The luxury of sleeping until 6 am rather than rousting out of bed at 5 was very pleasant. We took our time gathering clothes, snacks, camera equipment, computers, and what-all while we had a leisurely breakfast. We seem much less likely to forget something when we take our time about leaving—in a rush we almost always leave something behind although usually something minor. I even had time to back the new picture files onto a CD so I would be free to re-use the camera memory chips. Also this way I could cook breakfast on my big cast-aluminum grill—I’m known as “Iron Chef Griddle”. Monika chose her usual ham and mozzarella omelet while I had one with ham and cheddar cheese, reasonably tasty despite the no-fat cheese.
The car trunk and back seat filled with miscellany, we trundled off about 7:45. We headed south toward Richmond and turned left toward Williamsburg and the bridge across the James River to Norfolk where we planned to walk in a botanical garden. We drove through very dense fog, less than ¼ mile visibility, at first, but fortunately it hadn’t caused any accidents along our route. We encountered no backups as we were departing the DC area, but saw miles of backups for the folks commuting in to work—poor people! The fog gradually lifted as we drove south, which made driving our usual 70-75 mph feel a lot safer.
We arrived at the Botanical Gardens about 11 am and after a short search for the start box we signed in and began the walk. The gardens were layed out very nicely and the camellias, pansies, and some azaleas were blooming although it was only March. We first went through a Japanese-style garden with a waterfall and two ducks sitting on a rock in a pond. They were so motionless that at first I thought they were fake, but as I took pictures closer to them, they stirred to life and swam in the pond.
We looped through the flowerbeds where gardeners were hard at work planting the annuals, weeding, and so forth. The floral arrangements were beautiful and included fountains, statuary, and other decorations. The trees were just starting to blossom and leaf out, and we saw nice examples of redbuds and lines of trees with white blossoms. A canal wound through the gardens, giving a nice view of water, trees, and flowers. We took a boardwalk through though several botanical habitats of Virginia and along a lake, where I heard the turtles dive into the lake as we walked by.
The trail continued out of the gardens into an adjoining area of Norfolk. As we crossed the causeway from the entrance, we saw near the lake shore a log with six or seven turtles and a blue heron standing nearby. I gradually approach the shoreline, taking pictures all the time. Some of the turtles dove into the lake but several remained even when I was at the shoreline, so I got a pretty good picture. We chose the 15 km option which simply made a much bigger loop than the 11 km option. The neighborhood was nice but not nearly as interesting as the botanical gardens. It seemed to us that the 11 km option was through the prettier parts of the city and would be good enough for completing this trail when we do it again.
Our rather late lunch was at a Shoney’s we had spotted on our walk. They still had the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet and Bob could eat quite a lot by this time. After emptying several plates, we drove back to the Ramada Inn at Williamsburg and signed in, which gave us time to relax before the evening “meet and greet” social hour. We were glad we had eaten as they only served hors d’oevres during the social hour, but we had nice time talking with our Volksmarch friends. We were all done socializing by 7:30 and headed off to bed.
The morning was in Jamestown and the start time was limited to 7-8 am, so we couldn’t really sleep in all that much. We squeezed in a breakfast at a pancake house and drove out to the National Park on Jamestown Island. The route was a large loop around the island circumference drive and a small loop around the historic area with the ruins and excavations. The park was open very early to accommodate our walk, so we had no traffic at all to contend with, which made the walk very pleasant. One checkpoint was the site of some family graves from around 1700, and a second staffed checkpoint at the point on the far end of the island. We returned to the historic area and along the way I got a fantastic shot when Diane was confused about which way the route was going. I had everyone point in different directions and snapped a picture of a confused Diane in the middle of a bunch of contradictory directions.
Back in the historic district we passed the ruins of the Jamestown settlement and the statues of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas, where I posed as if kissing her hand. One new thing was a reconstruction of a section of the original palisade or rudimentary fort that was built at the original settlement. This was based on relatively recent archeological findings that about 2/3 of the original fort was in the current historic area, the remainder having been lost due to erosion of the shore. I thought it was great to give visitors at least some idea of the stockade that was the only real protection of the original settlers against hostile Indians. We also passed through the Visitor’s Center and the gift shop, where Monika found an Indian girl doll that she decided to take home and add to her collection. That purchase delayed us a bit, but we still drove back to Williamsburg in plenty of time to buy our lunch at the Subway across the street from the hotel and take it back to our room to eat before the conference meetings began at noon.
The first part of the afternoon was spent in a general meeting with reports from the various states in our area, followed by a workshop on the construction and fitting of walking shoes. That may not seem like an exciting topic to most people, but it is dear to the hearts of anyone who walks over 30 kilometers in a typical weekend. I was fascinated by the details of construction of good walking shoes and the different strategies followed by different manufacturers to get the necessary cushioning and support of the arches of the feet. Having “floppy” feet with weak arches, I am particularly interested in arch support and was hanging on his every word.
After this workshop we decided to play hooky and headed out the funky Williamsburg Pottery. Monika found sage and oregano for planting this spring and placemat-napkin combinations for only 99 cents each. I found some ties for electrical wires in different sizes and then spent a long time looking at the Black and Decker outlet store. I finally bought a set of small drill bits, the sizes you always break first, and a set of all sizes of Torx bits to go on a power screwdriver, which I was heretofore lacking. In the final 5 minutes before the stores closed we spent in a shoe store where Monika found a nice pair of leather dress shoes.
Luckily all the stores were closing at this point, so there was no more temptation. But now it was time for dinner. We both felt like salad and nothing too heavy, so we settled for Friendly’s where they have a nice Teriyaki chicken salad. From there it was back to the motel for an early to bed, since the next day’s starting time was again 7:AM. Back at our hotel we were greeted by a group of girls practicing their cheers. It seems there is a cheerleading competition in town, and a few groups are also staying at the Ramada. Luckily, they are a relatively quiet bunch—we occasionally heard the pitter-patter of little feet running up and down the halls but there was no yelling or loud music and they turned in fairly early so all in all we got a good nights rest.
Saturday’s walk was through historic Williamsburg starting at the hotel. Since we knew that we would have to pass by a pancake house, we decided to register for the walk and have breakfast on the trail (so to speak). After the pancake house, the trail deviated from the usual December walks, crisscrossing the historic area. We first entered the historic area one street down from the main street and turned south past the windmill to the Visitor’s Center before making a long loop back up to the checkpoint at a school, where the gentleman manning the checkpoint was taking time to admire the newly-blooming flowers.
As we passed the school we took a path that we never knew was there to go directly to the Governor’s Palace past a pretty little pond with a graceful footbridge across it. In summer the foliage would hide the view of the bridge, but we had a clear view. It was quite pleasant discovering some new paths. As we returned to the historic area it was relatively deserted and the sun was shining brightly, so Bob had a field day as the official shutterbug. The trees were still bare, so the historic houses and buildings were clearly outlined against a bright blue sky, providing some gorgeous pictures. The route back to the finish point turned right at the pancake house where we had breakfast and followed a street along a residential area to join the highway leading back to the hotel.
Ron gave a great talk at the general meeting that started at noon, documenting the decline in Volksmarching participation and discussing the reasons for it. We attended the afternoon workshops on laying out trails given by Nelson and Tom, where we learned a lot of different ways of designing and marking trails. That was important as we have laid out trails and found out that our instructions were not as clear to others as they seemed to us, and we certainly want to avoid folks getting lost on our club walks.
The evening entertainment was a nice dinner buffet in a glass-walled room next to the pool. The food was quite good and we chatted for well over an hour with Tim and Celia Miner, Tom Bearwald, Tom and Joyce Andrews, and Ken Wilson. Joan Lampert gave a nice and very short speed at the end of the dinner and then gave an award of a watercolor of Williamsburg to Celia, who had been picked at random from the conference participants. We also tried out Tim’s digital camera, a Sony, which had a 6x zoom and was a 4 megapixel type—very nice and probably very expensive.
After dinner we tried for a nice relaxing time in the Jacuzzi next to the swimming pool, but gave up when we saw it was crowded with cheerleaders who had used all the available towels! In any case it probably wouldn’t have been that relaxing with a bunch of boisterous girls hopping in and out. Of course, 40 years ago I probably would have given my eye’s teeth to jump into a spa with a bunch of cheerleaders in skimpy swimsuits, but now the only reaction I had when I saw them in the Jacuzzi was a quote from A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh when he said, “Oh Bother!”. I’m not quite sure what that really says about me, perhaps only that I’m not a teenager anymore.
So we returned to our room and used the laptop to select slides from our pictures of the last few days for a Powerpoint slide show focusing on the conference. That has become our way of making photo albums for electronic pictures and it works out well because it is easy to add short titles above or on the side of each picture. We still have to cull out only the best shots, of course, but Powerpoint allows us to easily resequence the slides to better tell a coherent story about our trip. Around 10 we were getting pretty pooped, so we called it a day and turned in.
Sunday, March 17th: St. Patrick’s Day!
We had just enough time to drive over the the pancake house for breakfast and return before the 9 o’clock meeting of the planning committee for the 2005 AVA convention in our region. Ron Looper chaired the meeting and a lot of different folks reported on the state of preparations for their particular subcommittee or task. It was interesting but fortunately lasted only a little over an hour because we had to drive out to the Chickahominy Boy Scout camp to the final morning walk of the conference.
The Sunday morning traffic was quite light, so we arrived at the camp around 945 and were on the trail around 10 am. The trail was laid out in 3 loops with the Start/Finish also serving as the checkpoint as a walker would complete each loop—how appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day! Monika had the idea of doing the blue loop first as it was supposed to have the steepest hills. That turned out to be a very fine idea—the hills were steep in spots but the rain held off so it wasn’t too slippery and we had a nice walk. After checking in the first time, we decided to do the yellow loop next and the rain started to pour down steadily. We had our rain parkas but were eventually soaked from the waist down, and it was a rather cold rain. Fortunately the yellow trail was relatively flat and we didn’t have any problems with mud or steep slopes (yet). I was curious that the trail wound around a section of the forest that had been clear-cut, which is usually found only with commercial logging operations. That made me speculate if the Boy Scouts really owned that section or if they just had permission to use it from the company owning it. Tired and cold, we finished up the yellow loop and checked in once again before beginning the final red loop. The rain had been falling for quite some time, so we had to watch our footing on the red trail. I did some graceful slides and almost fell down before I learned that anything looking like red Virginia clay would be really slippery. The soaked leaves were less slippery, so we walked on the sides of the trail wherever we could find grass, leaves, or gravel. Picking our way slowed us up a bit, of course, but we were almost back to the good gravel road leading back to the Finish point when disaster struck. Monika slipped and fell in the mud, which fortunately was very soft so she wasn’t hurt. She got a muscle cramp as she went down, so I helped her up and we slogged the rest of the way to the finish point. But there we triumphantly got our big, Shamrok-shaped patch for completing all 3 walks at the conference, which made us feel better. Of course, getting into the car and turning the heat up full blast for the drive home made us feel even better still! All in all, it had been a great conference with several very nice walks.Copyright 2002 by Robert W. Holt