30. Apr, 2016

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THURSDAY 16-10-08 

We had a good night’s sleep and didn’t get up until 08:00, our sleep could have been better, but until we were about to go to bed, hadn’t spotted that I’d parked on a sloping pitch, and so we spent the night with our heads sliding against the rear wall of the RV. In future we’ll not be so complacent and go back to our tumbler-of-water-on-kitchen-worktop check for the level of the vehicle when parking up. 

Rosina had a quick very cool shower because last night I’d forgotten to select ‘LPG’ to heat the water with the furnace overnight, having been used to the luxury of having the water heated by electricity from hook-ups for the past week, whilst I, having realised the problem and flicked the switch, had my breakfast first, followed by a nice hot shower in freshly heated water. 

This morning we continued our 35mph travel along the Skyline Drive. We were stopping regularly to take pictures of scenes which at the time look great, but when you look at the pictures at the end of the day they just look like another row of mountains and trees with colourful foliage on them. 

At one of the overlooks there were three Americans riding foreign motorbikes, two BMW’s and one Kawasaki, not that I know anything about motorbikes, to me they’re just two wheels with an engine in between, and the only reason I knew what kind of motorbikes they were was because I read it on their petrol tanks. I just said “Hi - now they’re proper motorbikes” and the next thing I know we’re in conversation. It turns out they really don’t like Harley Davidson’s and that all their owners ever do is polish them and take them for a ride in their pickup trucks or trailers at weekends. I almost peed myself laughing and told them that was exactly the conclusion I had reached whilst we’d been over here, and how I now felt so much better knowing that I was not the only one who thought that. 

Lunch was in yet another overlook (layby with a view), my navigator and photographer being very strict about the type she wanted to stop in, i.e., mustn’t be too small so that we took all the available space up, must be big enough to share with others, must be on the left side of the road and must have a good view. 

After lunch we made our way to the end of the Skyline Drive at Waynesboro then turned left for Charlottesville, the location of ‘Monticello’ the former home of Thomas Jefferson www.monticello.org the person responsible for the original draft of the American Constitution and the third President of the United States.  I had already been on to the Monticello website when in the UK and wasn’t too keen on its tone, and so when we arrived I remained in the RV whilst The Chef, who is more in to that kind of thing, took herself off on the tour. When she returned she hadn’t been that impressed and told me about it. Apparently Thomas Jefferson inherited the estate in his early twenties which had both debts and 50 slaves. When he married he became responsible for a further 150 slaves from his wife’s family. He even kept his male cook whom he’d had trained in France to produce French cuisine for him, but sold the cook’s wife and child. The cook then spent a good part of the rest of his life after his eventual freedom, scraping together the money to buy them back. 

Before he died Jefferson sold his home and slaves to pay off his debts. He may also have sold his false teeth to raise a little extra cash, which would explain why he didn’t get the lead part of ‘Whistling Dixie’ in that year’s Charlottesville Christmas Pantomime, settling instead for the rear end of the panto horse. Not a big part but when you’ve no money you take what you can get. 

I asked The Chef where the slaves graves were, she said the staff weren’t too sure but thought they were somewhere under the car park in which we were currently parked which about says it all really. Perhaps part of Jefferson’s original draft constitution read: ‘All Indians immigrants’ slaves Negroes women citizens white men are created equal’ 

Next it was off to Richmond, Virginia, Confederate Capital during the American Civil War, and destination of numerous taxpayer-funded 'jolly’s' by Director’s and Senior Managers of the East of England Ambulance Service wishing to take a look at how reputedly, one of the most efficient ambulance services in America operates. Ignoring the fact that they run an urban service whilst the Brits a large, rural one. I think one explanation for the Yanks efficiency was that they only have these clowns posing as Directors and Senior Managers as visitors and not as their employees. 

Tonight we are camped out in a Wal-Mart car park on the outskirts of Richmond, safe in the knowledge that should we need an ambulance it will arrive quickly. 

LOCATION TONIGHT: Wal-Mart Super, 2501 Sheila Lane, Richmond, VA 232225 (GPS: N37.532574 W77.533593).