A little too close for comfort

"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years"

Abraham Lincoln

State 3: Virginia - June 14, 2017

We woke up in Richmond, VA Walmart to some very disturbing headlines. We usually avoid the news, because it highlights the absolute worst of humanity and propagates hysteria. However, the news of the shooting of Congressman Scalise, and 3 others on a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia hit a little too close to home for us. The day before the shooting, for a few hours Alexandria, VA was our home! We could not believe, only one-day prior on June 13th, we had driven through the peaceful suburban town of Alexandria, VA. While visiting the town, we saw women out jogging, family’s playing in the park, and a side walk café with street side tables catering to hungry patrons. There was absolutely no indication of the senseless violence that would thrust Alexandria, VA, into the international spotlight less than 24 hours after our visit. The shooter attacked a congressmen and their associates on a field practicing for a Republicans vs. Democrat charity baseball game. At first, I was surprised they were practicing together! It is hard enough to get the Republicans and Democrats together for anything! In all seriousness, I really can’t think of anything more American than baseball, and the shooters violent actions on that field symbolized an attack on all that is American. Furthermore, by targeting our elected representatives, the perpetrator’s actions were a direct attack on our Democracy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims, their families, and the citizens of Alexandria, VA. We loved our visit to your beautiful town.

The attack in Alexandria reminded us of another very pertinent issue we were faced with in our preparation for our year long cross country trip. Many people asked us prior to leaving if we were afraid for our safety? The answer was not an easy one, and required a lot of research and soul searching. Yes, we are living in a van, driving 30,000 miles over the next year, sleeping in a different place each night, exploring a different new place each day. Living a nomadic life may be somewhat riskier that living a stationary life. However, we could have visited Alexandra, VA a day prior and caught a stray bullet, just as easily as we could have had been hit by a drunk driver crossing the street from our Connecticut apartment 1 month ago. Both of which we have absolutely no control over, and no one knows when they will die. That does not mean we are naive or careless. When it comes to safety, all we can do is focus on what is within our control. We have procedures in place so if something does happen we can act as the situation dictates. The answer we came up with was no, we are not afraid for our safety! What we fear more is living a life that has not been fully lived.

After the recovering from the tragic news of the Alexandria, VA shooting, we decided to continue on with our trip. The next stop on the agenda was touring the states capitol in Richmond, Virginia. We have been excited to tour this capitol for quite some time. Not only is Richmond the Capitol of Virginia, but it was also the Capitol of the Confederate States during the Civil War. We had a difficult time finding the States Capitol since most state capitol buildings we visited had a huge dome shaped rotunda announcing your arrival to the capitol building. The Virginia capitol building had no such external rotunda, but more on this later. When we finally located the capitol building, we were still left scratching our heads. It looked more like the White House than a capitol building, it was a lot smaller than we expected. More on this later as well. Things got even more peculiar from there. The visitor entrance was at the far right edge of the front lawn of the capitol building. Apparently to enter, you actually had to walk through an underground passage, beneath the front lawn of the capitol. The Virginia state house would prove to be unlike any other we had visited in more ways than we expected.

The first thing to know about the capitol building is it has the unique distinction to have been personally designed by Thomas Jefferson in 1795. He adopted the design based a temple he visited in southern France while serving as an Ambassador. The architectural design he proposed was so unfamiliar to Colonial America, that he actually constructed a 3 dimensional model of his design to send back to the states. This original model of the capitol Jefferson made in 1795 was on display and is pictured below. In the time since its colonial construction, it has been modernized and upgraded, but very careful consideration was always made to preserve as much of Thomas Jefferson’s original design especially the external facade. As the population of Virginia grew over the past two centuries so did the need for larger chambers. So in 1906, Virginia built 2 expansions on either side of the capitol buildings: one for the House and one for the Senate. They then converted the smaller house and senate chambers into museums, yet functional meeting rooms. The old house chamber was specifically a very historic place to visit. It was in that exact room back in 1861, that Virginia voted to succeed from the union, and also in that room General Robert E. Lee was appointed General of the Confederate Army. The intersection of the 2 Senate and 2 House chambers was the most impressive room in the entire building. Looking up at the ceiling of this central room, was a stunning stained glass rotunda, which was not visible from the outside. This was because the Virginia government wanted a rotunda in the capitol building, but also wanted to preserve Jefferson’s original design. Beneath the indoor rotunda was a 10-foot-tall bronze statue of George Washington commissioned in 1797. On the walls surrounding the statue of Washington, were busts of the seven others who were Virginia born and rose to the presidency. Most state capitols have a capitol building and then a separate states’ museum. Virginia cleverly preserved their state capitol over the centuries to serve a dual function as both a museum and a home for the government of Virginia. After leaving the capitol in Richmond we drove to the Williamsburg, VA Walmart to get some rest. Tomorrow we will tour Williamsburg, Jamestown, and the revolutionary battlefields of Yorktown.

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