13 June 2008

Old Stony Men

We’ve started off on the right foot – we were up by 7:15 and on the road to Lexington, VA, by 8:15. Our stay at the Natural Bridge Hotel was adequate, but it was not without a couple of unpleasant surprises. Let’s just leave it that our first assigned room had clearly already been assigned, and in our second room, we were glad that we observed our Road Rule about checking the tub (shower stall in this case) before getting naked. On the bright side, we had a huge, lovely balcony (our reward for the first room fiasco) and an eventual internet connection (after making friends with the maintenance man, while in our PJ’s, and one trip back to the front desk for the ONLY Ethernet cable…) And we had a TV that worked (unless you turned the light switch off) and beds with clean sheets and an AC that worked most of the night. And we got to take a trip down Memory Lane back to junior high gym class when we used the towels after our showers!

So, we were not sad as we made our way up the road to visit my two honorary fraternity (Phi Mu is officially a fraternity) brothers, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. But first, we were in search of a good breakfast (don’t go too far without one!). As we wandered the streets, we didn’t find a breakfast place right away, but we did see this great sign. And then we hit paydirt when we found Sweet Treats, where Kim had scrambled eggs and bacon (I know, it’s a total shocker) and I had (now this is a shocker) a veggie egg white omelet. Both were served with great potato hunks and homemade bread. Yum. And they had freshly brewed iced tea. Our day was looking up!

Little Lexington is home to two institutions of higher learning, which happen to be adjacent to each other. Washington and Lee is where Robert E. Lee and his whole family are interred, and Stonewall Jackson is buried (well, except for his left arm) at VMI (Virginia Military Institute). The schools could not be more different – W&L survived the War of Northern Aggression almost unscathed, so the main buildings are those that were there in George Washington’s time. Lee Chapel, where the Lees (and R. E.’s horse, Traveller) are buried, was built immediately after the Civil War. We were even allowed to take one picture (we got two, since we each had a camera) of the general’s statue, though photos were not allowed in the Chapel. We were on our best behavior.. And we were Southerners.

VMI looks like a tremendous spartan citadel with a huge parade ground (no trees) out front. Jackson is buried there, and his horse, Little Sorrel, is preserved (not stuffed – more on that later) in the museum in the basement of Jackson Chapel. We found Little Sorrel’s story to be of particular interest because of our beloved Peppy, who is made of plaster of Paris. Little Sorrel’s taxidermist used a brand new technique to preserve him – he removed his hide, made a plaster cast of his body, and covered the plaster cast with his hide. He’s been restored just once, and he looks great, don’t you think? We just don’t think Peppy would be quite the same with fur…

As we left Lexington for the Blue Ridge Parkway, we buzzed right past a funny silvery tin house, and then we noticed it had a spout. Oops, time for a U-turn! I wish I could say it was the first of the day, but alas, Jill (our disembodied Garmin voice) had led us astray more than once in Lexington, so we had already gotten in some good practice. After we took the picture, I realized that I had read about this coffee pot house (closed, no trespassing) and had even made note of it, but it still surprised us.

Back on the Parkway, we thoroughly enjoyed our scenic drive. The weather was gorgeous, blue skies and a temperature of about 73 degrees. We rolled down the windows and turned off the A/C, and we loved watching the computer tell us we were averaging over 41 miles per gallon. We stopped at a few overlooks and again enjoyed very little traffic. When we got near Waynesboro, we got off to take a little lunch detour to Wright’s Dairyette Drive In in Staunton. Of course, even though interstate 64 was right there, we opted for highway 250, but Jill (Garmin) did not agree with us. Too bad, it was her problem and she spent the whole trip ‘recalculating’. Maybe it’s my imagination, but I swear that by the 20th time she said, “recalculating” it was sounding pretty nasty and sarcastic. We just laughed. But she may have had the last laugh, since the only reason we let her keep talking was we thought she would be helpful when we actually got to Staunton. But no, she directed us to Car Dealer Row and we had to call the drive in for directions. Which they were unable to adequately give us, other than to tell us we were on the right road and “we would just see them – can’t miss it.” Thankfully, we persevered and were rewarded. I had a Superburger (a Wright’s original and specialty of the house since 1952), Kim had a corn dog, and we split some homemade onion rings. We even got to call in our order (dial 71) on the phone at our table! How cool is that? We were strong, though, and did not have milk shakes. But we wanted them…. Peppy was in plaster animal heaven though, as he got a new car!!

Just across the street from the drive in was an enormous old facility – lots of big brick colonnaded buildings and lovely grounds that looked like what I imagine old-timey sanitariums (or sanitaria) were like. We could not tell what it was, so we went exploring. Whatever it is, it’s being turned into condos. We listened to the radio real estate info and all we found out was that it was called “the Bindery” (couldn’t decide if that was as in book binding or strait jacket binding) and you can get more info about it at
http://www.thevillagesofstaunton.com/ – we would if we had internet right this minute… Anyway, we figured out how to get back (with no help from the stubborn Jill) when we saw a giant watering can in the middle of the road. Again, I belatedly remembered I knew about it, too, and the two flower pots on the other side of the bridge. So, we turned around again and got this shot. Did I remember to mention that Staunton was home to Woodrow Wilson? Just thought you’d want to know. What we really liked about Staunton was their gas prices - $3.88, so we filled up on the way back to the Parkway.
Once back to the Parkway, it quickly became Skyline Drive and we entered Shenandoah National Park. For some reason, there was a long and slow-moving line at the ranger station, so even though we had our NP pass, we just sat and waited, too. Skyline Drive is beautiful, too, and before we knew it, we were pulling into Skyland Resort, our lodging for the night. We almost missed it, but we hung a quick left just in time! We checked into our room, and this time, instead of lugging our bags to a room that may not be ready for us, we went to check it out. It was perfect! If only we could get in the door efficiently… You know how Abe Lincoln’s log cabin had a drawstring latch or something? Well, this door has some strange latch. We had a hard enough time getting in, but getting out is a whole ‘nother story. There is no handle!! We had to practice before we went back for our bags! It takes both of us, but with a little teamwork we can get in and out of our room… We had a fantastic view of the Shenandoah valley and the town of Luray below us. Because of the late afternoon sun, I didn’t take a picture of our view, but it was beautiful. Since the day was so nice, and since we had arrived at our destination at about 5:15, we decided to go for a hike. We hiked the Big Stony Man trail, which took us on the Appalachian Trail for a piece (in fact, we were at the highest point on the AT in the Shenandoahs) and then we hiked up to the second highest peak in Shenandoah NP. The view was spectacular, and we learned lots on the trail on the way up.

As we started to head back down the mountain, we realized we had not taken a good picture of the back of old Stony Man, so we went back. And look what we found…

By 7:15 we were on our way back to Skyland and a well-deserved beer. And dinner. On the way, we saw a big doe just munching away by the side of the road.

Back at the lodge, we tried (quite unsuccessfully) to connect to the internet via dial up. What century are we in here? Since that didn’t work, we satisfied ourselves with uploading our photos and blogging on Word. Sorry our post is late! We had dinner at the bar (!) at the lodge. We shared a plate of sweet potato fries (health food) and each had a house salad. Given that it had apples, goat cheese, and candied pecans, we thought that would be dinner. And it would have, if it hadn’t been served on a bread and butter plate. So I ordered some chili and Kim ate the cornbread that came with it. We then had some ice cream (just one scoop, and not one Cold Stone Creamery scoop, but one that the US Government would serve you). Kim had chocolate and I opted for blackberry. Yum. I might mention that the whole time I was blogging or messing with photos, a duo (Shen Fine, as in Shenadoah’s Finest) was playing guitars and singing live music in the bar. To an almost full house. Check them out on http://www.artistsunderground.com/ if you are interested. They were pretty good.

Today’s totals:
Mileage 170
Time on road 9 hours
Money spent on food: B, $15, L, $12, D $30 beer, $16
Attractions: $4 (plus NP fee – we used our pass)
Gas: $18
Lodging $61

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