Thursday, April 6, 2017


The Road Scholar ( ) program I attended recently in Charlottesville, Virginia, included a tour of the home of the fifth president of the United States, James Monroe, which President Monroe simply called "Highland" ( ).  As you can see on the sign, it is now a property operated by The College of William & Mary, which was the alma mater of James Monroe.  The photo below shows the mature ash trees that line the driveway leading up to the house, which is probably one reason that the estate is sometimes called Ash Lawn/Highland. 

Highland is considered a working farm, and as such, there is a flock of sheep in the pastures adjacent to the home.
A historical highway marker gives a brief history , indicating that in 1793, James and Elizabeth Kortright Monroe purchased 1,000 acres adjoining Jefferson's Monticello.  At its largest, Highland grew to 3,500 acres.  The home served as the principle residence for the Monroes from 1799-1823. 
Most American history students know that James Monroe was the last of America's Founding Fathers, when he served as our fifth president (1817-1825), but they may not know that he also served as Governor of Virginia, and rose to prominence as a diplomat in France, when he helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.  (The Louisiana Purchases included my home state of Arkansas, so I am filled with joy that he did this!)  The statue of Madison that is in the boxwood gardens is by Attilio Piccirilli.  ( Piccirilli is also famous as being the sculptor for the Lincoln statue, for the Lincoln Memorial, in Washington, D.C.)
Since Ash Lawn/Highland is owned by the College of William and Mary, some buildings have been added that can accommodate groups for conferences, weddings, and other special events.  Behind the main house, there are cabins, a smoke house, an ice house, and other structures needed to keep the farm operational. 
Inside the cabin, there are displays of objects that would have been found in a household of that period. 
The property has a 300 year old oak tree on it, which could tell some fine stories if it could talk!  Our guide pointed out that the oak tree in this photo has a lightning rod on it, which was invented by another famous American, Benjamin Franklin. 
Our guide told us that the portrait of James Madison in this photo was painted by Samuel Morse.  This is the same Samuel Morse, that invented the famous dot and dash code, we now call "The Morse Code". 
I learned that the only foreign capitol named after a U.S. President is Monrovia, in Liberia, on the continent of Africa.  Although Monroe had 30-40 slaves under his ownership, he supported the founding of colonies in Africa for freed slaves, that would eventually become the nation of Liberia.  In 1823, he announced the U.S. opposition to any European intervention in the recently independent countries of the Americas, with the Monroe Doctrine, which became a landmark in American Foreign Policy.
Although her exact size is not known, one of the formal dresses saved from the wardrobe of Mrs. Monroe (Elizabeth Kortright Monroe) indicated she was a very petite woman.  Records also indicate that due to her fragile health, many of the duties of official hostess were assumed by their eldest daughter, Elza Monroe Hay. 
The expansive views around Highland showcase the rolling hills and mountain ranges,  visible on the horizon.  Perhaps President Monroe was admiring God's creation when he said, "If we persevere...we cannot fail, under the favor of a gracious Providence.  My fervent prayers to the Almighty that He will be graciously pleased to continue to us that protection which he has already so conspicuously displayed in our favor." 
In my mind, that is another way of saying Psalm 126:3, so I am using these images as my visual aid for learning my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verse that says, "The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy."  I truly am filled with joy, as I learn about our country's early history, and God's blessing of allowing me to be born here.  This gives me "MILES OF SMILES"!!  Tricia


I was very thankful for the opportunity I recently had to visit a new theme park, called The Ark Encounter.  It is located in Williamstown, Kentucky, half-way between Cincinnati and Lexington on I-75.  This is the gigantic sign, located at the entrance to their spacious parking lot.  The attraction opened last year on July 7 (7/7) which was chosen to correspond with the Genesis 7:7 Bible verse that says, "And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood."
A ship's keel is a structure along the bottom of the ship's hull, to support the main body of the ship.  In some cases, the keel is extended downward to function as a stabilizer for the ship.  Noah's ark, as described in Genesis 6 may have had a keel since it seems to have been an essential piece for the ship to survive the wind and waves.  No one wants the ship to be "keeling over" from unstable conditions! (The keel of the  Ark replica at the theme park caught my attention, since my maiden name had the word "keel" in it, and I have always thought of myself as having a "boat gene" in my background!).  This photo shows the the vast quantities of wood used to construct the Ark.  The exterior used mostly pine, while the framing of the Ark consists mostly of Englemann spruce.  Some of the logs were as long as 50 feet, and 36 inches in diameter.  Much of the wood used to build the Ark Encounter was sourced from renewable forest or trees infested by beetles. 

After one has parked and purchased their ticket, guests have a mile-long scenic ride as they ascend to the hilltop,  in view of the massive Ark. 

Guests enter at the bottom of the Ark, which gives one the opportunity to see the timber framing construction techniques used by the Amish builders, known as the Troyer Group.  Over 1,000 craftsmen were involved in the construction.  The builders originally planned to hold the Ark together with wooden pegs, but modern building codes required the builders to use steel fasteners.  Thus, 95 tons of metal plates and bolts were used to connect the wood together.  The Ark contains 3,300,000 board feet of wood, and is said to be the largest timber frame structure in the world. 

There are dioramas throughout the Ark, depicting scenes of what life might have been like for Noah and his family, both before they entered the Ark, as well as during the 150 days they spent on board the Ark. 

The Ark contains 132 bays, arranged into 3 decks.  The bays on the first deck contain models of some animals believed to be on the Ark.  The use of the word "KIND" in this display is significant, and is based on the Genesis verse that says "so Noah and his family went into the Ark because of the coming flood, and every land animal AFTER ITS KIND went with them..." One of the questions addressed in the exhibits was, "Was every species on the Ark?"  The answer is "no".  Species is a term used in the modern classification system.  The Bible uses the term "kind".  The created kind was a much broader category than the modern term of classification---species.  The Biblical concept of created "kind" probably most closely corresponds to the "family level" in current taxonomy.  A good rule of thumb is that if 2 things can breed together, then they are of the same created kind.  (It is actually more complicated that that, but this is a quick measure of a "kind"). 

A scale model in one of the bays allows guests to more easily see the three decks, with their partitioned-off bays.  According to the Bible, the Ark measured 300 x 50 x 30 cubits.  The Ark Encounter builders used the measure of a cubit that made the final product be 510 feet long, or the largest replica in the world.  Next in size,  is the Ark replica in the Netherlands at 450 feet, and also one in China at 450 feet, both of which used a slightly  different estimate of what constituted a cubit in Biblical times.  

The announcement of plans for the Ark Encounter were made public in 2010, by the Answers in Genesis group, which also operates the Creation Museum ( ), in a nearby northern Kentucky town.  The construction actually started in 2011, and was built in phases over the next five years.  Photos of the construction stages can be seen inside the Ark, as well as on their website ( ), under the "Blog" heading. 

There are ramps that connect the three decks, and will give the visitor plenty of exercise (elevators are also available). Environmentalists should be pleased to learn that the park's structure and infrastructure were built using environmentally friendly Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certified methods, including geothermal heating, rainwater capture, active and passive solar heating. 

I read that during construction, former President Jimmy Carter toured the Ark Encounter, as a personal guest of the head of the Troyer Group of Amish builders.  Since the President is famous for becoming an avid woodworker after he left office,  plus helping build houses through his work with the Habitat for Humanity organization, plus a Baptist Sunday School teacher,  I can imagine he took great interest in the project!

The various exhibits inside the Ark did not ignore the controversial nature of their project.  The exhibit would give "The Secular View", plus "The Biblical View", of various scientific discoveries down through the ages.  This allowed each guest to form their own opinion.  I am well aware that sometimes a theme park will spark controversy.  I grew up in a town near where the Dogpatch, U.S.A., theme park was built.  Despite the fact that the park brought thousands of visitors to the area, created new jobs, and provided enjoyable entertainment for its guests, there were many local folks completely disgusted with the park, fearing it would entrench the "hillbilly" stereotype to our region. 

photo allows you to see the three decks, and gives you an idea of how massive the center logs are. 

There are
 theaters in the Ark, which were a very welcome "rest stop" for me!  Plus, the videos they were showing were top quality productions, providing many helpful insights into the exhibits we were witnessing. 

This "kids" exhibit sign is a reminder for me to mention that groups of 30 can arrange to spend the night in the Ark.  It makes me wish I could be a kid on a field trip that got to have that experience!  (I once did an overnight stay in the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Safari Park.  We stayed in tents overlooking the savanna where the lions lived.  Thus, it was called the "Roar and Snore" camp!)

This photo shows visitors studying the exhibit designed to look like a blacksmith shop of Biblical times. 

The first time I saw human-like figures moving and talking, was at Disneyworld in Florida.  This theme park has them as well, as shown in this photo of Noah, and his wife.  The Bible tells us that Noah was around 500 years old when he and Mrs. Noah had children.  (Noah's grandfather, Methuselah lived to be 969 years old!)

This photo of me in front of "The Door" brings up the topic of God's specific instructions for Noah to build a door in the side of the Ark.  Noah and his family entered this door to be saved from the physical destruction by the flood.  Everyone outside of the Ark perished.  Likewise, God has provided another "door" to save people from the coming eternal judgment.  Jesus Christ said, "I am the door of the sheep" ( John 10:7).  One can go to the "Good News" section of the Ark Encounter website, to see exactly how to make this door example applicable in their own lives. 

On the day I visited, a section of the Ark had been fenced off, and some live animals were "grazing" inside the enclosure.  This definitely gave a "whiff" of what it must have been like to have so many animals enclosed inside the ark, as they did in Noah's day.

The Ark is held 15 feet off the ground by a series of concrete towers.  The starboard side of the hull merges into three, 80 foot masonry towers that contain the stairwells, elevators, and restrooms.  One exits the Ark through the glass doors underneath the keel.  This photo was taken as I stood on the front porch of the the two-story restaurant within the park. 

I like this photo because it gives one an idea of the scale of the Ark.  Notice the motor coach on the right side, and the people standing underneath the keel. 

This photo serves as the visual aid for my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verse from Psalm 95:6.  The verse says, "Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker."  It is to illustrate Noah, leading his wife, their three sons, and the sons' wives in worshiping God.  I am very thankful that Noah, the original "ship man", found favor in God's eyes, and was spared from the flood.  Likewise, I am thankful for the opportunity to tour this outstanding attraction.  Since I am someone who is fascinated by the use of "visual aids", this expedition gave me "MILES OF SMILES"!!  Tricia


Jonquils are an early harbinger of spring where I live in Arkansas, and as I discovered this year, the same holds true in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I was spending the last full week in March, at The English Inn ( ), shown in the background of this photo.

I was in Charlottesville, as part of a Road Scholar ( ) program called "Friends, Neighbors, Presidents:  The World of Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe", designated as Program #2007.  One of the many helpful amenities of this property is the ample, adjacent, and complementary parking for their guests. 

The rooms at The English Inn were comfortable, and supplied everything needed for a multi-night stay---flat-screen television, free WiFi, refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker.

surprisingly, based on the name of the hotel property and its English-looking exterior, the atrium showed the "Union Jack" flag of Great Britain, as well as the "Stars and Stripes" flag of the USA, and the flag of the Commonwealth of Virginia. 

The sunken lobby was welcoming and comfortable, especially since a crackling fire was always aglow in the fireplace!

The hotel is next to a Charlottesville city park, that runs beside a small stream.  The walking path is inviting, but one needs to stay alert to "flying saucers", as the space also functions as a disc golf course. 

Once I was checked into the hotel upon my arrival on the Sunday afternoon starting day, I took off in my car to explore the area on my own.  I followed the numerous signs leading the way to Monticello, former home of President Thomas Jefferson.  Since our Road Scholar program was going to include a visit here later in the week, I just stopped in the Visitor's Center to take a few photos and use the restroom facilities. 

Because it was a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon, the patio was set up to sell a variety of plants that have their origins in the gardens of Monticello.  Inside the gift shop, one could also purchase seeds from the gardens of Monticello. 

As someone who enjoys hiking, I took the time to check out a park I passed at the base of the mountain, that indicated there was a walking trail.

After a visit to the Monticello gift shop, (where I purchased a souvenir Monticello medallion to hammer into my hickory hiking stick, when I got home), I sat out to explore the trail.

There were dozens of folks enjoying the outdoors at the park, and I was giving thanks to God for providing such a scenic place to get some exercise, and also for the God-given gift of being able to walk!  (For those unable to walk, however, many of the trails in this park are wheel-chair accessible).

When the Road Scholar program got going, one of our speakers was Dr. Elizabeth (Beth) Taylor, shown in this photo, holding two of the books she has authored and published. Dr. Taylor was an OUTSTANDING instructor for our program, and it was evident that her 22 year career in museum education and historical research, has enabled her to teach others the historical treasures we can learn, studying the lives of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. 

One of the afternoons of our week long program was left open for participants to explore the area on their own.  I reasoned that since this program was all about U.S. Presidents, it seemed appropriate to investigate the presence of the Trump Winery ( ), which is very close to the former home of  President James Monroe. ( Donald Trump was elected U.S. President in November, 2016, which was AFTER the Trump brand purchased the former Blenheim Winery) .  The gracious hostess at the property told me that with 1,300 acres of breathtaking scenery, and 195 acres of vines, Trump Winery is Virginia's largest vineyard. 

The inviting entrance, includes a front porch, where guests can sit, if desired.  Behind this cozy cottage front, is a spacious covered event center, with gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside. 

Inside the tasting room, one can have a gourmet meal, or simply taste the wines.  The tastings are offered daily, and include a complementary logoed wine glass. 

The drive to the Trump Winery will take you by several other properties that are included on the Charlottesville Wine Trail. 

Besides the historical lectures and home tours included in this Road Scholar program, we were also treated to live performances, by musicians that used the instruments that would have been available at the time of Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe.

This photo shows Stephen Christoff, who has been a musical performer for Colonial Williamsburg for more than 15 years.  Since 2006, he has performed his one-man show called "Seller of Songs" at the Hennage Theater in Colonial Williamsburg to sell-out audiences and rave reviews.

Stephen's many talents (including playing the saw shown in this photo) have enabled him to be a headline performer for numerous historical festivals and events, as well as Disney's Epcot Center.  Our Road Scholar group, with fewer than 20 participants, had the pleasure of having an intimate time of music and interaction with this gifted and versatile musician.

On a different night, we were able to enjoy a concert by Su Tarr.  Su's musical talents have been obvious from childhood when she won a concerto competition at the age of 9 and played with the Cleveland Symphony.  As an adult, she has played in the Charleston, Huntington, and Richmond Symphonies. 

Su has been a balladeer in Colonial Williamsburg since 1997.  Between her playing, she reminded us that at the time of Presidents Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, the only music one would have heard would have been that performed by a live musician.  That was a period long before the advent of recorded music, so familiar to people today.  That is why I am using my memories of hers and Stephen's performances as my visual aid for my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verse from Ephesians 5:19, that says, "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord."

A favorite thing I enjoy when traveling, is doing what the verse above commands, and singing music to the Lord with other Christians at worship services in the cities I am visiting.  This time it was the First Baptist Church in Charlottesville ( ).  I was very thankful for the religious freedom I have, and the opportunity to be a part of their services (as well as this entire Road Scholar program!); it  gave me "MILES OF SMILES"!  Tricia