Monday, July 29, 2013

Day 9: On a Revolutionary Quest, in the Revolutionary City

For our second day in Colonial Williamsburg, we had two goals to accomplish.

First and last up, the Revolutionary City feature of Colonial Williamsburg.

Basically, throughout the day, you have the opportunity to witness and participate in all the main steps of the American Revolution, and I wanted to do as many as possible, keeping with my educational vacation plans. You start with storming the Governor's Palace at 10am.

The basic story is that, in the time leading up to war, British soliders came into Williamsburg in the middle of the night and removed all the gunpowder from the Magazine. Town leaders decided to march to the Governor's Palace and demand its return.

A large crowd (or an unruly mob, as David Dewhurst might call them) assembles, and before you know it, the soldiers arrive to 'keep the peace.'

The boys decided the sit up front for the best view, but in my opinion, they missed out on the most fun aspect of the event...

Because probably about half of this crowd were the Colonial Williamsburg people in costume, intermingling with us tourists.

Its a LOT of fun, because they interact with you as if you were one of them, talking quietly to you as they stand next to you in the crowd, whispering what nonsense this is, or Yes! By George, he's got this figured out! And as the crowd became more demonstrative, we all stormed the palace together. LOVED this!

More events occurred throughout the day. We would miss some, based on our other big event for the day (details to follow below). The Declaration of Independence was read at the Capitol steps, for instance, while we were eating lunch. But we did make it for The War Comes Home: the British Invade to Virginia, which took place in 1779.

We were hoping to see a bit of a battle here, but instead, its just the townspeople assembling and discussing the fact that the war is now at their doorsteps, and worrying about whether Williamsburg will be next. (In other words, this was a bit of a let down for Team Danger - not a musket was in sight)

The next listed event was The Town is Taken, for 3pm. After a brief inquiry to ensure that some soldiers carrying muskets would at least be present, we settled in an hour later to watch British General Benedict Arnold arrive in Williamsburg, seize it from the colonists, and raise the British flag back over the Capitol. Here he is announcing the rules for his occupation of Williamsburg.

The final event for the day, On to Yorktown and Victory, would likely have been interesting as well. But since this was set for 5pm, and Team Danger was clearly done at 3pm, we headed back to the hotel for swimming instead. We really enjoyed these little bits throughout the day, though. Each event only takes about fifteen minutes, and by staggering them, they help give kids a chance to enjoy them more, and get a real taste for the American Revolution. Had I been able to plan my exact Williamsburg days a bit better (grrrrrr, still annoyed), I would have liked to have done this day before our Yorktown day - it just makes more historical sense, that way.

Backing up a bit, the Revolutionary City events were just one part of our day. The biggest event of our day in Williamsburg was RevQuest: The Black Chambers.

What is RevQuest? Well, its an interactive treasure hunt, of sorts. When we checked into Williamsburg, the boys were handed these two RevQuest scarves. You have to wear them while on your revolutionary quest, so that you can be identified as friends of the revolutionaries. You then text a code to the "Screenmaster" who send you your very first clue - and you have to make contact with the Sentinel for further instruction.

Alas, the Sentinel only appears every thirty minutes, and he's pretty prompt.

We missed him by minutes the first time, and it was a long wait for his next appearance. Which gave us time to explore the Governor's Palace a bit more.

Finally, he came out to make contact. Alexander correctly remember the secret code question to ask him, How do America's friends pay their way?

And we were in, and ready to await further instruction.

The Sentinel then comes in to explain to us that we need to find the secret location where are troops are hiding (or something like that... it might have been treasure or ammunition or... I forget, just some sort of important secret that they called "The Threat to America").

The Sentinel sends us on our first mission - back to the stables at the Governor's Palace, where with some sleuthing, we find this map, freshly captured from our enemies, and containing the location to the Threat to America.

Our first mission: to find this snake flag, and solve a clue.

Our three clues we have to solve are on this mission.

Our "friend" gives us a cipher wheel to help solve the mystery.

And with some help from Danger Daddy.

We have the word: Chickahominy.

We text our answer to the Screenmaster, and he texts us back: Admirable work! Now we know that the Threat to America is somewhere the Chickahominy River. Circle the letter D on your captured map.
Pleased with our success, we take a minute to visit the Gunsmith and Foundry, which is where our mission took us.

We had missed the gun-maker the first day, and it kind of goes without saying that the gunsmith was a must-see for Team Danger.

Our next mission involved more of a walk through Colonial Williamsburg. We stopped off at the open-air market.

I resisted buying one of these hats for myself (because really, where and when would I ever wear it after today??). But ohhhh, how I wanted one.

These women just cracked me up, playing a colonial lawn game, as if they were really were back in time three hundred years ago.

And who doesn't want to put their children in the stocks? hahahahaha!

Even when they are as cute as this little one. ;)

I just loved walking all around Williamsburg.

The British flag flying outside a restaurant or building meant that it was open for business. Any place that flies the Union Jack is pretty good in my book.

But we needed to get back to our RevQuest. If you get stumped (like we were), you can look for those who are Friends of America and ask for help. You can identify them by their secret-membership ribbon that is black and white. This one helped get us to the print shop for our next clue.

We were told to look for a letter C on the shopfront, and sure enough, there was a colonial letter C in the corner. (side story: we had studied the Colonial (or Hotch Potch) alphabet over dinner the other night - basically, they left out some letters and only used the ones that your body could form in a shape - this amused us, and we searched a lot to see what was missing. When we first heard the clue for the letter C, Alex immediately decided it would be a Colonial C. And he was right! Some days, I just burst with pride at my little genius. I'm sure all other moms out there can relate.)

And here's an image I snaffled of what we called the Colonial Alphabet.

Once we found the C, we found this woman handing out our next code to decipher.

Basically, it was a printed book, and we had to look up the page number, line number and word number.

My legal briefing skills came in handy here, because I took one look at our mission of 101.19.4 and instantly realized what we were doing.

A quick text to The Screenmaster with our new word, and we wer off to our final location, the Army Encampment.

We had spent so much time here a few days back, this one took us no time at all to solve. We just had to count the number of certain shirts hanging to dry, and we were done.

With our three solved clues, we then were told by the Screenmaster that we needed to find his Crossbones Club mark by a gate in the brickyard path near a wheel on the map, but that the friend only appeared every thirty minutes. Greeeeaaaattttt ... more time to kill. We (read, the parents) are so ready for this RevQuest to be done, and having to wait another twenty minutes just about killed me. Finally, we meet our friend.

Only to discover that the Screenmaster has been compromised, and was really working for the British the whole time!

All of our hard work, and its now in the hands of America's enemy.

As our friend put it, we've certainly made a mess of things. Our only way for redemption is to find out the Screenmater's true identity, out him, and keep him from doing any more harm to America's friends.

Needless to say, you could hear just about every parent groan at this part, when we find out that there are three MORE clues to solve. We decide to decamp to a restaurant for lunch, and mull over the rest of the afternoon.

Fortunately, the next two riddles are easy to solve. One we are even able to guess on our own based on our knowledge of Ben Franklin, American history, and the turkey that never did become the national bird. The last clue for us to find was farily difficult, and a hike away. Such a hike that Carl parked himself on a bench while we foraged on to beyond the Capitol, to the Presbyterian Meetinghouse. This clue was tricky, but with about four families working together, we finally solved it.

Only to realize that we only had two minutes to make the next briefing with our friend to tell him the name of the spy, or else wait another ninety minutes. Team Danger was SO done with Williamsburg at this point, so we ran... and ran... like I haven't run since my flight to Switzerland was being held for me at DFW.  And we made it! The boys were given souvenir RevQuest coins for their efforts, and they were also excited to find out that... there was still more work to be done. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??!! Even better, the more work to be done was to go to the complete opposite end of Williamsburg, to visit the hospital, and see where our spy,  a printer named Hunter, was held as an insane person back in 1781. Sooooo not happening.

We had a few things still to do in Williamsburg, though, before calling it a day - like visiting the blacksmith.

And as an added bonus, we ran into Benedict Arnold himself on the way out.

Goodbye, Williamsburg. We enjoyed our times in Colonial America. There was a lot we didn't get to do on this trip, but I'm fairly satisfied with what we did get accomplished. And its nice to know there is more awaiting us in the future. (not to mention another RevQuest, since they change it up every year. oh, goodie)

But we're pretty happy to be returning to our hotel pool, and then dinner with Despicable Me 2. :)

Up Next: Mount Vernon (which was definitely not designed by Frank Lloyd Wright)

Day 1: Blackbirds, Canals and Poison Ivy
Day 2: Antietam and Monocacy National Battlefields
Day 3: Gettysburg's 150th Anniversary
Day 4: Harpers Ferry National Park (and yes, that name is grammatically correct)
Day 4, Part 2: Shenandoah National Park
Day 5: Monticello
Day 6: A Colonial Williamsburg 4th of July
Day 6, Part 2: Fireworks, Let Me See Your Colors Burst
Day 7: Jamestown, a Big Boat Scavenger Hunt, and a Virginia Beach
Day 8: Victory at Yorktown
Day 9: On a Revolutionary Quest, in the Revolutionary City

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