Today we started our run down to Yorktown in earnest. Three 60+ mile days are on the cards since we decided to slow-ball it over the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Today though we passed the home of Thomas Jefferson, author of the American declaration of independence and one of the earliest Presidents, about five miles outside Charlottesville: Monticello. This impressive building, built on a leveled mountaintop was designed by Jefferson himself.
A true polymath he had taught himself architecture from a 15th century Italian renaissance book on the subject. Monticello featured America's first domed building – although the tour guide mentioned that the room it enclosed Jefferson never really knew what to do with, and so used it for storage.
Jefferson himself was a born meddler too, saying that taking down and putting things up was his chief delight. This constant building work (the house was under construction for over 40 years) led in part to him dying massively in debt, his children having to sell the property and its contents at auction to pay his creditors.
He also seemed to be something of an eccentric. The house was full of odd gadgets he designed or took the workings from another invention and applied them in his home. A clock that had a cable that ran out to weights on the wall that told the day of the week. Double doors where you pull one, and the other closes, glass 'curtain doors' to keep the heat in. You name it he fiddled with it. As a scientist he also took the first wind records in the area of his plantation, sponsored paleontological expeditions to find mammoth jaws in Kentucky and kept a massive range of plants in his garden.
The garden itself was very impressive, not only the ornamental gardens, but also the 1000x80ft kitchen garden that he kept, and the orchards extending on terraces below the property. We walked around them and it took a full ten minutes to walk along two sides of his veg patch. Today they use the ground as a seed bank for 18th century vegetable varieties.
The central irony in my view from our walk around his house is that Jefferson the man who wrote the lines “we hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are born free and with certain inalienable rights...” himself owned over 200 slaves. These were the people who were the carpenters, ironsmiths, farmers and workers around his massive Virginian plantation. When he died, he only freed 5 of the 200, possibly because he owed so much money. Of the five that he did free, there included a woman called 'Sally' and her sons. The story that has recently emerged is that after the death of his wife he had children with her. Newspaper articles have been found detailing the scandal of the mulatto children who look a lot like the man himself.
It was a great place to visit, but before we knew it, it had gotten to after 2pm and we realised we hadn't gone anywhere really, and that we had over 55 miles still to cycle today. So we whizzed past home of James Madison (another president) that was just down the road. They were buddies.
The next few hours were hard work, and we didn't arrive at the place we had planned to stay at until nearly 7pm. We are in the village of Bumpass. The only thing to do round here is to laugh at our own jokes about the name.
Dinner was chilli with rice, except Sarah forgot to buy the chilli when we were at the supermarket, which led to a moment of panic, until we cobbled together a sauce out of the last of some cheese soup, a courgette, tomato and a couple of little gifts from Mr Jefferson – a chili pepper and some basil from his veg patch. He had so much there was no way he would miss just a little bit.
Tonight we are camping behind a closed store on highway 618. The store is called Route 76, presumably after the original bicentennial bike route. It has just started to rain and my spider senses tell me it is not about to stop.