Day 5: October 11, 2011
George's Stuff
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I slept less than ten miles from Mount Vernon so visiting there today seemed like a good idea. The first picture matches the closest I've previously come. In 2001 we got here too late for entry to be practical. Today I arrived much earlier. The statues are in the orientation center where I watched a nicely done movie before heading to the mansion. There was a pretty good crowd today and that meant a certain amount of waiting in line to tour the mansion. Tour tickets are stamped with what amounts to a "not before" time. They can be used anytime during the day after the indicated time. No photos are allowed inside the mansion which contains much that is original to the house and all furnishing are proper for the period when George and Martha lived here. An item that I really enjoyed seeing is a key from the Bastille that Lafayette gave to Washington. It's hanging on the wall, right where George put it, in a glass case he had made especially for it.

There is a full length porch on the back side of the house which provides the perfect spot for gazing out over the Potomac. Thanks to the Trust for Public Land and the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, the view remains much the same as George enjoyed.

There are quite a few dead folk around Mount Vernon. The burial vault in the first picture was deteriorating in George's time and his will contained instructions for building a replacement. That didn't happen immediately and both George and Martha were interred here for several years. When the new vault, in the second picture, was at last completed in 1831, the President & First Lady and the other twenty residents of the old vault were moved there. The capitol was also being constructed during this period and the original plans called for the First President to be placed in a tomb beneath the rotunda that would be visible thorough a glass floor. Apparently that might have actually happened had things moved more quickly but, by the time the government actually came calling for the body, the new tomb was complete and the family refused. The tomb below the capitol is still awaiting a suitable occupant.

Lots of slaves worked at Mount Vernon and many are still there. The wooden grave markers are long gone but ground radar has been used to locate approximately eighty individuals buried in the area near the marker in the last photo. The marker, dedicated in 1983 speaks of "Afro Americans who served as slaves". A nearby marker from 1929 speaks of "faithful colored servants". Movin' on up.

There are some extremely nice displays in the Museum and Education Center. Photos are permitted in most of this area but photographing George's dentures is specifically forbidden. This is one of the few such prohibitions I understand and agree with. The false teeth are displayed in dim lighting since too much light could definitely affect them. That means that a flash would typically be required for a decent picture and that carefully controlled lighting would be for naught. There are plenty of professionally done photos around if you need one.

Reconstructions, on the original footprints, of Washington's mill and distillery stand about two and a half miles from Mount Vernon. Both are quite authentic and both are operational.

Before the mill is run for a few minutes, its history is told and its operation explained. The docent mentioned that the wood housing over the grinding stones is "by Virginia law" exactly two inches larger then the stones. I'd not heard of that before and asked the reason. "Because not all millers were honest", was the answer. A mill operator would grind a farmer's grain for a fee and part of that fee would be the flour or meal remaining inside the housing. A dishonest miller could pad his profits with an oversized housing. All components, including the big water wheel, are inside the building. The external shot is of the outflow side.

The distillery contains five copper stills and all were in use today making apple brandy. It smelled pretty good. The wood fires beneath the stills required a lot of attention and a lot of wood and the cooling coils required a lot of water. Of course, almost all of the wood chopping and bucket toting was done by slaves and, yes, it was a very hot place.

It was now time to head home and I headed back into DC to pick up US-50 where I'd left it. On the way, I passed the Occupy DC encampment at Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue. This is an outgrowth of the Occupy Wall Street protests that started last month in New York. As a child of the '60s, I generally like what these kids are doing.

The fellow in the black suit was nearly run over by a driver looking at the tents and almost missing a red light. However, I stopped just in time.

Back on Fifty, I passed the Washington Monument and, although I couldn't see it, the Zero Mile Marker. I also passed lots and lots of orange barrels.

I was getting pretty thirsty when the 29 Diner appeared. It was about 4:00 when I pulled in and I considered an early dinner. But there were no customers and the only person there was working in the back when I entered. He was certainly pleasant enough but I decided just to get an iced tea and keep moving. Another fellow entered the diner just as I was pulling out so maybe dinner time was just starting.

There are lots of stone fences along this section of US-50. The majority are the normal sort in the first picture but there are many like the wood topped version in the second. I don't recall ever seeing fences like this and am not sure what the wood's purpose is. I know I should have stopped and taken better pictures but it's too late now.

The Triangle Diner in Winchester, Virginia, still isn't open but they are definitely making progress and I now have faith that it will. Maybe even soon.

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