Thursday, August 17, 2006

Yes, Virginia - Part Two


Thus far: Obbie and I made a caffeinated decision to go to Skyline Drive in Virginia. We are in Front Royal, at the entrance to the Shenandoah National Forest.

As we're driving up the short road to the park gates, we noticed several cars parked on the berm. Uh-oh. I assumed this was a bad sign, due to backups on the Drive. I soon learned that these cars belonged to BICYCLISTS who were riding UP the Drive today. Oh. Daaam. What a workout!

So we paid our 15 bucks to the nice Ranger at the booth. He gave us park literature (Yay! More paper!) and we were on our way. At first, you drive up thru the trees. It's impossible to imagine how many shades of green there are in nature. I'm always astounded.

After a short green ride, the road starts to gently incline. You don't much notice it at first (unless you're a spandex biker) Your first overlook is the 1350 ft overlook of the Shenandoah Valley.
It's quite amazing. Bear in mind, Obbie has never been on this ride before. So we came out of this nice, green tree-tunnel, round a bend, and WHOOOOAAAA!!! Valley! Mountains!! Blue!! Holy Cats!

Obbie's mouth dropped open. "Oh my God!! WOW!" He's so cute when his eyes bug out of his head.

We didn't stop at that one, since there were about 6 cars parked there. The next one on the list was the Signal Knob Overlook. The one mountain was where the Confederates kept an eye on what was going on in the valley. These are two of the views at first:

At three or four places along the Drive, there are camp stores. Food, drinks, snacks and souveniers are available, as well as necessities for the folks who are camping, and the Appalachian Trail hikers. We needed a little snack (no breakfast in lieu of XL caffeine), a cold drink and a relief stop. When we pulled into the parking lot, we noticed a couple had a little white dog, and it was sitting ON the picnic table with them while they ate their sandwiches. Naturally, being the sickos we are, we made up conversations the bears were having about the little white dog. "Hey Boo-boo, check out the poodle! I do believe I feel like a little French food today!" and other rude things. We crack ourselves up, so it was somewhat difficult to make it past the dog folks without snickering. As a side note, I've decided that when I've had my share of the real job world, I'm going to tell everyone to KMA and be the person who sells wood to the campers. The perfect low stress job!!

After the pit stop, we carried on further up (down?) the mountain. More beautiful views abounded, but Obbie was getting a little gappy, since he had gotten home from work at 3:00am, and was up and ready to go at 8:15. The constant, green trees, blue sky, turn, turn, bicycles, motorcycles and traffic was starting to get to him a little. So we exited the moutain at the Luray, VA get off to search for a campground.

We never seem to do anything the easy way, so we drove. And drove. And drove some more. Down Route 11, thru all the little towns along the way. As it turned out, Saturday was the Route 11 Yard Crawl, where everyone sets up yard sale stuff along that section of 11. Even the winery had a special Yard Crawl event! We missed most of the crawling, since we had messed around on the mountain so long. It's marked on the calendar for next year. Apparently the yuppies who have taken over this part of Virginia take their yard crawlin' seriously.

We had seen one campground, the horrifying Jellystone Park, complete with huge statues of Yogi Bear in front. That itself was a major tourist attraction, for both statues had people posing for the camera (not mine!) and others milling around waiting for their turn with Yogi. Oh, spare me.

As far as campgrounds, Obbie and I had done a little research the day before and came up with a couple possible sites. Too bad neither one of us printed out any of the possibilities, for we were relying solely on the tourist pamphlets we'd picked up along the way. They weren't much help, since their job is to sell hotels not campgrounds. So we drove on.

In New Market, VA we passed an old looking restaurant with a big neon sign (Southern Kitchen) that was packed at 1:00 in the afternoon. "oh! Lets stop there! Southern Kitchen, it's got to be good!!" so we turned around and found a spot.

Good Lord! Walking into that place was like walking into a movie set! A big old Wurlizter bubble jukebox, little jukeboxes at every booth, old formica with the boomerangs in it, oh yeah, baby, this was gonna be good. There must be barbeque here! Oh boy, this is going to ROCK! I thought. (I'm a barbeque whore, I LOVE the stuff and anytime I'm out of PA, I look for decent 'Que)

I was a tad disappointed when the menu came and they had stuff on it like 'Peachy Platter', a hamburger with cottage cheese and a peach on the side. They had homemade soups daily, and I opted for a chicken salad (because at a busy place like this, chicken salad gets sold quickly, and theres no chance of being botulized by it) and a cup of veggie beef soup. Obbie got a burger and peanut soup. I'd never HEARD of such a thing, but peanut soup is pretty damn good. Almost like really thin peanut butter with a little spice added to it. Both soups were good (beef veggie as good as my moms!) and the sandwiches just fine. The waitress was fantastic, and the iced teas never got past being half empty. Love that.

After eating, we pressed on. We asked the waitress about campgrounds and she said there were a couple 'down the road'. So down the road we went. By the time we reached Harrisonburg, we were not looking for the campground anymore, and we came to the realization that we were back into the land of Starbucks, Walmart, Target and Pizza Hut again. So we turned around and got on 81 and headed North back to Luray.

We got on Skyline Drive AGAIN (silly us, didn't go far enough UP 81 to get to Luray, so we took the 'back way' to Luray via SD) This time we got on SD at Spitler Knoll, and drove North. Obbie was getting really drowsy at this point, so we pulled over and had a meeting. We decided to drive to Luray, find the campground he'd called on Friday (Even though neither of us remembered it's name or location, oh details, details) and call it a day.

I took the wheel and headed towards the Luray 'exit' (which is Thornton Gap for those paying attention) Along the way, Obbie got to actually see the scenery instead of driving past it. He manned the camera awhile (so much for napping) and every turn was punctuated with OOOH! and WOW! Look!!

So we pass the highest point on the drive (3680 feet at Skyland, which has a really nice lodge, pub, restaurant and other interesting amenities) and carry on down the road. All of a sudden, there is a BWM in the opposite lane, almost stopped in the road. What the hell? Then I see the reason for the stoppage. A BEAR! A middle sized bear, just hanging out foraging in the bushes along the road. "Holy Shit! It's a bear!!" I yelled. Obbie whips his head around, "where! where?!!" but by this time, we've passed the bear, and all the cars in front of us are pulling U-turns at the next overlook to look at it. I kept driving, because I figured by the time I turned around, and went back, Da Bear would have gone someplace where he could eat in peace. But holy shit, I saw a bear. First time ever in the wild, and certainly the first time on Skyline Drive. Cooool!! (Damn me and not having the damn camera ready!!)

TOMORROW: Part Three (and the final installment) of YES VIRGINIA!

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