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Monday, November 16

Roadschool Trip to the North Carolina Piedmont

The piedmont, or foothills, region of North Carolina falls between the mountains and the central plains.  It's where I grew up, so I enjoy taking the kids to visit the old haunts when we're home...  Here are a few of our favorites, including Spencer Trains, Old Salem, and Duke Chapel (arguably not actually in the foothills)....just don't forget the Cheerwine & barbecue!! 

The North Carolina Transportation Museum (known to us only as 'Spencer') hosts the remaining structures of the historic Spencer Shops, once Southern Railroad's largest steam locomotive repair facility on the east coast.  Buildings include the Back Shop, the Master Mechanic's Office, the Flue Shop and the 37-stall Bob Julian Roundhouse.  The museum is a source of education and fun for the young and old.

We checked in at the train station, purchasing tickets for a train ride, and then perusing the gift shop.  One of the most fascinating finds was this old trainspotter's guide.  We studied up in preparation for the big tour!

We used our ASTC passport to get free tickets for the train ride!  (I cannot tell you how much we save each year with this membership.  If you travel, you should have one.)  This railroad car was remodeled in the late 1940s, and boasted all of the luxury from the golden age of railroad travel!

I love this picture.  Isn't it funny when you get a momentary glimpse of the future?  Like us, our son has inherited the wanderlust.  I can easily see him boarding the Eurorail someday and touring the countryside by himself.  When I asked what he was thinking, he said he was trying to figure out how they had connected one of the tracks out there...
The Roundhouse Tour is a special treat at the end of your train ride. Lots of history in the photos, printed stories, and activities that they guide you through! There are also hands-on exhibits.  At the 'model' center, you can see a layout of the original train station. 
We started the afternoon with Bojangles, that southern fast food staple, and ended it with Monk's (that's Lexington BBQ...only the best barbecue on earth). We're having a gastronomic adventure through the foothills of North Carolina, and it's fantastic!

An hour or so up the road is the village of Old Salem.  Old Salem has wonderful actors who dress up in 18th century costume and demonstrate daily living and worship in the original community.  When visiting, you get to experience life over two hundred years ago through hands-on activities.  We are all about hands-on learning!
In the kitchen, and out in the garden, we learned about :
  • peeling, slicing, chopping vegetables and fruits / mincing herbs
  • cook pots boiling over an open hearth
  • preserving food (sauerkraut, dried apples)
  • making baskets & candles
  • sewing cloth
  • planting seed, harvesting & seed saving
  • composting, mulching, & preparing seed beds
  • using cold frames, hot beds, bell jars
  • pruning fruit trees
In the barn, and out on the field, we learned about :
  • gunsmithing
  • tool repair & sharpening
  • gathering fire wood
  • building fire & baking bread in the bake oven
  • making soap over an open fire
We happened to be visiting during Homeschool Days: 250 Years of History.  The kids got to learn how the Moravians built the town in the back country of North Carolina, starting in 1766.  Some of the activities included :
  • How oats/wheat are threshed
  • Harvesting herbs for home use
  • Write with a quill pen
  • Try 18th century chocolate
  • Learn how dyes were made out of natural ingredients
The boys got to try their hand at making shoes and an ax in the Single Brothers House.  They learned how to tell time and how to use single, double, and triple pulleys.  They learned how to measure ingredients with a scale, for baking.They also learned how to make candles, how to make ink, and how to make lye soap!

Occasionally, we get great ideas from the places that we visit.  It's wonderful to see and touch things that we've studied...and this underground root cellar / cold storage room was no exception.  We were inspired, and hope to do more research on this!

Located in the heart of North Carolina, Duke Chapel in Durham is an example of neo-Gothic architecture, which has stone piers, pointed arches, and vaults to create large, open spaces.  Combined, these elements create immense areas that are a bit imposing upon first seeing them.  We've studied various types of architecture on other field trips, but this was our first stab at Gothic.  

With its spires and enormous, arched doorways and windows, the chapel - as well as the rest of West Campus' architecture - is a neo-Gothic architectural beauty.  All of the stone for construction came from a quarry in nearby Hillsborough.
Both inside and outside, the use of consecutive arches frames the hallways, looking somewhat like tesselations.  Even the use of light (such as in these stained-glass windows) and shadow add to the beauty and mystery of Duke Chapel!

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