Bentzman in Gettysburg, Staunton and Monticello

March 12, 2011

More reports have come in from Bruce and Barbara on their cross-continental journey.
First stop was Gettysburg:

Battle of Gettysburg (Image: Wikipedia)

I have this sacred spot entirely to myself, the ground Chamberlain and his Maine volunteers held against a larger force. From here he launched his desperate charge with bayonets when the ammunition was nearly gone. I see the ground slope away from where I sit. Below the Alabamians were trying to charge up. They were defeated.

It is a cold day, a solid overcast, the sky entirely grey. When I was last here it was in a sweltering summer’s day and all I cared about was getting out of the heat. I remember little of that visit… How odd that in all the time I’ve been writing this, I’ve been entirely alone. No other visitors, except a squirrel. Heavy rains are expected to arrive tonight.

Then they headed south:

We drove south through the ever lovely Shenandoah Valley. The Blue Ridge mountains on the left and more Appalachians to the right, their long line of peaks scraping the low ceiling, tore the clouds to shreds. Ms Keogh kept calling them the Smokey Mountains, which are in Tennessee, but it did describe what we were seeing. Rain came and continued, continues even now, but not as heavily.

We started out to Nashville, but then realized we had never seen Monticello. Thus diverted, we turned east at Staunton and are now parked for the night in a Hampton Inn in – well, it’s hard to say where we are. It seems to have three different names. Waynesboro, Stuarts Draft, and Fishersville. Take your pick. It is located not ten miles from Staunton, and inspired by a friend, who writes lovingly about the American Shakespeare Center, we drove into town this evening to see a play.

The Blackfriars Playhouse is a recreation of the former Blackfriars Theatre in London, the indoor theater where Shakespeare’s troupe performed. It is a marvelous place, a small theater with a horseshoe shaped balcony, built with heavy wood beams and planks. The stage juts into the audience. The actors perform nearly in the round. The postscenium has a curtained inner stage with doors to either side, above it another balcony with a balustrade of black marble – actually cleverly painted wood – where the troupe performed music prior to the performance and during the intermission. I understand this was a traditional practice, but the music in this case was rock ‘n’ roll. The chandeliers looked like cartwheels hanging from the ends of long chains and lined with electric candles. The lights stayed on during the performance and we were informed that this was also traditional practice. It was nice being able to see the audience. The play was “The Comedy of Errors”.

And on to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello:

monticello

(Image from Wikipedia)

The rain ended and the clouds were dispelled. By the time we had reached the top of Monticello, it was possible to see in all directions to the farthest horizons.

The house is a clever blend of romance and practicality. The tour guide began by inviting questions and I started in immediately. Not having realized that Jefferson’s house was built at the very top of a mountain, I wanted to know how he managed the water supply. There had been problems. The roof of the house being the highest point on the mountain, I asked if he had received any advice from his friend Ben about lightning rods. Indeed he had. And so it went throughout the tour of the ground floor, I had lots of questions, was pretty much the sole person to ask any questions. Felt odd about it. And the tour guide was excellent, he knew the answers to all my questions save one, did Jefferson have a bookplate? He didn’t know and we were not allowed to touch any of the books on display, obviously.

There was the second and third floor that we did not get to see. It was a separate tour that is not as frequent and costs more money. We are becoming concerned about the amount of money we’ve been spending and also didn’t want to wait until the afternoon for that other tour. We did check out the stables and cellar beneath the house, a self-guided tour. Here also was a bath house, some privies, the kitchen, two wine cellars – one for bottles and the other for pipes – a place to store beer, and a place to brew beer.

If you should find yourself at Monticello, and you should if you admire Jefferson as much as I do, despite his frequent hypocrisies, don’t eat in the cafe at the visitors center. It wasn’t very good, although there was the Starr Hill Brewery’s Larger, brewed in Crozet. Not bad. Even better than last night’s Amber Ale.

Here we are well into our trip to California and we’re no further west than when we started. We travelled a hundred miles east to pay homage to Jefferson. Ms Keogh now wants to make a sincere effort at a westerly direction, before we run out of money, before we run out of time, before the price of gas rises much higher, but –

Because a friend wishes for us to visit the Community Book Shop in Greensboro, here we are at the Hampton Inn in Greensboro. It was a lovely drive down, a winding highway with light traffic, which we thought strange this being a Friday. We will visit the bookstore tomorrow. Then, if we can escape without buying more books, we will see how far west we can get on Interstate 40 before exhaustion sets in.

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