Southern Road Trip, Day 1: Richmond


One thing I love about SMS is that his interest is piqued by things that would never catch my attention.  This is almost always a good thing since I learn about something I otherwise wouldn’t have.  Richmond made our list because of the Civil War Museum on the grounds of the former Tredegar Iron Works. 


We arrived a little after noon, paid for our tickets and took a tour of the Tredegar grounds.  This tour focused more on the Iron Works than on the Civil War, which was covered inside the museum, housed inside the former armory.  The grounds were beautiful.  It’s strange to me how crumbling industrial buildings and rusting machinery can be aesthetically pleasing but is really has its own allure. 


The Iron Works was started by an early American entrepreneur.  He thought it was inefficient to mine iron ore in America, ship it to England and then buy the goods from England.  So in 1837, Francis Deane and a Welsh engineer Rhys Davies opened the factory.  Interestingly, the expertise had to be recruited from Great Britain since the training and apprentice system created the industry masters.

Richmond had the trains, waterways and coal to lay the foundation for becoming an industrial center.  The iron ore came from West Virginia along the James River and manmade Kanawha canal, which is now filled in.  The iron works increased in size and prosperity in the 1840s and was bought out by Joseph Anderson who had joined the company several years earlier.  Among other products, the factory made cannons and the first shot of the Civil War was fired from one of the cannons onto Ft. Sumter.  The company was part of the reason the Confederacy moved its capitol from Montgomery, AL to Richmond, VA.

During the Civil War, the factory made over 1000 cannons and the process was described by our tour guide.  It was very interesting.  For example, the method used by Tredegar was to make a solid cannon and then drill out the core.  That must have been very loud! 

After the Civil War, the factory reopened within a few years after oaths of allegiance were made to the USA and the Confederacy alliances were whitewashed away.  Apparently, Mr. Anderson was quite the pro-secessionist but in his post-war affidavit, another story was given and, apparently, accepted.

The factory slowly lost productivity over time as the industry shifted to steel and Tredegar stayed with iron.  It closed production in 1952 and there were a few dates given for its total closure, but now it’s a museum and National Park Visitor Center.

After the grounds tour, SMS and I toured the museum.  It tries to tell the story from the North, South and slavery perspective and I think it does a really good job.  It talks about the founding ideals of the USA and how that morphed over time between the South and North as to what States’ rights actually meant.  All of it though, rested on the issue of slavery and that the economic basis for the South depended on it and they didn’t want to get rid of it.  This was explicitly mentioned in Georgia’s and South Carolina’s Seccession declarations and other states alluded it it as well.  Although the North was not fighting for Emancipation initially, it became clear over time that this was the main cause and the Emancipation Proclamation was  released in 1863.  Even then, it wasn’t a perfect document as it excluded slaves in several Louisiana parishes that were under Federal control.

After the museum, we headed down to the James River for a swim.  The current was noticeable but manageable.  We swam around and even took a turn on the rope swing.  We walked over to Belle Isle, the site of the former munitions lab and explosion caused by the careless Mary Ryan (seriously, every Park Ranger seemed to mention this story, each with a slightly more dramatic twist).  After our walk, we decided to grab a snack before hitting the road.


Well, we might have a slightly heavy definition of snack but we were so happy at Proper Pie Co in the Church Hill area.  It’s a New Zealand-style pie shop and we each had a savory pie (lamb and veggies for me, veg chili for SMS) followed by a few bites of a raspberry ricotta pie.  So, ok, ok, it turned into an early dinner but it was so delicious!  The crust recipe is on point and there are so many options, including veg/vegan.  The gluten-free options are limited but available- a savory soup seemed to be the main choice.  It was made with a New Zealand tuber so I would like to try it someday.

Then we were done and off for Norfolk.  Restaurants in Richmond included the Secret Sandwich Society for dinner (excellent shrub cocktail!) and an excellent brunch at Tarrant’s Cafe!

Washington DC New Year’s Weekend!

Happy New Year!

SMS and I went to Washington for the New Year’s weekend.  We arrived Friday evening and met Mom and Dad at the Old Ebbitt Grill.  SMS and I split half a dozen oysters, yum!  I had a delicious Nicoise salad for my main course and overall, it was a great dinner and fun to spend time with Mom and Dad.

The next day, Mom and Dad headed off to Wintergreen for a wild and crazy New Year’s Eve.  SMS and I went into the city.  First, we went to Eastern Market where we ran into a friend of mine from freshman year of high school.  It’s a little hard to catch up on 20 years in the course of 15 minutes, but it was really cool to see her.


We went to 7th Hill pizza which was…ok.  Not great but it did the job.  Afterwards, we drove over to the Mall.  We looked at the Hirshhorn sculpture garden on the way over to the Sackler.

The Sackler had some great exhibitions.  We saw the Art of the Qur’an, Turquoise Mountain and Red: Ming Dynasty/Mark Rothko, a visual dialogue on the immensity of the color red (sure).  There was also a modern installation inspired by Whistler’s Peacock Room, which is currently undergoing renovation in the Freer.  Although I didn’t love the modern take, it was pretty cool to see

Continue reading “Washington DC New Year’s Weekend!”

Washington DC Weekend

East Building, National Gallery of Art

This past weekend, I spent in Alexandria hanging out with my Dad.  It was pretty mellow but the most beautiful Fall weekend- tons of sunshine and the most perfect temperature.

How I would feel in a museum without lunch first…

On Saturday, Dad wanted to check out the East Building of the National Gallery of Art.  We took the metro into the city, which takes a little longer but it’s so nice not dealing with weekend traffic and parking.  When we got off the metro, the first order of business was lunch because I was hungry.   I hadn’t eaten a lot of breakfast and I had gone for a run so I would be running on fumes if we went to the museum first.  We ate outside and had burgers and beer.  It was awesome.

This is art.  It has its own security guard so people don’t step on it.  I guess
that’s what happens when you have art that looks like a puke-colored melted bag.

Afterwards, we headed over to the East Building.  I could tell there were some updates but overall, it looked the same.  The most noticeable thing was the sun slats over the upper skylights.  The Calder mobile is still in the grand foyer and there is a lot of colorful art well-placed throughout the open main area.  We went to see the Photography Reinvented: The Collection of Robert E. Meyerhof and Rheda Becker.  It’s a temporary exhibit through March 2017 with 33 excellent modern photographs from influential artists.  My sentimental favorite is Hiroshi Sugimoto since I have fond memories of an incredibly staged exhibit of his in the Hirshhorn Museum (2006).

From the Hirshhorn Display.  It was amazing. Photo Credit

Afterwards, we headed home and tried to watch The Lobster but we didn’t have any luck in renting it online.

The next day, we went out to brunch in Old Town.  I scored a sweet parking spot, so I was already feeling pretty cheerful!  We went to Virtue Feed and Grain.  Brunch was tasty but Dad definitely won with his order.  Here’s a tip to me: don’t order Mexical breakfasts on the East Coast, it just isn’t the same.  Also, do not order a Bloody Mary at Virtue- it’s watery gazpacho with vodka.  The mimosas are much better (I had a sip of Dad’s!).

The rest of the day was pretty mellow.  I did some online coursework and watched football.  It was a really relaxing weekend and I was glad for the quality father-daughter time.  Oh, and the quality time with the birds.  I can’t forget the surrogate children.

Bath time!
Bird Love

Mozart Foundation Museum Tour

Oh my goodness!  SMS and I had the best luck on Saturday.  Due to serendipity and SMS’ love of racing cars, we were able to take a tour of a private car museum owned by a local developer (who clearly has done very poorly for himself)!

Let me back up.  On Saturday, I got up early and went to the old apartment to straighten up before the movers came later in the day.  I headed back to the new place to pick SMS up for our Saturday morning run club.  We semi-regularly attend the Mountain View Runner’s Club Saturday morning session, which is a 3.5 mile loop on Steven’s Creek trail.  It’s a really nice group of people and afterward, we hang out at the Starbucks for a little coffee-fueled socializing.

Not too different from some parking lots in Silicon Valley…


As SMS and I were getting ready to leave, he said he wanted to check out the Corvettes down the street.  I hadn’t noticed but apparently, a lot of Corvettes had been driving by including two with racing modifications and vinyl appliques.  We said goodbye to everyone and walked down the street.  Inside an open gate, there was a mini-auto show in the parking lot that was filled with Corvettes!  I estimate there were about 30-40, which was very cool.  We wandered around and talked to a few people.  We didn’t really know what was going on but then I started talking to a woman who had just pulled up in a more classic car with her husband.  I complimented her on her shirt, which was a gray t-shirt with a silver and light blue rhinestone Corvette.  She invited us to join them on their group tour of the Auto Museum.  I initially declined (what a moron!) because the movers were supposed to come between 11-1, but I fortunately came to my senses.  SMS and I each paid our $20 to the Corvette Club of Santa Clara President and with that, we were on the list!

Anteros also avenges unrequited love so maybe he’ll help me get this car?!?!

While we were waiting to get in, we talked to a guy who had extensively modified two Corvettes about 10 years ago as a side project.  He had majored in auto design in college but spent his working years designing video games in Silicon Valley.  [Aside: We never exchanged names and I suspect that he is really well-known in certain circles but hey, we were there to talk about the cars.  Plus, SMS and I are just not super-in-the-know about that industry.  But he did mention that he was good friends with the guy who programmed Pong and the guy who hired Steve Jobs at Atari.]  Anyway, he had added a Super Charger to the engine to bring it up to 550 hP.  He had also taken off most of the panels and replaced them with carbon fiber elements so the car was about 100 pounds lighter than a normal Corvette.   He had the tooling done and panels made in a factory in San Diego.  He had 14 orders for the car but the factory went out of business so only two were made.  What was incredible to me was that the two cars were already committed so he had to deliver both of them; aka, he couldn’t even keep the car he made!!  But, alls well that ends well.  He bought the car back from one of the purchasers about 7 years later so he now has Production #0001 in his possession now.  Incredible.  What a feat of design and a display of integrity to keep your word on delivering a product you promise! The car is called Anteros, after the Greek god of requited love I’m guessing.  It was absolutely beautiful.

Amazing supercharged engine!

At 1000, it was time for the tour!  We went inside the understated, but beautiful building.  The outside landscaping was very zen.  Inside, the docent gave a brief introduction.  They asked for no photography and everyone was very respectful of that request.  I did take one picture by accident as I silenced my phone, but it was of the floor so I think it’s ok to display my masterpiece.

I am so funny and bad with my phone!  Photo taken accidentally while silencing my phone.

The cars on display were incredible.  There were many early cars, like three 1910-1913 Simplexes.  There were several Pullmans, Ferraris and Porsches.  Most of the cars were one of two/three known to be in existence.  My favorite car was a 1934 Bugatti with a deep mustard yellow alligator interior.  It was a breathtakingly beautiful car…the informational sign near it said that it drew such crowds, it was once hard for the then-owner to approach it and drive it away at the end of a car show!

Very few pictures can be found on the internet but here’s one from the kitchen cabinet designers.  The gray Cadillac
in the middle/left center was in the museum and is a beautiful focal point with the interior design. Credit

Alas, all dreams must end and ours ended abruptly with a call from our neighbor that the movers there a few minutes before 11.  Argh!  When are movers ever early!?!?  Anyway, we rushed off and left, but felt incredibly lucky to have experience such an amazing museum.

Birthday weekend, Part 4: Palo Alto, SJC

After an amazing birthday weekend, I got a little extra bonus time to spend with my parents.  I had Monday morning off from work so after saying goodbye to SMS, I hung out in the morning until they woke up.  Then we ate breakfast and had coffee.

We had a small window of time before we had to leave to the airport, so we went to the Stanford museum, The Cantor Center for the Visual Arts.  We went to the Rodin Sculpture Garden and then we went inside for a few minutes.  Better a glimpse of beauty and art than none at all, right?

I thought Mom and Dad would like the 19th & 20th Century European Galleries.  The space is beautiful and really well laid-out.  I saw an older Picasso that I really liked (1909?).  The bottom left corner in particular had a beautiful palette so I snapped a picture for future inspiration.

Then, le boo, it was time for Mom and Dad to go to the airport.  I drove them to SJC and was pretty sad.  BUT, we had a great weekend and everyone is happy and doing well so really, I feel very lucky.