Day 34: Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

The awesome floor in one of the rooms of the awesome house that belongs to our awesome friends. Photo: Jenny Williams

The morning soundtrack that accompanied my over-an-hour session of packing the new rental car was They Might Be Giants. Plenty of old mixed with some new that I hadn’t yet heard entered my ears each time I came back in the house for another trip. But on a stomach of Natania’s Swedish pancakes and chocolate milk, I pushed ahead in the steam bath weather and got the car all packed up. Yes, Tetris skills came in handy. Somehow, though this is supposed to be a slightly larger car, the trunk is smaller. I should have asked how much more it would have cost to upgrade for the last week of my rental.

After the lovely pancakes, while I was packing the car, the kids played, and played. The boy taught Michael some of his favorite iPad apps, and the girl played with their boy, doing puzzles and other things. They had a great time, and we were very sorry to leave. I wish we’d had an extra day or week with them, since they are so great. And we only got to play two games! But it was great to see them, and to finally get our kids together. They got on famously, as I suspected they would.

This visit was especially satisfying, though, because I almost never get along with women, and even more rarely do I actually connect and click with them. Natania is on a very short list of women like that for me.

We then had a pretty uneventful drive from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to Atlanta, Georgia. It was a full six hours, but the new car did pretty well. It has a surprisingly large gas tank. Either that, or it gets a lot of miles to the gallon. I drove 400 miles and we still have a quarter tank of gas left. (?) It has more power, and actual functioning cruise control, and the brakes feel like they would actually stop the car in an emergency, instead of just make a half-hearted attempt. The trunk is cozy, but I think it’s an overall improvement.

Today Ed joined us again, with our good friend Scott picking him up from the airport. It was good that I didn’t need to do it, because I wasn’t sure exactly what time we’d arrive. Once we all met up again, we had plenty of great conversation with Scott and his family, and a tasty citrus stir fry, kale, and watermelon dinner. And despite the late hour as I write this (11pm, Eastern), Ed, Scott, and the girl are out procuring ice cream for tonight’s dessert. And another very good friend George is coming over for breakfast at 8am, so little sleep will be had tonight.

Drove: 400 miles.

States: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia.

Weather: Very hot and muggy.

Kids: Fun and awesome.

Best Parts of the Day: Getting to see some of our awesome friends.

Worst Part of the Day: Leaving other awesome friends behind.

Total GeekDads and GeekMoms Visited: 11.

Posted in Driving, Friends | 2 Comments

Day 33: Flat Tire

It was inevitable. I woke up to a flat tire on the rental car. At least this was a definitive statement that I had to do something about it. And the timing was good, if you can call spending half a day of a big trip taking care of a tire problem “good”. But at least it didn’t ruin plans.

I had hoped that calling Hertz would result in them coming by and replacing the tire with a new one. Or bringing another car to swap ours out with. But no. I would have had to pay $66 for them to come out and put on the spare, then drive the thing to the nearest airport (fortunately, only 25 minutes away) and swap out the car. I wasn’t about to pay that for something that wasn’t my fault (see below). And I didn’t want to change the tire myself in hot and muggy weather, especially since I had parked in the direct sun. So I called AAA. A very nice guy came by and put on the spare tire for free, of course. He looked at the very flat tire and found two nails, as well as a previous repair that may have also contributed to the problem. Since we’ve had this leaky tire problem from day one, I know that none of this was my fault.

It’s been years since I’ve used AAA for anything but maps, and this was the first time for a tire issue. So I was glad when it was a pretty quick fix. Changing a tire is straight forward, if you’ve got the right tools. I then drove out to the airport and swapped the car for one that seems to be about the same size, and the cruise control works (it didn’t work in the old one). I just hope that everything fits in the trunk!

For making it through this debacle, I rewarded myself and the kids with some mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches. Perfect for this weather. They were mighty tasty.

After the car situation got resolved, we only had a couple of hours before Natania and Michael got home, so I got some laundry done, and did a little bit of writing, but nowhere near the two complete writing tasks that I had intended.

We then ate an incredibly delicious dinner of pulled pork and salad with homemade dressing, along with some mead, and ice cream sundaes. But it wouldn’t have been a visit to geeky friends without The Playing of the Games. We played a fun, non-lengthy, strategy-type game called Portobello Market. I liked it. We also played Fluxx, since Natania had never played before, and that was a huge oversight that needed remedying. It ended up being one of those incredibly lengthy games, so we abandoned it before the end. But it was a fantastic evening that helped to make up for about 36 hours of incredible difficulty. Thanks, Natania and Michael!

And, no photos today again. Maybe there will be some tomorrow!

Drove: Around town.

State: North Carolina.

Weather: Very hot and muggy.

Kids: Patient and playful.

Best Parts of the Day: The ice cream sandwiches, and Natania’s pulled pork and salad. And games!

Worst Part of the Day: Dealing with the tire and swapping out the car.

Total GeekDads and GeekMoms Visited: 11.

Posted in Driving, Friends, Games | 1 Comment

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.

Posted in Driving, Education, Friends, Museum

Day 31: Saving the Revolution!

Outbuilding. Photo: Jenny Williams

Since we got almost none of our RevQuest challenge attended to yesterday, today we made it a priority to finish the challenges. I wasn’t sure how long it would take us to solve the mysteries therein, so that’s what we started our day with. The included three challenges give you cryptic clues in 18th century language that lead you to figure out words that you can text to a secret number. If you get the right word, it will text you back a clue to help you continue. If not, it will say that someone led you astray. Once you solve all three mysteries, you text something from each one of them in a final text, and it tells you when and where the final ceremony is. It also tells you that you saved the Revolution! In case anyone out there plans to do it themselves, I won’t give any of it away. But the mysterious plot is based on actual events from the American Revolution. Unless you are incredibly pressed for time, it is very worth doing, even if you don’t have kids along. It’s challenging enough for adults. And it takes you to parts of Colonial Williamsburg that you might have overlooked otherwise.

Printing Press. Photo: Jenny Williams

The first trade we visited today was the Printing Press, the last trade that I had my heart set on seeing. It was fantastic. He demonstrated how the press worked, and gave us plenty of information on what the printing press business was like back then. Printers were members of the middling class, and were decently paid. They think that the actual operator of the press itself was usually a slave, but the typesetters were not, and were paid well. In Williamsburg, they didn’t sell individual newspapers; they sold annual subscriptions. When the one press was the only one in town, an annual subscription was 15 shillings. After competition moved in, it was 13 1/2 shillings. Middlings in general made about 2 shillings (or 24 pence) per day, with 20 shillings to the pound. Higher-paid ones made 13-16 shillings per week. So it would be about a week’s pay for an annual newspaper subscription. This may seem like a lot, but if it’s your only news source, consider how much we pay these days for cable or satellite television, internet, etc.

The Actual Printing Press. Photo: Jenny Williams

On the Palace Green today, the kids played some kid games for a while. The girl played some push-the-hoop-and-run-after-it (not sure of the official name) and a marble game called Nine Man’s Morris. It’s a bit like Tic Tac Toe.

The boy really got into Trap Ball. This is one of the only times he voluntarily participated in any kind of sport! To play, you place the ball in the Trap Ball device, stomp on it to make the ball fly up in the air, and then try to hit it with a Cricket-like bat. If someone catches it right off, they get to be the batter. If they catch it rolling on the ground, they stand exactly where they caught it and roll it toward the Trap Ball device. If it hits, they become the batter. If it doesn’t, the batter gets another turn at bat. It’s a really fun game. They sold a version of it in a gift shop, but I didn’t really want to pay $65, no matter how nice the set! Though now I’m wondering if we should have gotten it. I can’t find one anywhere else. And everyone loved it. I think we might head to the shop on our way out of town tomorrow.

Cabinetmaker. Photo: Jenny Williams

We had lunch again today at (surprise!) the Cheese Shop. French bread, Gouda, and incredibly lean and tasty corned beef was our menu. Yum. We then went to the few shops around Merchant Square that I wanted to go to. Didn’t buy anything, except some “regular” flavor of Necco wafers. I wasn’t sure what flavor “regular” was, and the boy really wanted to try them, so we got them. But that was it. We’ll probably eat them in the car tomorrow.

We visited the Basketmaker, who was doing her thing behind the George Wythe (pronounced “with”) House. Apparently George was quite a guy, being a mentor to Thomas Jefferson as a young boy, and his house was where George Washington stayed for a few weeks while he got ready to fight at Yorktown. But the Basketmaker told us that, back in the day, both boys and girls would learn how to make baskets starting around age 5 or 6. Baskets weren’t something that most people went out and bought, unless they were rich. Most just made a bunch of baskets in a bunch of different shapes and sizes to use around the house and farm. They cut down the trees, split the wood a bunch of times, dried it, and later shaped it and wove it together.

We also briefly visited the Brickmaker, Cabinetmaker, and Cooper. I learned at the Cooper that if you make a bucket or barrel that is to be used for wet purposes that you had to keep it wet all the time. If for dry, keep it dry all the time. This is because it’s the back and forth that makes the wood form gaps and become problematic.

We capped off the day, and our Colonial Williamsburg experience in general, with a performance called “Ready, Aim, Sing!” It consisted of ballads, in music and poetry, that were sung and read to us by lovely costumed folk. We even got to participate a bit for three of the songs, including an interesting version of Yankee Doodle (the tune was different for the chorus). Even the boy enjoyed this musical experience, and clapped enthusiastically after each piece. Many of the songs were reused tunes with new words (well, new at the time, over 200 years ago).

One nice thing about Williamsburg, though we didn’t take advantage of it, is that they sell cold drinks all over the place, and they don’t charge an obscene amount for them. Unlike amusement parts that can charge about $4 for a cold bottle of water, here the prices were more reasonable. That was nice to see.

I highly recommend Colonial Williamsburg to anyone who is interested in history or the founding of our nation. It’s a fun way for kids, families, and grown-ups to have an educational experience through hands-on activities, performances, food, reenactments, and osmosis. It isn’t expensive, either. For the kids and me, for a three day ticket, it was less than $80 total (that was the online price). Compare this to one day at Disneyland and you’ll see the value.

Our favorite parts of our experience here were the hands-on activities at the Powell House, RevQuest, eating at the Cheese Shop, and visiting the trades of the Bindery, the Printing Press, and the Weaver. Those craftspeople had the most things to say and were the most lively, and I learned the most. The Bindery guy was especially a hoot.

Drove: Around town.

State: Virginia.

Weather: Very hot and muggy, though there was an occasional cool breeze.

Kids: The boy was utterly done with his experience here, but was fairly patient while we wrapped up our visit.

Best Parts of the Day: Visiting the Printing Press, finishing RevQuest, and the music performance that capped off our day.

Worst Parts of the Day: The heat and humidity, my aching body.

Total GeekDads and GeekMoms Visited: 9.

Posted in Education | 1 Comment

Day 30: Colonial Life

The Kitchen at Powell House. Photo: Jenny Williams

Sorry to keep complaining about the weather, but it really is awful. Mid 90s and at least the same amount of humidity. It really feels like a steam bath. At some point, you just have to resign yourself to it, and to feeling gross and nasty, and just go out and do your thing, but it saps your energy and ability to think so quickly that it’s hard to get as much done as you’d like.

The Blacksmith. Photo: Jenny Williams

Utterly related: Never have I craved ice cream as much as I have in the past week and a half. While I love ice cream, it’s not something I usually crave. But the heat and humidity have gotten to me to the point where I feel that I require the stuff. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) I haven’t been able to find it as often as I’d like.

Today we toured the Governor’s Palace kitchen. The woman in there was making real food, but then just letting it sit out. I’m not sure what was then done with it. The trash? No one ate it. There was a pineapple included in the spread of food, which was evidence that it was a rich man’s meal. A pineapple in 1770 would have cost three days wages.

The Shoemaker. Photo: Jenny Williams

We then headed to the Powell House, where kids could participate in the daily life of a household of the time. The kids went into the (very hot) kitchen that had a fire burning. It heated the room way past 100 degrees to the point where going outside in the 95-ish degree weather felt cool. The kids got to use a mortar and pestle to break up sugar into powdered sugar, and they learned how to tell if an egg was bad or not (put it in water, and if it floats, it’s bad). They then cracked the (good) eggs into a bowl and whisked them with a bunch of twigs tied together. We learned that it was illegal to buy anything imported from anywhere but England. A Dutch oven might have been made in Holland, but in the colonies you had to purchase it from England, who had imported it from Holland. In the main house at the Powell House, they played a couple of educational games that taught math, words, and geography.

Fife and Drum Corps, I Think. Photo: Jenny Williams

At the Apothecary, we learned that you could buy anything that you could pay for. There were no controlled substances. Also, you could self-medicate, and ask for anything you thought would treat your ailment. If you weren’t sure what to take, and the apothecary could give you off-the-cuff advice, you just paid for the medicine. If he had to use his knowledge and training to think up some treatment to help you, you paid an extra fee for his advice. Also, medicine that was called a “pill” had to be basically ball-shaped. The medicine we take today is in tablet, capsule, or caplet form, but they aren’t pills.

Townsfolk. She was lamenting him going off to fight in the war. He thought it was his duty. Photo: Jenny Williams

We once again had lunch at the Cheese Shop. This time it was half turkey, half ham. I had asked for the regular baked ham, but I’m pretty sure they gave me Virginia ham instead. It’s a good thing we didn’t get much of it. It was very tasty, but as many of you know, Virginia ham is very salty. Once, long ago, I made the mistake of ordering a decently large portion of it for a meal. Tasty, but you need that scoop of corn pone to get it down, and the scoop is never large enough. Along with our meat we had this semi-soft cheese that was a bit like Muenster, but stronger. It was fantastic, and went really well with the ham. We got individual rolls instead of one big loaf of bread this time, and we got another little sausage to share. Another fabulous lunch.

The Palace Green. Photo: Jenny Williams

After lunch it was back to the DeWitt Wallace Museum for a lesson on heraldry and coats of arms. We learned about England’s coat of arms, and those of trades such as the coopers. We also learned about the United States seal, as a kind of coat of arms for the United States. We learned that the English coat of arms used to have two lions, but when James III of Scotland became James I of England after Queen Elizabeth I died, he changed one of the lions to a unicorn, thus inspiring the song The Lion and the Unicorn. The lion stands for strength and the unicorn stands for purity of heart. This tour and activity was interesting for all, but also was intended for kids. The lady in charge (Christina, who has been the lady in charge of everything we’ve done at that museum) handed out white covered hardback small blank books to each kid, along with a pencil. They could take notes inside, or do what they like, but at the end of the walk the kids could all design their own coat of arms on the cover of the book. My daughter came up with an interesting fire-breathing dragon/unicorn/heart design. My son drew a house.

England's Coat of Arms. Photo: Jenny Williams

We went by the shoemaker who told us that shoes cost 4 to 6 shillings a pair, and that most people bought four pairs per year. Four shoemakers can make 24 pairs of shoes in a week. Custom shoe sizes could be done and cost the same, but they take longer, so most people just bought a size that was in stock. I would love to have a pair of shoes that fit me exactly.

In the courthouse we learned that there were no judges, only justices or magistrates. There had to be four of them there to hold a trial. They weren’t paid and didn’t need to have legal training, and were appointed by the royal something-or-other, so they were all rich men. The court clerk, on the other hand, needed seven years of training and was consulted throughout the trial as needed. It sounds like he did all the real work of the court, and did take his pay out of court fees. He also wrote down all the important bits from the trials, such as the outcomes.

The Capitol. Photo: Jenny Williams

We also started something today that I wish I had known about yesterday. It’s a new way to involve kids in the Colonial Williamsburg experience and is called RevQuest. You start at the Visitor’s Center and they give you each a blue bandanna with “RevQuest” on it, and an envelope of secret documents. It’s your job to decipher clues, have clandestine meetings with people who can give you information, and text your answers to a certain number. There are three parts to the mystery to solve, but we only got set up and did the first half of one of them. Tomorrow’s goal is to get the rest done, visit a few more trades, and go to a music event in the afternoon (a Colonial sing-a-long!). I really hope we can get all that in, so I hope to do a bit of RevQuest homework tonight, to get prepared for tomorrow.

Drove: Around town.

State: Virginia.

Weather: Very hot and even muggier, if that is possible. It honestly did feel like a steam bath.

Kids: Complainy, but not as bad as I thought they would, given our discomfort.

Best Parts of the Day: Lunch at the Cheese Shop, being around the awesomeness of Colonial Williamsburg even if my brain wasn’t fully engaged enough to enjoy it to its fullest.

Worst Parts of the Day: The heat and humidity, the aching feet. Again.

Total GeekDads and GeekMoms Visited: 9.

Posted in Education | 1 Comment

Day 29: Plying Their Trade

The Governor's Palace, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Photo: Jenny Williams

Williamsburg, Virginia, is a cute little town, and there is a lot here. The College of William and Mary is here, along with Colonial Williamsburg, a section of town that was preserved and re-established as a center of Colonial American life. The people are very friendly (well, they are paid to be, but it seems genuine), and the town is well-packaged to be a tourist/educational site. Buy an admission ticket and you get access to enough sites, activities, demonstrations, and performances to educate and entertain you for several days. You are given very helpful maps (including maps for kids with special activities to earn prizes), access to a hop on/hop off shuttle bus, access to plenty of clean bathrooms, and all the help you need. Colonial Williamsburg is why we are here. It’s also why I restrained myself from buying much at other gift shops before our arrival. I remember the Williamsburg gift shops. All too well.

The Courthouse, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Photo: Jenny Williams

We started this morning at the Visitor’s Center where we can park for free and then take the shuttles around the town. We picked up our tickets from Will Call and hopped on one of the first buses out of the station. On a friend’s recommendation, our first stop was the hedge maze at the Governor’s Palace. It was already hot, but the kids and I walked around the maze for a while. But the maze wasn’t thick, and there were so many different pathways and shortcuts that there were no deadends and it was impossible to get lost. It did help to be short, though, because the shortcuts were open spaces within the hedges. After a while the kids gave up and the boy said, “It’s too easy, mom.” I agreed.

We then made our way to the DeWitt Wallace Museum where we had some craft time doing Scherenschnitte, or German paper cutting. It was a lot of fun. It turns out that both men and women did this craft back in the day. Both of my kids and I enjoyed it. In fact, the boy wanted to do more, even though we had to leave. I wish we could have stayed, but I didn’t want to miss the Children’s Orientation Walk. I learned where to get the scissors we used, though (which made all the difference), so we can do this at home.

The ladies' room sign at the Visitor's Center in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Photo: Jenny Williams

At the Children’s Orientation Walk, the lady tour guide tried to make Williamsburg interesting for children. It didn’t work on my cranky boy, who was already hot and bored, and out of sorts because I dragged him away from the paper cutting. But we did get some good hints of places to not miss, and the kids got to try a couple of traditional games at the end of the tour. One was a hoop and stick game, where two kids have Y-shaped sticks and toss a small-ish hoop filled with interlaced string back and forth. The other was called stickball but looked a bit like lacrosse. Some things I learned from the walk are: Williamsburg is set up as a town from 1770. In 1699, the capital of Virginia moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg because it was on higher land and there were fewer bugs.

After our walk, we headed toward the Cheese Shop for lunch. I was glad that my friend Jeff reminded me about the Cheese Shop. I went in intending to get us all sandwiches, but then I noticed another counter with a much shorter line. You could buy individual loaves of bread or sandwich rolls, meat and cheese by the pound, and other things for your picnic. Um, sounds like sandwich fixings to me! So for $12, I got more food than we needed for lunch, for much cheaper than three sandwiches. We had French bread, applewood smoked cheddar, and delicious turkey, and the girl and I had a small sausage type thing later in the day (lest you think we forgot a food group, we also had some squeezie applesauces with us). The boy even ate some of the turkey! I was amazed. I intend on eating lunch there tomorrow and the next day, and perhaps some dinner as well.

The men's room sign at the Visitor's Center in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Photo: Jenny Williams

Next, at the weavers, I learned that in the winter people wore wool. In spring and fall they wore a wool/linen blend, and in the summer, all linen. No cotton, apparently. They used many things to dye fabric, but nothing would result in the color green. So they had to dye fabric yellow, then overdye it with indigo. But they usually just kept things white. That way they could bleach them to keep them clean. Then if the fabric ended up too stained, they could just use black walnut to dye them brown. They tried to grow silk worms and make silk, but by the time they got the mulberry trees right, they’d run out of food, or something. So they switched to tobacco, which they sold to England, and made tidy profits.

At the wig maker’s, we learned that most people didn’t have wigs, because they were too expensive. They cost about 2 pounds, 3 shillings, which at that time could also buy half an acre of land or two oxen. Those that had wigs had, on average, four or five of them. Kids also wore wigs, sometimes. Girls would start wearing them around age 10, boys around age 7. They would have their heads shaved first. The wigs were intensely hot to wear. They were powdered for more formal occasions. No thanks. And apparently George Washington agreed. He had his own hair, and had someone help him arrange it.

We then went to an interactive performance called Pleasures of the Dance where we learned a bit about country dancing (no, not the two step – look up English Country Dance for more information). We got to see a demonstration, and then they led two groups of people to learn two different dances. My kids were in the first group and did very well. They also learned how to show their courtesies (like a bow and a curtsy). The boy kept making wrong steps, but his partner told him that he did well anyway. I sat out to watch the kids, and because there were too many volunteers as it was.

We then visited the silversmith and saw the different stages that cups, spoons, and ladles go through when being made. A woman was also making a long, thin rod of silver, to be used as jewelry in the future.

We then saw the milliner and learned about pockets that are separate from clothing.

We visited the bindery and learned about books. The guy working there was very amusing. His humor was lost on half the people watching, but what do they know. I liked him a lot. Apparently blank books sold much better than ones with printing at the time. Blank books could be used as ledgers for government workers, business men, or anyone needing to keep track of things. Printed and bound books could only be purchased by the very rich. They also printed books without binding, because binding a book raised its price drastically. Even unbound books were expensive, but could be saved up for if needed. I can’t wait to go back tomorrow to the same trade shop where it’s a printing shop in the morning.

One interesting thing about visiting the trades (such as the weaver, silversmith, and binder) is that the tradespeople just keep talking. You go in and they are talking about something about their trade, answering questions and occasionally demonstrating something, and you just come and go as you like. I wouldn’t mind revisiting some of them, since you’d probably get different information each time you went. Still, we have plenty more trades to visit, and I can’t wait.

We tried to get a photo of the kids in the stocks by the courthouse, but the stocks were literally too hot to touch. We’ll try again tomorrow.

We went to a thing called Crack the Code, which talked about secret codes during the Revolutionary War. Codes by the Virginians, George Washington, the British, and others were addressed. The kids got to do some assignments during the talk, which were interesting and introduced me to a couple of codes with which I was not yet familiar. Score. We also discussed the difference between codes and ciphers. According to the lady in charge, a code is when a group of letters, symbols, or numbers stand in for specific words. In a cipher, it is a one-to-one correspondence for letters to stand in for other letters.

We then headed to the closest shuttle stop and finally managed to get on a bus to take us back to the Visitor’s Center. Note to self: Never take a shuttle bus after 5pm from the last stop before the Visitor’s Center. We had to wait for about four buses before there was enough room for us. We did a bit of shopping at the Visitor’s Center gift shops, and then we drove back to the hotel.

And now I’m soaking my feet in a bathtub full of cold water to help my painful feet while my kids sing They Might Be Giants Here Comes Science songs in the next room.

For the first time on this trip, today I feel like I didn’t take enough pictures.

Drove: Around town.

State: Virginia.

Weather: Very hot and very muggy.

Kids: Both had minor breakdowns today. The heat gets to everyone.

Best Parts of the Day: Hearing the tradespeople talk about their trades, our lunch at the Cheese Shop.

Worst Parts of the Day: The heat and humidity, the aching feet.

Total GeekDads and GeekMoms Visited: 9.

Posted in Education

Day 28: Free Cookies

Our morning started out on schedule, but since Jeff went out all morning without us being able to say goodbye, we dawdled and ran to the grocery store to resupply our healthy food stock so we could see him one more time. So by the time we got on the road, it was almost noon. It was so great see Jeff, though. He was one of my best friends in high school, and we’ve kept in touch over the years. The letters he used to write me (yes, I said “letters”) made me laugh so much. And still, he is interesting and clever, and makes all the right geeky jokes (including plenty of references to Star Wars and They Might Be Giants). We even pretended we were in a Road Movie to Berlin. This all pleased me to no end.

Rather than take the usual Interstate route to Williamsburg, Jeff recommended a back road for one stretch that would be much more scenic. Since I’ve really enjoyed the back road driving I’ve done on this trip, I gave it a try. It was only supposed to take a little bit longer. Well, it would have only taken a little bit longer if I hadn’t skipped a crucial step in the directions. (Note to self: Write them down next time.) Instead, I got lost for a half hour, took many wrong turns, made several calls to my mom for directions, and had to pay a $2.75 toll to go one mile. But we finally found the proper road, and got to drive by farms (there was corn, but no not-corn), plantations, and beautiful forets instead of road, road, and more road.

We finally made it to Williamsburg. I can tell that they really cater to tourists, because the signage is fantastic. This wouldn’t even be worth a mention, except that we’ve experienced such bad and missing signage on this trip, and it’s a refreshing change to know where we are and where we are going! Our hotel is pretty good, though the room is a bit musty and there is no fridge. But the other amenities are fantastic so I’ll forgive them that, and they offer unlimited free cookies and apples!

The original plan when we arrived in the area was to head straight to Jamestown and do either Historic Jamestowne or the Jamestown Settlement, then check into the hotel later. But we got here so late, thanks to the detour and the getting lost and the late departure, that we just headed straight to the hotel and will make an early night of it. And since we didn’t actually do anything, I have no photos. Which also saves me time.

But for the next three days, we’ll experience Colonial Williamsburg to the fullest, and fit in Jamestown where we can.

Drove: 165ish miles.

State: Virginia.

Weather: Hot and muggy again.

Kids: The kids have actually fought much less and thrown fits much less frequently than they do at home. I guess this trip is good for them!

Best Part of the Day: The free cookies. The sugar ones are the best.

Worst Part of the Day: Getting lost, and losing time and money trying to get back on track.

Something I Learned a Week or Two Ago and Will Make Use of Today: Loose ice from a hotel ice machine will re-freeze icees. (This hotel room has no fridge.)

Total GeekDads and GeekMoms Visited: 9.

Posted in Driving, Friends