On October 1st we tackled the 10 hour drive south to central Virginia
We had a lot of plans for Charlottesville. Of course one was to experience the leaves change. When we arrived we re-wound the seasonal clock two weeks. Surprisingly we were greeted by the South East’s last heat wave of 2013. I quickly remembered why I never come to the east in the summer anymore. The hot soupy humid air hung thick with bloated mosquitoes for what seemed like eternity although I think it only lasted for 3 or 4 days.
We came to Charlottesville to be with my family. My parents live, literally a stone’s throw from Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s famous home on a hill above town. My brother Frederic and sister Adriana live here as well with families. My brother’s son Julian is Ila’s age and is small and adorable with a dark complexion to match his Costa Rican mother. He is fully committed to trucks. My sister has Auguste, age 3 with electric blue eyes and a blonde head that matches a young Elias and perhaps me when I was his age. And Zora my sister’s very big and happy baby daughter.
Choosing to live far from them has limited the opportunities to keep growing and sharing our lives. I’ve been getting glimpses of the idea that our kids could grow up not knowing each other. Just getting together for holidays is too fake. I wanted us all to hang out for a small cross section of normal life. See what the work week looks like for them. See how they get along.
We came here because a year is a very long time to travel for a small family. We came to be grounded in familiar places and feel what it was to be at a proverbial home. I love coming to my parent’s house. When you grow up and leave, even after almost two decades it is like coming home. My mother’s cooking, our extremely comfortable routine of being together, our ability to laugh enthusiastically at the exact same things. So many things about being with family are entirely taken for granted until you’re out there in the big wide world for too many years and not enough people are laughing at your jokes.
Jacob and Elias love coming here as well. It’s a level of mystery and excitement they don’t get anywhere else. They LOVE going to my parent’s art studio and diving whole heartily into projects. Growing up we would always take Halloween costumes very seriously and I have always wanted my kids to enjoy that with my dad. Jacob took on the task of designing and constructing the battle armor of a dead Trojan Warrior while Elias, also preparing for battle built his far more glamorous a knight in shining armor.
The second week we were there the hot humid weather turned to a constant torrential rain as a tropical depression that had crawled up the east coast stalled just off of the coast of Virginia beach and lifted buckets after buckets of water out of the Atlantic inland to the Blue Ridge. As the rain came down Michelle and I dropped the eager boys off at their grand parents work aka art studio and we hunkered down to get some much needed work done. After all, just because we’re traveling for the year doesn’t mean we don’t have jobs.
The third week the crisp cool autumn air returned as scheduled, bringing an occasional Maple to turn completely yellowish red or a an Oak to turn yellow orange. We visited our friends on White Oak Lake in Madison county very close to where I was born and we proved that not everyone catches fish on White Oak Lake.
From here we moved to my brother’s house for the remainder of the stay. My brother lives on this 100 acre picture perfect horse farm in rolling pasture hills cozied up to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here I had one of my favorite bouldering rocks about 3 minutes away and was very eager to bring that into our daily routine with our usual home schooling and work related tasks. We prepped for Ila and Jacob’s birthdays (which took place through the last week of our stay) and we prepared for the rock climbing courses I scheduled to teach in Northern Virginia throughout our visit.
As the boys came closer to the finishing touches on their costumes single trees turned into groups of trees lighting up on the hill sides: The Ash, Walnuts, Poplars and Elms turning the panorama yellows and oranges. We traveled to Northern Virginia to run rock climbing courses and visit the capitol city. Actually it was just Jacob and Elias that helped, and they did a great job of it too. Still young enough where I need to watch everything they do it was very cool to watch these adult students give Jacob all of their confidence while he explained a skill and watched them shake their head in surrender while watching Elias scamper around the rocks like a spider. The climbing here was actually fun considering I was expecting nothing special. It is also located right on the Great Falls of the Patomic River which is a big symphony of Cascading rapids on this fairly large river that head waters several hundred miles up in the mountains of West Virginia.
Here we camped for the first time since camping on the Missouri River in central south Dakota. We returned to the basics of our little adventure while remembering the rythm that we had established as travelers during the first month of our journey. Following one of the day’s rock climbing courses we went to the Washington Mall where one can find all of the most notable sites of the District of Columbia including the White House and the Washington Monument. Our main goal was the Museum of Natural History which is part of the Smithsonian Museum, the largest collection of museums on the planet and they are all free.
Back in the Blue Ridge the forests were erupting with yellow, red, purple and orange – extraordinary yet so ordinary. Ila’s Birthday was quiet and humble as it should be for a two year old. We visited her “horsey friends” many times that day, played with her stroller and her brothers and ate fruit. We saved the 27th, Jacob’s Birthday for the Ila and Jacob party. It took place at my brother’s farm house. We made Sushi, played soccer and walked the farm checking out the horses.
Now with only a few days left we had many things to accomplish. I had a few bouldering problems that I had to finish. We had a few more hikes in the hills, a few more dinners with my sister, my brother and their family. Frederic, my brother, and I sipped more whiskey and then of course one last important job to do: Trick or Treating.
We hit the road after trick or treating to make the five hour drive down to Asheville, North Carolina where Michelle’s brother lives. I had a Wilderness First Responder course I had to make on the 2nd of November and hoped for a day of rest in between. As we drove away from my parents house we traveled south through Appalachia and were rocked by the winds tossing the car around with an oncoming storm. In the evening dark there were now more leaves blowing in the wind than there were on the trees.
Now three hours into the drive, full of treats from Halloween, we finally received a trick. Our car began coughing and studdering – it was clear we needed to stop. We checked into a hotel and awoke in the morning in Christiansburg, Virginia. This turned out to be a good thing since this region is where stock cars were invented to run moonshine back in the 20s and 30s. Still being very much a part of local pride and culture we found some very nice Nascar mechanics to make a few “adjustments” to the car before heading on to Asheville. November 1st…the adventure continues…