Blue Ridge Parkway

Instead of following the whole Blue Ridge Parkway, which rattled out my trailer, I decide to take the parallel roads and visit many of the small towns north of Boone, North Carolina–which also rattled out my trailer.


My first stop north of Boone was just outside of Lexington, VA where I found the Lee Hi Campground and which made a three-way tie for the worst campground on my (so far) 8 1/2 month odyssey: Graceland TN and Ridge Crest NM.  But it was the only “RV” park in the area so I hunkered down in the rain with about 150 semi-trucks that idled their engines all night.  Only water and electricity available and all for $50 bucks!  It was an early departure the next morning for Ranger Doug who likes the open plains.

To give Lexington credit, it is full of beautiful old brick buildings (brick foundry here), the home of Stonewall Jackson, the Virginia Military Academy and the film site for “Brother Rat” starring Ronald Reagan.  On the main street, in a small alcove, was an old piano which I sat down to play, totally fracturing my old Chopin Gm Ballade.  Immediately a Russian visitor came up, sat down and fractured the C#m Prelude by Rachmaninoff.  Afterward, we had a fractured conversation in Russian…..  This is America!


Half hour’s drive north of Lexington is Staunton, VA which was equally charming.  I stayed at the Shenandoah RV Park which was very well run–they even sent me a personal email thanking me for staying and asked for suggestions.   Lee Hi RV didn’t do that…..   Staunton, the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson, was also voted the “Best Small Town in America” a few years ago.  This camp-spot above is really in Shenandoah National Park at the Big Meadows Campground, but I had to mention Saunton.


I gave four talks in Shenandoah; three at Big Meadows (above) and one at Dickey Ridge which was an impromptu talk.  Considering that the weather was terrible (mild-Alaskan actually), I reached over 70 people.  We put up the four original posters which generated a lot of interest–the Yellowstone Falls on the right is the only original found.  The Shenandoah staff was simply great–making me feel like a ranger again.  Thank you Greta for putting this all together!


More drizzle which invades the window seal…….  I designed this rear bumper–which houses the gray and black-water hoses–stowed outside of the trailer.  Quick disconnects allow me to hook up in about one minute.  Airstreams are the only place where a straight flush beats a full house……


It’s only an hour and a half to Washington from the Dickey Ridge Visitors Center.  The only RV camp in the Washington area is the Cherry Hill RV Park in College Park, NE of the City by 20 miles.  It’s on the Green Line so I could access downtown Washington DC easily.  My first stop was the Department of the Interior where I signed some of our new prints and a couple dozen postcards, and met a dozen more staff–our federal lands are in good hands!   I also signed up for the Interior Building tour again–can’t get enough of this New Deal art–Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2 pm. This building is a museum unto itself–Ranger Doug highly recommends this tour.  Here’s one example of this mural art–painted by WPA Native American artists:


In WWII, two anti-aircraft guns were placed on the roof-decks outside this ice cream parlor and one accidentally discharged while being cleaned, knocking the “W” of “Wisconsin” on the Lincoln Memorial–the only shot fired domestically in WWII.  I took photos of the whole room and will post this later up in a cloud somewhere…..stand by.


There’s more!   The National Postal Museum is one of 18 Smithsonian museums.  I’ve always been curious about the “Inverted Jenny” and four are on display here.  One sheet was inserted in the “spider” printing press backwards, inverting this Curtiss JN (Jenny) 4.  One hundred stamps (one sheet) were released and today each has a value of approximately $100,000.  More on the “Jenny” here.


Walking around the Mall is always fun and you meet interesting people.  I had to stop here and take in this group–now didn’t our founding fathers want separation of church & state?  I think so, but today (and tomorrow) you can take in 90 hours of continuous bible reading on Federal Land……


…..and in both English and Spanish simultaneously!


The Capitol is still under renovations but so I thought I’d take the Rotunda tour.  The freeze-thaw cycles have taken their toll over the years on the dome and leaking has become a problem.  This scaffolding is both exterior and interior so I’ve no interior photos.

I proudly pointed out to the tour-guide that my grandmother’s brother’s wife’s great grandfather, founder of the Abbott Steel Company, manufactured the steel trusses and compression ring for this rotunda (and the USS Monitor’s turret).  Abraham Lincoln insisted that this dome be completed during the heat of the Civil War, replacing the old copper dome, as a symbol of stability and unity for the Union……with slave labor.

The Statue of Freedom crowning the rotunda has a convoluted history arriving in plaster pieces after a halting trip from Rome via Gibraltar and Bermuda.  The five section were cast at the Mills Foundry near Washington until the Civil War broke out.  A labor strike halted the casting which was ultimately completed by a former slave Philip Reid.  Much history is here for the taking…..


This is the roof dome in the Library of Congress–beautiful!  On the third floor is Thomas Jefferson’s personal library–this alone is worth a trip to Washington and I’m not disappointed travelling from Alaska.

I am very proud to have all my (and co-Artist Brian Maebius’) poster art–both historic reproductions and contemporary silkscreens–as part of the LOC collection. Here is my last LOC visit.  Since then, I’ve found one more original poster (Yellowstone Falls) which now brings the total to 12 of 14.  Still missing are Great Smoky Mountains and Wind Cave National Parks.


Trump’s new hotel in the Old Post Office Building, right across the Mall from the White House.  Sad to see this history converted into a hotel–perhaps another museum?   Well–no politics here of course!


Within the walls of the National Museum of Natural History is a huge collection of everything that once was alive–including this White Rhino, now teetering on the brink of extinction; the Northern White Rhinos are gone and the Southern number about 20,000.  Not sure which one this is (N or S), but it was none other than Teddy Roosevelt who shot this one dead.  Back in those days, that’s what a naturalist did and TR was a prolific naturalist.  In the Insect Section, they have an exhibit explaining why they needed a lot of specimens but this philosophy didn’t work here for large mammals.  Tomorrow more museums……stay tuned!

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