On the morning of May 17, after having “tetris” packed my car (yes, this is a thing–see footnote) with the remaining belongings of our undergraduate apartment, successfully stuffing Huan in the backseat, we departed from Williamsburg to embark on our “Great American Road Trip.” Though our official launch date was Monday, May 20th, Kate, Huan, and I decided to intersperse the deceptively long trek across the Old Dominion with a stop in Natural Bridge, Virginia. Roughly half way between Williamsburg and Mouth of Wilson, Natural Bridge may in fact be home to some of the most kitschy destinations in Virginia.
If you visit Natural Bridge, VA there are at least three stops you MUST make (depending on your budget/sense of humor.) We started with the obvious–the namesake of this small town and geographical anomaly, the Natural Bridge. The furthest west Thomas Jefferson traveled in Virginia, visitors are charged $20.99 to walk a quarter of a mile to see the bridge (one can finish the one mile trail which ends at Lace Falls but you can only see the very bottom half.) This ticket includes entrance to the adjoining Wax Museum (don’t go unless you like creepy models of people) and the TINY butterfly conservatory. I recommend to pony up the cash since the Natural Bridge itself is kind of awesome. If geographical wonders don’t tickle your fancy, go solely for the Jefferson themed decor throughout the obnoxiously large gift shop/nursing-home-smelling play place. I’m a budding American historian and reveled in the cringe worthy TJ wall stickers.
The second stop EVERYONE should make while in the area I stumbled across on one of my favorite blogs, roadtrippers.com. The only American Stonehenge, Foamhenge is the epic roadside child of visionary fiberglass sculptor, Mark Cline. A full-size replica of the ancient enigma made out of giant Styrofoam, Foamhenge sits atop a hill and provides visitors with three popular theories for the formation of Stonehenge FOR FREE. Stop, hike up the hill, and BASK IN THE GREATNESS! If you need further convincing, there is a life size (possibly wax?) model of Merlin performing whatever voodoo constructed Stonehenge in the first place. Whether a Virginia native or out of towner, this IS a must see.
My third recommendation was unfortunately closed the day we were in Natural Bridge but is on the top of my bucket list. Another roadside art instillation by the aforementioned artist Mark Cline, “Dinosaurs of the Confederacy” rewrites the Civil War. Keeping in mind your position to the Mason-Dixon line, this oddity gives the Confederacy a leg up. If you think about it (and if dinosaurs had not been extinct during the 1860s), these gargantuan reptiles, like any good Southern creature, would have rallied around the Southern cause the moment Lincoln was elected but I digress. Basically, this larger-than-life piece depicts one of the many battles fought in Virginia. As Union soldiers are literally chomped to bits Confederate cavalry weave through the bloodbath triumphantly waving their sabers. Any true Civil War buff, nineteenth century historian, Southerner, or, let’s face it, ANYONE should find this appealing. I certainly can’t wait to go back and soak in the fallacy! Check out http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/10790 for more information. (Hopefully it will be open soon!)
While there were many other attractions in Natural Bridge (including a Safari–not sure what “exotic” animals are included other than an 12-point buck) we had to forge on in order to make it to my parents home at a somewhat reasonable hour. A quick stop in Salem for Chick-fil-a and a McDonald’s coffee–side note, if at the window the pimply high schooler tells you to wait in the “white box” just pull to the front, otherwise you run the risk of confusing both yourself and the other teenage boy who is tasked with coming out to deliver your small, medium, and large coffee; this happened) refueled both ourselves and the car. Now two hours away, we were making great time all things considered. That is until our merry little band crossed paths with a deranged turkey.
On the back-road that leads to my childhood home, not five minutes from our destination, we had one of the strangest encounters with wildlife I have had in my relatively short 22 years. If you don’t know Mouth of Wilson, or rural Appalachia, let me be the first to assure you that driving late at night on country roads provides you with first hand experience with unseen wildlife. It is common to have to stop for deer to cross the road or for opossums to run under your tire. This drizzly night, after roughly 6.5 hours on the road and the promise of a warm bed within our grasp, we got stuck behind said demented turkey. Too large to run over in my low-ridding Ford Focus, we speedily creeped 5mph for a half a mile as this Thanksgiving dish zig-zagged back and forth down the road never getting far enough over to one side or the other for me to safely pass it. To add to the hilarity, two cars got stuck behind us as we waited for the fowl.
Footnote: “Tetris Packing”–the process of successfully packing a large amount of stuff into the trunk of a relatively small vehicle creatively using every inch of space. Can be honed into a talent well worth the time it takes to learn the valuable skill.