Friday, August 2, 2019


The third week of July has become one of my favorite weeks of the year.  It is the week that Robin and I celebrate our wedding anniversary...and the week that we continue a super cool tradition of surprising  each other with an anniversary trip.  This year, it was Robin's turn to plan the trip...and what a wonderful, lovely, (and nerdy) trip it was.  Robin put together an adventure that took us to central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley.  Our four day celebration included good food, tours of the homes of four U.S. presidents, one of the most beautiful hikes I've ever taken, and an excursion through the awe-inspiring Luray Caverns.

David and Robin Raymond at the entrance to James Madison's Montpelier. -- July 20, 2019

We arrived in Charlottesville, Virginia just in time for the 100+ degree heat that was blanketing the East Coast last month.  Fortunately, the extreme heat didn't prevent us from doing anything that we had planned.  The first stop on our journey was the home of James Madison, Montpelier.  Robin and I had been here once this time we took a tour that focused on Madison's most significant contribution to our nation...his role in drafting the U.S. Constitution.  The tour was excellent, but the most moving part of our day at Montpelier was our time at The Mere Distinction of Colour exhibit which is on display in the basement of the mansion.  Focusing on the lives of the enslaved people who lived at Montpelier, the exhibit was extremely moving and impactful in it's simplicity.

About to take the Constitution Tour at James Madison's Montpelier. -- July 20, 2019

Standing behind James Madison's desk in his study.  It is very possible that the backbone of the U.S. Constitution...the Virginia Plan...was devised at this very desk! -- July 20, 2019

Touring The Mere Distinction of Colour exhibition and learning more the realities of the enslaved population at Montpelier. -- July 20, 2019

Having a lively discussion with POTUS #4...James Madison! -- July 20, 2019

Leaving Montpelier, Robin and I headed for a evening drive in Shenandoah National Park on Skyline Drive.  For three hours, we drove from look out to look out to see the breathtaking views of the Shenandoah Valley.  By 8 o'clock, we decided to find a place along Skyline Drive to hike and watch the sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains.  We chose a spot, which is part of the Appalachian Trail, that led us to a place known as Black Rock Summit.  The two mile hike to the summit turned out to me so much more than we expected.  We reached the opening in the summit just as the sun was setting...illuminating the sky and the surrounding landscape into one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen.

Virginia's Shenandoah Valley seen from Skyline Drive. -- July 20, 2019

Virginia's Shenandoah Valley seen from Skyline Drive. -- July 20, 2019

Hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail to get to Black Rock Summit. -- July 20, 2019

Hiking to Black Rock Summit. -- July 20, 2019

Reaching Black Rock Summit as the sun is setting. -- July 20, 2019

Watching the sun set over the Shenandoah Valley from Black Rock Summit. -- July 20, 2019

David Raymond at Black Rock Summit. -- July 20, 2019

Robin and David Raymond at Black Rock Summit. -- July 20, 2019

The nerdiness didn't stop on the second day as Robin and I visited the homes of James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson.  I was eager to get back to James Monroe's, Highland.  Robin and I were here in 2012 to tour the home...only to find out in 2016 that the farm house that was presented as James Monroe's home wasn't actually his house.  Since that time, an archaeological dig has been instigated on the site revealing the remains of James Monroe's true home.  Three miles away, Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello, never ceases to disappoint.  Because we have both been to Monticello, Robin and I wanted to tour the home from another point of we participated in the Sally Hemings Tour which presented the home from the perspective of Sally Hemings and the others who were enslaved at Monticello.  After the tour, as Robin and I were walking around Monticello, we began to hear thunder in the distance.  The winds from the approaching storm cooled the summer heat and made for a very memorable hike down the mountain and back to the visitor center. 

Getting especially nerdy with President James Monroe. -- July 21, 2019

Standing near the newly excavated foundation of President James Monroe's home. -- July 21, 2019

The flower were in full bloom at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. -- July 21, 2019

David and Robin Raymond at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. -- July 21, 2019

I was especially proud of this pic that I took of Thomas Jefferson's home reflecting in the pool near his house. -- July 21, 2019

A summer time storm rolling our way.  This pic was taken near Mulberry Row and Thomas Jefferson's gardens. -- July 21, 2019

That evening, Robin and I arrived at Steeles Tavern Manor near Staunton, Virginia.
Since we've been together, Robin and I have been to many Bed and Breakfasts...but this one, I think, is my favorite.  Our hosts, Dana and Trey were amazing, and the house was absolutely beautiful.  Robin couldn't have picked a more perfect place for us to stay on our anniversary night.  After breakfast at Steeles Tavern Manor, Robin and I headed out for the last day of our anniversary trip.  We decided to tour the birthplace of president Woodrow Wilson in Staunton, Virginia and then a captivating tour of Luray Caverns.   

Steeles Tavern Manor Bed and Breakfast in Steeles Tavern, VA. -- July 21, 2019

Happy anniversary to David and Robin. -- July 21, 2019

My beautiful wife and I headed out for our anniversary dinner. -- July 21, 2019

Touring Woodrow Wilson's birthplace in Staunton, VA. -- July 22, 2019

Saw this super cool "velocipede" at Woodrow Wilson's birthplace. -- July 22, 2019

David and Robin Raymond touring Luray Caverns. -- July 22, 2019

The ceiling of Luray Caverns being reflected in a pool of water directly below.  Super cool! -- July 22, 2019

The Great Stalacpipe Organ in Luray Caverns, VA -- July 22, 2019

I love traveling with my wife...we do it well together...always finding fun and adventure wherever we go.  Thank you, Sweetheart, for planning such a lovely, and equally as nerdy, adventure.  I'm sure that year seven will be just as wonderful!  I love you!

Enjoying an anniversary dessert at the Split Banana in Staunton, VA. -- July 21, 2019

Life is a journey...not a destination.

David A. Raymond -- August 2, 2019

Happy 6th Anniversary, Robin....Here's a look back at our adventures over the past year. 

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Here are the GARMIN maps and data from the hikes featured in this post.  #OptOutside

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