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» Monday, October 22, 2012Riverside Adventures
Okay. Seven hours sleep. Maybe. Nature was a pain in the...well, you get the gist, and then Willow barked, although we got her to go back to sleep. A leisurely breakfast...and then, oh....Jamestown opens at nine, not ten. Needless to say we were late by about 40 minutes. :-)
We were, however, just in time for today's one artillery demonstration, if we walked really quickly from the long, long visitor's center, through a thicket of woods, out to the dock! So we bypassed the entire inner exhibit to walk quickly past the Powhatan village and the English fort to the dock where the three ships lay. Forget the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. These are the other three ships that figure in American history, the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery.
Directly at the end of the dock two able-bodied seamen (well, one was a sea-woman...LOL) demonstrated the different types of cannon shot. There is the regular cannon ball, plus bar shot (two hemispheres connected by a rod, for tangling the lines and the sails, looks like a bar bell), chain shot (a chain between two hemispheres, also for tangling line), and a canister, which had nails in it: when fired from a cannon, the wooden casing split and spit nails into any living thing in its path. For that reason, John Smith called the swivel cannon we saw demonstrated "a murder gun," since it fired these deadly projectiles. Then the swivel gun itself was demonstrated. They advised us to cover our ears, but really, I didn't think it was any worse than at Yorktown.
Then we went on to examine the ships. Godspeed was closed, but we went aboard Discovery, the smallest of the ships, a pinnace (like Fritz and Ernest use to explore the island in the novel of Swiss Family Robinson). If she had no cargo, I heard someone say, she would probably be the quickest of the three, but the Susan Constant has actually gotten up to 10 knots (about eleven miles an hour). Two seamen (again, one was a young woman) were raising a sail as we came aboard. They had clambered up the ropes to loose the sail, but as they were raising it it stuck. The young woman scrambled back upward like a squirrel—I would have been terrified up that high!—to check what was stuck and discovered wasps in the cloth. She did free the sail, but she wasn't happy about it! Good show, though.
Finally we went aboard Susan Constant. This was the largest of the ships and you got to go below. Okay, this is what puzzles me about myself: For years I have gone on ships from old oaken warships to modern battleships. I have climbed up and down steep ships' ladders. But I'm scared to go up the ladder that leads to our attic, which is steep, but not that bad. Is that not weird?
Anyway, we went astern to the officers' cabin and deck, which included the captain's cabin (he had room enough for his armor and a sea chest), then forward to more officers' cabins, and below to where the passengers and cargo stayed. (We did not see the crew quarters even further below.) Forward also was a rope cabinet and the cook's quarters/galley, which wasn't much bigger than a powder room. My favorite part: a holder for ropes with four wheels on it, with a man's head at the top. The "rope guard," of course.
From there we walked back to the James Fort via the Riverwalk Experience, which is a small exhibit about boat building by both the native tribes and the English boat builders. Most of it seemed to be different weights of nets! The fort has several buildings inside the palisades, including a standard home of the time with dirt floors (this had an attached chicken coop): a large church; a large barracks that was closed to the public; a forge; a tiny house that was nevertheless opulent for that time and place, with a well-appointed bed in a separate room, wooden floors, a carved cabinet, Dutch tiles around the fireplace, glass windows, and a beautiful table, since it was where the Governor lived until his larger house was built; and an armory, filled, like the magazine at Williamsburg, with armor, firearms, pikes, and bandoleros. where the questions were thick and plentiful; and also a combination kitchen/bunkhouse for more soldiers. We sat for a while talking with the "soldiers" there, about divers things like where you'd go in a time machine just to see things, the bread that was about to be baked in the Dutch oven warming over the fire, and facts about the fort. There was a nice breeze coming in the barred windows and I hated to leave!
From the fort we walked on to the Powhatan Indian village. This is a representation of only a portion of what a village would look like, with several wigwams made of woven panels, and then work areas outside, one for basket weaving and one for netting being made, plus a log canoe in the process of being hollowed out from a log. There were also "hides" being tanned on frames.. (Wigwams! Eastern tribes did not live in tepees!) The wigwams look like elongated woven bowls turned over, with a door or doors in the side covered with a protective skin. The occupants mainly worked outside; the wigwams were for storage and for sleeping. The ones we saw had baskets, stored "food," arrows and other implements, and furs hanging from the supports, while we sat on sleeping benches covered with fur. We walked into the first wigwam to find a docent answering questions from a family from Canada and sat joining in the chat until another tour made its way in.
Finished outside, we returned to the main building to have some lunch at the cafe. James had a meatloaf sandwich, and I had a grilled cheese with the very first peanut soup I have ever eaten. It is peanuts on some meat broth base, possibly chicken soup as it is very light, and also very tasty!
Eventually we got back to where we would have been this morning, and walked through the museum display. This is basically a timeline of the area around Jamestown, the land and the tribes that inhabited it, and then a portrait of Jacobean England and of West Africa at the time of the colonization, which begins with early settlers, segues to small farms, and finally to plantations, at first small and then opulent. Each phase is illustrated with dioramas and artifacts from that era., from Clovis point spears and clay jugs to portraits of the prominent investors in the Virginia company to clothing, adornment, working tools, books, jewelry, spectacles, and more. This covers the region from prehistoric times through 1699, when the first of the wealthy planters decorated large homes with imported goods. One of the special exhibits cover Pocahontas and how she has been portrayed over the years.
I was rudely interrupted about two-thirds of the way through the exhibit by a problem that has not occurred lately and had to make a quick trip to the rest room. This turned into four or five visits, which meant my hopeful schedule, which had us completing the exhibits by 3:30 so we could drive down to the Historic Jamestown site, where the actual town and archaeological dig is, until it closed at five. Instead, we left at 4:30, with me extremely uncomfortable, the road to Historic Jamestown already closed for the evening, but at least the museum exhibit completed.
I do recommend this tour. This is a new, well-designed exhibit building. There is also a film we didn't see, and other audio-visual support. (The gift shop, alas, is no way as good as Yorktown's or Williamsburg's. Lots of mass-produced souvenir stuff, and not a lot of good postcards of the Jamestown area.)
The cramps eased as we drove back toward the freeway. Now, we had come to Jamestown via the Colonial Parkway. This is a lovely, two-lane road that cuts through woods to join Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown; if you love countryside drives, this one is for you. When you leave from Jamestown, you travel through a marshy area with the James River shimmering on your right. There are several scenic stops you can enjoy, and even with the heat of the day it was cool now, with sweet-smelling air around you. Since there was almost no traffic on the road, when we reached the route we had taken this morning, we kept going on the Parkway, past Williamsburg and under each of the trim red-brick overpasses that line the road. Most of the route has woods to either side, and it is a pleasant drive of a little over a half hour. The road leaves you off on Ballard Street, which takes you around to the colonial area of Yorktown.
We had an idea we might have supper at the Carrot Tree, but they only serve dinner Thursday-Sunday. :-( So we came back by the same route we had taken on Saturday, making a detour to see if the hobby shop James had looked up was open. Alas, closed on Monday, but it looked likely. Perhaps later in the week. Then we decided to investigate something we had passed twice: an area that was supposed to be "shops, restaurants, market." We thought perhaps there might be a novel restaurant there. Well, perhaps during lunch! When we found it, it was pretty much deserted except for a sushi place. It looks, with its conglomeration of condo and apartment buildings, small mall area, and trendy restaurant glimpses, like Atlantic Station in Atlanta, except with no movie and a lot fewer restaurants.
Anyway, after this odyssey we just ended up at Golden Corral. I ate very little: just some dark meat turkey with minimal gravy, a slice of pork roast, some applesauce, and three oven fries. It was dark and almost seven when we emerged, to return to our happy fids and watch Big Bang Theory until the specter of the Presidential debate drove us to the rest of Antiques Roadshow and a new show about men who deliver planes overseas on The Weather Channel. It's much more fun listening to stuff on the BBC!