Shenandoah National Park, August 17-19, 2013

Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive

To Shenandoah National Park

The good thing about air travel is the plane has a very specific time. Not that we haven’t missed flights or used  the entire energy devoted to the vacation to making it to the gate before it closed, but generally that boarding time printed on the ticket motivates us out of the house.

Not so we with auto travel. The Byrd Visitors Center in Shendandoah National Park played the See the USA in your Chevrolet over and over. I spent a childhood seeing the USA in my parent’s Chevrolets, before they switched over to Toyotas, and though we hadn’t traveled liked that in many seasons, Sunday morning had us loading up our Toyota, slowly.

Then we found out what could go wrong with auto travel. A fire on the 59th Street Bridge made all the exits from the city crawl at a snail’s pace. It took us an hour and a half to hit New Jersey. A piece of tire from a truck hit us as we drove on  I-78 taking with it a piece of the car’s bottom. Eric laid down on the pavement in a rest stop and with a variety of tools unearthed from below the luggage, did something to make the rattling stop. We drove on with part of the underside of the car now located on the back seat, but the engine hasn’t fallen out yet. The waiter got our order wrong in Easton, and instead of serving us the wrong order which we would have happily wolfed down, we waited an hour for very nice, very little, newly hipsterized Easton Mexican food. We ran into a traffic jam below Harrisburg on a sunny afternoon, and we drove up the twisting turning road to Skyland Lodge as the summer day faded into night.

Hungry and tired from the ride and a lunch created for the much more hipster (read skinny) than us, we had dinner in the Skyland Lodge, watched a bluegrass band that had either turkey or possum in its name (they explained, I was too busy eating) and had a piece of blackberry ice cream pie that would have fed ten Easton and Brooklyn hipsters. It was good we were well fortified, it was hard to find our room in the cold and dark.

Monday August 19 , 2013

I picked Skyland Lodge for the view. here is what I saw Sunday morning, nothing .  Except for the rain on the patio. We donned our rainwear,and hiked to the dining room. We would have had breakfast with a view , but we were  located inside a rain cloud (minus Ms Frizzle and the Magic School Bus). instead we ate breakfast and chatted with retired teachers, principals and a special education director from Westchester and California.

We drove the park, visited the Byrd Center, which exhibited an abbreviated history of the park. It appeared to be a fair history, without an over-glamorized testament to the beauty of the National Parks. The fact that more than 400 families were evicted from the area so that the middle class could see the USA in their Chevrolets was given adequate space as was this Southern State’s struggle with segregation.  At one time, people of color could only picnic on Lewis Mountain, and white people could picnic anywhere else.  The park displayed a letter from a white man, angry that he was being discriminated against by not being allowed to picnic on Lewis Mountain.

Oh- those Jim Crow Laws

In the cave

In the cave

With no decrease of the rain or increase in visibility we headed for Luray Caverns.  We didn’t exactly take a direct route, but we made it.  Luray Caverns is another remnant of the  see the USA days  before cruises, Disney World and Caribbean vacations became the popular mode of family vacationing.  (at least for us),

Illuminated Stalactites in Luray

Illuminated Stalactites in Luray

Here’s the deal. We drove up. Got on line. (It was late in the day, so the line was not nearly as long as originally reported.
Paid an exorbitant amount to see a pretty fantastic natural wonder. Of course this natural wonder is paved and electrically illuminated and the guide takes you around and makes corny jokes (for which we tipped him $1.00 each, even after the exorbitant admission). But I am not complaining- it was a rainy vacation Sunday.

The School House at the History Musuem at Luray  Caverns

The School House at the History Musuem at Luray Caverns

Our breakfast companions were in the parking lot when we arrived, and they assured us it was a real museum. It was, like the Mexcian Restaurant in Easton, what it served up was not overwhelming in scope, but excellently prepared and pleasant to consume.

The museum had exhibits on early 19th Centurystove plates, pottery from the area, the memoirs of a former slave and other mementos of the local past history. Eric chatted with a blacksmith who sung the praises of mercury. “How could we tell temperature without mercury thermometers?” he asked. I didn’t feel the need to explain the digital age had dawned. There were also a nice one room school house built be local freed slaves and moved to museum property.

We had dinner with intermittent views of the valley below as the clouds shifted. We could see the lights twinkling in the valley, then we would look down to cut our meatloaf, (yes – just the mention of meatloaf on the menu was enough to make Eric order it-) and the world would disappear at the moment we looked up.

Life in the mountains.

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