Richmond in the Civil War


We both retired in June of 2014, but that doesn’t mean we’re done working! Debbie still does a little consulting, and that necessitated a trip to Richmond for a meeting. Normally, it’s an hour and a half from Chesapeake, and a trip Debbie has made many times. This time, however, we were in Abingdon, which is five hours away.  So we both decided to make the drive and even spend the night.

The day of the Debbie’s, meeting, I decided to revisit the Civil War in Richmond. The best place to do that is at the Tredegar Iron Works.20150805_104716

It has an interesting take on how the Civil War affected the people of Richmond. Having grown up in Virginia, I am well aware of the many battlefields scattered throughout the state. But this museum personalizes the war a bit more.

A recent statue commemorating President Lincoln and his son's visit to Richmond days after its fall.

A recent statue commemorating President Lincoln and his son’s visit to Richmond days after its fall.

The first floor orients you to where the factory is in relation to the city. On the second floor, you can watch a very interesting video telling how the war was fought around the Confederacy’s capital.

Also on that floor are a couple of halls that tell different stories. I especially liked the one about how the war affected the Richmonders still in the city. I hadn’t realized that within Richmond, there were federal, state (it was still the capital of Virginia) and local interests, often at odds with each other.

The third floor tells oral stories of various people and what life was like in the city. All very interesting and unique.

Outside of what's left of the Ironworks.

Outside of what’s left of the Ironworks.

Outside is interesting, too.  You can see a lot of machinery still on the grounds and get a clear understanding of what they did. Tredegar was around from before the war until the early 20th century, so there are lots of stories to tell.



But, as they say, wait…there’s more. The iron works is across the street from a terrific park that runs alongside the James River.  There’s plenty to look at as you walk along. You can also rent bikes or kayaks.

A view of the James from the park walkway

A view of the James from the park walkway

Plenty of activity in the river on a warm summer day

Plenty of activity on the river on a warm summer day






If you have the time, I would suggest a walk to Belle’s Island. It was home to a notorious prisoner of war camp during the Civil War, and then served as an industrial site for years afterward.

A walkway over the James gets you to Belle's Island

A walkway over the James gets you to Belle’s Island

The site of the prisoner of war camp

The site of the prisoner of war camp






So if you’re in Richmond and want a different take on some Civil War history, Tredegar is a great place to check out.

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Seeing Virginia Beach Through a New Lens


Bill is a Virginia Beach native and Debbie has been here for over 30 years (she’ll be considered a native in 20 years or so) and usually we have avoided the Boardwalk area of the Beach during the summer.  “It’s so full of tourists!”, we sniffed.  We’ll stay to the north with the regular folks.

Well, Debbie’s family decided to have a family milestone birthday celebration at…Virginia Beach!  So we packed up and headed to a high-rise hotel in the middle of the tourist district.  Not ever having done that, we didn’t know what to expect.  We were very pleasantly surprised.


The wide boardwalk is a great place for families to stroll.

Once situated in our seventh floor hotel room, we stepped out on the balcony and took in the gorgeous view – from the Virginia Beach Pier down to Rudee Inlet. The beach is impressively large and pristine and there’s a lot for your eye to take in – dolphins,
swimmers, sunbathers, beach volleyball players, boardwalk strollers and a variety of bicycles, rollerblades and other touristy wheeled vehicles. While we brought our own beach chairs and umbrella, family members easily rented theirs that were set up by very nice work-study young men and women who represented a number of countries. The beach was filled with visitors, but it never felt crowded.


There’s a variety of city sponsored entertainment all along Atlantic Avenue.

In the evening, we ventured out for walks on the boardwalk and explored Atlantic Avenue. Virginia Beach is definitely geared to families and there was no shortage of activities, including an amusement park and street entertainers. We felt safe and comfortable well into the evening hours. The resort strip makes for a very walk-able vacation. We did not have to use our car once – except for an excursion to the Military Aviation Museum. Restaurants, shops and entertainment are all within a few easy blocks.

Experiencing Virginia Beach from the eyes of a tourist certainly opened our eyes to the many offerings the Beach has for vacationers. We came away with a renewed appreciation for this resort destination. While we will likely continue to hang-out with the townies in the North End, we will never again snicker at the tourists. After all, they are what make Virginia Beach a great place to visit.

Taking an off shore tour is a fun way to check out the beach from a different angle

Taking an off shore tour is a fun way to check out the beach from a different angle

There are no shortage of people powered vehicles to rent!

There are no shortage of people powered vehicles to rent!

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The Creeper


“Comin’ on your left”.  That’s something you hear a lot on the Creeper Trail as walkers or bikers who are faster than you pass you by.  It’s a common courtesy that most everyone uses.  It’s just one of the reasons the Creeper is probably our favorite place in Southwest Virginia.

You'll see lots of folks, and dogs, along the trail.  Be sure to say howdy!

You’ll see lots of folks, and dogs, along the trail. Be sure to say howdy!

The Creeper Trail is a 35 mile long railroad spur that was abandoned by Norfolk Southern in the 1970s. It runs from the North Carolina border through Whitetop Mountain, the town of Damascus, VA and ends (or begins if you prefer) in Abingdon, VA.

Benches are all along the trail, as are a couple emergency phones

Benches are all along the trail, as are a couple emergency phones

Through some very smart foresight, in 1982 the town of Abingdon bought the right of way to Damascus with the U.S. Forest Service picking up the rest. The Creeper Trail opened in 1987 and the rest is history. Being maybe the best trail of its type in Virginia, it brings in plenty of visitors and is an economic powerhouse for the region.

One of the longer trestles across the South Holston

One of the longer trestles across the South Holston

We consider the Creeper Trail to be divided into four easily digestible parts: Abingdon to Watauga, Watauga to Alvarado, Alvarado to Damascus, Whitetop to Damascus.

You can stop for a tasty lunch in Alvarado

You can stop for a tasty lunch in Alvarado

It’s a very easy walking, biking and horseback riding trail with a gentle slope.  Well except for the last part where you go down the side of the mountain into Damascus.  But there’s very little pedaling going on downhill. (Our daughter and son-in-law have biked up to the top of the mountain…good for them).

You'll go through both cow and horse country

You’ll go through both cow and horse country

You're not always out in the wilderness

You’re not always out in the wilderness

Each section of the trail has a different look to it.  Coming out of Abingdon, you’ll pass a nice, golf course neighborhood before heading into the woods.  From Watauga, you’ll pass farmlands and a lot of trestles. Keep an eye out for tree-houses, too. Heading out of Alvarado, there are homes along the river and more fields.  Biking downhill from Whitetop, you’ll follow a stream for much of the trail.

An example of what used to be on the trail

An example of what used to be on the trail


To get really involved, join the Creeper Trail Club here. Go to meetings, volunteer, and you’ll meet lots of really great people. Abingdon is a great place to visit, and the Creeper Trail is a must.










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The Road Less Traveled


In general, we are Interstate people.  When travelling, we like to get to our destination as quickly as possible.  But on the way home from a recent trip to New York State, we decided on a different course.

After a stay in Winchester, located at the northernmost tip in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia, we took Route 11 south to Harrisonburg, VA.  We are really glad we did. Route 11 begins in Bristol, VA and we are very familiar with it when we’re staying in Abingdon.  It travels north to Frederick, MD, pretty much paralleling Interstate 81 the whole way.

Route 11 is nicely paved and is 3-4 lanes, except when going through towns

Route 11 is nicely paved and is 3-4 lanes, except when going through towns

Winchester and Harrisonburg are only about 50 miles apart so we had time to dawdle and still get home to Chesapeake before dinner.  The route goes through several small, scenic towns, and has a lot of Civil War markers documenting the numerous skirmishes along the Shenandoah Valley.  Plus it’s home to our favorite potato chip factory!

The first small town we passed through was Stephens City.  Chartered in 1758, it was originally inhabited by natives of Heidelberg, Germany.  It’s quaint in the best way and has a nice, small downtown.

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Probably the coolest aspect of Stephens City is the Family Drive In.  They are few and far between, but this one was showing first run movies.

Looks like a fun place to watch a movie!

Looks like a fun place to watch a movie!

Next we drove through Middletown, and had to stop and turn around when we saw this sign.

America's oldest continuously operating inn

America’s oldest continuously operating inn

According to the sign, the Wayside Inn is America’s oldest continuously operated inn. Who knew!?  We wished we had time to stop in for a tour, or maybe a stay, but we will have to save that for another day.

There are a variety of sights along Route 11 and the views of the Shenandoah Mountains are breathtaking. Pictures rather than words will do it justice.

Woodstock, Va.

Woodstock, Va.

Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock

Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock

Some of the scenery along the way

Some of the scenery along the way

Soon we came to the highlight of the trip.  We don’t eat potato chips very often, but our favorites are Route 11 Potato Chips.  We knew we would be passing by, and we wanted to stop in to watch the chips being made.  It’s a little off of Route 11, but, surprise, we drove through a lovely covered bridge to get there!

A historic covered bridge on the way to Route 11 Chips

A historic covered bridge on the way to Route 11 Potato Chips

The factory is in a nondescript warehouse building, but they make the best chips around. Going in was like watching an episode of “How It’s Made” (but with no cameras) and definitely worth the trip. Plus you can sample and buy all their flavors of chips.


The unassuming Route 11 Potato Chip factory

Some of Route 11 Chips flavors

Some of Route 11 Potato Chip flavors

Bill with his favorite flavor, Mama Zuma's Revenge

Bill with his favorite flavor, Mama Zuma’s Revenge

Before we knew it, we were approaching Harrisonburg.


We were a little sad that we didn’t have the whole day to stop in some of the shops along the way and really explore the small towns we went through on Route 11. We will be sure to take this journey again when we can do just that!

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Getting Wise About Wise County


We’ve lived part time in Abingdon for several years now and decided it was time to do a little exploring. We’re about 20 miles north of Tennessee and we’ve been to Bristol plenty of times. But there’s a lot to the west of us before we hit Kentucky and West Virginia.

So we thought we would play it smart and start out in Wise County. Formed in 1856 and named for the sitting Governor (that must have been an ego boost!), Wise County was an important player in the coal industry for many years. We thought we would visit two towns and check out a couple of places there.

We started in the County Seat, Wise. It’s claim to fame is: 1.  Home to University of Virginia’s College at Wise, and 2.  The birthplace of George C. Scott (!). There is also a lovely inn there.

The Inn at Wise

The Inn at Wise

Downtown Wise

Downtown Wise







Wise is on the Crooked Road, the trail that denotes Virginia’s Heritage Music (old time country and Bluegrass), so we stopped at the interesting display.

Crooked Road display in Wise

Crooked Road display in Wise


These displays are scattered along the road and include an FM station that plays the music of the area. You need to hang around to listed to it, though, as the radio station fades out pretty quickly as you move away.



We drove through Main Street and headed to our main destination, the MountainRose Vineyard and Winery.  

MountainRose Vineyard and Winery


We didn’t really know what to expect, with a vineyard over a reclaimed coal field, but we were really taken with it.  The tasting room is lovely, and so were the wines. We’re not much on sweet wines, but they have a nice selection of drier wines, including some grapes we had never heard of. It was near lunch time so we indulged in a nice glass of wine along with cheese and crackers while sitting out and looking over the vineyards.

Wine and cheese for lunch.  And a great view!

Wine and cheese for lunch. And a great view!

It’s definitely worth the drive for a vineyard in an unexpected place with really delicious wines.

Next up we drove down to Big Stone Gap. If the name sounds familiar, it may be because it’s the title of a popular book (and soon to be movie) by Adriana Trigiani. I guess a lot of small town Main Streets look similar, as the picture shows.

Main Street Big Stone Gap

Main Street Big Stone Gap

We wanted to know a little history of the area, and the perfect place for that was the Southwest Virginia Historical State Park. It tells the story of the area and the people who settled in what was the frontier in the 1700’s and 1800’s.

The Southwest Va Historical State Park is in a lovely mansion

The SWVA Historical State Park is in a lovely mansion

Some entertainment choices from the old days

Some entertainment choices from the old days







Stills were popular in this part of Virginia

Stills were popular in this part of Virginia

So now we’ve seen Wise County. It’s only about an hour from Abingdon and well worth the visit. It makes for a good day trip; the roads are great as are the views. There are still plenty more counties for us to visit – this was just the start.























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A Visit to Poe and Washington (in Richmond)


P1020790Hopefully, most everyone knows that Richmond is the capital of Virginia. It was moved there from Williamsburg in 1780. It’s had a storied history (as native Richmonders are very happy to convey). At the end of the Civil War, Richmond, also the capital of the Confederacy, was abandoned and much was burned as the Confederates evacuated. Luckily, a few spots survived, many thanks to Abraham Lincoln, who ordered troops to not destroy the capital building.

We’re only two hours from Richmond, so we decided on a quick trip to see a couple of sites we’d never visited (or at least hadn’t been there for many decades).

First off, one of our favorite authors, Edgar Allan Poe.


Many people don’t realize that E.A.P. grew up, fairly unhappily, in Richmond, as a foster child of a wealthy couple. The Poe Museum, founded in 1922,  shows off much of his life, showcasing furniture and writing of his. The entrance building is the oldest still standing in Richmond. Even though no buildings where Poe lived or worked still stand, the museum has collected a great deal from his time in Richmond. There’s a lovely garden, based on one of his poems, a recreation of his bedroom, lots of manuscripts, and a great deal of knowledge to be gained.

Poe's bed as a youth.

Poe’s bed as a youth

The garden, based on the poem "To One In Paradise"

The garden, based on the poem “To One In Paradise”

Hmm, what was quoteth again?

Hmm, what was quoteth again?

The Poe Museum is an excellent place to catch up on Mr. Poe. We learned a lot, and it whetted our appetite to re-read his works.

We stopped for lunch a few blocks away at The Hill Cafe.  This is a terrific neighborhood dining spot where Bill had maybe the best BLT he’s ever had (with fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese).

From there, it was off to the State Capital Building. It was virtually rebuilt about 10 years ago, and we hadn’t visited since before children.

You start out in an underground visitors’ center which gives a history of the building (originally designed, of course, by Thomas Jefferson.  We learned that as it was built, much changed from his design).

Mr. Jefferson guarding a guard

Mr. Jefferson guarding a guard

You can have either a guided or self-guided tour.  We chose the latter, since time was moving on.  Once in the building, we met with a volunteer who, with her lilting Richmond accent, gave us some information on the building, including its use in the filming of “Lincoln” where it stood in for the U.S. Capital building.  Native Virginians get to start on the third floor, where paintings of former governors hang.  Bill was impressed by the number of governors there have been in his lifetime.  One reason for that is the fact that, unique to Virginia, governors can only serve one term.

The main attraction is the life sized statue of George Washington, carved by Jean-Antoine Houdon in 1796.

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The old General Assembly rooms are open to the public.

One of the original chambers

One of the original chambers

It’s very impressive to realize the historical events that took place in these rooms, everything from the treason trial of Aaron Burr, to the secession vote.

The current Senate and House of Delegates chambers are a bit bigger and more technologically up to date.


The Senate Chamber


The House of Delegates Chamber


All in all it was a very fun and educational day.  The only bad part was driving back into Hampton Roads during rush hour, so the trip home took a lot longer than the trip up.  Next time, maybe an overnighter. We’ve still got plenty of sites to see in Richmond.

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Adventures in Grandchild Sitting



I must be dreaming. I keep hearing a winsome voice calling “Nana, Poppa!”. Then I realize I’m awake and Tristan is calling me. At 5:30 in the morning.

We have an almost 3 year old grandson (Tristan) and nearly 1 year old granddaughter (Virginia) living near us in Chesapeake. Their parents, many months ago, asked us to watch them for 4 days while they went to a wedding in Kentucky. Debbie said sure; I’m not sure I was involved in the decision.

The date came this past Thursday. That day and Friday were relatively easy as they both went off to day care (why not…it was already paid for!). Saturday and Sunday would be the interesting days.

Saturday started off cool and rainy. That took care of taking them to Northwest River Park.

Plan B involved Tristan watching “The Lego Movie” which he had been asking about. Once Virginia went down for a morning nap, we relented and put it on. I (Bill) am not big on letting toddlers watch a lot of TV, but, hey, it’s a fun movie (I had only seen it once). So we put the DVD in and the three of us watched and enjoyed it greatly (Everything is awesome!).

After lunch, since it was still rainy, we headed into downtown Norfolk to MacArthur Center. The kids didn’t have much interest in checking out the clothes at Nordstrom’s, so we headed to the play area. It’s pretty nice, what with a Norfolk port theme inhabited by Warner Brothers’ cartoon characters.

Looney Tunes!

Looney Tunes!

I was excited to introduce Tristan to the Looney Tunes characters and explain to him why they’re better than the Disney cartoon shorts.

Dinner, bath, and a nice bedtime around 7:30 and we were good to go. Debbie and I enjoyed a glass of wine and chatted about how TIRED we were.



“Nana, Poppa!”

Well, we got another hour on Sunday to sleep in. We hadn’t gotten up this early since we were working!

We were ready to go and have an outdoor adventure on this Sunday until I looked out the door. Oh, no, more rain, and chilly to boot! Oh, well, another indoor activity for us.

We decided on the terrific Children’s Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth.

childrens museum

It would be great for both Tristan and Virginia. I’m not big on the local tolls, most of which are hurting Portsmouth badly, but we can avoid the tunnels and get to downtown fairly easily…except when stopped by a train that was blocking the road and not moving. After a bit, we turned around and ended up somehow on the (tolled) Jordan Bridge, which we had never been over.

The Jordan Bridge is about the highest spot in Hampton Roads

The Jordan Bridge is about the highest spot in Hampton Roads

The great views were somewhat offset by the $4.25 toll we would be billed for. Then through the downtown tunnel (about $4.00) and into Portsmouth. As expected, the museum was a big hit with both kids. Our timing was off or we may have risked a restaurant (one of our faves is The Bier Garden). After we wore both kids out, back home we went (through another tolled tunnel…kaching!).

We took them over to their house and they were very happy to see their parents come home. So were we! It was a lot of fun overall, but exhausting! In June we’re renting a house in the Outer Banks with all 4 grandchildren (and, thankfully, their parents). I think we’ll be recovered by then.

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Yorktown Revisited


For history buffs, Virginia is a great place to live. You’re within one hour of where the Revolutionary War ended and about three hours from where the Civil War ended. Lots of things are happening in Appomattox this month, the 150th anniversary of the end of the war.

This week we decided to visit a historical spot that we had not been to since our kids were little – Yorktown, the town where General Cornwallis surrendered and ended the Revolution. It was kind of a dreary day, so we skipped the battlefields and ventured out to see what else there was to Yorktown.

We started at the old courthouse, now York Hall.

Lots of local artists' work  is here in York Hall

Lots of local artists’ work is here in York Hall

This is a good place to begin for visitors going downtown.  There is a lot of high quality artwork and crafts for sale (all made in Virginia), in addition to all the brochures you could possibly want for the area.

Next we went down the hill towards the York River.  Our first stop was the Waterman’s Museum.  It gave a very complete history of how the water ways in the area were so important to the people who lived there…from the Native Americans to the residents of today.

The Waterman's Museum

The Waterman’s Museum

We walked on a trail along the river and spotted a touring schooner, either the Alliance or Serenity.  They have daily river tours and can be contacted at .

One of the touring schooners hoisting its sails.

One of the touring schooners hoisting its sails.

The Coleman Bridge looms over Historic Yorkdown

The Coleman Bridge looms over Historic Yorktown

By now it was lunchtime, so we headed to Riverwalk Landing, a shopping and dining complex right next to the water.  We had a terrific lunch at the Carrot Tree Kitchens. We were highly tempted by their yummy carrot cake desert, but resisted until the next time.

Along Riverwalk Landing

Along Riverwalk Landing

Yorktown is a perfect spot for a quick visit. In addition to downtown, there’s an area of what look to be Colonial homes at the top of a bluff overlooking the river that will make for a nice walking tour the next time we go back. We’ll also want to revisit the Yorktown Battlefield and Victory Center the next time to catch up on what we forgot in high school!

The dogwoods were almost in bloom this early April morning.

The dogwoods were almost in bloom this early April morning.

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Retirement Interlude: It’s Back to Work I Go!


When Debbie and I retired last summer, we jumped right into living the good life. Lazy mornings, lots of travel and activities, and kicking off this blog to document our rediscovery of Virginia. But this month, we’ve – or, at least I have – had to put the fun life on hold for a bit. I’m back to work!

I worked in the local television industry for about 15 years before spending 26 years teaching TV Production at the Virginia Beach Technical and Career Education Center. I happily retired at the end of the 2013/2014 school year.

So imagine my surprise when, while spending a couple of weeks in Florida in February, the Tech Center principal called me. Even more surprising, he was asking me to come back to work!

My successor had to be absent for 5 weeks, beginning in March. This is such a specialized course; he couldn’t really get a regular substitute teacher for that amount of time. So he thought of me. Debbie and I had done a lot of travelling in February, but didn’t have plans for March, so I said, sure I would help out.

The first day came awfully early…5:40 am in fact. I hadn’t gotten up that early since, well since I was working! And that alarm clock! (I am now sleeping in the guest room because there’s no way Debbie is getting up that early.)

So going back to work has actually been kind of fun. I got to greet all the teachers at the school, who were surprised to see me back (no one had clued them in on what was going on). There are 2 TV Production classes in session. The first year class viewed me with some suspicion, until I told them my background. The second year class I had had the previous year, so they were thrilled to see me again, (much to my pleasure. It would have been awkward if they greeted me with no enthusiasm).

I’m 2 ½ weeks in with 2 ½ weeks to go. People are asking me if I’m enjoying it.  Enjoy is probably not the right word, but I’m happy to be able to step in to help out. It confirmed to me that I retired at the right time. And I can’t wait to sleep in with no alarm clock!

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Snow Daze


Snow. It’s everywhere in Virginia this February. Usually there’s some corner of the state where we can escape it. But even Virginia Beach has been shoveling out. So, with seven months of retirement under our belts, we decided to try the life of snowbirds for a few weeks and head to Florida – Sanibel Island in fact. Sunny, warm, sit by the pool kind-of days and cool, pleasant evenings. It’s no wonder people pack it in during the winter months and head down I-95 seeking warmth. We never dreamed of taking a winter vacation while we were working, but retirement opens our world to new possibilities. We ate fresh strawberries, corn on the cob and delicious shrimp and grits. Every evening around 6:10 we ventured down to the beach and oohed and aahed at the sun setting over the Gulf of Mexico. It was rejuvenating.


Now we’re back in Virginia and are oohing and aahing over our new granddaughter, who was born on President’s Day in Abingdon. We now have four Virginia-born grandkids who will no-doubt be introduced to numerous sites across the state by their doting grandparents, just as we did with their mothers when they were young.

And, we’re back to the snow and cold. but that’s fine. Spring is just around the corner…we hope.


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