March 31st readings
After this past evening’s class, the former Miss Wisconsin and I decided to get away for a few days, and, eschewing the Riviera this time around (evidently Brad and Angelina were going to be there, and we are so tired of running into media circuses whenever we try to get away), we settled on roaming around South Central Virginia.
The weather certainly cooperated; whereas it had been rather poopy and wet during the first part of the week, Thursday through Sunday was absolutely glorious. Sunshine during the day, clear skies at night, cool temps 24/7 gave us the perfect environment for an outdoor adventure.
We started off driving west on I-66, then veering left onto I-81, making our way southwest toward our first stop, Lexington, Virginia. Lexington is the home of Washington and Lee University, as well as the Virginia Military Institute. We visited the tomb of the Lee family and the grave of Stonewall Jackson, as well as the home of Jackson. Lexington is a quaint little college town, and the Washington and Lee campus is one of the prettiest I’ve seen.
Our next stop was further down I-81, something called the Natural Bridge. The Natural Bridge is a huge geological marvel, a hole through solid rock formed by millions of years of gradual wear by a little creek (evolutionist view) or by God’s will (Religious Right view) or by a misfired phaser from the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) during an alternate parallel universe time-travel incident (how it really happened). Thomas Jefferson was so enamored of the formation that he bought it off of the British Lord who owned the land for twenty shillings, which very official looking plaques in different places told us was the equivalent of either $2.40 or $5.00 (maybe one plaque was from the Congressional Budget Office and the other was from the General Accounting Office).
Natural Bridge - cell phone photo
Anyway, putting aside all of the above-mentioned jots and tittles, the place was gorgeous. But please be prepared for a little sticker shock: for the privilege of walking down to see it, you get to pay the current owners $18 (considerably more than the $2.40 or $5.00 that Tommy J paid for it). Was it worth it? Well, since we had the money, I’ll go ahead and say yes. If we hadn’t, I’d probably say a picture would be just as good. But I’d also be lying- if you do get the chance, go see it.
USS Enterprise - culprit in the creation of Natural Bridge
And OH MY GOSH! I almost glossed over the most amazing thing we saw that afternoon, (besides the image below, which was located outside the entrance to the Natural Bridge, which can only be explained by the alternate parallel universe time-travel incident theory),
Proof of the alternate parallel universe time-travel incident
and that was FOAMHENGE, which is a local entrepreneur’s answer to Stonehenge. I kid you not, somebody actually arranged huge slabs of Styrofoam in an exact replica of Stonehenge, and you can see it right from the road. We were laughing too hard as we drove past to stop in time to get out and see it up close, or even take a picture from the car. The roads in this area get kinda hairpin curve-ish, and I didn’t want to take the chance of being run over by anyone.
After leaving the Natural Bridge, we drove on down to where we were staying in Appomattox, the Longacre Bed & Breakfast. This was a delightful place to stay. It’s actually a large Tudor home in which the family lives in the back and the whole rest of the house is yours to play in. The family and the home reminded me of my childhood; the house was very similar to my best friend’s house and the woman running the place was the spitting image of my best friend’s sister. If you stay here, be prepared to be treated like family (and fed like family- you will not leave the table hungry). If you don’t appreciate family hospitality, stay in a hotel.
The next day, we drove three miles to Appomattox Court House and visited the McLean House, the site of Grant’s surrender to -…no wait, I think it was Lee’s surrender to Grant…anyway, Appomattox Court House was the name of the community; if we were talking about a building, we would spell it courthouse. Use that little fact to amuse your friends (or drive them away). You know, now that I think about it, I’m almost positive that it was Lee who surrendered.
From Appomattox Court House we drove over to the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. I really don’t know what to say about this memorial. They do an odd thing with the commemorative plaques- there can be a plaque honoring General Omar Bradley, but then, at the bottom of the plaque, in the same sized font or larger, you have the name of the person who paid for the plaque. It seems odd (to me) to permanently connect the name of a rich stranger to an historical figure. Would they remove the plaque or sand off the name of the donor if it was discovered the donor was a [insert whatever is icky to you here]? Most other memorials have a separate wall somewhere listing the donors that made the memorial possible. I dunno; like I said before, it just struck me as odd, and as a result, detracted from the memorial.
From Bedford, we drove about twenty minutes to experience the Peaks of Otter Winery. Now this little gem is run by a couple of (alleged) former moonshiners who decided that, since everyone else in Virginia is making wine out of grapes, they would make wine out of everything else. There is wine made from apples, peaches, pears, tomatoes (actually quite good), blueberries, raspberries, acai and pomegranate, and some kind of chili peppers (you get a little sticker that says ‘I kissed the devil’ if you taste it; we each got a sticker). There are almost twenty wines to taste, and, if you have your own glass, it’s free.
So we bought a few bottles of their product, and then started our way back home. Along the way we drove through Farmville, which is the home of Longwood University. I had always wanted to visit Farmville (just because of the name), so we took this opportunity to do so. It was a nice little town, with great places to eat. If it had Verizon FiOS, it would be a perfect little place to visit for a short period of time.
We then drove back westward to drive up through Charlottesville and back up 29 to come back home. Although we were closer to I-95 and could have driven back home that way, we chose not to; one thing I have learned living in Virginia all these years is that you never get on I-95 on a Saturday, unless it is at 4 am.
We got back before dark, listened to all of the animals scold us for being gone so long (don’t worry, we didn’t abandon them- daughter #3, the med student, was home looking after them), then showered, popped open a bottle of pinot, and enjoyed a frozen pizza while watching Will & Grace. All in all, a delightful little journey.
I do hope each of you, in your own way, was able to enjoy the outdoors this past week.