Day 32: Better Than the Jamestown Settlers Had It

The unlucky ones that didn't make it through the first year at Jamestown. Photo: Jenny Williams

I griped and moaned about most of my day today, but I’m trying to keep it in perspective. Yes, I was hot and dripping with sweat for half of the day. Yes, I was eaten alive by mosquitoes, while indoors. Yes, I had to stop three times to fill my slow-leak-turned-fast-leak car tire. But I’m alive and healthy, and so are my kids. So at least I’m doing better than the Jamestown Settlers did, especially that first winter.

At least that is what I keep telling myself.

The 1607 Deaths placard. Photo: Jenny Williams

So instead of a leisurely day writing, relaxing, and doing laundry tomorrow, I’ll be first adding “Fix the #*$)@* Tire” to the list. But it’s a rental car, so it’s not just as easy as that. I’ll have to call them first and have them tell me what to do.

But, let’s back up a bit. We started our day packing up in Williamsburg, where again staying somewhere for four days felt like forever, and moved on to Jamestown. I decided against the majority of votes from my informal poll and we did the actual site of Jamestown, the Historic Jamestowne location. We skipped the Jamestown Settlement because, one, I knew it would take longer and we didn’t have longer, two, it was much more expensive, and three, it was more of the live reenactment that we’d just experienced at Williamsburg, except it didn’t look to be as well done. Oh, and the weather was supposed to be 99 degrees or something. With lots of humidity.

The archaeological dig at Jamestown Fort. Photo: Jenny Williams

So instead I chose the cheaper, faster, and more authentic experience. We drove around the island, visited the archaeological site, read many placards, and saw many, many artifacts in the museums. We topped it off with a visit to the Glasshouse, where we saw them making interesting wine glasses.

It was neat to see what was being done at Jamestown, since the last time I was here was before they really started the archaeology (it was before 1994 when I was there). This time, we saw pottery, hinges, spearheads, pistols, coins, bowls, glass, many metal and stone tools, and evidence of their desperation, such as horse skeletons. We definitely would have gotten more out of our Jamestown experience if it hadn’t been hot. We would have walked around more and done the guided tour. Everything has more meaning when given the proper context. But it was hard enough for us all to trudge through the thick, hot air as it was.

Cattails at Jamestown. Photo: Jenny Williams

I did learn that during the Civil War, the Confederates thought that Jamestown was well-situated to protect against enemy attack against Richmond, since the Confederates could guard the James River. At the Glasshouse I learned that glass is naturally green in color when cooled to room temperature. To make it other colors, they add elements. To make clear they add manganese oxide. To make blue, they add (surprise) cobalt. They melt the glass in an oven that is 2100-2200 degrees F. Once the piece is finished, they put it into a cooling oven (ha!) that is 900 degrees F to sit for the rest of the day. Then after 5pm they slowly decrease the temperature of the cooling oven.

One of the wooden bridges on the Island Drive. Photo: Jenny Williams

The directions for leaving Jamestown and heading to Chapel Hill, North Carolina (home of GeekMom and GeekDad editor and writer Natania Barron, and GeekDad writer Michael Harrison), led us right up to the James River, and continuing on the other side. The map wasn’t well labeled, and I didn’t bother reading all of the text until right before we left, so I originally thought it was a tunnel that went under the river. It turns out that it was a ferry. But a free one.

As I didn’t have a good alternate route mapped out, we went ahead and took the ferry. It took a long time to get across, but it was a very gentle ride. It started so slowly that I didn’t even realize we were moving at first. Then I looked over to the side and saw some pylons floating by! All the cars, trucks, and motorcycles were crammed on the ferry like sardines. Normally I would have gotten out and watched the water and the world float by, but, you know, the heat. Inside the car with A/C was a much better place to be. It felt weird to be in the driver’s seat, while the car was moving, not be watching where I was going, and not crash into anything.

The Jamestown Glasshouse. Photo: Jenny Williams

I have to commend, once again, whoever it is that takes care of rural roads in America. All the ones I’ve driven on have been in great shape. Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and now Virginia and North Carolina. They are smooth and easy to drive, and the scenery is beautiful. And along the way, I even saw corn and not-corn today.

After limping along for 40-100 miles at a time between tire fill-ups, we finally arrived at Natania and Michael’s house. My kids had a great time playing with their son, who was having such a great time, too, that he didn’t want to go to bed. There is always tomorrow evening!

We had a great dinner of Natania’s homemade pizza and talked a bit, then had simultaneous laptop time while the kids ran around and played. Ahh…

Drove: Almost 200 miles.

States: Virginia, North Carolina.

Weather: Very hot and muggy.

Kids: The boy complained almost incessantly at Jamestown. They were both great in the car, though.

Best Part of the Day: Watching the glass blower at the Jamestown Glasshouse.

Worst Part of the Day: Worrying that we’d end up with a flat tire on the side of the road.

Something I relearned today: Wooden bridges make me nervous. I learned this originally in the Amish Country in Pennsylvania. This nervousness was experienced again today on the Island Drive at Jamestown.

Something my son learned today: He likes ginger ale.

Total GeekDads and GeekMoms Visited: 11.


About Jenny Bristol

Jenny Bristol is a lifelong geek who spends her time learning, writing, homeschooling her two wickedly smart kids, playing board games, and mastering the art of traveling on a shoestring.
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