Biking through North Carolina and Virginia to a Family Reunion, page 4

Page 1: New Bern to Ocracoke
Page 2: Ocracoke to Kitty Hawk
Page 3: Kitty Hawk to Williamsburg
Page 4: Williamsburg to Fredericksburg.
Page 5: Visiting family and hiking in northern Virginia.

Wednesday and Thursday, June 11-12

Distance: 0 miles

The past two days have been a history lesson for Kathy and me as we've toured Colonial Williamsburg. My parents arrived here yesterday morning and watched the children while Kathy and I toured some of the buildings. My parents have already visited this place several times, so they were happy to skip the tours and spend time with their grandchildren. The Williamsburg bus system has a stop right outside our campground, so we took buses to and from the colonial area to give our bodies a break from biking.

Williamsburg was Virginia's capitol right before the American Revolution, and many important events leading up to the war happened here, particularly in the capitol building where George Washington, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, Peyton Randolph, and other patriots served in the House of Burgesses. Colonial Williamsburg covers about 3 square miles and includes both restored original buildings and accurate reconstructed buildings.

One of the most impressive buildings is the governor's palace, which was reconstructed from detailed records (the original palace was destroyed by arson.) The entryways of the palace are dominated by weapon displays, which were a traditional symbol of the British empire's power. Historians know that when the palace was quickly abandoned before the Revolution, it had a combined 540 swords, muskets and pistols on display. Impressive to look at, but this would not have been a safe house for children.

My mom and dad met us at our campsite in the morning.

The entrance of the reconstructed governor's mansion in Colonial Williamsburg. Even by today's standards, this is an impressive mansion.

Pistols and swords surround a doorway in the governor's mansion.

What better place to meet with company, than beside a cozy fireplace and dozens of weapons?

English gardens behind the governor's mansion. The long addition off the back of the mansion contains the ballroom and group dining room.

A horse carriage takes tourists through Colonial Williamsburg.

We toured several restored mansions, including the homes of George Wythe and Peyton Randolph, who were members of the Continental Congress. Most of these mansions were originally staffed by 10 to 30 slaves who did all the cooking, cleaning and other housework, and the rich families who lived there often owned separate plantations staffed with even more slaves. 52% of the Williamsburg population was slaves.

A number of trade shops were open and busy producing colonial goods, including a cobbler, saddle-maker and gunsmith. One of the neat things about Colonial Williamsburg is that costumed actor/historians are spread throughout the area, ready to answer questions about their specialty subjects (like colonial gun-making.) There are even actors who give speeches while playing a famous person, and then respond to questions from the audience. We saw one actor give a great speech as Thomas Jefferson.

After 2 days we've visited only a small fraction of the historic properties that are here, but tomorrow it will be time for us to move on to Richmond. It has been fun to visit my parents and tour such a unique place at the same time.

George Wythe's house. In the 1700's this was considered a mansion, since most colonists lived in homes no bigger than a bedroom of this house.

A historian demonstrates how to spin yarn in an outbuilding behind the Wythe house.

The capitol building. The left wing was for the governor and the governor's council (six Virginians chosen by the governor.) The right wing was for the elected House of Burgesses. The room connecting the two wings was where the council and the burgesses and worked out legislation compromises.

The council's chamber in the capitol building.

Fife and drum demonstration.

Musket demonstration.

Cannon demonstration. Notice that the actors are covering their ears - the cannons were extremely loud.

An actor gives a speech while playing Thomas Jefferson. Though the context was a little strange (historical person speaking to a modern audience,) this felt like an effective way for the audience to learn about a famous person. The actor had clearly spent a lot of time researching Thomas Jefferson.

Friday-Saturday, June 13-14

Distance: 65.3 miles
Riding time: 4 hours, 44 minutes
Average speed: 13.7 mph
Maximum speed: 35.9 mph

This is a 2-day entry. We spent Friday biking from Williamsburg to Richmond, and we spent Saturday visiting my sister and nephew, Michelle and Matthew, who live in Richmond.

Although our ride on Friday was long and a little hilly, we rode quickly because we were carrying less weight. All we needed for our nights at my sister's house was sleeping pads and some clothing, so after breakfast we loaded the rest of our stuff into my parents' car and let them take it home to Fredericksburg, the final destination of our bike trip. The temperature was in the 90's again, but it didn't feel that hot because we had shade for much of the day. We rode to Richmond on Route 5, a designated scenic highway that often has tall trees on both sides, and at times it felt like we were riding through a tunnel of trees.

While we were taking a midday break at a small-town convenience store, we heard one customer's opinion of our bike ride. He didn't see us, but he saw our bike parked outside and told the clerk, "Someone's biking on this road with a trailer? That's suicide! There's no way I'd bike this road with all the tractor-trailers going back and forth, especially with my kids in back..." He used the word "suicide" several times. On the other hand, Route 5 is a designated bicycle route and it has "Share the Road" bicycle signs once every few miles. It was our safest route to Richmond, despite the narrow lanes, but we were still alarmed when a tractor-trailer behind us slammed on his brakes and squealed his tires for a few seconds. Either he was surprised to see us, or he was trying to pass us and was surprised to see an oncoming car.

In late afternoon our speed dropped when we got off our bicycle and walked through much of downtown Richmond. Downtown was too busy and hilly for biking (at least for our big bike and child trailer,) but it was a neat place to walk. It's all high-density, commercial/retail buildings bordered by wide sidewalks and very few parking lots. There were plenty of people out walking the sidewalks even though it was still business hours. I like this style of development much more than the strip malls and office parks that are so common in most cities. We arrived at my sister's house in time for us all to go out for dinner.

Today we've been relaxing: swimming in the pool, eating ice cream, watching a movie and playing with the children. We hadn't seen Michelle or Matthew for over a year, and they had never met Maggie. Maggie grabbed our attention by rolling over for the first time. She must have been savoring her playtime on the floor since we've kept her strapped in a baby sling for most of the past 2 weeks.

Shade trees along Route 5 on our way to Richmond.

Old buildings in downtown Richmond.

Playing chess with my nephew Matthew.

Sunday, June 15

Distance: 57.8 miles
Riding time: 4 hours, 25 minutes
Average speed: 13.0 mph
Maximum speed: 34.1 mph

Today we finished our bike tour by riding the final leg between my sister's house in Richmond and my parents' house in Fredericksburg. After eating breakfast with Michelle and Matthew, we rode north on highway 1. I'm glad that we were traveling light today, because our route was full of hills. When I was in elementary school in Virginia, I learned that this region is the "piedmont" - the area of rolling hills between the steep Blue Ridge Mountains to the west and the perfectly flat tidewater lands to the east. In high school I raced over these hills without a second thought, but today, while towing my two children, the hills were quite challenging.

We didn't have any special places to visit along the way, so we took just one break for lunch. The weather was beautiful with blue sky, cooler temperatures and a light breeze, and our children slept for much of the ride. It's amazing that in this relatively rainy region we never biked in the rain or on wet roads during the course of our trip. We've seen clear blue skies just as frequently here as we do back in arid Colorado.

Soon after arriving at my parents' house we were enjoying some of the comforts of home. Our car is here, along with suitcases of clean clothes and cosmetics that we dropped off right before our bike tour. There are toys for Daniel, a bed and shower for me and Kathy, and my mother's home-cooked meals. We've had a good bike tour, but now we're ready for the next phase of our vacation - one week of visiting family and friends from the comfort of roomy homes, rather than a small tent.

Rolling hills on our way to Fredericksburg.

My parents' front yard, the end of our bike route.


Page 1: New Bern to Ocracoke
Page 2: Ocracoke to Kitty Hawk
Page 3: Kitty Hawk to Williamsburg
Page 4: Williamsburg to Fredericksburg.
Page 5: Visiting family and hiking in northern Virginia.