Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel & Jamestown, Virginia – Late Fall 2016 Road Trip – Day 5

Today is Election Day, but we had already voted, so we had the entire day to enjoy the scenery. As usual we were out and at it by dawn, stopping first at Kiptopeke State Park, a park at the very southern tip of the eastern peninsula of Virginia. The park offered a unique recreational area with a series of old ships serving as a reef to the Chesapeake Bay as well as an opportunity to see part of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel from the park.

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The Chesapeake Bay area is the largest estuary in North America and third largest in the world. An estuary is a body of water where fresh and salt water mix. This estuary is approximately 200 miles long and 30 miles wide. Fisherman Island is the southernmost island on the chain of barrier islands located at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay where we began our crossing; the island is located within the Eastern Shore of the Virginia National Wildlife Refuge.

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From the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, we entered the Chesapeake Channel Tunnel which connects Island 4 to Island 3 beneath the bay. We popped up onto the Bay Bridge again and then followed into the South Thimble Channel Tunnel that connects Island 2 to Island 1. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge System consists of three bridges, two tunnels and four manmade islands spanning a distance of 17.6 miles from shore to shore at a cost of $25 as toll. Each tunnel is one mile long.

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Island 1 also known as Sea Gull Island is the southernmost location of the Bridge-Tunnel’s four manmade islands, 3-1/2 miles from Virginia Beach. The fishing pier on the island is 625 feet long and was busy with fishermen that had multiple lines cast.

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This island provided a place for us to stretch and to look back at the bridge and tunnel exits that we crossed. The island also had a cafe and gift shop that we visited.

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From Virginia Beach, we passed by Norfolk, an area rich in military naval influence, to cross another bridge and tunnel onto I-64 and onto Hampton, Virginia. We continued through the area of Newport News and into Williamsburg, Virginia to see the Jamestown Settlement.

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The Jamestown Settlement is a living history museum operated by the Commonwealth of Virginia. It includes a re-creation of the original James Fort of 1607 to 1614, a Powhatan Indian Village, indoor and outdoor displays, and replicas of the original settler’s ships the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and the Discovery.

The Powhatan native village demonstrated real life with instructors dressed in 17th century garb. A woman was working with leather making satchels with leather fringe. She crafted her bag with a handmade tool made of an antler or bone which she sharpened often. Deer hides hung between wooden sticks to facilitate the scraping of fur from the hide.

The village had native homes made into a wooden reed shaped modules. Bent limbs formed the concave skeleton of the structure covered in a woven mat surface. Inside a home were hides and personal items that the native tribe may have used. A vent was open on the roof to allow smoke from the fire inside to escape with a covering to close the vent when not needed. The village had free-range chickens and smoldering pits too.

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Our path led us to the replicas of the ships that brought the English settlers to the new world. We boarded the Susan Constant and the Discovery but the Godspeed was not docked for us to see. The largest ship, Susan Constant used five miles of rope to work the sails and maneuver the ship. The ship held cannons and weaponry of cannonballs and chain ball. We stepped down to the lower level of the ship to see cots on the floors and cots hung off the walls. The ship would have been tight quarters for the travelers.

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Further up the trail is a replica of the English fort, complete with the homes for the soldiers and the governor’s house.  Many of the homes as well as the church were made of stucco with thatched roofs. The governor’s house, however, was made of brick. Next to the church was an armory with muskets, pikes, swords, helmets, and shields, where the men in the armory were stoking a fire and pounding metal into weapons.

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Just down the road is Historic Jamestown, a cultural heritage site that was the actual location of the 1607 James Fort and later the 17th century city of Jamestown. It is located on Jamestown Island where evidence of the settlement existed.

Maintained by the National Park Service, we entered the grounds and made our way to the obelisk, a monument in tribute to the birthplace of the Commonwealth of Virginia and commemorating the 300th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement.

There a guide was dressed as John Rolfe, husband of Pocahontas. In character he gave an account of the life and history of the settlers as if they just arrived in 1614. His wardrobe of hand-sewn baggy pants with metal buttoned vest and white shirt was cloaked in a dark colored cape and a large brimmed hat with a feather. He sported a sword and scabbard and tall leather boots.

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The guide talked about his life as John Rolfe, who was bound for Virginia in May 1609 with 500 new settlers.  In July, a massive hurricane scattered the fleet, and ran aground just off the Bermudas. Rolfe’s wife and daughter died on the island but from salvage he made a smaller ship that took him to the Chesapeake Bay later. At the colony, the colonists at the settlement had tried many ventures with no financial success to return profits to their sponsor, the Virginia Company.

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Eventually most of the settlers died of starvation or battles with the natives.  It was only after the arrival of the new governor, Lord De la Warr, and his supply ships that helped the colonists endure.

An assembly convened there on July 30, 1619. Construction on the current church tower began in 1639 taking 4 years to complete. The rest of the original church was destroyed after abandonment in 1750; artifacts such as nails from coffins, armor, pottery, tools, tobacco pipes, and jewelry were found at the site.

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We had a quick lunch of sandwiches at the Dale House Cafe on the grounds at Colonial National Historical Park before going into the archeology museum called Archaerium. Upon entering the building, foundation bricks of the original assembly house were seen through the glass floor tile of the lobby. Many of the 4000 artifacts dug at the James Fort site were displayed behind glass.  Indian-made clay pipes, pots, shell beads, arrow points, and bone and stone tools have been found and now exhibited. There were also colonial wine bottles, tools, bricks, skulls, glass, nails, and pottery.

The results of forensic research on the skeletal remains of a teen girl found among animal bones and food remains show evidence of the early settlers suspected of cannibalism during the starving year of 1609.  Facial reconstructions of some of the settlers themselves were displayed.

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We also learned about how these artifacts were found. A three-dimensional representation of a 1620s well showed armor and dozens of tools and household objects suspended within it the way they were archaeologically recovered from the brick-lined shaft. A partial reconstruction of a mud and stud building inside the museum shown early Jamestown’s architecture. The archaeology team was busy digging on site as we were leaving.

At the edge of the National Park are ruins of the colonial glasshouse. Bricks and stones left from the original kiln were protected behind a glass wall. A glassblower demonstrated the art of glass making selling his craft lined on shelves surrounding the newer glasshouse. Glass has been made for centuries from a mixture of sand, soda ash (burnt marsh plants), pot ash, lime, and oyster shells.

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The ferry named Pocahontas carried our car and us across the James River from Jamestown to Scotland, Virginia. The ferry service is an extension of Route 31. We drove through Norfolk, Virginia to see the city before going to the Best Western hotel.

Captain Groovy Seafood Restaurant provided a dinner of shrimp and a sandwich for us. Later we packed ourselves in for the night to watch the results as our country moved to make the movie Idiocracy from fiction to a documentary.

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