The hard way down: Part 3 of a report on Monticello
Having enjoyed excellent and accessible tours of Monticello's main house (see part 1) and the area of the estate where slaves lived (part 2). The next step of our journey after leaving Monticello was to drive to the Outer Banks. But before we could do that we had to get down the mountain. We didn't realize what an adventure and exertion that would be after our otherwise flawless visit.
There were still a few other tasks to attend to at Monticello before we departed. Like, a little souvenir shopping. Then a short walk over to the bus stop, where we figured we'd take the lift equipped bus back down, as we had taken it up. First bus wasn't the lift bus. Second bus wasn't the lift bus either. I asked that driver whether the lift bus was running. He said maybe. It was a hot day, and apparently they were having some difficulty keeping the buses from overheating as they made their multiple trips up the mountain. The lift bus was in particularly bad shape, he reported. Not really knowing what else to do, we decided to wait for one more bus, which was the lift bus. Rejoice!. But not for long. As we positioned ourselves near the back, the driver informed us that the lift on the bus wasn't working. He offered to take me down and then have me follow him up the mountain in our van, but hearing about the overheating, I was reluctant to do that. He also offered the walking trail, which was about a third of a mile. Hey that sounded good. My wife and I are regular exercise walkers, so that distance seemed like nothing. Remembering we were on a mountaintop, we asked, is it difficult? The driver said seniors use it all the time. Well then let's go!
The decision to hoof it down did have one advantage. It took us by the site of Jefferson's grave, which we had not seen earlier. My youngest daughter noted that the grave had a tall pylon on the top, sort of like a mini Washington Monument. (We went to DC a couple of summers ago). She wondered what was up with dead presidents and pointy graves. (Yes, the Washington Monument isn't a grave marker, but you get the idea).
Seeing the whole discussion with the shuttle driver concerned accommodating our son's wheelchair, I'm thinking many seniors may take the path, but the driver never had. The path did have a couple of sets of stairs. These weren't too difficult for us to roll down, with two people guiding the chair. I think there were about six steps in each case. But when we left the graveyard, we found the real obstacle. A grade that made just holding back the chair from rolling uncontrollably down the rest of the path a major effort. I initially tried to do it myself, but later my wife, Karen, grabbed on too, which was a big help. I have a feeling the forest scenery would be very pleasant under the right circumstances, but I was mostly just trying to hang on and fight gravity for a third of a mile. When we got down to where we could see the visitors center, we paused for a rest and decided to take a photo. A passerby kindly offered to take a photo, which was nice because we seldom have photos of all of us. She got the pic, but dropped the camera twice, maybe because I had handed it to her and I was dripping with sweat. Luckily none of look as disgusting in the photo as we felt.
Getting down to the parking lot, we had a tasty lunch of sandwiches, hot dogs and giant chocolate chip cookies with cold, cold, lemonade and sodas at the little lunch stand there. Then we loaded up and headed for the beach (sweet car AC blasting), better educated about both Thomas Jefferson and taking accessibility for granted.
Photo 1: The photo a kind stranger snapped of us after our sweaty walk down from the mountaintop. The scenery looks really nice, but all I remember is trying to hang on.
Photo 2: Here's our favorite souvenir of the day -- a Jefferson bust frig magnet. We also picked up a Declaration of Independence replica complete with replica quill pen and a humorous children's book about some of the founding fathers, "John, Paul, George and Ben" by Lane Smith, made all the more humorous to us adults for the winking Beatles references. (Photo by Darren Hillock)