Since Charleston kind of sucked, we needed to do something a little more exciting while in West Virginia. Our inspiration came from the back of the West Virginia State quarter which advertised the New River Gorge Bridge. There wasn’t really too much to see when it came to it. In order to get to the observation deck for a landscape view, we had to drive over the bridge which took us all of two minutes. Before the bridge was built, it would take 40 minutes to cross since it required you to drive down a road on the side of the gorge in order to cross a smaller bridge at the base. I’m all for saving time, so I approve of this bridge. Well done, West Virginia. After staring at the bridge for 10 minutes and then walking through the “museum” dedicated to the history of the bridge (it’s just a room that talks about the history of mining in West Virginia), we were off to plain Virginia to visit Monticello, the Thomas Jefferson estate.
Upon arrival at Monticello, we went to the ticket area to get our tickets for the basic estate tour. In this area, there was a gift shop, cafeteria, and tour ticket building with Jefferson’s estate being a short bus ride up a hill. It was not made immediately clear where we were supposed to meet our tour group so we assumed it was at the bus stop. This was a bad assumption because as we were looking through the gift shop, we didn’t see any large groups of people gathering by the bus stop as our tour start time drew near. In a bit of a panic, we boarded the next shuttle and got to the top of the hill where our tour group leader was already going over the rules of the house. We sidled up to a lady on the side of the group to listen to our tour guide when the lady next to us says “Excuse me, this is the front of the line”. I was honestly caught off guard because tours are not single file, they are amoeba shaped. After giving her a questionable look and a long “oooooooooooookayyyyyy”, Kristie and I stepped out in front walking to the end of our tour group. I officially declared that “it’s on” on my head and would make it my goal to cut in front of that lady while walking into every room in the estate. She may have been the first one in the first door, but I made sure that I would beat her into every other door. It was all too easy as I could easily figure out which door the tour guide would move us through next and just stand by it.
Overall the tour itself was pretty standard. I really enjoyed that the tour guide did not shy away at all from Thomas Jefferson’s past of owning slaves and fathering children with slaves. I sort of just figured this was the type of thing they would try and sweep under the rug, but they were open and up front with it. I also liked some of the stories they had about Thomas Jefferson’s love for books. I also learned that Thomas Jefferson had a pink bedspread because pink was viewed as a manly color back in the day since it was expensive. Those were interesting tidbits, but I didn’t much care for the tour guide. She seemed to be on cruise control. She kept warning us that “they” are always watching us while in the estate so we need to obey the rules. I actually found a camera hidden in a book titled “L’oeil Du Camera” which I found amusing. Since I didn’t know what l’oeil meant, I asked her and she looked at me like I was crazy. I know it means “camera’s eye” now, but no thanks to her and all the thanks to Google. The problem with tours is that the tour guide can make or break the experience, but the people on the tour do their best to help. There was this one funny guy in our group who kept asking the tour guide if each painting was original. I think he was scoping the place out for a Thomas Crown style heist.
We walked around the grounds by ourselves after the tour. There really isn’t too much else to report on it other than Kristie was a bit jealous of the vegetable garden. Once we left Monticello, we drove to Shenandoah National Park, where we were camping out for the night. We stopped at many pull offs on the side of the road, but it really felt like every view was the same. There were a lot of trees on rolling hills/mountains, so it reminded us a lot of the Great Smoky Mountains, which reminded us a lot of NY, which is scenery we’re used to, so we were both very meh on it all. We got to our campground and set up our tent for our last night of camping on this trip.
Since it was the last night of camping, I decided I would go to the general store to pick up some wine while Kristie cooked dinner (cheesy chicken pasta, with broccoli and caprese on the side). As I was driving, I could see a dense fog moving over the campsite very quickly. I made it to the store and picked up a Shenandoah branded wine (and a Shenandoah IPA as well) and headed back to the campsite. Driving was a real pain because at this point, everything was engulfed in fog and there was barely any visibility. I passed two deer on the side of the road and I was just very grateful they were not in the road. I made it safely back to the campsite where Kristie and I toasted our crazy camping summer with a Shenandoah red table wine over dinner.