A day without driving and I get to spend it in Chicago! Not only am I excited not to be driving but also to stop at The Field Museum. I remember stopping here with my dad on a trip to La Crosse so many years ago. Glad to be back. Some I remember but thankfully all new exhibits.
Small detour while I was passing Cleveland on my way to Chicago. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is right off the highway. Great afternoon at the museum living rock history. I have definitely lived through some times in rock history let me tell you.
And whats a stop without beer. Noble Beast Brewing has a good lunch menu and decent beer. Includes several guest taps.
When my brother and I were young my dad would take us on these weekend excursions to Civil War battlefields. Never really sure if this was a hobby of his or just something he thought would be cool to do with his two sons. For whatever reason we went to many battle fields over the years and it stuck with me. Not so much the love of the Civil War but the love of traveling and getting the most out of a vacation. A vacation should be relaxing but it can also be educational as well. These trips I think help sparked my curiosity and love of learning.
When I was traveling down to Asheville for The New Mastersounds and beer I found a few spots on the side of the road that looked interesting. One of them was the Virginia Museum of the Civil War in New Market. When I finally got around to checking out their website I noticed they had their annual reenactment later in May. I asked my brother initially on Mother’s Day if he wanted to go. I thought it would be something cool to do with him and the kids. He initially said no but by late in the week he was on board but keeping the kids at home.
The park had activities all day but we only cared about the reenactment which was happening at 1 in the open field. Almost on the dot we hear the loud boom of the cannons signaling the start of the battle. It was really cool how they played it all out. They stated way off to the left of the field and battled initially with little forces right in the middle of the tall grass. The battle progressed just like they would have in the real battle, just on a smaller scale.
Different phases of the battle raged around the structures, the orchard, open field and tree line. Eventually the Confederates charge the Union line breaking it and winning the battle. This is certainly over simplified but the end result is the same. It was really cool seeing all the people firing the guns and acting in real life what could have happened all those years ago.
All in all it was a solid hour of reenacting which was great. With the black powder guns and the humidity in the air the smoke would just hang covering the field of battle. I can’t imagine a humid summer day wearing a heavy wool uniform with thousands of guns firing. In the end the VMI cadets make a valiant charge to capture a Union artillery battlement.
It was a long drive out the museum so after the battle we didn’t stay long. We went up to the museum for a few minutes to walk around. Saw part of a documentary about the battle while we cooled off. We were so tired from standing outside and me double so because of the previous late night before.
As an adult I have never been in to reenactments. Seeing one now not much has changed from when I was a kid. Now the crowds are smaller and I think the participants are becoming older and fewer. If you haven’t been, I recommend going at least once before they themselves fade away into history.
Last Saturday I had it to myself. Nancy spent all day doing homework, taking tests, and writing an 8 page paper. I wanted to give her time alone to complete everything so headed to DC for the afternoon. Nancy is not much into museums so I took the opportunity to visit the National Portrait Gallery. It is located just off The Mall next to the Verizon Center.
I don’t make it often enough into the city so I enjoyed the ride in on a chilly day. Getting off at Gallery Place, the museum entrance is right around the block from the escalator. The museum is the old patent office built over 150 years ago. The outside is classic white granite stone like most federal buildings in DC. On the inside it has the classic look I would expect from a building this old. The ceilings are tall and everywhere you look there is polished stone. There is a huge covered atrium in the center of the building and wide stairs reminiscent of Gone with the Wind taking you from floor to floor.
Besides the historical aspect of the building there are a ton of paintings. Each floor and in each corner there is a different exhibit. There are paintings from the early history of America all the way to modern installations on the top floor. While most of the paintings are of portraits not everything is people. There are many marble sculptures, old patent models and landscape paintings thrown in for good measure.
The most interesting part of the museum is the third floor. This use to house all the models for public display required in the early days of the patent office. At one side they have condensed hundreds of pieces into cabinets on three different levels. You can get a cup of coffee and see some amazing stuff here. They also have the conservatory where during the week you can watch priceless pieces of art being restored to their former glory by professionals. I could have spent hours watching them work if they were there.
Having never been to this museum, I was surprised at the diversity of the collections and the architecture of the building. I have been to the National Gallery of Art several times and I thought this was a better experience. While at the National Gallery you can see some of the most famous works in history, I felt disconnected while walking around. The portrait gallery has snippets of history next to each paintings which I loved. I could read about the artist or some interesting fact about the subject.
I didn’t have time to see everything, maybe half, so I would love to go back soon and take Nancy along with me.
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Getting married can be a bit of a hassle. We have contracted for everything so in fact planning our wedding was rather easy. We just had to flat rate and everything was taken care of: flowers, setup, food, drinks, reception, etc. For us the legalities of getting married have been a thorn in our side. Our plan is to get legally married in Curacao and have that marriage then recognized by the United States. If we wanted to get married in Virginia all Nancy and I have to do is show ID that we are of age, sign a piece of paper and done. There is a ton more paper work needed to be marrying in Curacao as a non-local. The short story is we needed to travel to Raleigh for the day to get some paper work.
It was with short notice that this trip materialized but we made the most of it. The government doesn’t work on the weekend so we decided to travel down on Sunday and get an early start on Monday for the paperwork. We contacted Saundra about crashing at her place on Sunday night and it wasn’t a problem. We left around noon on Sunday and made it down in about 4 hours, including stops for food and such. We spend all night hanging out and Nancy and I put together a home cooked meal for Saundra as a thank you for letting us stay.
Come Monday morning we got an early start for the hour drive into downtown Raleigh. First stop was the vital records office and in less than 5 minutes we got what we needed. I barely had a chance to park the car and Nancy was already walking out of the office with the document in hand. Next stop was the Secretary of State to get the document apostilled. Here we ran into an unfriendly clerk and she told us we could pickup the document after 1:30pm, so much for getting out of dodge early. In case this happened we had a backup plan in place if we needed to stay in the city for a while.
First stop was the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science (floor map). They are expanding the museum and it looks to double the overall size of the exhibit hall. There will be a sky bridge connecting the wings with a giant sphere housing something in it. This new section will not be open till sometime in 2012 but I look forward to coming back. What we did see comprised four floors of great exhibits including forest and mining formations in the state. There appears all forms of life that develop in the unique ecology of North Carolina. What I found most fascinating was the Nature’s Explorer which include items from when the museum first opened.
All that walking and we worked up and appetite for one of the cities better known places to get BBQ. The Pit is famous for being on many tv shows over the years for their perfectly cooked pork. We sat at the bar and had a full course of BBQ and a few beers to wash it down. Their selection of draft beer is pretty standard, but the porter that I had with my banana bread pudding was a perfect match. The dark and roasted flavor of the beer complimented the sweetness of the dessert. It was great sharing that experience with Nancy. We both agreed the BBQ was tasty and well priced.
After having lunch we headed back to the Secretary of State to check the status of our document and thankfully it was ready to go. We decided to stay for a few more hours and visited the North Carolina Museum of History. I was expecting it to be a museum dedicated to North Carolinian history and that is exactly what it was. Honestly though half the time I forgot that it was focused on just the states history, the exhibits are well balanced and focus on the contributions North Carolina has made to a wide range important events in history. It is hard to compete with the might of the Smithsonian, but they did very well. We saw exhibits about the early history of the state, all wars the US has been in and of course an entire wing dedicated to furniture which the state is still known for. I don’t know how the state does it but both the Natural Science and History museums where free to the public.
After some shopping at the history museum for some pottery we headed home, but not before calling a to go order for some ribs and chicken from The Pit. Not getting to the city often it was hard to pass up an opportunity for such good BBQ. I must say it was good to finally get home and have all the required documents in hand. Later in the week I shipped them to Curacao for $55, but they got there overnight at least.
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