Friday, 19 September 2014


It's nearly four weeks since we left Taipan in Fernandina Beach Florida. We have camped every night except one and traveled 4000 Km since we left Taipan a month ago. Since our last update we have visited relatives in Virginia, the Gettysberg Battlefield Museum and Amish Communities in Pennsylvania, and the tall boat Show for the Star-Spangled Banner 150th commemoration in Baltimore, Maryland.

Our visit for a night with Juduth and Robert was just a foretaste of a longer visit which we are about to embark on in Alexandria, Virginia. We will take in the sights of Washington with them for a few days then if we need to see more we will return for a rerun in a few weeks.

After leaving the Skyline Parkway and Shenandoah Mountain region we headed cross country by all the back roads and lanes to Gettysberg. We followed the Potomac River north into Pensylvania and explored the C&O Canal.

The 184.5 mile long Chesapeake & Ohio Canal is located along the north bank of the Potomac River, starting in Washington, DC and ending in Cumberland, MD. The canal was built between 1828 and 1850, and it operated sporadically between floods until 1924. It has been turned into a public trail and is much used by bicycle and foot traffic. Certain stretches also permit horse riding.

We met a cyclist on the C&O Path and he recommended a visit to Gettysburg Museum so we headed of in that direction. 

Gettysburg, Adams County Pennsylvania. was settled the early 1700s and buildings have been largely preserved in the main town center. "In the summer of 1863, the farming community of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, became the site of the bloodiest battle in the Civil War. The fierce fighting left 51,000 casualties in its wake, turning farm fields into graveyards and churches into hospitals. The battlefield's first visitors were thousands of relatives searching for dead and wounded soldiers." The museum and surrounding battle fields took us 2 days to see and was fascinating. The highlight was the cyclorama. 

"In the late 1880s, French artist Paul Philippoteaux took brush to canvas and created the Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama painting. He spent months on the battlefield researching the battle with veterans, a battlefield guide and a photographer. It took Philippoteaux and a team of assistants more than a year to complete the painting. The result is a breathtaking canvas that measures 377 feet in circumference and 42 feet high. Longer than a football field and as tall as a four-story structure, the Gettysburg Cyclorama oil painting immerses visitors in the fury of Pickett’s Charge during the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Today the Gettysburg Cyclorama is displayed  the way it was originally intended with an overhead canopy and a three-dimensional diorama foreground that realistically features stone walls, broken fences, shattered trees and a cannon."

The visitors center is very modern and has beautifully presented informative interactive exhibits which kept us enthralled for hours.

Next on to Baltimore. We learned from a tour guide that the Tall Ships were expected in Baltimore that day to Commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the writing of the National Anthem. The Star-Spangled Banner so we decided to drive down to the Inner Harbor and participate in the festivities.

There were a number of ships, mostly American and one old Dutch ship but overall it was a little disappointing after seeing the Tall Ships Fleet in the spectacular Cape Town Harbour just last year. Baltimore is a busy city with an interesting waterfront district and lots of history but we decided to head back out bush and leave our exploration of Baltimore to a later date and do it by boat! Easier to anchor and use Public Transport than to park the car.

Heading North East out towards Pittsburg we were diverted to Lancaster Pensylvania,  by someone who mentioned that it was a center of Amish community and farming practice. We started with the Old Lancaster City Market and then the tourist center where we received lots of good info and set off to explore the Amish farmlands and markets. With our interest in horses and farming it was amazing to see these beautiful properties, immaculately laid out like quilting. No electricity, horses and Mules doing the work of modern

tractors with many modern machines converted for horse drawn operation. The children attend school compulsorily to year 8 then return to the farm. Girls learn women's skills and boys learn farm skills. The school houses are small one room schools, scattered through the community enabling the local children to walk or ride self propelled scooters. No push bikes!


The teachers are all Amish and usually girls. We spent some time with an Amish Harness maker, of whom there are many, along with traditional Buggy and coach builders, to service this community. 

Amish arrived in Pennsylvania in the early 1700s from Europe escaping from religious persecution. There are many communities scattered around the USA and numbers total around 240,000. Lancaster is the biggest area. We were just enthralled and spent 2 lovely days stooging around the lanes and back roads. The countryside is very productive and the farming is intensive, with crops of tobacco, maize, lucern and soya bean predominantly. 

Most farms also seem to have cows and pigs, chickens, ducks and often turkey's. We saw a couple of alpaca guarding some free range chickens, teams of Mules harvesting corn and lots of lovely buggies amongst other things. The food markets were full of delicious tree ripened stone fruits, berries, gourds we have never before seen, preserves, pastes, jams and all manner of delicious pies and baked goodies! It was time to leave!!

Amsih Farmlands near Bird in the Hand. PA
Heading south again towards Washington DC and Judith and Roberts home in Alexandria we made two overnight stops on the way. We were enthralled by the little town of Chesapeake City on the Delaware and Chesapeake Canal.

Chesapeake City MD
It's about 50 houses and about 20 in the central town. They are various sizes but small and terribly old and cute! The canal commences it's 14 nm path across the Delmarva Peninsular from the Elk River in north Chesapeake to the  Delaware bay. It was completed in 1829, one of the most expensive canal works of the period. It had 14 locks and was originally used by barges towed by mules and horse teams. It has since had all the locks removed and been widend and deepend to accommodate large ocean going vessels. This route cuts over 300 nm off the trip from Baltimore to Philadelphia.

George Washington on Bluebottle

Arriving in Alexandria over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge is not for the faint hearted. Traffic is fast and plentiful, brooking no hesitation or indecision by these Aussies. Reliant on the trusty Google Maps app on the iPad for instructions as we were we just did as it told us and trusted our luck. Safely delivered on the other side a few minutes later we breathed a huge sigh of relief and bolted to the quietest lanes and back streets you can find in busy Alexandria. We arrived at Robert and Judith's home in Hollins Hills mid  afternoon. 

Hollins Hills is an Protected Architectural Historical Precinct  of Mid Century Modern homes. Hollin Hills  subdivision comprises about 500 houses built here in the 1950s The homes are set in woodland now, even though much of the area was pasture when it was built. 70 years on the trees are huge. Most of the houses have total privacy from each other. Relaxing in the sitting room as the sun sets, many resident birds feed at the feeders and deer, raccoon and fox regularly visit the pond to drink. A couple of years ago there was even a coyote. Its like being in the woods only 20 odd miles from Washington DC. 

David and Bob at Mt Vernon

The George Washington family home at Mt Vernon just south of Alexandria is open to the public and has been maintained as a national monument since 1868. Washington Home Mt Vernon. It sits high on the banks of the Potomac River and has commanding views up and down stream.  We spent a fascinating 6 hours exploring the large and well presented Museum and Visitors center and grounds of the estate after a guided tour of the home. His agricultural experimentation was a very worthy contribution to the future of Agriculture in America and its story is well told. On Saturday and Sunday we went walking. Up to the Great Falls. North of DC first and a fairly short walk and across the Woodrow Wilson bridge on Sunday.
Woodrow Wilson Bridge

The Palace at Williamsburg 

Monday we hit the road again. South into eastern Virginia.  Williamstown VA, has a restored colonial city covering several square miles. It is a closed tourist precinct operating With costumed inhabitants, as it did in the colonial era. Shops and businesses are still making products from that era. All the buildings are restored or rebuilt. The vehicular traffic is horse powered. We were advised that we needed at least two days to see it all so we kept going and vowed to return with more time. 

The next couple of days were driving in driving rain and wind.......very appropriate... Not! We narrowly avoided tangling with a car doing 360s on the freeway in front of us. The girl escaped injury but the car didn't look too good! The 25 km bridge and tunnel system c o n n e c t i n g southern Virginia with the Eastern Shore over the m o u t h o f Chesapeake Bay was an adventure. Lots of big waves crashing on the piles, we were glad we weren't sailing!

You will find more pictures relating to this post at Virginia Maryland Pennsylvania