Thursday, April 1, 2010

Poking Around Western Virginia

Today, my wife and I piled the 4 kids in the minivan and headed west for a short Spring Break trip. We left the house around 10 AM and hit solid traffic rounding the bend at VA-236 and the Beltway. Traffic on Spring Break at 10 AM?!

We headed west on I-66, down U.S. 29, and continued on Lee Highway out one of my favorite roads U.S. 211 through Amissville, Washington, VA, and into Sperryville where we had lunch a great little spot called the Thornton River Grill. My Great Great Grandfather was born near Sperryville in the 1840's along with some of my other kin who settled Rappahanock County. I've always liked poking around the foothills of the Blue Ridge. There's a lot of history and a very unique Piedmont culture that runs down into the Carolinas and Georgia.

I picked up copies of the Fauquier Times-Democrat and The Rappahannock News, and bought two bottles of hot sauce made by my favorite VA Hot Sauce manufacturer - The Chili Man. The lead front page stories in both papers were about state budget cuts and the failure to fill a local judgeship. It's always fascinating to me how differently state government is covered in the rest of the state compared with Northern Virginia where such news rarely makes the front page of Metro not to mention the A-Section of the Washington Post.

Next, we shot up the 35 curves up and 31 curves down (the kids counted) through Thornton Gap over the Blue Ridge and down into the Shenandoah Valley and into Luray for our visit to Luray Caverns. I was last in Luray Caverns about 25-30 years ago as a kid. It was interesting to go back. The kids were mezmerized. The new maze they've built outside is also worth the price of admission.

We left Luray, headed over Masanutten Mountain, the North Branch of the Shenandoah River and into New Market. After sitting at one of the two lights in town for four cycles, we headed south on I-81, flew through my alma mater JMU at 65 MPH, and headed for Natural Bridge. Up and down 135 more steps (the kids counted), checked out George Washington's initials carved into the rock at age 18, a Monacan indian village, and 1 mile up and down Cedar Creek which punched through Natural Bridge 500 million years ago. It is always an awe-inspiring experience.

Then it was back in the car south to Roanoke where we had tapas at the Meza World Cafe - yes, Roanoke - and then up Mill Mountain to pay homage to the Mill Mountain Star that my grandfather, Bill Booth, wired up in 1949. The City dedicated a garden to him in 2007. I wanted to see how it was doing, show the kids the valley my grandparents called home, and introduce them to The Star - a landmark that was dead center over my grandparents' street in Vinton and dominated my memories of visits Roanoke as a child.

Every time I head west of Fairfax County, I am reminded of how lucky we are to have such magnificent natural beauty in our state and so much of it accessible to everyone. It's a big state. You never know it's out there unless you go look around.

Tomorrow it's probably Thomas Jefferson Day. West to Lynchburg and his summer house (Poplar Forest), North to Monticello and Charlottesville, and then home Saturday along one of my favorite drives via VA 22, VA 231, US 15, VA 20, VA 3, and I-95 for softball practice, ballet lessons, yard work and Easter Dinner.

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