Day 5 consisted of driving from NJ to La Plata, MD. Of course, when we got up last Thursday morning we weren’t sure how far we would make it driving, and there was an equal chance that we would make it all the way home in one day much as we did when we drove to NJ. However, breakfast and late goodbyes got us on the road home to VA later than we left to head to NJ. Then there was traffic to contend with. Traffic, traffic, traffic. I moved out of NJ in 1996 (wow! 19 years ago…now I feel old) and couldn’t stand the traffic then, it is much worse now. We made our way down the NJ Turnpike but the Delaware Memorial Bridge surprise, surprise had a backup on it. Getting to Delaware we stopped off a Cabela’s to stretch our legs. We got back on the road after lunch but ran into lovely traffic right around Annapolis, MD. By the time we hit Waldorf, I was tired of moron drivers and needed a break. Not far down the road was the afore mentioned La Plata where a Best Western provided us refuge.
Day 6 saw us take a little detour and visit George Washington Birthplace National Monument. Part of the park rests along Pope’s Creek and another part provides access to the Potomac River. The Potomac River Beach is smallish and currently being worked on but I was more interested in exploring the historic areas.
With no picture or architectural drawings, in 1926 Congress authorized the construction of a replica of the house in which George Washington was born. At the time the site was managed by the Wakefield National Memorial Association and a generic plantation home was designed and built. The spot of the actual birthplace home was partially excavated in 1930 and fully excavated in 1936 and again in 1974. So there is a generic plantation “memorial home” to visit and an outline of the actual home discovered by archeologists in the 1930s. Overall, it is a neat place to visit and an interesting lesson on preservation and public memory (or guesswork, you decide).
So ended the Week of Wanderings as Day 7 consisted of resting up and preparing to return to work the next day for Mrs. Historian (AJ) and myself.
Day 4 found us headed out to Morristown National Historical Park. I had also been to Morristown several times as a kid so I was somewhat familiar with the history behind its importance. What I did not remember was exactly how to get around the park nor if there was an entrance fee. (Oh how great is was to travel with our parents when we were young and did not have to worry about such things.) Consequently, we started our journey at the Washington Headquarters Museum & Ford Mansion which is the easiest to find following the signage around town.
In the Eastern National store we encountered a NPS ranger who was friendly enough but didn’t listen and respond to the needs of our group. Pushing the $7 fee or $10 Senior pass to one of our party who qualified, he failed to mention that the fee was ONLY for the Washington Museum and Ford Mansion which we had not planned on seeing. Our interest was in Jockey Hollow and Fort Nonsense which is FREE but the ranger failed to listen when my wife tried to explain this to him. Our Senior member finally decided to purchase the pass and before we know it we were on a tour of the Ford Mansion.
Needless to say 18th Century stairs and knees of those eligible for the Senior Pass don’t always mix well and I was the only one of our party to take the full tour of the house. It was a good tour; the guide was friendly and knowledgeable and even modified his tour so that my companions could at least see the first floor before heading off to a bench to await the tour’s finish. From there we made our way to Fort Nonsense and Jockey Hollow.
Overall we had a pleasant visit, we just wish that the initial ranger had listened to our needs instead of pushing us into either paying a fee each or selling a Senior Pass.
On Tuesday we headed over to Monmouth Battlefield State Park. Monmouth Battlefield is a place I have been to many times before. Having grown up about 16 miles away my father took us there when I developed an interest in the American Revolution. In college I did a public history internship looking for the site of Washington’s camp the night before the battle, and when I was a re-enactor with the 3rd NJ the park let us use the Visitors Center for our meetings.
I had heard that the park had built a new VC and had all new interpretive exhibits and I was curious as to what it all looked like. The new exhibits look great. I was happy to see a breakdown of the battle along one wall with pictures and maps showing where the action on the battlefield took place. A new electric map shows troop movements and narrates the battle. I was also impressed with the displays showing how the battlefield had been used over time. Because of my association with the 3rd NJ which was a Civil War re-enacting group I knew that there was a training camp, Camp Vredenburg within the bounds of the park, but it was nice to see a display on it.
On the downside, the gift shop was not open (only on “most” Sunday’s 1-4) which was sad because there were about 5 families that were visiting when we were and most likely would have purchased something – I KNOW I would have. (On a side note, according to the Friends of Monmouth Battlefield website they do want to expand the store’s hours – at least it is in the 5 year plan). There also needs to be some better signage especially for the turn off of 522 to the Perrine Hill area. (These are also part of the Friends’ group 5 year plan.)
While I applaud the work of the Friends’ group and encourage my readers to visit their website and consider donating or joining – especially any NJ readers – I have to ask why the state isn’t taking a more active role. By contrast, for example, we visited two NPS sites on this trip and the rangers there also ran the gift shop. Here in VA the ranger at False Cape State Park was the one to sell me my obligatory patch and pin. Why can’t the folks at Monmouth do likewise?
Overall it was a good trip to a place I’ve enjoyed for years and will hopefully visit again. You can look for more discussion of the Battle of Monmouth here in the near future.
Day 2 consisted of driving, driving, and more driving. Google Maps lists the drive between Williamsburg, VA and family in NJ as around 5 and a half hours. Baloney. It takes more like 8 hours or so.
We did not take 95 opting instead for the 17 / 301 route. This is a much more scenic route, but since avoiding construction ANYWHERE is impossible we ran into tie ups at several points along the way. So we are here! Tomorrow on to Monmouth Battlefield.
Day 1 found AJ and I at False Cape State Park which you have to reach, as the brochure says, “by hiking, biking, or boating through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge“. We took a tram tour through the park to the Wash Woods Historical Site.
Wash Woods was a late 1800s community of around 300 or so that had close ties to the nearby community at Knotts Island. Most of the community’s buildings have all disappeared but you can still see the steeple of the Wash Woods Methodist Church and the Cemetery Site.
Both Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park are out of the way. Think primitive – which was part of the appeal to AJ and I. So if you are really looking to find some seclusion, bring your water and your backpack and perhaps even your bike and leave everything else behind.