Road Scholar 2011

This is my 18th visit to Williamsburg going back to 1978, and is almost identical to the trip I took April 1 - 6, 2012, but there are a few changes. However I neglected to check with Punxsutawney Phil before booking the trip, and will be there for "Winter Storm Titan" another one of the year's named storms. For the first time, I'm not looking forward to a Williamsburg visit but too much is non-refundable to cancel out of the trip.

Day 1, Sunday, March 2 - Arrival and Check-in
Punxsutawney Phil was right. Winter is definitely hanging on for those extra weeks. The weather forecast for the next few days is COLD but this is Williamsbur-r-r-r-r-rg! Also, some rain is forecast. Snow??? The Weather Underground, NOAA, and the Weather Channel forecasts for Williamsburg (below) are in fair agreement and are miserable!

Sat Night/Sun AM 37 34 35
Sunday 2nd 66 66 66 66.0
Sun Night/Mon AM 44 37 46 42.3
with Chance Precip. 30% 10% 10%Showers
Monday 3rd 42 41 44 42.3
with Chance Precip. 90% 60% 70% RAIN
Mon Night/Tue AM 14 17 1615.7
with Chance Precip 90% 60% 70% MIX
Tuesday 4th 35 35 36 35.7
Tue Night/Wed AM 22 23 23 22.7
Wednesday 5th 41 40 40 40.3
Wed Night/Thu AM 26 26 27 26.3
Thursday 6th 41 42 42 41.7
Thu Night/Fri AM 35 33 35 34.3
with Chance Precip. 60% 50% 50% MIX
Friday 7th 50 51 50 50.3
with Chance Precip. 50% 60% 60%RAIN

United changed the schedule so I have a flight at 10AM rather than 6AM which is an improvement, but they killed off my return flight. I'll miss much of the last day's presentations. I'll book the StuporShuttle for 7:30 - so no problems being ready. However the Shuttle was a bit late, the driver got lost trying to find one of the stops, and then their computer software added another out-of-the-way pickup so that I barely made it to the gate before they started boarding the flight.

United UA 4604Houston - Richmond10:08A - 1:55P2:47

Fly to Richmond and, after having gone through a long hassle with poor communication with the company for the reservation, take the Oleta Transportation shuttle.The price has REALLY gone up since the trip two years ago. It's more than doubled, so this is is my last trip going solely to Williamsburg. I'll probably be there again for only a half-day or day on longer trips in 2015 and 2017. After arriving, I had trouble finding the driver. He wasn't holding any ID card with either the company name or my name. If the strap/band on my luggage hadn't had my name on it in large letters, I might still be wandering around the airport.. It's in the lower 60s when I get there. The shuttle price has REALLY gone up since a trip two years ago: it's more than doubled, so this is the last time going only to Williamsburg, and "Phil" served up a mess. It will be a nice temperature when I arrive on Sunday afternoon, but then drops down into the deep freezer with lots of rain and "wintery mix."

Weather permitting, I should be there by the 4:30 pm check-in time for our program registration and have our Introductions and Announcements Program Overview. Our Tour Director is Holly Vohe. We have our first "class" before dinner. It was very good. "Williamsburg and Colonial Williamsburg", An introduction to the colonial town and its restoration, undertaken through the vision of a local minister and the generosity of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Enjoy a good, traditional dinner with a Southern accent (same as last time: "turkey and dressing"), served buffet style in a private dining area (an area set aside adjacent to the main "dining room"). All breakfasts and dinners and most lunches for the week are in this venue. Lodging: Clarion Hotel Historic District, the same hotel as before and is only a frigid 15 minute walk to the Historic DistrictClarion Hotel Historic District, the same hotel as before and is a frigid 15 minute walk to the Historic District.

Sunday Night forecast: Rain likely after 1am. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 37. Calm wind becoming north 5 to 9 mph after midnight. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

Although it got very cold, the precipitation held off, at least through 6AM. However the Monday morning forecast is for 5-8" of snow for Williamsburg this afternoon.

Day 2, Monday, March 3 - Jamestown Island "Back to School"
(BAD weather is forecast.) Monday forecast: Rain and sleet before 1pm, then snow and sleet between 1pm and 4pm, then snow after 4pm. High near 39. North wind around 16 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow and sleet accumulation of 1 to 2 inches possible.

Saturday in Houston it got up to 86F; today the high is forecast in the low 40s (if even that) and lots of near freezing RAIN and SNOW!

Start the day with a lukewarm buffet (nice selection but warm only about 2 hours ago) breakfast in our dining area (same each day). 9AM update: Freezing rain and heavy sleet - 1-2" layer in some areas. Local schools are closed; Jamestown Island is closed, etc. So this afternoon's excursion is rescheduled for tomorrow morning and we have tomorows lecture this afternoon if the power doesn't go out.

Our class this morning is in two parts, and is excellent. "Archaeology and the Rediscovery of Jamestown", An in-depth look at the incredible Jamestown Rediscovery Project that has been underway for over a decade at the site of the original fort built by the first English colonists to establish a permanent settlement in North America. The fort was long thought lost to erosion by the James River but through the perseverance of dedicated archaeologists it is slowly revealing its incredible secrets.

Noon update: 1-2" of snow already and it's coming down fairly heavily. Because of the schedule change, notes that were below have been switched to tomorrow, and vice-versa. In fact, there are lots of changes both today and later in the week.

We continue with a class: "Slavery in the 18th Century", Explore the evolution of Slavery from the 17th Century to Indenture and lifelong bondage. Class: "Colonial Williamsburg's Native People", Trace the interactions of Indians with the people of early Virginia and other areas of the East Coast. Discuss also the history of the possible migration of peoples from Europe across the Greenland/Iceland glaciers route.

5PM update: The snow has basically stopped, at least for now, but there is a thick covering of ice aand snow over everything and more snow is forecast. Everything is shut down and town activities are all cancelled. Travel in the area is extremely difficult due to the icing. Tomorrow's activities are still "up in the air" and the whole rest of the week for that matter.

Dinner each day is at the hotel (sliced beef and potatoes tonight). This evening is a performance: "An Evening of African-American Music and Storytelling", I've seen it before and it's great. A talented singer/storyteller entertains us with a sweeping journey through several centuries of African-American tradition as it evolves from its roots in Africa through its transformation during years of indentured servitude and slavery to its triumph in freedom in the mid-nineteenth century.

Day 3, Tuesday, March 4 - Jamestown Settlement "Maybe"
(VERY COLD weather is forecast.) Early morning update: The storm itself is over but it's about 15F ouside and very icy. Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown Island, local schools and city office buildings are closed, at least until noon, if even then Very icy and walking is treacherous!

It turns out that Jamestown Island is closed all day so this excursion is permanently deleted: Field Trip: "Historic Jamestowne" Visit the site of the original fort and view the area now under investigation by archaeologists. We may see members of the team actively working at the dig. Historic Jamestowne also includes a new Visitor Center with introductory film and exhibits, recently completed as part of the upgrades of the island for the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. There will also be time to explore the incredible exhibits of artifacts uncovered at the dig in the architecturally unique Archaearium, with a "see-through" floor that lets us view the foundation of the 17th century statehouse.

Instead we have first a performance: "A Lady of the Seventeenth Century" What better way to experience the 1600's than to meet someone who "lived" long ago? Enjoy a conversation with a delightful interpreter who will make us feel that we are truly speaking to an early colonist as she shares tales of triumphs, tragedies, and the mundane activities of daily existence. Then we have a couple of short dvd videos.

We have a so-so box lunch (turkey sandwich) at the hotel then, with the temperature up to a balmy 35F and the icesicles beginning to melt, we try for a decent field trip: "Jamestown Settlement" Trudge through mushy ice and snow as we enjoy a guided exploration of the Jamestown Settlement museum and reconstructed early colonial environment. Here we have the chance to investigate exciting interactive exhibits in the newly renovated museum, stroll through a village of the Eastern Woodland Indians, talk with settlers in the fort, and walk the decks of the three ships which brought the first adventurers to Virginia in May, 1607. These reconstructed venues allow us to see what life was like in the early 17th century. There is time for exploration thr museum on our own.

Here's a link to a Historic Area Map

Day 4, Wednesday, March 5 - Colonial Williamsburg
(COLD weather is forecast.) It's in the upper 20s this morning; snow is still on the groud; high is forecast to be in the upper 30s - low 40s. Our class is "Colonial and Revolutionary Tidewater: Jamestown, Williamsburg, Yorktown, Part I", A detailed look at the three towns that make up the Historic Triangle of Virginia, tracing the colonial history from its rude beginnings on a swampy island to its flourishing in the 18th century and ending with its transformation to a new nation on the Revolutionary battlefields around the little village of Yorktown. This part today was just about Williamsburg.

We then shiver our way for another frigid mile long walk to the historic area. Then we walk/shiver our way through a couple of miles of trudging through the melting snow sludge for a (turn out, very disappointing) field trip: "Colonial Williamsburg" Take a guided trudge to the Wren Building at the College of William and Mary (this stop was skipped due the very cold weather and the extra walking that it would have required) and the historical Duke of Gloucester Street, heart of Colonial Williamsburg. This did at least highlight (just) a few of the most interesting features of the Restored Area, including the reconstructed Capitol (on our own after lunch), Governor's Palace (we did get an inside visit), and tradesmen's shops, without going inside (visited on our own after lunch if we waned to go inside). We do get into the Palace, the Capitol, and, due a communication foulup, only one room of the Wythe House.

We did have a nice lunch in a Colonial Tavern and be entertained by strolling musicians and personalities from the past. Taste southern comfort food (asparagus soup and large cheeseburger) in the charm of Kings Arms Tavern (was to have been Shield's Tavern but this was much nicer), a reconstructed building with a history all its own: a dining experience like ones enjoyed by patriots like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry (did they actually have cheeseburgers??).

Free Afternoon. No transportation is provided to or from the various sites we may want to visit. We will have a very short time to remain in town and visit the Colonial Williamsburg buildings gardens (those few that might be open) and that most appeal (new blacksmith and tinsmith recommended) to us, based on our morning overview, before walking the mile-plus back to the hotel. The Restored Area is a quarter mile from the hotel, a slushy, frigid trudge past fenced fields where horses and oxen often graze - but not now, at least not in the current weather. It did get up to the low-40s, I think, but there was still snow left in some areas at 5PM as I walked (and slid) back to the hotel.

For both yesterday at the Jamestown Settlement, and for all the walking here today, I'm really glad that I bought that padded, insulated "parka" during my visit to Mendon in the New England fall trip last year. It was "necessary" both days.

This evening we have a class: "The Women of Colonial Williamsburg" which gives us short protraits of the lives of many ladies of a full range of social status from slave to common folk, to tavern owners to the Governor's wife.

Day 5, Thursday, March 6 - Yorktown Battlefield / Musical Performances
It's cold again this morning - the revised morning forecast: currently about 26F with a high of 39, bit it might get up to 40, maybe. There is a 30-40% chance of rain though it did hold off until a probably truly miserable day tomorrow with it's 80% chance of rain.

First we have an excellent performance: "Rare Colonial Instruments", Enjoy the talents of an accomplished musician as he introduces a variety of fascinating instruments typical of the Revolutionary era. Next is another class: "Colonial and Revolutionary Tidewater: Jamestown, Williamsburg, Yorktown, Part II", a continuation of the topics begun earlier on day 4, with time for review, questions, and answers.

We then have lunch at the hotel. After lunch we have a third class: "Revolutionary War and Yorktown", An introduction to the course of the Revolutionary War in the Tidewater area, including descriptions of military life and maneuvers and Washington's campaign that trapped British Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, leading to his surrender and eventually to American independence.

After eating lunch, if the weather is poor (or as it turn out, extremely cold off the river), I skipped the walks this afternoon in YorktownBattlefield and just stay in the Visitor Center there. I had thought about skipping the whole tour and walking back into Williamsburg, but not with this still extremely cold weather.

Finally about 2:30 we make our last, poorest, and near freezing field trip: "Yorktown Visitor Center and Battlefield" First explore the Visitor Center with its introductory film (which we didn't see until later due to a special program in progress), museum, and gift shop. Then take a guided bus and walking excursion to the battlefield where the climactic events of 1781 unfolded. Look out over the siege lines and visualize the opposing forces facing off. Finally visit Surrender Field where the defeated British turned over their arms to the victorious American and French forces as their musicians played "The World Turned Upside Down".

The temperature never did make it up to 40; the afternoon field trip was very boring, and we top all that off with the worst dinner of the trip which I decided to just skip. I had some crackers in my room and made do with that.

Evening: performance: "African-American Music and Storytelling, Part II". Special highlight - we get to hear more of this great performance,

Although the weather was very cold today, the real Winter Storm Ulysses is due in tomorrow, maybe affecting my flight home.

Day 6, Friday, March 7 - Class / Departures
United changed the schedule deleting my late afternoon flight so I'll miss at least the 2nd of today's presentations. Breakfast in our private dining area. There are two events today but I can attend only the first one: Performance: "Meet a Woman of the Town of York: Martha Goosley", a delightful interpretation of life in colonial Yorktown that completes the cast of colorful characters that have provided a glimpse into this long ago time during the course of this eventful week. I had to skip the second one: "Virginia Cookery: 18th Century Foodways" We are taught how to make various dishes as were served in Williamsburg in the late 18th century.

Due to the weather (35F and freezing rain with sleet) I had to take an extra early shuttle at 10AM rather than 11AM to get back to the airport in Richmond. We were supposed to have a box lunch available but I had to leave too early for that. It was down to 33F with freezing rain when I made it to Richmond. At least the flight got off on time.

United UA 4604Richmond - Houston2:19P - 4:50P3:31

After a bumpy flight, I did make it home by 6:30. It's sad that my last planned long visit to Williamsburg got ruined by the weather. The next (17-day) trip/cruise (San Diego - Panama Canal - Fort Loserdale) is in 22 days (March 29 - April 14) and should be a much better one than this, at least "weather-wise."

Selected pictures
Click to enlarge


Comment: Although the trip was disappointing in the amount of time I had in Colonial Williamsburg itself (basically none), the tour staff did a fantastic job shuffling and re-shuffling the schedule as the weather changed, then changed again. With our having two Winter Storms in the week, Titan to begin and Ulysses to end, there really wasn't much of a chance for the trip.