Virginia’s Forgotten Memorial

I’ve been thinking about how to usher in Memorial Day weekend this year.  For a lot of Americans, this is the first official weekend of summer, a three-day breather with cookouts, picnics, beer, and beaches.  But for many, many more, this weekend is about honoring those who’ve lost their lives serving our country.  I think it’s important not to lose sight of the real reason Monday is a holiday, even while we enjoy the long weekend with our families and friends (or, if you’re like me, the blissful, oft-elusive heaven that is bed).

Bedford is a small community in rural Virginia.  It’s surrounded by mountains.  It’s a nice town, idyllic even, as small towns in Virginia go.  A lot of people probably pass right by it, seeking the larger destinations of Roanoke and Lynchburg.  But they shouldn’t, because they’re missing one of the best monuments to courage and sacrifice that this country has to offer, and it’s right here in Virginia.  So, I’ll take a moment, before I explain why in detail, to say that every Virginian (or, you know, every American) should visit the National D-Day Memorial.

wall perspective

When I talk about the D-Day Memorial, the first question people usually ask is why a memorial for such a tremendous, painful, do-or-die undertaking would be located in a small town like Bedford.  Here’s why – Bedford lost more of its boys, per capita, than any other community in America on D-Day, and the survivors took pride in making sure this monument stands in honor of their fallen brothers, and in honor of all the men who died that day.  Nineteen men from Bedford – nineteen – lost within the first day of the invasion, and four more in the next several days of the campaign.


You can read about them here:  Why Bedford?.  Or, if you’d like a little more detail, you can purchase the book The Bedford Boys by Alex Kershaw.  I would encourage you to do so.

The memorial project was founded by Robert (“Bob”) Slaughter, a D-Day veteran and Bedford Boy himself.  It now stands on 88 acres overlooking the mountains.  It walks visitors through the D-Day invasion from its start, strategized and spear-headed by Eisenhower, to the Normandy landing, complete with simulated gunfire, to its finish, a grand display of the flags of all participating nations capped by a victory arch and watched over by the Lady of Trévières, a replica of a French World War I monument aux morts damaged by shrapnel.  Like her sister statue, Lady Liberty, she guards and protects, but she also mourns so great a sacrifice.


That’s the balance the National D-Day Memorial strikes, and strikes perfectly.  It celebrates a great victory, but also remembers the great cost.  It honors the dead, but it doesn’t glorify their loss.

That’s what Memorial Day is all about, isn’t it?  Some soldiers never come home.  They’ll never drink a beer on the beach, or eat a hot dog at a family barbecue.  The least we can do for them, especially on a holiday designed specifically for the purpose and regardless of our politics and other nonsense, is to celebrate their lives and honor their sacrifices.


**A couple of notes on this post:

  • If you’d like to learn more about the National D-Day Memorial, and/or (and?!) plan your visit, the website can be found here:
  • All of the photos in this post are courtesy of Dr. Thomas Carter, who kindly allowed me to use them in order to write something I don’t know if I would actually want him to grade…

National Wine Day!

It’s National Wine Day!  First of all, I didn’t know such a holiday existed.  Second, I’m not generally a fan of novelty holidays (though I have been known to carry a towel on May 25th, because it’s also Towel Day, and Douglas Adams is one of my favorite writers).  This one, though, I feel pretty good about celebrating.  Because I like wine.

It’s also only the second day in several that the sun is actually visible, it’s warm outside, and there’s not been a drop of rain.  So, out with the red wine, and in with something chilled!  I do love red wine, but now that it’s warm again, I’m ready for a change.

I’ve already featured The Vineyards and Winery at Lost Creek (here’s the post: Lost Creek Wine Selection).  We’re members at Lost Creek, so we’re there at least every other month to pick up our member wines.  Because it’s sunny and pretty and National Wine Day, I wanted to open a bottle I knew we’d enjoy tonight, so we selected Lost Creek’s 2014 Reserve Chardonnay.


I’ll write more about white wine in the future, I’m sure, since summer is on its way, but for now, I’ll just proclaim, loud and proud, that I love Chardonnay.  I love Chardonnay like I love Red Velvet Cake.  I could eat a whole cake…I could drink a whole bottle (but I won’t…).  I’m pretty sure both are a lifelong love affair.

There are those who don’t enjoy a big, heavily-oaked Chardonnay.  To be fair, it is a robust, flavorful, heavier white wine.  Well, this particular Chardonnay is a big, heavily-oaked Chardonnay.  It’s got a nose of oak, butter, and honey, and a hint of burned toast (I promise this is a good thing).  It tastes of oak and butter, as well, but it’s not gimmicky.  It’s just real and unpretentious – a traditional Chardonnay that will absolutely appeal to those who, like me, believe that Chardonnay should be aged in oak, just like rain is wet and sugar is sweet and cake is good.

Now that I’ve spent a long time going on about wine on National Wine Day, I feel, as a writer and a reader, I ought to give a moment to Douglas Adams for Towel Day.  What kind of writer/reader would I be otherwise?  So here you go, a little something courtesy of the great Mr. Adams to get you thinking while you’re drinking this evening:

“Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.”

This One Time, We Tried to Go Hiking…

So, this happened on Sunday:


You know that feeling, when you go on a hike and you get to the top and you look out at an amazing view and realize your place in the universe?  Yeah, we didn’t quite get there.

We’re heading to Alaska in June, and we’ll be hiking a lot.  Graham has always really loved to hike, and I was an avid hiker in college, so when our friends let us know they were planning a hike on Sunday and asked if we’d like to join, we agreed without any hesitation.  We decided to head to Keys Gap on the Appalachian Trail, and had a good laugh at the possibility of hiking seven miles in the torrential rain.

Sunday dawned, gray and wet and windy.  It rained.  A lot.  We trudged our way up the trail anyway.  About ten minutes in, Graham discovered that one of his hiking poles was jammed.  Not the best start, but he managed, and overall it was actually quite peaceful in the woods – there was mist, it was quiet, the trail was empty.  We walked and chatted and took some good pictures.  And then the sole of Graham’s left boot peeled off.  Really peeled off, like a banana.  I was concerned, since the trail was wet and slippery, but Graham’s a trooper, and he wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.

Not five minutes later, about a mile in, sopping wet and beginning to wonder if this was actually a good idea after all, the sole of Graham’s right boot peeled off.  And, that was that.  I pretty much insisted that we turn around.  There’s never a good reason to risk an injury three weeks before a big trip.  Or any time, really.

So, we didn’t make it to the top of the mountain, and Graham’s trail name is officially “Sole-less.”  I suggested “Inspector Broken Gadget,” but it’s a little too long, I think.  The good news: since we didn’t actually spend all day on the trail, we snagged some great barbecue for lunch and enjoyed an afternoon sipping wine and chatting with our friends at the Aldie Peddler (one of my favorite places on Earth).  So it wasn’t all bad.  Sometimes, really, it’s better when the adventure doesn’t go as planned.

Graham got new boots and poles yesterday, but I think we’ll always remember this beautiful moment:


A Cozy Wine for a (er, Another) Rainy Day

Guess what?  It’s still gloomy!  After a brief glimpse of the sun on Monday, we’ve returned to what people are beginning to call “Seattle weather.”  I’m going to Seattle in June, so I’ll be interested to make a real comparison.

Graham and I are getting pretty tired of constant clouds and rain, but we’re dealing as best we can.  By drinking alcohol.  We’re doing other things too, of course (cards, chess games which I hesitate to call games because Graham beats me in five minutes, cartoons, etc.), but sometimes all you can do is raise a glass and laugh at your new “indoor” complexion.  Yesterday, we made Dark and Stormies.  Tonight, we’re drinking wine.

Last night, I made what I call a lazy man’s gumbo – onions, garlic, green bell peppers, tomatoes, andouille sausage, and red beans.  And lots of cayenne pepper.  It’s a little (read: melt your face off) spicy, so we opened a bottle of Chambourcin tonight to accompany the leftovers.  For those unfamiliar with Chambourcin, it’s a French-American hybrid grape.  It produces a deep-colored wine that can be made either dry or sweet, and it grows really well in Northern Virginia.

We opened a 2013 bottle from Zephaniah Farm Vineyard, a small, family-owned operation not too far from our house.  It’s a beautiful place, the owners are friendly and talkative, and the tasting room is in an old house that is absolutely packed to the gills with antiques.  Ask about any item, and they can tell you its story.  And chances are good that it’ll be a pretty interesting story.


The last time we did a tasting at Zephaniah, we learned that their real goal is just to make tasty wine.  They want to produce wines that are drinkable and enjoyable, and if they also win medals, that’s cool too.  They’ve really succeeded with this Chambourcin.


The nose is heavy on the berries, with a hint of cherry, as well.  It’s a very fruit-forward wine, but the initial sweetness gives way to smoke and a really balanced minerality.  It’s not the most complex red wine – Chambourcin, in my experience, usually isn’t – but it’s good.  Because it’s a little bit sweet, it pairs well with spicy food, and I think it would also pair nicely with smoked meat or with barbecue.  It’s a great table wine…good for sharing with others at a fun party.

We’re not having a fun party tonight.  But maybe we will once the sun finally makes its long-awaited reappearance.

Drinking Wine on Cinco de Mayo

It’s Cinco de Mayo!  And here’s a secret – I don’t actually like going out to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.  I prefer my chips and salsa and margaritas without a side of holy crow why are there so many people here?!  So, unless my friends are heading out somewhere, I usually stay in and enjoy an adult beverage in the (relative) peace and quiet of my living room.

So, I delayed my weekly wine post by one day, because I knew I’d be having a glass tonight.  I know, I know.  It’s Cinco de Mayo and I should be drinking tequila, but I just don’t want to. And I believe there’s not really an occasion for which wine is not appropriate.  It is a holiday, though, and I wanted to open something special.  It’s also a little chilly outside, and has been for most of the week, so we went for a red tonight.

Here’s the bottle we opened:


Greenhill Winery and Vineyards is right on Highway 50, a straight twenty minute shot from our house on the way to Middleburg.  It’s a beautiful, convenient location, and this is one of the only wineries I’ve been to in Virginia that’s brave enough to make a sparkling white wine, and a Riesling, for that matter.  We decided on the 2010 Philosophy, a robust red blend, because Graham remembered really liking it when we tried it a while ago.  I wish I could remember the exact blend, but I think they changed it after 2010.  That’s why this bottle is special.

This wine is gorgeous.  It’s almost purple.  Blackberry, cloves, and cinnamon on the nose, with just a little bit of pepper.  It’s got a smooth, peppery finish, and hints of blackberries and holiday spices.  I tasted a little bit of fennel.  Graham tasted a little bit of vanilla.  Either way, it’s just a touch herb-y.  I would say that this is solidly a red-drinker’s wine.  It’s full-bodied, though not as much as some, and might be too much for someone just starting out with red wine.  But, try it anyway.  Because it’s good, and pretty to look at.

I know it might be a little odd to choose wine over tequila on Cinco de Mayo.  Feel free to judge.  I’ll just be here with my wine.  And the cheeseburger I plan to order for dinner.  In my pajamas and not out with the madding crowd.  So there.