Hot and muggy weather? Yes. Southern India? No. The beginning of August finds me, rather unexpectedly, still in Virginia. Two rejections later, my visa debacle continues (this story is forthcoming, once I know what the ending is). As PiA and I continue to try to negotiate my way to Asia, I am trying to keep myself entertained during this unexpectedly long summer. The result of all this free time? Some weekend trips and much exploration of central Virginia’s curiosities—from natural beauty to pure, man-made kitsch.
I’ve been revisiting favorite places in the Charlottesville area like Carter’s Mountain Orchard, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Bodo’s Bagels, and the hike at Humpback Rocks. Add to that some new discoveries, like the Batesville Store, Blue Mountain Brewery, and the Secluded Farm walk at the Monticello trails, and that’s how I’ve been spending my days. Perhaps it’s fitting that I reacquaint myself with the place I call home before traveling so far away. Of course, Charlottesville can feel a little stifling after awhile, which demands a trip out of town.
In nearby Grottoes, VA, I visited Grand Caverns, one of the first caves in the area to be discovered, in 1804. Perhaps equally interesting as the ancient beauty inside the caves (the formations only grow one square inch per century) are the traces of over 200 years of tours, including torch marks and 19th century signatures carved into the rock.
Natural Bridge, another day trip that I had never made, was both stunning, and over-the-top cheesy. The bridge itself is photo-perfect, impressive in its sheer size and unusualness. But this isn’t the only thing to be seen. The natural wonder has been fenced in and surrounded by a village of old-time roadside attractions. Next door: The Wax Museum, with wax figures posed in dramatic recreations of Virginia history, Natural Bridge lore, and selected bits of the Bible. Downstairs, hundreds of molds of wax faces and bodies, and a peek into the workshop, where someone was actually working on a new wax figure (who knew there was such a demand?). Nearby in the town is an even more outlandish 3-in-one attraction, which I am beginning to regret not visiting. It included a dinosaur park (the invented backstory had something to do with Union troops using dinosaurs as weapons of mass destruction) and the chance to “Hunt Bigfoot with a Redneck.” Luckily, on the way back I stumbled upon another ridiculous creation: Foamhenge. Just what it sounds, this is one man’s full-scale recreation of Stonehenge out of Styrofoam. Though it’s now looking a little worse for the wear, it still impresses out of sheer randomness.
Despite the intrigue of these day trips I’ve been happy to get further out of town a few times. A repeat visit to DC for July 4th was a happy whirlwind of friends and fireworks. Also a surprise trip to New York City included a mini-Princeton reunion, a visit to Greenwich, CT, an afternoon in MoMA, and delicious meals at Rare and San Rocco. I’ve stopped trying to predict when I’ll be heading off for good, so my next post might be about the Mumbai airport…or about what those dinosaurs were really up to during the Civil War.