Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg Trip Report

Welcome to the Plane Shavings Woodworking Blog / Travel Blog. :-)

This past weekend, my wife Jen and I traveled to Colonial Williamsburg for a weekend at my favorite destination. No different than the many weekends I'd traveled here before except for one major difference; this time we would be staying right in the historic area in a room at the Brick House Tavern. The Brick House is one of two taverns renting individual rooms in Colonial Williamsburg, Market Square Tavern being the other. Both are located on Duke of Gloucester Street about a block and a half apart. The Brick House is right next to the armory complex.

We left our house Friday morning and got into town around noon. We caught a movie at Movie Tavern to kill a little time until our 4 o'clock check in. After the movie, we decided to ride over to the Williamsburg Inn where all check-ins for historic area lodging are handled. The Inn is a first class hotel in every way. The doors to the lobby are opened for you and when we stepped through we were greeted by the sound of a harpist playing in the large sitting area of the luxuriously furnished lobby. Although it was only 2:30, we were able to check in early. After getting some paperwork straight with the friendly woman at the front desk, we met with the concierge to get a few other things situated, mainly confirming our dinner reservations and program reservations. The concierge was also very pleasant and helpful. When it was time to be shown the way to the tavern we were instructed to follow a bell hop in a van who carried our luggage to our room for us after showing us where to park, which was very conveniently directly behind the tavern.

Upon entering our room, I can't say I was blown away by the size or luxury appointments in the room; it was small, no more than 140 sq. ft. not including the bathroom. We were on the second floor in a corner room facing Duke of Gloucester Street. Being it was a corner room, we also had a window on the side of the room which overlooked the armory complex. The bathroom was also not large, and being on the second floor, the front wall of the room followed the roof line of the tavern. The only place this was really a problem was in the shower, where you had about 2 feet of full height shower and then it tapered down with the roof line until it ended at about 3 1/2 feet of height. Not ideal, but manageable. The room was furnished in 18th century style furniture with a queen bed, dresser, two night stands and a small occasional table, and a desk with a windsor chair. There was also an upholstered wing chair in the corner. Where the room really proved it worth was it's location. For me at least, there is nothing like being able to walk out your door at any time and be right in the heart of the historic area. It was also pretty cool to hear the clip-clop of horses go by all day carrying tourist on carriage rides. We definitely took advantage of the location. After going out for another amazing dinner at Aberdeen Barn ( both Jen and I's favorite restaurant in the world ), it was back to our room and our 18th century world. Friday night I walked the historic area til almost midnight taking pictures that I wouldn't normally get and Saturday morning Jen got up and went for a brisk exercise paced walk while I chose a more casual pace armed with my camera again. So nice taking pictures early in the morning before the crowd gets there.

Saturday was our busy day there. I spent most of the day in 18th century dress, which made me pretty happy ( I know, what a weirdo ). I did get asked several times when buying things in the historic area if I had my CW employee card so they could give me my employee discount. :-) We booked a free 2 o'clock program a Great Hopes Plantation called Working the Soil, Healing the Soul. This was about being a slave in the 18th century and the hardships of slavery and the bonds slaves formed with each other to make it through each day. The program was very well presented. Extremely informative and enjoyable. After that hour long program was over, we walked back to our room ( such a nice option rather than having to drive to a hotel in town ) and relaxed a little until our dinner reservation at Kings Arms Tavern at 5:45. We were seated upstairs in a nice room with about 6 tables, authentically furnished for the period. My meal was better that I expected, prime rib with roasted red skinned potatoes and rice. Jen got a seafood macaroni dish and I don't believe she was very impressed with her meal. We both got the soup of the day before our meal, which was a chicken corn chowder with bacon. We both agreed that this was delicious. No room for dessert.

After dinner we walked our food off a little and then met at the Greenhow Lumberhouse for our 8:30 evening program, Ghost Amongst Us. This was fun. It was a candlelit tour that took us inside the governors palace, the Wythe house, and the Geddy house for stories told and acted out by actresses portraying 18th century characters from their stories. The stories were fun, but I enjoyed just being in the building after dark with just the light of a lantern; a much different feel than visiting during daylight hours.

Sunday we got up, did our walks around the nearly empty historic area again, and then toured the Capitol building and checked out the armory complex before having to check out and head home. It was an amazing weekend and being able to stay in the historic area really enhanced my enjoyment of it all. It's a weekend I'll always remember. 

A Friday night picture taken from beside the Post Office

Prentis Store at night

Our Tavern

Beautifully quiet and peaceful in the early morning light

Lathe behind the Wheelwright's Shop

Early morning at the Hay Shop

A different angle of the Hay Shop

Jen and I's favorite tree. A beautiful, sprawling Compton Oak across
from the St. George Tucker house

Me waiting for the Great Hopes program to start. Imagining that I am
looking over my freshly planted tobacco fields at my Williamsburg

Jen staying cool in the shade waiting for the program to start

A picture in our room after changing into my dinner

At Kings Arms Tavern waiting for the meal
Getting a little goofy waiting for our meal. Must've been food deprivation. 

My beautiful bride at Kings Arms Tavern

Friday, May 9, 2014

No Woodworking Here; Just Good Times With Good Friends

Last Saturday, we had a cookout at our house that my wife Jen put together for me. Things weren't looking real promising earlier in the week as we had 3 straight days of fairly heavy rain and the yard was pretty much flooded. Luckily, the rains moved out by Thursday night and the yard had dried up pretty nicely by the time the party rolled around on Saturday afternoon.

We had a really good turnout, I'm guessing around 150 people, and I had such a great time. My energy level was good all day long and I felt great. It was so nice and touching to see so many people show up. I had friends I went to high school with that I hadn't seen in years show up; even some from long distance, one from North Carolina and another from South Carolina. And lots and lots of family and friends. The weather couldn't have been better; sunny and in the high 70's. We had a ton of good food too. Everyone brought a dish and my father in law brought a tow behind grill and cooked 4 pork butts, a beef brisket, a venison roast, 40 pounds of chicken, 100 hamburgers and about 40 hot dogs. And everything was absolutely delicious! I've never had anything come of his grill that hasn't been great.

I say this post has nothing to do with woodworking but shortly after the party started, someone asked to see the shop. Well, I took them out for the tour and for the next hour and a half or so, every time I'd get ready to leave the shop to rejoin the party outside, 4 more people would come out to see the shop. And just about everyone that came out was asking what the spring pole lathe was and wanted to see it in action. Well I was all too happy to oblige. My friend Paul joked that by the time the day was over, the hunk of Walnut that I had chucked up in the lathe as a practice piece was going to be a toothpick. Needless to say, I had a great time out there showing off the shop and it's contents. I'm so glad I built that place and so thankful that my wife encouraged me to do so.

I missed my local SAPFM meeting that day which had Chris Schwarz as the guest speaker and also Don Williams and Michele Pietryka-Pagan of the Roubo translation fame. I was a little disappointed when I first heard the date my wife picked and found it was going to conflict with this SAPFM meeting that I'd been looking forward to for months, but after experiencing the joy and happiness of the cookout, I had no regrets.

Thanks to everyone who came out and make it such a special day for me. Special thanks to my wife for putting it all together. To my mom for helping so much and buying most of the supplies, my father in law for not only cooking up all the meat to perfection, but for supplying it also, to my aunt Debbie for providing 100 burgers, my cousin Troy and uncle Jimmy and uncle Tommy for all their help in getting the yard and garage ready, my friend Billy for providing the large tent, to my friend Crystal for taking and providing all the good photos, all the people who let us borrow tables, chairs, coolers, etc. and everyone else who was so generous with their time and efforts. I truly had my best day in a long time.

My Father In Law-Grill Master Jimmy Quade
Some of my work crew
Gladly showing off the shop
Some of my high school classmates
The crew from work
My friend Pat's very cool '54 Chevy
Me with the in-laws and out-laws
Me and my Baby :-)

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Little More Colonial Williamsburg Creeps Into My Backyard

This Friday I finally got my cresset put up that my wife had gotten me for Christmas. I put it at the beginning of the brick walk out to my shop. Loaded it up Saturday night with nothing but fat wood and lit it up for the first time. I don't know that I've ever felt a fire so intensely hot in such a small area. It burned really bright and hot, but it was done in about ten minutes. I can't find anything on-line about what or how you're supposed to burn a cresset so I'm just experimenting until I find a balance between a nice fire and one that last longer than a few minutes. Last night I split up a short piece of oak that I had on the firewood stack into pieces about 3/4" square or so and put a little fat wood in the cresset first and then the oak on top. It burned good and lasted longer, but still not long enough for my liking. Next time I'm going to start out pretty much the same, but I'm going to split some pieces of oak about  2" square, add those after the fire gets going good and see how long it burns with some larger pieces of wood. Eventually I'll find the right combination. Meanwhile, it's fun to experiment with it and it adds a pretty cool look to things out there after dark.