Three people who grew up together 50 years ago went on a history binge through Virginia, stopping to sail on the York River one beautiful fall afternoon.
“We’ve known each other since high school in Louisville,” said Russell Wolf. “Brenda and I are still there, but Rebecca lives in Chicago,” We didn’t get much into their work or retirement as the wind picked up and they rotated on the helm.
The previous day they toured Mt. Vernon. “We got to see the first and second floors,” said Brenda Cease, “but they wouldn’t let us go into the rooms. Just observe.” Russ added, “His gravestone says ‘General Washington,’ with nothing about his being the first President. He was more concerned about his legacy as commander.”
Russ used to teach auto mechanics and still has a 1957 Thunderbird. I told him about a friend whose early Corvette vexes him with problems. “The ’56 Corvette was nothing more than a ’56 Chevy with a different body. It wasn’t any faster than the Chevy. They were phasing out the Corvette back in the ‘50s. If Ford stopped making the Thunderbird, that would have been it for the Corvette. Ford made 27,000 units in 1956 compared to 11,000 Corvettes. Today it survives as one of the fastest cars on earth, and it’s affordable. A Corvette costs around $130,000 vs. a Maserati for $230,000.
“The Thunderbird was notable for doing zero to 60 in 11 seconds. Today a Honda Odyssey station wagon can do zero to 60 in 7 seconds. Today’s cars are much better built and much safer. They simply don’t break down like in the old days.”
They were enamored with the number and density of trees, made more magnificent along the river with the changing colors of the trees. They were cognizant of the coincidence that Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown are so proximate to each other though wide apart in history. Brenda pointed out a distinction about out West. “Wyoming is just too much drivin’ without much seein’. Here in the East you get much more bang for the buck.”
Rebecca and Brenda were dazzled by the majesty of the water in the afternoon sun. “It’s so pretty,” Brenda said of a sailboat a mile away. “And this boat is so beautiful. I don’t know why there aren’t more sailboats on the Ohio River.”
They asked about indigenous seafood and local restaurants. Brenda said, “Louisville has good seafood because it’s the hub for UPS, so fish comes in fresh every day.”
We sailed downriver on a brisk southwest wind and took an hour to tack back and forth to see where the transport ships sank in 1781. Russ asked if there was anyplace where I went that I couldn’t get back. “Yes, Vietnam.” He laughed, “Me too.”
We sailed within easy view of two Navy destroyers docked at the Naval Weapons Station. Russ recalled, “My aunt used to be a seamstress. She sewed ammunition bags at the Charlestown Powder Plant in Indiana during World War II and through Vietnam. It was still there 25 years ago, but now it’s gone.”
He said, “I fully retired a year ago and now young people ask me what I did today. I tell them ‘Nuthin’. What am I going to do tomorrow? Nuthin’ because I still didn’t finish what I was doing yesterday.”
The trio was next off to Monticello to see Jefferson’s home. “We were in Washington,” Brenda said, “but the President didn’t see us. He was out of the country.” As we headed back to port, she wanted to pull on some lines so she could say she did it. Rebecca remained on the bow, pensive. Brenda pulled the furling line first and then the mainsheet furling line, “Arrrrgh!”
Let’s go sail
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