The Home of VMI
When I was in college, our track team participated in the VMI Relays indoor track meet each winter. The Field House was a lot like a barn and our accomodations were the worst of anywhere that we ran but it was great. We stayed in VMI dorms and after maid service and carpeted floors back at Duke the austerity of VMI was memorable. As a youth. I often thought about ways to honorably avoid military service but perhaps it was my visits to VMI that awakened the spirit of patriotism within me which resulted in my spending 20 years in the Air Force.
"Saturday, January 26"
We left the Crown Pointe condo and checked out about 0900. We went down Route D for the last time to Route 32, and were crossing the Mississippi by 1020.
We drove through rural southern Illinois until we got to I-57 which would take us to I-64. We took this route so that we would not have to go all the way up to St. Louis to get on I-64.
We didn't get on right away, but drove to the next crossroads and stopped about 11:44 at Burton's Cafe, home of the Famous White Pie for lunch. Bob got chili and a chicken liver appetizer (which was too much for him to eat), and I got a turkey club and the white pie. We left about 12:20
We crossed into the Eastern Time Zone, and got gas in Indiana before we crossed into Kentucky. Staying on I-64, we went through Louisville, and got to the Hampton Inn about 5:45. We ate dinner at nearby O'Charley's
"Sunday, January 27th"
We were on the road the next morning about 0900. I was fascinated by the black trees against the gray sky. At least it wasn't snowing. We stopped a little before Charleston WV for lunch. We tried Wendy's first, but they were so slow that we defaulted to McDonalds, and even at there all the soda dispensers were out of order.
We drove by the capitol, and then I reminded Bob that we had a toll road coming up. He has so much trouble getting out his wallet when he is driving - he hates to have to do that. We drove through the mountains with the ice waterfalls seeping out of the rock walls that surrounded the road. We began to see snow on the ground also.
We stopped at the Virginia Welcome Center for a map of Virginia, and the lady there told us how to get to the Hampton Inn which is also a historic house. We arrived about 1600. We got parked (being careful not to drive or park where it was marked for carriages only. We went out for dinner, aiming for Aunt Sarah's Pancake House, but we never found it. Instead we ended up at the Redwood Family Restaurant. Bob had the lasagna and I had chicken stir fry. He had some of the homemake carrot cake for dessert, and I had blueberry pie. This was about $22.56 (no credit cards)
"Monday January 28th"
Today is the last day our insurance will cover the car. We had breakfast at the Hampton Inn (no cranberry juice and not a very good breakfast), and drove to the CVS so Bob could try some medicine for tinnitus, and then we drove back through town so I could take some pictures of the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery.
I started calling to have services started. I called Verizon to have the phone put on limited service instead of paying for each message. I tried to get the DSL line taken off vacation, but he said it couldn't be done until Weds. I called the DirecTV people to have the satellite turned back on.
We got gas in Charlottesville, and went out route 20 and up to Wilderness where we stopped at the battlefield information area. We ate lunch at Denny's just before we got to Fredericksburg. We were crossing the Potomac by 1330, and were home about a hour later.
We picked up the mail on the way through town. The house had heat so they hadn't let the furnace run out. Bob was able to turn the water back on, and start the various cars.
We unpacked the car, fixed the TV reception, and called to have the paper started. I sorted the mail, called the insurance people and paid some bills. We went up to town for dinner.
The next day we returned the car.
Walking Tour of VMI
This travelogue is almost redundant. You may avoid the redundance by going to www.vmi.edu. They have one of the better digital walking tours that I have seen. If for some reason, you do not want to go there, I am going to review some of the more prominent points of a walk around the 12-acre parade ground, around which the VMI campus is centered.
Due to my military background, I feel that the natural place to start such a tour would be at the Main Gate. (There is no longer a literal "Main Gate" but this was once a true military installation and had one at that time). The Main Street of Lexington is US Highway 11 which intertwines with Interstate 81 from southwestern Virginia to the north end of the Shenandoah Valley. Hwy. 11 passes through and along the east side of the VMI campus. Near the south end of the campus, you need to turn west on a street whose name skips me at the moment (but there are VMI signs). The Main Gate is on Letcher Street (no funny remarks, please) and is among faculty and staff housing on both sides of the street. I used to dream of someday living in one of those houses.
Entering the campus on Letcher Street, The Pendleton-Coles House sits where the Main Gate used to be. This home now houses the VMI Admissions Office and is over 125 years old but it also has at least two significant claims to fame. Many of the early meetings of the Sigma Nu fraternity were held in this house. The Sigma Nu fraternity was founded in 1869 by three VMI cadets. Thirty-three years later this house was the site of the wedding of Elizabeth Coles to a young second lieutenant by the name of George Catlett Marshall.
Until 1987, this house stood next to Mallory Hall just up the street past the current Science Building. It was, in fact moved to make way for the Science Building. I have never been in the Science Building nor Mallory Hall but they are in succession as you move up the street past The Pendleton-Coles House.
The next building on the right is the Preston Library, named after one of the driving forces behind the establishment of VMI and one of its first two faculty members.
The burial place of the first president of the VMI Board of Visitors, Claudius Crozet, is in front of the Library. He was a frenchman and came to VMI by way of West Point, where he was a professor.
Two other monuments along this area of the Parade Ground walkway are worthy of mention. Sigma Nu and Alpha Tau Omega social fraternities were both inaugurated at VMI and there are monuments to those events near the Library.
The next building up the walk is the Nichols Engineering Hall and Annex. In front of this building is the rather impressive New Market Statue. Enitled "Virginia Mourning Her Dead," it is a memorial to the VMI cadets (and that included the entire student body) who fought in the Civil War Battle of New Market (1864). Ten cadets were killed in this battle and six of them are buried beneath the statue.
Between the Nichols Engineering Building and Jackson Memorial Hall, the home of the VMI Museum, is a bronze depiction of General Lemuel C Shepherd, Commander of the Sixth Marine Division and later Commandant of the US Marine Corps, planning the World War II invasion of Okinawa.
As indicated above, the next building is Jackson Memorial Hall, named for Thomas Jonathan Jackson, a VMI professor for the ten years prior to the Civil War. Non-VMI alumni may remember Professor Jackson as Lieutenant General "Stonewall" Jackson. The purpose of the VMI Museum, which is located on the level below the auditorium, seems to be to recount the illustrious history of the Institute and the accomplishments of its many prominent graduates. Jackson Memorial Hall was built in 1915 with funds received from the US government in reparation for burning VMI during the Civil War. Further honor is rendered to the cadets who participated in the Battle of New Market on May 15, 1864 by a very impressive oil painting at the front of Jackson Hall.
In the auditorium, you will see a collection of flags of the 26 United States when VMI was founded back on November 11, 1839.