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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bulletproof at Appomatox Manor

Since we were heading to Richmond to drop my daughter at a friend's house my husband and I decided we could use a couple of days to ourselves. Unfortunately for him I saw the long weekend as an opportunity to conduct some more research for my upcoming book which would entail visiting plantations. I was able to convince him this was a good idea by promising him if I "learned" enough from Virginia plantations we could forgo the plan to head to South Carolina, and instead take a mini vacation later on someplace that had casinos and room service. He was all for that so off we went.

After careful research I narrowed down the plantation visits to four which were all along the James River about a half hour away from Richmond. Since there were no rooms in Charles Ciy, I thought we would stay in Hopewell which seemed to be a good location for our journey. Here's a shot of the James River in Hopewell.


The lady at the visitor center was very helpful and she handed us a map of local historical sites. General Grant's Headquarters at City Point sounded interesting, and since it was open until 5 we figured we could do that one before dinner. I had never heard of City Point and it wasn't on my original agenda, but I am so glad we sought it out.

Appomatox Manor at City Point

It was the least fanciest of all the sites we visited that weekend, but it was the cheapest, free, and most informative. Robert, a park employee was our guide and he ruined it for all the other guides we came in contact with.


After showing a brief film which explained the significance of City Point...the Union army captured it, and pretty much strangled the Confederate's supplies and reinforced the Union's when they took control of the James River.


Robert then proceeded to speak with the six of us present starting by saying "If you're looking for someone who is reading from a script, I'm not it. I'm going to tell it like it really is." And he did. He didn't sugar coat anything, and it was clear he was not a fan of the south seceding using a "patriot" banner. He told us for too long people have been taught about the Civil War by people using blinders, and we all should take our blinders off. He also said he wasn't afraid of speaking out as he was "Bulletproof." He had done his 30 years at Phillip Morris and for the last decade has been doing what he loves, talking history.

Apparently in the past he wound up on the front cover of a magazine after giving a tour of the house we were in, Appomatox Manor, and the powers that be didn't appreciate it, especially taking folks to the second floor. But he said he didn't care because we the people, we the taxpayers, "owned" this house and were entitled to visit the second floor, and anywhere else in the national park. After speaking with us a good half hour, well after the 5:00pm "closing time," he invited us upstairs to see "our" house. Here's a couple of shots...




 
I think Bulletproof's talk might have made one of the couples uncomfortable as they didn't wait around to see the house and grounds, but I really enjoyed his spiel. He was so real, and I think he knew I was interested in what he was saying as he seemed to be talking directly to me the entire time. Maybe it was because I was the only one who answered his questions. Afterwards he asked what part of New York I came from, and then told me he had relatives in Harlem and how he enjoyed his visits there, even riding the subway after midnight. Brave man!

For dinner we went to a place that was on the James River and specialized in seafood. After we had passed a couple of chemical plans lined along the James River whose smokestacks could be seen spewing clouds of whatever, I told my husband not to order the raw oysters, and boy was glad he listened to me. We both had stuffed flounder and it was too fishy, and just didn't taste fresh. The rest of the meal was terrible too, and I could only imagine what could have happened had we eaten raw oysters. The best part of the restaurant was the parking lot view...


Ms. Garmin brought us back to the hotel room, taking the ghetto route as she usually does. I couldn't explain why, but I felt such a heaviness to Hopewell that it made me sad when I was lying in bed. For a town with such a positive name, the vibe it emitted was anything but hope.


The next day I got into a conversation with someone at the hotel and they told me that Hopewell was wiped out by Indians back in the day. I wondered if that was the heaviness I felt. When we got home I Googled Hopewell, and between bus tragedies, chemical explosions and spills, and the highest rate of crime per capita in the state, plus a couple of other not so nice events, it's no wonder I felt the way I did about the town.

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