Thursday, January 22, 2009

438. Back Home

We've made it back to Louisville.

After saying goodbyes to friends and hosts, we packed up the little Chevy and headed south along US1 and I-95 out of Alexandria and into Fredericktown, then across VA3, VA20, and US29 to other places, passing through a number of Civil War battlefields, with place names like Manassas and Wilderness and people names like Stonewall Jackson, all familiar stuff. Along the way we stopped at the homes of three former presidents, the 3rd, 4th, and 5th, who were neighbors, so to speak, a county or two southwest of Washington.

James Madison, James Monroe, and Thomas Jefferson all lived within a few miles of each other, particularly the latter two. Monroe has a very humble gift shop of minimal size, and a house to match. The home, known as Ashlawn-Highland, is owned and operated by the College of William and Mary, Monroe's alma mater. Madison's home, Montpelier, is much bigger but formerly even bigger, has an attached gift shop, art gallery, and salons, remnants of the later owners who enlarged the home, the duPont family. The farm covers 2500 acres and includes the family cemetery, a slave cemetery, and a race track, so our "Kentucky Derby" interest was piqued. And, of course, Louisville claims the duPonts as their own. In fact, for most of this week, I've worn (as part of my keeping-warm outfit) a duPont Manual High School football hoodie. Then there is the Jefferson place, Monticello, familiar from the back of most nickels. Jefferson's gift shop alone is bigger than Monroe's entire homestead. And there are classrooms - several of them. And the home itself, and an entire hill to go with it. And vineyards from all around. As the 22nd (today) is my mother's birthday, one of her presents will be a bottle of white wine from the refurbished Jefferson Vineyards. Monticello is overwhelming.

After visiting the homesites, we spent a lot of time being lost in Charlottesville looking for the University of Virginia and a parking space. We eventually ate at a Thai Restaurant on Fontaine Street. We left Virginia along I-64 and I-81 in the Shenandoah Valley (the multiplexing of the signs are shown near Lexington, Va.), and later we dropped off I-64 and rode through the little town of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, home to one of America's most special resorts, the Greenbrier. I'm concerned that Big Dick Cheney may have taken up residence in the underground bunkers there now that his lease has ran out at One Observatory Circle.

I-64 continues up over Sandstone Mountain, a 7% grade at time which severely taxed my little Chevy's ability. We arrived at Beckley with the transmission still functioning, and moved north to Charleston past the State Capitol [at left], a beautiful gold-domed structure on the west side of the highway overlooking the Kanawha River. I-64 continues west to Huntington, there crossing the Big Sandy River and entering the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It was about that time that tonight's (technically last night's at this point) basketball game between UK and Auburn was being played, and we tuned first into an Ashland station, and then one in Lexington. By the time Kentucky won, we were fast approaching the Jefferson/Shelby county line bringing us back home here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606.

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The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.