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The Long Ride Home

So, it’s Sunday, and I finally have the energy to relate the journey back to metro ATL.

I was good for my word and got an early start. Unfortunately, I had piddled about the night going through the photos from the day and such, so I got only about 6 hours of sleep. In the morning, that didn’t seem so bad. Later, I would regret that.

Still, I was on the move before 8am (okay, you have your early, I have mine). Having no real idea where my stop at Flowerdew Hundred was, I had once more put my travel in the hands of AAA’s triptik. The route it planned look sane enough. And for a rather cool effect, it included a ferry across the James River. Yayy!!

I had not been on a Ferry at all in decades and never a proper ferry in the sense of the one across the James River. I had seen it going across during my visit at Jamestowne. So, that was kind of cool. My experience with Ferry’s before had been back home, where for years Macon County had the last operating Ferry in Georgia. I don’t recall when a bridge finally replaced it, but it was a staple for some people at least into the 80’s if not the 1990’s . I had only ridden it for fun, as it was not on any normal path of travel for us. It held, I think, a maximum of two cars, but the ride was all of a couple of minutes anyway. I never drove onto that one myself, either.

So, about 20 minutes into my trip, I was waiting on a pier on the James River and watching a Ferry approach. I found it amusing that the same vague feeling of dread that comes across me before a plane flight hit here as well. I guess it’s the loss of control as I don’t have that feeling when I set forth to drive somewhere. A few minutes passed as the cars coming from the other side exited, and then they let us on. Lost in reverie for a moment, I missed the start of the trip but suddenly felt movement and my foot automatically went for the brakes. I found the sense of movement very disconcerting. I realized sheepishly after a second that the Ferry, not my car as such, was in motion. I wanted to get out but wasn’t sure if that was kosher. I saw a family in an RV unloading behind me and I decided there was safety in numbers. I never saw any locals get out, for whatever reason. As I enjoyed a good view of Jamestown from the River, I reflected that I’ve never been fond of small boats. I hate the feeling of them on the water, but give me a good solid boat and I enjoy it. The Ferry Pocahontas definitely fit the bill. Anything that holds a few dozen cars and is only half full has some heft behind it. The only boat with a similar feel to it was the hydrofoil that Brandy and I rode to Capri last January. The ocean breeze coming up the James River from the Atlantic was perfect. The trip was only about 20 minutes long but was just the perfect way to begin a journey. As the opposite dock came into view, I got back in the car and again felt that sensation to put my foot on the brake. Odd that I didn’t have that feeling on the decks, but the moment my body was back in my parked but moving car, I again wanted to stop it!

Now, came the fun… AAA’s map told me that I’d be on VA-31 for 8+ miles before my next turn… but did the mileage include the Ferry trip or not?? The line item on the map began with getting on the Ferry and gave the mileage. I didn’t realize until on the other side VA-31 continues and I was to be on it for?? How long? Did the Ferry include the 8 miles or not? And the next irritating thing that I’m mention to AAA when I get the time, whenever roads have names, they provide those INSTEAD of giving you the highway number… Well, when you’re on the road, you can about count on the highway numbers being up there, but you’re lucky if you can spot a street name before you pass it. The next turn was so marked by the road name rather than the highway number… booo… I don’t know how I managed to find it. Obviously I was not tuckered out just yet.

By 9:30am, I was sitting outside the Flowerdew Hundred museum waiting for it to open… half an hour from then… Let me say, this place is REALLY in the middle of nowhere. The road to it after the last turn led straight there. Nowhere else, at all… just this little museum with some farm buildings and a huge house nearby. hmmm… 10am finally rolled around and I’d yet to see a car pull up. If got out and followed the path to the museum (formerly it turns out an old house and before that a school house). When I got to the door, there was a sign stating the open hours and to pick up the phone in the box by the door… ooookay…. A guy answered and I told him I was a the museum… At this point, I was really beginning to question why I’d come out here. At any rate, he said someone would be out.

I’m horrible with names, but the lady who came out was probably Ms. Shriver, the curator. She thought at first I was a party that had an appointment that day, which of course I was not. So, she had to ask how on earth I came to be there. So, I said that I had family that had lived in the area quite some time ago, the Woodsons. She said, “Doctor John Woodson?” Yes! Reaching behind the counter, she produced a packet full of info. with name Woodson on the front and asked me to sign the registry and to check yes for being one of the original Flowerdew families. She listed a handful of the major names that people tend to show up claiming descendcy from, Woodson being one of them. So, they keep information for those people on hand.

I am admittedly not fully versed on this part of the family. The Fitzpatricks, Woodsons, and Napiers were comparably well researched parts of the family, so I’ve spent most of my time on other parts of the family tree over the years. I know only the highlights, that Dr. Woodson, a surgeon to a company of soldiers, arrived with his wife, Sarah, on the ship George in 1619. They came with Sir George Yeardley, the new royal governor of Virginia, and his wife, Temperance Flowerdew. John and Sarah after arriving, had at least two sons, John and Robert, before Dr. Woodson died in the Indian massacre of 1644. My family is descended from the son, John. I knew they came to live somewhere called Flowerdew Hundred, but what was that? I knew nothing about it.

The museum is the result of 30 years of archaeological work at the old plantation. The name never made any sense, but I had never examined it. The Flowerdew part is in honor of Yeardley’s wife. But Hundred? Hundred was an old English term that roughly amounted to enough land to support a company of 100 fighting men. And the division of new lands into these Hundreds along the James River was the first expansion of the English settlement. The people who came over did not settle inside Jamestowne but along the River in more forts as the colony expanded. It originally supported a colony of people dependent on one another, but in the 19th century, it came to be a family owned plantation and today is part of a 1,400 acre modern farm. Fortunately, the area has been studied since the early 1970’s by archaeologists from the College of William & Mary, University of California at Berkeley, and the state of Virginia. My guide is still in the process of cataloguing all the material finds that were made.

I intended for a brief stop, but after touring the small museum and nearby grounds (there’s actually a driving tour I decided I didn’t have time for), I got to talking with the curator. She told me a lot about the history of Flowerdew when my family was there as well, it turns out that she and her husband have been to London as many times as I have, so we began to compare notes. In the end, I was there over two hours (closer to three if you include my half hour wait for the place to open). It was a great stop, and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything, but it pushed an already long drive back by hours…

Back on the road, I hurried towards I-95. Country roads quickly gave way to a small town on the edge of the interstate. I had one last meal in Virginia, at a Wendy’s. I passed three McD’s trying to find something fast but different… They don’t appear to have learned the joy of Chick-fil-A up there yet. I saw one in Williamsburg under construction… sigh… Took my meal to go and headed down the interstate… I shortly was lost in the mind-numbing sound of the interstate passing under my wheels. I was determined to at least get out of Virginia before stopping again.

And I made it to North Carolina… The lack of sleep started to hit me, so I began a vicious cycle of drinking coke and stopping at half the rest stops on I-85… Soon, I graduated to water realizing it was more the fluid than the caffeine that did the trick. Still, didn’t stop me from popping a few vivarin. And the road kept passing. I finally stopped at the first Chick-Fil-A I’d seen in hours for dinner about 6pm. I lost time but I decided I needed out of the car for awhile, so ate there instead of on the road. I started questioning the sanity of getting back in the car with the intent of driving on, but I also just desperately wanted after all this time on the road to get back to my house.

Not long after I was back on the road, my Mom returned a phone call from earlier in the day. We talked for about an hour before I had my next rest stop. That really helped. By the time I had finished recounting the morning to her from the Ferry ride to the museum and information I’d gleaned on our ancestors, I felt awake and aware again. Which was good, because now it was pouring rain… great… now it’s dark and I’m tired, and it’s raining. Mom’s comment that it was raining there as well (quite some distance south of Atlanta) didn’t bring me much hope that I’d ride out of the rain anytime soon.

After our conversation and that last rest stop, I only made one more stop for gas before leaving South Carolina. And I arrived home a little before 11pm… I barely unloaded anything from the car. Took some aspirin, called my Mom simply to say I was home, and collapsed.

I slept late Saturday and never left the house. Today, I’m doing laundry and generally just trying to catch up. I’ve only been out today to grab lunch. Later I need to go get some groceries as there’s frightfully little in ye olde cupboard. The funny part is as tired as I am, I’ve already been reading the airfare tips I’ve gotten via e-mail the last few days but didn’t have time to review. No plans yet, but you never know how long that will last.

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