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USA D7: A mansion, a capital city, and the road to NASCAR country

A still, foggy morning greeted us when we peeked beyond the curtains. I actually don’t think I felt a breath of wind in the 17 hours we were at Belle Grove. We descended the staircase to the dining room for a decadent breakfast. Michelle used to be a chef so you know you’re going to be looked after well in the food stakes!

fog, rappahannock river

Breakfast dining mansion-style, as you do

Breakfast dining mansion-style, as you do

Unfortunately our penchant for sleep in the early morning hours (though truth be told I was probably up working on the blog) caused us to miss seeing two wild deer who wandered close to the mansion from the adjacent woods. In fact, Michelle said it was the closest they’d ever been. Damn!

However, I did get to see an eagle. For about one second as it flew over the river at a good pace. I pleaded for it to return but it didn’t and hence remained safe from my photographic clutches.

We did see one species of local wildlife close up: turkey vultures. While chatting over breakfast, Michelle asked if we could hear a tapping. After explaining what it was we went outside and sure enough, these horrid great birds were sitting atop the chimney. Apparently they drop stuff inside and hence are a pest, so Michelle goes up to the top veranda and shoos them off.

turkey buzzards

Stopping at a place for one night doesn’t feel long enough, especially somewhere like this, and I would have liked more time to go back through the house. Still there were a few hours of driving today so we checked out and got going.

With Michelle in the gorgeous bottom foyer

With Michelle in the gorgeous bottom foyer

belle grove plantation, signposts

My turn driving today. We initially went to the city of Richmond and after yesterday’s experience, we were keen to avoid the i-road.

Given our piqued interest in the Civil War we wanted to visit the Museum of the Confederacy. Richmond had been capital of the Confederate States of America and today is the capital of the ‘Commonwealth of Virginia’ so there is a bit of history to see. Then, a short walk from the museum is Richmond’s Capitol Hill. In particular we wanted to see the main building which we’d heard was a fantastic beautiful white structure with one of those huge Roman column frontages.

We’ll have to take their word for it.

capitol building, richmond

However, a couple of other things were a bit more co-operative.

Memorial of a chap called Washington

Memorial of a chap called Washington

squirrel

On the way back to the car we stopped at ‘Mike’s’ food cart, one of many servicing the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Centre district where we were parked. It was a hot day and we found some shade to stop for a few minutes (while I caught up on the Fifty Shades of Brown scandal from back home!). Best.sandwiches.ever.

We drove over to Hollywood Cemetery, actually one of the city’s major attractions. It is a huge place and you can drive through it which was handy as we wouldn’t have found things otherwise. As well as a couple of US Presidents and the only Confederate States President, about 18,000 Confederate soldiers and generals are buried here.

hollywood cemetery, richmond

The 90-foot memorial pyramid was built in 1869

The 90-foot memorial pyramid was built in 1869

hollywood cemetery, richmond

Four hours of driving was now needed to get us to our stop. My effort at this was paltry. The driving itself was fine but I think the effect of late nights and early mornings combined to give me that horrible feeling of tiredness that was impossible to shake. I stuck it out for an hour but we then pulled off into one of the many highway service centres to arm ourselves with a couple of big cans of energy drink and then Mike took over the driving.

A reminder for me of work!

A reminder for me of work!

southern skies i85

We arrived in Concord, North Carolina, where we’ll stop for two nights. This is NASCAR country: the Charlotte Motor Speedway is just up the road and several teams and things are based nearby.

We’re staying in one of those areas with multiple hotels, loads of restaurants, and a huge mall. For dinner we drove along to Applebees, a chain we first became acquainted with on the movie Talladega Nights and knew we just had to visit! And it was great.

Enjoying an Applebees cocktail that was almost as big as my head

Enjoying a cocktail almost as big as my head

By the way, nice of the shutdown to finish now that we’ve left DC. Could probably have guessed that would happen!

Daily stats:

  • Toll charges paid: 30c
  • Towns driven through called Frog Level: 1
  • Confusing GPS instructions leading to tense times in the car: 4 or 5
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