Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Richmond Virginia, Alice and The Day They Shot Fred Out Of A Cannon

Craig Writes;
27/06/13. Well, we're back in the good old south. Richmond, Virginia to be exact. We all love the place, the houses, the people, the food, the accents, the history. And, we're staying with our friend Alice who we met in the Galapagos Islands. 
Two good ol gals
Sadly our other friend Sally, also from the Galapogas, who we were hoping to catch up with, couldn't be here. Alice has this magnificent home in Richmond Virginia where she has graciously offered to house and feed us for a few days. It is a beautiful two storey place backing onto an enormous lake. There are kayaks to paddle in and I just found out, a gym to play in.
Alices backyard
The boys just love their Acey
Can you imagine, a balmy night,a bourbon slushie in hand.... bliss
Today was very laid back, out for lunch and a bit of shopping for dinner then lounge around on big comfy sofas all afternoon. 
My two favourite spots, couch on the left and sofa in the sunroom
Alices fella, Tom, was coming over for dinner so I offered to hit the barbie and cook up this massive piece of London Broil and charr some corn cobs. The girls whipped up a couple of great salads in the kitchen, add some hot biscuits, pickles and Alice's Bourbon Slushies and you have perfection. 
Alices famous Bourbon Slushies
Tom turned out to be a great fella with a  taste for very fine bourbon. Thanks for sharing Tom.  It was a great day, we truly are blessed.
Happy Birthday young Tom
Toms birthday pav, another Christina creation 
28/06/13. Oh dear, not a lot to report today. Charlie and I decided to visit the gym before breakfast and may I say, that kid goes hard. Sweat was pouring off his little head by the time we'd finished. After a shower and breakfast it was basically just hanging out, finishing our Massachusetts blog, playing skittles then out for lunch and over to a friend of Alices for a swim in their pool. 
Can't count the hours of fun we had with this
Time to strip off and jump in
They were away for a few days so we basically had the place to our selves.  There was a family of deer that gathered on the front lawn. To us they're cute and a novelty, to the locals it's like having a herd of hungry sheep wander into your front lawn and start eating everything in sight. 
The local vermin are very cute
These guys had a novel way of dealing with it. They had set up motion controlled sprinklers that pelt them with water when ever they get too close.  Guess where the boys spent there first 20 minutes once they discovered sensor controlled sprinklers. Eventually they made it into the pool and there we all floated, lounged and chattered the afternoon away.

Back at Alices we showered up then headed into town where we were going to pick up our next hire car. We were leaving in a day or so for the drive up to Williamsburg then onto Washington DC. Picked up the car then it was onto  Crab Louies, a great seafood place in a beautiful old house that dates back to 1745. Here we met  Alice,s son Fred and his lovely fiancee Elizabeth, and, our new mate Tom. A great night.

29/06/13. Forever the thoughtful hostess, Alice has arranged something special for us today.  Alice's friend Sandy is a professional tour guide here in Richmond and an expert on it's history and extensive involvement in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and today she was going to be our very own personal tour guide.  She was brilliant and obviously very passionate about what she does.  I drove and she talked. We had traded the big Yukon for an eight person people mover, ideal for this kind of thing, everyone could see and we stopped at many points of interest around the city.  Historic monuments, The Edgar Allan Poe museum, the canal bridge that goes over the James river where The Falls and seven miles of rapids start.
The start of the Seven Mile Falls
Over the road is the historic Tredegar Foundry. Lincoln said at the start of the Civil War that for the North to win, Richmond has to fall.  The reason was Tredegar Foundry.
 Tredegar was a major concern for Lincoln in his fight against the South 
It was the main foundry that supplied the Confederates with their cannons and heavy steel plate used to enforce their ships. From here it was a drive around to look at the Confederate Capital building and a quick stop off at Bottoms Up Pizza. Absolutely, one of the best pizzas any of us have ever had.

After topping up on delicious "nutritious" pizza it was back in the people mover and off to the Museum of the Confederacy with some amazing possessions belonging to General E Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis. They had General E Lees war time tent complete with his uniform, boots, bed and possessions. It was amazing to see the real artifacts of the main players of one of the most important and bloody conflicts in modern history. From here we took a short trip to Wilton House, an original Georgian Style plantation house built by wealthy plantation owner  William Randolf III in 1753. 
Wilton House
It was eventually abandoned as the ravages of the Revolutionary war and then the Civil War took it's toll. It had become in danger of being demolished during the Great Depression and was bought by the National Society of the Dames of America in 1934 and moved 18 miles to it's current location.  Here, it was rebuilt brick for brick, exactly as it was before it was saved and moved.  It has been completely refurnished with period furniture from the 1700's, some of the original furniture had survived and was scattered throughout the home. The stand out piece was a magnificent grandfather clock dating back to 1755. While it didnt belong to the original owners the clock itself is totally original and in perfect working order. It has a value of approx one million dollars and is maintained by the same clock makers that service and attend to the clocks in the White House.
Got a spare million?

It was a brilliant day and were very fortunate to have Sandy as our guide, thank you Sandy and thanks to Alice for arranging it.  

Alice shared a little about herself today, deeply personal stuff that we hadn't  known before. We knew she was a widow when we first met her and her friend Sally at the Galapagos Islands but we never got, or asked for, the back story.  Best that these things are volunteered. Having now spent a couple of days sharing her amazing house and wonderful company, not to mentioned a few bourbons and some vino, she honoured us with the tale of her tragic loss.  Seven years ago, on Father's Day Alice and her husband Fred were in a terrible car accident. They were rear ended by a careless driver with Fred sustaining injuries that, on June 18th 2006, led to him paying the ultimate price and Alice being very badly injured.  Alice has fortunately gone on to make a full recovery and full credit to her courage, grace and determination, has forged on to embrace life with the  enthusiasm and energy of a youngster, determined to squeeze every last drop from what life has to offer. Although we are new friends we all feel we are kindred spirits and there are old ties there that go way back. 

I think it was with this in mind that she shared with us the events of that day, her recovery process and Freds amazing obituary that he had only written six months previous to the accident. 
"there are only two things we need to be prepared for in life" , Fred would tell Alice and their kids.
"death and taxes". he would say.
Taxes were beyond everyones control but he could manage certain aspects of the other, such as his obituary.  Alice, and the kids, were not that impressed and refused at first to read it, but Fred was persistent and Alice finally agreed.    At the time she found it all a bit morbid but it had the typical mark of Fred's dry and witty sense of humour. It was filed away, not expected to be used for many many years in the future.
There were two outstanding facets of Fred Clarks parting wishes that more than anything else identified him as the man he was. Firstly was his amazingly funny, self depreciating and poignant obituary which I suggest you follow the link here and read yourself..... Secondly was his wish for his ashes to be blasted out of his favourite cannon and into the river that flowed past their summer home. How many of you have a favourite cannon? 
Freds Cannon
A slap up party was to then to be held where copious amounts of bourbon were to be drunk and many tall tales were to be told. I never knew Fred, but I would have been a richer man for it if I had and I thank you Alice Clark for sharing the story and allowing me to share it with others.   

It was with a heavy heart that we said goodbye to Alice today. As an indication of our eagerness to leave, our original time line was, up early, breakfast, pack and on the road to Williamsburg by about 9am with a stop off at JamesTown on the way. It was 3.45pm when we reluctantly backed out of the drive way, tooting and waving until we were out of sight.

Alices house, our mess. We love you Alice

It was a short drive to Williamsburg where we booked into our favourite hotel chain Best Western. After a quick settling in it was out for dinner. It was only a short walk around the corner to Rocco's Smokehouse Grill and what turned out to be a meat fest of Viking proportions. No one finished their meal. The sun goes down late in these parts so when started to walk back around 8.15 it was late twilight. We saw small flickering lights in the garden and on the lawn of a restaurant we had passed on out walk here. It looked like flickering garden lights. The closer we got we started to realize that what we were looking at wasn't a set of malfunctioning garden lights but hundreds of fire flies. It was amazing. We walked amongst them, some of them almost landing on us, and watched up close as they sparked and flashed. Another sudden and unexpected gift from Mother Nature.  

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