Saturday, July 27, 2013

Day 8: Victory at Yorktown

Since the national park portion of Jamestown was a bit of a bust, I decided that we should do the NP first in Yorktown, before we headed to what I suspected was the glitzier younger sister known as the Yorktown Victory Center. This also fit in with the activities taking place at the Victory Center, which had a special lineup in honor of it still being part of the 4th of July weekend, when most of the Team Danger-interested activities would occur later in the day.

I also decided we needed to do the Junior Ranger program at Yorktown. We didn't do it at Jamestown, and perhaps if we had, we might have found it more interesting. So we checked in at the national park's visitor center, got our passports stamped, and found out you have to buy the junior ranger booklets here. For a whopping 98 cents. But, you get a souvenir pencil to fill it out with, AND instead of the plastique pins, you get a real patch. Money well spent!

We watched the movie in the Visitor's Center. It looked as if they filmed it back in the 1950s, but it did a good job of telling the story of the battle. Frankly, I had forgotten just about everything I ever knew about Yorktown (other than it was where the British and Gen. Cornwallis surrendered to Washington), and it goes without saying that the boys needed a brief history lesson. The French  - and their navy - played a large part in America's win here, and that I had definitely forgotten. Wikipedia has a good description of the battle, if you want more information.

Right after the film ended, there was a special artillery demonstration starting. The ranger who sold me our booklets had told me they might use the boys to help with the demonstration, so I pushed the boys towards the front of the big crowd. And guess what? It worked again! They were both picked! Seriously, I have no idea why they get so lucky all the time, but both boys are always getting picked out of the audience.

The artillery demonstration was very fun to watch. There were six children picked, and each one of them had a special job to do.

I wish I could remember what my children's official titles were.

But Ryan's job was to stand in the back and run really really fast when they needed their ammunition for the cannons, and then to run back after he handed it off.

Alex's job was to stuff the fuse into the cannon.

The ranger explained everything, and then the kids did a test run.

It took them 1:45 minutes to "shoot" off a cannon.

During the revolutionary war, the armies would shoot off three cannons per minute.

Our new recruits tried in two more times, trying to lower their score.

And guess what? They got their time down to 41 seconds. Not bad!

Ryan really loved his job - just look at how happy his face is when he was running! I love that he is so expressive with his excitement.

Quick, run back, Ryan!

When the kids were done, we looked at the cannons some more.

And then we headed back into the visitor's center to go through the museum. It was small, but very interactive for children, including a mock "ship" indoors for them to run around on. The navy was very important in Yorktown, in case you are wondering why the ship was featured so prominently.

Then we started our own driving tour of Yorktown's battlefields, making sure to visit the places we needed for the boys' junior ranger program.

First up, Redoubt 10, where the American army defeated the British. A lot of this redoubt has been lost to erosion. :( This is all that is still there.

Compare that to Redoubt 9, where the French troops defeated the British.

Which was so big, you can climb all over it, much to Team Danger's delight.

A few more stops later, and our Junior Ranger program was complete! I really liked Yorktown's program. In addition to giving you a real patch, they also maintain a list of all the junior rangers and have the kids sign their log. The boys were VERY touched to do this, and can't wait to go back some day and show their own kids when they were junior rangers at Yorktown. Thanks again, National Park Service, for developing such a great program. This is SUCH a brilliant idea.

Next, we headed to the Yorktown Victory Center. It has two main areas, the Yorktown village/living area, and the soldier's quarters. Any guess which spot Team Danger focused its time on?

That's right, no farming demonstrations for these boys. Artillery demonstrations all the way.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the boys' favorite thing to do was to put on the revolutionary coats and hats.

It was a little big for Ryan, but he made do.

Check out all his modeling poses for me, which he himself came up with.

Big brother, of course, came to see what was taking little brother so long.

And then it was his turn to dress up, albeit a bit more seriously than goofy Ryan.

But their absolute favorite thing to do was to play around in George Washington's "tent." (again, these are all recreated spots, hence my use of quotes)

Because if there is one thing Team Danger loves even more than a costume, its a good prop.

And this tent was all about the props.

Such good soldiers.

We watched another movie about the battle of Yorktown here, and I recall liking this one a lot more. It struck me as something made for a PBS kids show, or that you would watch in school on "movie" days. But it told a good story, and it captured the kids attention way better than the NPS' film did. They also had a good museum at this spot, but you hit the museum towards the end of your visit, rather than at the beginning, so we didn't visit this long.

Most importantly for Team Danger, they had a gift shop here which featured a long musket that was just the right size to fit into my 26 inch suitcase (Alex not being able to get a long toy gun had long been a sore subject on this trip, since we were first at Gettysburg... by this stage of the trip, we had looked up the airline's rules and downloaded a ruler app to see what could fit in the biggest suitcase we had.) Which is how I ended up with one extremely happy little boy at dinner that night, where his new 26 inch musket accompanied us.

We ate dinner back in Colonial Williamsburg at the DoG Street Pub (named as such because its located on the Duke of Gloucester Street). We all enjoyed our dinners, and Carl enjoyed his flight of beers.

I especially enjoyed my evening, because after dinner, Carl took the boys back to swim, and I stayed for shopping! On my own! With no husband or children! In shops where things can break, and I didn't have to worry! And when I was done, I hopped the shuttle back to the hotel.

Definitely the best night of the trip. :)

Up Next: On a Revolutionary Quest, in  the Revolutionary City

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