D.C. Trip - Day 2 Appomattox

The morning of Day 2, I awoke early, took my shower, turned on the lights and woke up the girls at 6:45, packed my stuff and hauled it down to the car, pleaded with the girls to get out of bed ‘cause “we’re burning daylight,” grabbed my iPad and found my way down to the hotel lobby for a cup of coffee and the free breakfast.

We left at 8:30. That’s not a misprint – 8:30! A new world record time for us to leave! I told the girls how much I loved them just then, got out a calendar to mark the date for the new record leaving time, stopped at a gas station to feed the Honda, and off we went for a new day’s adventure.
Appomattox Court House.

We decided to take a small detour on our way to D.C. to see Appomattox Court House. The momma-woman can take Civil War stuff or leave it, but being a native-born Texan with ancestors who fought and died during that terrible time, I’m a bit of a nut about it. She knows and is an understanding and very patient spouse so she was OK with the side-trip.

In the words of Charles Kuralt – thanks to the interstate highway system, it is possible to go from coast to coast without seeing anything. Having spent the whole first day of our trip seeing nothing on I-40, we hooked up with I-81 not far outside of Knoxville and I prepared myself for more hours of boring driving. However, I was very pleasantly surprised to find it actually rather pretty and interesting due to the terrain – very large hills, plenty of trees, and interesting architecture of the houses we passed. Momma-woman stayed awake most of the time and we enjoyed several nice conversations along the way. Even Youngest-daughter put aside her Nook, looked at the countryside, asked a few questions and took part in several conversations. It was turning out to be a very good day indeed!

The McLean House where the
surrender took place.
We jumped off the interstate in Roanoke and took Hwy 460 east. It’s a 4-lane road, smooth, and again, because of the interesting terrain, was rather enjoyable to drive. We stopped for lunch in Lynchburg and finally made it to the Appomattox National Historic Park at about 3:30 – pretty good timing since the park closes at 5:00 and the last Ranger guided tour starts at 4:00.

It’s a very interesting park and the Rangers were, as usual, very friendly, interesting, and informative. We received basically personal attention from everyone because other than one other guy, we were the only visitors. We visited the houses, the stores, the jail, and the courthouse of the Appomattox Courthouse community; we walked the dirt roads where General Robert E. Lee, General Ulysses S. Grant, their men and all of the other civil war soldiers walked; and we visited the McLean house where the actual surrender took place on April 9, 1865. To stand there, especially in the actual parlor of the house where such an historical event took place, was humbling. The Ranger lady was very good. She led us to the spot, told the story, filled in some interesting details, then just stood back and let us stand there in silence, actually feeling the history, the smells of the house, trying to picture the surrender ceremony, trying to comprehend the weight of the decision on General Lee’s shoulders knowing that after 4 years of such hard struggles, of so much suffering and death, he was about to change the course of history by signing his name to a piece of paper saying, “We will lay down our guns, we will fight no more, we will change our way of life. It’s over.”

Ranger giving tour in the cold.
If you would like to read what I think is a really interesting story about Wilmer McLean and the surrender ceremony, please see one of my other entries here: Wilmer McLean.

We left the park at 5:15 and headed back east toward Lynchburg where we caught Hwy 29 before reaching the town and headed north. I’m sure Hwy 29 would be a joy to drive during the daylight hours as it is mostly just 2 lanes with almost continuous curves through hill, valley and dale, but I’m afraid my night vision isn’t as good as it once was and the sun had already gone to bed. With all of the blind, dark curves and only a memory of yellow and white lines left to hint at guidance, I decided it would be best for younger, sharper-eyed Momma-woman to take the wheel. It was OK because I’m such a good co-pilot. I will often offer calm, helpful guidance. When a car slows down in front of us, I calmly slam my foot into the floorboard and say “Slow down!” Helpful mumbles of “Watch out!” and “Do you see that car slowing down up ahead?!” and “You’re taking this curve too fast!” and “We’re all going to die!!” are somewhat common. It’s beyond me why she doesn’t seem to appreciate my help.

Daughter in the old
Appomattox jail.
After a couple of hours which seemed longer, we safely reached Charlottesville and found a Hampton Inn located next to a nice shopping center. This time we only removed from the car the bags we would need rather than everything, including the kitchen sink which I was pretty sure the girls had also packed. We were able to walk to a Chili’s right around the corner for supper. Not much to say about that – it was Chili’s – decent food at a decent price, but not something to gush over. Once again, the hotel was nice, the front desk staff friendly and welcoming, the beds were fine. And like the previous night, we relaxed for a while, and soon found ourselves in bed and asleep before the clock struck 11:00. We’ll be in D.C. tomorrow!