country, to check out the local shops and have lunch. All in all, a nice respite before continuing our travels and our sightseeing. As you can see, traveling the red roads is not exactly grueling.