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                            Retirement Talk for Boomers, Seniors, and Retirees

Episode 123 Road Trip Part 16: Chesapeake Bay to Monticello

A lobster dinner - that is what stood out from our next stop in Federalsburg, Maryland.  Not for the lobster, though the lobster was a treat, but for the conversation and company. Twenty nine years ago Brenda’s brother had visited us in Anchorage. He had driven up the Alaskan Highway in his black Pontiac Firebird. He didn’t know where he was going – in every sense of the word. He was in his twenties and at that stage of life where everything is possible and yet nothing is possible. He stayed with us for perhaps six months during which time he hiked in the mountains, sold the Firebird, tried his hand at selling vacuum cleaners, and struggled to make some sense out of life. It was a defining period in his life. Then late one dark night in February I took him out to Anchorage International Airport. It was raining hard and I remember seeing him through my review mirror as I pulled away from the curb. He was standing there in the driving rain wearing his backpack. He was headed to Seattle on the red-eyed shuttle intent on walking across America.

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

Reg walked out of the Seattle airport and headed east. The walk was intermittent. The country was so beautiful that he could not do it alone. “The beauty has to be shared,” he wrote. He heard of a group of folks that were walking across the country and joined them. Two days before the end of the trip Reg bought a bottle of pop in a little general store and sat down on the outdoor steps to drink it. A beautiful young woman stopped her car in front of the store. She approached him and asked if he had change for a quarter so she could make a phone call. Twenty six years later we are eating lobster dinner at their table just a few miles from that little store in Denton, Maryland. We were joined by their twenty four year old son and lady friend. The food, the company and the conversation were memorable.

The Firehouse Coffee Shop now sits in an old brick building in Denton. We found out about that even before we got to Reg’s. They live in the country; flat land – pasture and woods lay all around. We biked some of the local country roads. There were horses – lots of horses – race horses for sulky racing. We drove down to the end of the peninsula stopping at many small towns sampling the coffee shops and lunch stops. The country side is again divided between the rich and the poor. There are rundown shacks and obvious poverty on one hand and then on the other are large beautiful mansions, or mega-mansions, set back off the road. They told us that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld recently bought houses in the area.

If one wanted to raise a few horses and not pay very much money for land or house, this might be a good place to retire. Boating, fishing and hunting are easily available. And if you want big city access; Baltimore and Washington DC are within a couple of hours.

We drove off of the peninsula on a Sunday morning and headed west. We had completed our journey east. This really was the end of our planned trip. We were to freelance our way back home. We didn’t know if we would be in a hurry to return home or if we would still have some wanderlust to satisfy. We jumped off the major road as soon as we hit the mainland and took a road south to avoid DC. We ate lunch in Fredericksburg, Virginia; a beautiful town. This was the first time on our trip where I thought for a moment that this might be a better place to live than where we do live. The downtown is old and intact. People are on the streets and everything looks alive. The ‘Hyberian Coffee’ shop is a real gem. It’s worth a stop – just for a good cup.

It was early and we had miles to go. Civil war battlefields started to pop up and call for a stop. We toured a bit of the Chancellorsville Battlefield. There was a time in my life when this would have held my interest for a full day. Something has changed. We moved on and didn’t stop at another. I can see how one could easily get involved in a historical tour of this area. We had other things in mind.

A few miles down the road Montpellier, James Madison’s home, came into view. We stopped; a beautiful place. Interesting to see the splendor in which this guy and his famously beautiful Dolly lived; big brick house, green pastures, white board fences, big oak trees, and a view that seemed to roll on forever and then meld into the sky. The slave quarters did cast a cloud over the entire estate. We drove on to Chancellorsville and spent the night. The following morning we headed to Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.

We were told by the guide that Jefferson pronounced it “Monticello” – like the musical instrument. The home is well preserved and grand and yet somehow a bit modest compared to James Madison’s. We took a tour of this house and the working quarters that provided for his plantation lifestyle. Jefferson defined what it meant to be a renaissance man. His home and his possessions illustrate his abilities. On the path leading to the entrance to the home and grounds was a graveyard for the slaves of the plantation; sort of an ominous beginning. Of course slavery was part of the plantation culture, but it is a hard barrier to overcome when one tries to admire the grandeur.

We found ourselves at lunch time and we were not getting any further west. Then we saw the sign for the Blue Ridge Parkway. We knew that it lead south to Ashville and the home of Thomas Wolfe. We took the turn.


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