Both my love of travel and my love of history stem from childhood travels. My maternal grandparents lived in Virginia so in the summer my parents piled us four kids into the station wagon and Dad drove from Wisconsin to the Blue Ridge Mountains in southern Virginia for a 2-week visit. Along the way, my mother, an avid antique collector, offered us kids a nickel for every antique shop we spotted and a full quarter if my father stopped. I loved poking around the musty old shops with my mother who could always be convinced to buy me an old book for a quarter, often a Nancy Drew mystery. We didn’t eat in many restaurants but my mother pulled an endless supply of pimento cheese sandwiches, fried chicken, and cold milk from the battered green Coleman cooler. After three days in the car squabbling with three of my four brothers, (the fourth came along after I was grown) we’d pull into Roanoke for an idyllic summer vacation, free to roam my grandparents’ neighborhood with little adult interference. This was heaven to me with the smell of boxwood wafting through the air, the soft sound of southern accents, and as much Dr. Pepper as we wanted to drink. As a bonus during our stay, we’d sometimes take day trips to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Appomattox, Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown, and Virginia Beach. I have fond memories of all these places and the history I learned there.
After a long absence, in 1984, I was pregnant with my first child and I returned to Virginia with my husband to visit the Williamsburg area and Washington, DC, and introduce him to relatives in Richmond and Arlington. It was the beginning of a new family tradition.
Over the years, we returned again and again to Virginia with our children in tow to spend a week at Virginia Beach with my extended family and various friends, as well as visiting the historic sites, museums, and monuments in Washington, DC; Williamsburg; Yorktown; Jamestown; and numerous Civil War battlefields. I hope my children remember these childhood experiences as fondly as I do.
Last summer my older brother’s kids and their spouses organized a reunion of sorts. They are now married with children of their own and it was time for another generation to experience the beach. My youngest brother wanted to rent a house rather than our usual suites in the beachfront hotel area of Virginia Beach, so we searched across Rudee Inlet at Croatan Beach where we found two large houses across the street from the beach that would accommodate all 27 of us.
Jim and I headed south, picked up one son in Des Moines, (the other and his wife couldn’t make the trip this time), and stopped first in St. Louis to caravan with my youngest brother and his family. A stop in Louisville, Kentucky at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory broke up the trip and was great fun for all of us.
We also found Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant and Bakery for lunch the second day on the road in Staunton, Virginia, which fed my nostalgia with a pimento cheese sandwich.
We were thrilled with our lodging choice on quiet Croatan Beach. With four bedrooms and 3 1/2 baths, there were plenty of beds for the 13 of us and enough bathrooms, too. The other house, a couple blocks south, was also outstanding with plenty of space for 14. Between the two houses and 8 nuclear families, we divided into teams to cook dinner on 6 nights for the entire group. The seventh night we all went out to dinner en masse to Captain George’s Seafood Restaurant, another family tradition.
Sadly, two of my brothers are already deceased but they loved the beach, too, so we brought them along in spirit.
We had plenty to celebrate with Gavin’s birthday and the 4th of July.
Several mornings my brother, Stafford, and I rode our bikes about 3 miles north over the Rudee Inlet on General Booth Boulevard to the beachfront hotel area. We missed the action along the boardwalk and we ended up renting a suite at the Comfort Inn in addition to the houses on Croatan Beach.
For this group of beach lovers, the real draw is catching the big waves for a great ride on a boogie board.
The week went by way too fast and before we knew it, it was time to head for home. When we left, my brother, Paul, and his family decided to visit Jamestown Settlement, just 66 miles from Virginia Beach. We hadn’t been there since our own kids were small and we were eager to go again.
For anyone not familiar with Jamestown, Virginia, this was the first permanent English colony in America founded in 1607. The outdoor living history exhibits, including the Powhatan Indian Village, James Fort, and the Jamestown Settlement Ships were there when we last visited but they have since added a large museum with many exhibits incorporating authentic artifacts from the period. Both the museum and the outdoor living history exhibits are very child-friendly with demonstrations that appeal to kids and engage them in the presentations.
After our visit to Jamestown Settlement, we headed for home in earnest. Until next time.
Based on events from July 2016.