The other running theme of our day was stray cats, several of whom tried to adopt us (and it's probably a good thing we weren't going home, or the first one would probably have succeeded). After saying farewell to that cat outside the motel, we went to Petersburg National Battlefield, which has a museum and several large earthworks preserved -- its most famous feature, the Crater, was created by a massive mine explosion that killed about 300 Confederate soldiers instantly. We also went to a reconstructed Union trench site with cabins and an underground magazine. Then we drove to Bentonville for lunch, site of a smaller Civil War battle, and into South Carolina where we stopped briefly at South of the Border, which remains as tacky, stereotypical, and goofy as ever.
Now we are in Charleston, where we arrived around dinnertime and ate during the late afternoon thunderstorm that broke the heat. Afterward, we walked from our hotel down to the waterfront, where the ships for Harborfest had arrived -- some were sailing under the bridge giving tours, like Pride of Baltimore, but most were docked, and we got to see both ships we'd visited before (the Schooner Virginia, the Mircea) and gorgeous big ships like the Dutch Europa, the Russian Kruzenshtern (which broke a mast sailing to Charleston), and the French schooners Etoile and Belle Poule. The sunset was glorious as we walked back past the customs house and old market; we had Ben & Jerry's after we passed the fiddler crab-filled marsh, listening to cicadas and watching the bats fly above the trees.
Earthworks at Petersburg National Battlefield recall the months-long siege of the city as well as the trench warfare tactics of World War I adapted from Civil War innovations.
This is the monument at the Crater, where hundreds of soldiers on both sides lost their lives -- the Confederates largely in the initial blast, the Union soldiers when confusion after the explosion allowed the South time to regroup.
The historic district of Petersburg, with stone streets and buildings that in some cases have been standing since the American Revolution, has antique shops and this pub that serves fried green tomatoes alongside shepherd's pie.
Here are my kids at that iconic monument to bad taste, South of the Border, which clearly wants to be Wall Drug but lacks the fabulous setting and historic character.
Tall ships like Europa, at left, have gathered in Charleston for Harborfest this weekend.
We got to watch a beautiful sunset. You can see some of the color behind the Etoile and Belle Poule.
Here is one of the little crabs that lives in the marshy area between the dockside warehouses and the water.
Mule-drawn carriages are a popular way to see the city. This one is stopped across the street from the old market.